MEMRI Translates Osama

A reader alerted us to this Middle East Media Research Institute article on Osama bin Laden’s videotape. MEMRI says that a significant part of Osama’s threat against the U. S. has not been accurately translated:

The tape of Osama bin Laden that was aired on Al-Jazeera on Friday, October 29th included a specific threat to “each U.S. state,” designed to influence the outcome of the upcoming election against George W. Bush. The U.S. media in general mistranslated the words “ay wilaya” (which means “each U.S. state”) to mean a “country” or “nation” other than the U.S., while in fact the threat was directed specifically at each individual U.S. state. This suggests some knowledge by bin Laden of the U.S. electoral college system. In a section of his speech in which he harshly criticized George W. Bush, bin Laden stated: “Any U.S. state that does not toy with our security automatically guarantees its own security.”
The Islamist website Al-Qal’a explained what this sentence meant: “This message was a warning to every U.S. state separately. When he [Osama Bin Laden] said, ‘Every state will be determining its own security, and will be responsible for its choice,’ it means that any U.S. state that will choose to vote for the white thug Bush as president has chosen to fight us, and we will consider it our enemy, and any state that will vote against Bush has chosen to make peace with us, and we will not characterize it as an enemy. By this characterization, Sheikh Osama wants to drive a wedge in the American body, to weaken it, and he wants to divide the American people itself between enemies of Islam and the Muslims, and those who fight for us, so that he doesn’t treat all American people as if they’re the same. This letter will have great implications inside the American society, part of which are connected to the American elections, and part of which are connected to what will come after the elections.”

Interesting. If that is correct, the speech was a much more direct attempt to influence the election than has been reported.
MEMRI agrees with the interpretation of the speech as an implicit admission of failure or defeat:

Another conspicuous aspect of the tape is the absence of common Islamist themes that are relevant to the month of Ramadan, which for fundamentalists like bin Laden is the month of Jihad and martyrdom. Noticeably absent from the Al-Jazeera tape was his usual appearance with a weapon, and more importantly the absence of references to Jihad, martyrdom, the Koran, the Hadith (Islamic tradition), Crusaders, Jews, and the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad on the duty to wage Jihad against the infidels. For the followers of the Al-Qa’ida ideology, this speech sends a regressive and defeatist message of surrender, as seen in the move from solely using Jihad warfare to a mixed strategy of threats combined with truce offers and election deals.

It is striking how little intelligent commentary on bin Laden’s tape there has been in the mainstream media.

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