White House

Bin Laden tape focuses on Iraq

Image from an undated video produced by al-Qaida's media arm, Al-Sahab.
Image from an undated video produced by al-Qaida's media arm, Al-Sahab. Site Institute / AP Television

WASHINGTON — In his first videotaped message in nearly three years, terrorist leader Osama bin Laden accuses President Bush of leading the United States to failure in Iraq and needles congressional Democrats for not stopping the war.

Bin Laden asserts in the rambling, roughly half-hour video that the United States is repeating the mistake of the Soviet Union in its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan.

"The mistakes of (late Soviet leader Leonid) Brezhnev are being repeated by Bush, who ... said in effect that the withdrawal will not be during his reign," bin Laden said, according to a transcript made available Friday. Bush, he said, was "like the one who plows and sows the sea: He harvests nothing but failure."

While Bush professes to be spreading democracy in Iraq, "he is in fact working with the leaders of one sect against another sect," he said.

And while U.S. voters gave the Democratic party control of Congress in last year's elections, "the Democrats haven't made a move worth mentioning," he said.

A U.S. intelligence official said Friday evening that initial technical analysis "suggests the voice is indeed that of Osama bin Laden." He spoke on condition of anonymity because intelligence matters are involved.

The videotaped message appears on the eve of next week's sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people. Bin Laden and his al Qaida organization were responsible.

It also comes amid a growing U.S. debate over Iraq, with military commander Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker scheduled to testify Monday before Congress on the progress of Bush's troop "surge."

Bin Laden hasn't been seen in a videotape since October 2004, just before the last U.S. presidential election.

This message appears to be of recent vintage. Bin Laden mentions the 62nd anniversary of nuclear weapons being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6, as well as the new leaders of France and Britain, President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Sarkozy was elected in May; Brown took office in June.

Bin Laden's rhetoric is notable for its lack of explicit threats of new terrorist attacks against the United States, the intelligence officials said.

U.S. counterterrorism officials have said there are growing signs of such an attack but no hard intelligence pointing to a specific time or place.

Instead, bin Laden's appearance is almost entirely devoted to the war in Iraq and a lengthy denunciation of capitalism, which he cites as the real reason behind the war.

"This war was entirely unnecessary, as testified to by your own reports," he says, according to the transcript, which was released by the SITE Intelligence Group, a private firm that monitors terrorist Web sites.

In the video, titled "The Solution," bin Laden offers two solutions for ending the war.

"The first is from our side, and it is to continue to escalate the killing and fighting against you. This is our duty, and our brothers are carrying it out, and I ask Allah to grant them resolve and victory," he says.

The second, he said, is for Americans to "embrace Islam." He said there are no taxes under Islam — apart from a 2.5 percent Zakat or annual alms.

In a frame from the video, bin Laden looks older than in previous appearances. His beard is no longer streaked with gray, but was dyed black.

U.S. intelligence officials say that al Qaida, after withstanding the shock of U.S. post-9/11 attacks, has been able to reconstitute itself and establish training camps in ungoverned areas of northwest Pakistan.

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