The Peer of Magical Thinking Waves His Tape Wand

The Peer of Magical Thinking Waves His Tape Wand

January 22, 2006

Jay B. Gaskill

Bin Laden’s latest audio tape was no doubt smuggled from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region to the Al Jihad media. The tape is no doubt authentic, and was no doubt done at least two weeks ago in order to enable this Peer of Magical Thinking time to relocate his hideout (thus magically avoiding very real bombs).

An excerpt:

Days and nights will not go by until we take revenge as we did on 11 September, God willing, and until your minds are exhausted and your lives become miserable and things turn [for the worse], which you detest. As for us, we do not have anything to lose. The swimmer in the sea does not fear rain.

Eight observations are in order:

BL is in considerable trouble because his movement has failed in several attempted operations to do the US major harm.  After an overlong silence, he obviously feels the need to “explain” this lapse, even at the risk of exposing himself.  It was significant that today’s audio tape was not accompanied by any picture. This is the communication form chosen by terrorist leaders who are actively under siege, on the run or both.
His disingenuous call for a “long term truce” is a sign of desperation, born of the false hope that the current administration can be persuaded to abandon Iraq and Afghanistan just as the local governments are gaining traction, and the jihadist foot soldiers (having overplayed their hand) are rapidly losing popular support in Palestine, Jordan, Afghanistan and Iraq. I would be much more concerned under, say, a latter-day Carter administration. The tape was, after all, a transparent appeal to the American isolationists, who make up about 40% of the electorate at any given moment. [Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are precious few isolationists when we are actually under attack, but memories fade under the relentless attractions of complacency.][1]
No doubt BL believes that magical forces are destined to bring down the red white and blue representative of Satan-on-earth; that magic will somehow succeed with “an operation” of such stunning power that his dwindling reputation as a mover and shaker of history will yet be salvaged. But if BL’s movement had been trading on the New York Stock exchange, today’s tape would be seen as the CEO’s last ditch attempt to avert a massive sell-off after of four years of losses.  “But wait until you see the new models!”
It is clearer than ever before that the administration needs to be more not less ruthless in the pursuit and interdiction of those who would attempt another 9-11 attack. We Americans need to be reasonable enough to understand that our notions about privacy, however appropriate in ordinary times,[2] are secondary to the legitimate needs of the professionals charged with our protection to get rapid access to the information needed to avert threats. 
Only a successfully executed BL “operation” against a major economic or military target on US soil would be sufficient to avoid deflating the grandiose expectations his latest polemic has raised among his fans. If, God forbid, something like that happens, we need to be prepared to bounce back with the ferocity and steely resolve of Churchill’s England after Dunkirk. BL gambled on 9-11 that we would react more like the French than the old British. So stunned was he by our fierce response, BL almost gave up magical thinking ...
But BL’s magical thinking has returned. I suspect that the President’s State of the Union speech (Wednesday, February 2) and the Congressional elections (Tuesday, November 7) are terrorist operational benchmarks, one event to embarrass the president and the other to deny him legislative support. All Americans, whatever their political inclinations, should pray BL is thwarted.
The best response to BL’s rhetoric is not counter-rhetoric but concerted, effective pressure in the form of ramped up operations against the terrorists, their networks, camp followers, and supply lines, using deadly force without hesitation or reserve.
Steady nerves and clear, hard-headed thinking are needed. It’s long past time for the pacific democrats and the isolationist republicans[3] to get on board.  They need to listen to the alarm bells.  This is not a drill.


[1] The linkage between the Middle East’s corrupt regimes and the terrorism is like that between fish and water. Democratic governments that become somewhat pluralistic in makeup (a pragmatic necessity, given the multi-ethnic, multi tribal population mix) will eventually dry up the terrain. For a peek at the larger context, see and .

[2] Yes, it matters why the authorities want to invade otherwise private sanctuaries. For example the relaxation of banking rules in the Patriot Act to enable a crack down on terrorist funding are well within the national security protective function, but the attempt to gather data about internet porn searches from private parties (appropriately resisted by Google) is well outside the national security necessity rationale.

[3] An interesting and timely Op Ed by Thomas Friedman in the 1-20-06 NYT makes the argument for breaking the oil addiction as part of an overall strategy to dry up the terror-state swamp. .

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