Ever since the CIA confirmed that it's Bin Laden on that tape, I've been wondering whether he's a poker player. Gambling seems out of character for the puritanical terrorist, but then he reportedly abhors television (both seeing it and being seen on it) as un-Islamic, yet he does it when it suits him. Islam also forbids killing civilians, according to its more moderate leaders*, so he'll obviously bend the rules when it serves his purpose.
By his own admission, the War in Iraq has been his best recruiting tool. That statement is confirmed by the National Intelligence Council, which says Iraq is now germinating a new generation of "professionalized" terrorists. It provides "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills,"says a senior NIC officer.
Why would Osama speak up now? Every time he's made a public announcement in the past, including during the 2004 election, the perception has been that it's boosted support for his adversary Bush. Is that why he's talking again after a long silence?
After all, Bush's popularity has plummeted and Americans have turned against the war. Adoption of the Murtha proposal, for example, could remove the despised Great Satan from Iraq and reduce the steady flow of new terrorists.
So is it possible that Osama's playing a poker hand? After all, why wouldn't he want the war to keep going? Some will say that this tape is a CIA forgery. That's possible, since it takes more than one to play poker. But it may be even more possible that it's genuine. Either way, the objective could be to bolster support for the occupation and weaken the antiwar movement.
Some dark-minded individuals thought that Bush was playing exactly the same game when he endorsed the reform political slate in Iran. That boosted the popularity of the hard-liners and led to the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who makes a perfect silent-movie villian. That's a great set-up for military action against Iran.
Osama could be making a similar move here. I can see the right-wingers rubbing their hands over their keyboards now. "Osama and Murtha, birds of a feather." "Bin Laden and Kennedy: Together Again." "Osama and Cindy Sheehan Found in Peacenik Love Nest." Whatever.
So Osama may be using a little reverse psychology. It's time for a military strategy that addresses the real terrorist threats against us, one that doesn't leave the other side holding so many cards.