You’ve probably heard that Osama bin Laden released a new audio tape; you can read a translation here, courtesy of Laura Mansfield. Bin Laden’s rant is, frankly, so bizarre that it is hard not to laugh. He starts with this howler:
To begin, I tell you: hostility between human beings is very old, but the intelligent ones among the nations in all eras have been keen to observe the etiquettes of dispute and the morals of fighting.
When bin Laden refers to violations of the “etiquettes of dispute,” he doesn’t mean blowing up innocent people, he’s talking about the Danish Mohammed cartoons. This is really beyond parody. The cartoons, bin Laden says, are the West’s gravest offense so far:
Although our tragedy in your killing of our women and children is a very great one, it paled when you went overboard in your unbelief and freed yourselves of the etiquettes of dispute and fighting and went to the extent of publishing these insulting drawings.
This is the greater and more serious tragedy, and reckoning for it will be more severe.
As I say, it’s beyond parody, but it also raises the question of whether bin Laden is leading or following. He had little or nothing to do with the long-standing controversy in the Muslim world over the cartoons, and it seems that he’s trying to jump on the train long after it left the station.
In case you were in doubt, bin Laden made clear that he is no fan of freedom of speech. He goes on, in his typically weird way, to drag in puzzling topical references:
And here it is worth pointing out that there is no need to use as an excuse the sacredness you accord freedom of expression and the sacredness of your laws and how you won