An unverified audio recording of Osama bin Laden has emerged on Islamist websites. The tape may provide proof that the shaggy figurehead is still alive. The audio message set to video, replete with 9-11 imagery, serves no other discernible purpose.
"To the American people, this is my message to you: a reminder of the reasons behind 9/11 and the wars and the repercussions that followed and the way to resolve it."
In broad strokes the familiar message here is that the US needs to get out of the Middle East. Bin Laden once again pointed to the US support of Israel as the main cause of it's problems in the Middle East, and more specifically at Secretary of Defense Robert Gates continuing on with President Obama, which indicated that Obama was really a puppet of Republican agenda, and specifically Bush policy in the Middle East. One supposes this might have been funny if bin Laden had better timing.
The other notable statement from the tape: President Barack Obama is "a vulnerable man who will not be able to stop the war, as he promised, but instead he will drag it to the maximum possible extent." Regardless who said it -- whether the voice on the tape is Osama bin Laden or an al Qaeda supporter -- the statement is true.
The full transcript was not available when this post was filed, so it's hard to discern the true import of the statement, but recent events here in the States have served to make the president look vulnerable for sure. Maureen Dowd was not the only person to hear in Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie" outburst, the subtler underpinnings of a race war. My colleagues and I heard it. In fact, Megan Carpentier was sufficiently bothered by a lynching comparison I made regarding Wilson's bragging rights post-address, that she sent a late-night email pointing out the same unspoken word Dowd cited: "boy." You lie, boy. That subtlety grew to larger proportions in my mind. The fear is that it will grow in the darker, angrier parts of the popular imagination as well.
Folks, we are a hop skip and a jump away from real trouble here. The specter of violence is clear enough. Osama bin Laden, if that was him (doesn't matter if it was just a garden-variety US-hater), pointed out that the president is vulnerable. What did he mean? Al Qaeda is a literal-minded group. The chances are reasonably good that the tea parties and the birthers and the Joe Wilson comment are somewhere at the root of the purported bin Laden comment.
Can Obama push meaningful change in this country without the radicalism of the Right threatening him with nonstop noise, cultural idiocy, and inciviility? One of the many great things about the United States is the ability of everyone and anyone to speak his or her mind. That includes the likes of Joe Wilson and Glenn Beck and David Duke and Orval Faubus, but with freedom comes great responsibility, and that seems to be sorely lacking right now in the public reaction to our first African American president.
And this is a problem that imperils not just President Obama, but the validity of a cultural truism: the right to free assembly, freedom of speech, and all the rest. If the dog-whistle racsim of Obama opposition in this country continues to escalate, these latest alleged words from the bin Laden camp may be oft quoted regarding our "vulnerable" president.
First published by Air America.