Bin Laden Calls Americans 'Sinners'

Usama bin Laden spewed more venom and threats against the United States on Sunday in a chilling videotape he had arranged to air just after the raids in Afghanistan began. 

"To America I say this, and I swear it by the will of God ... America and the people who live in America will never taste security and safety unless we feel safety and security in our land and in Palestine," he vowed in the tape, which was carried by the Arabic-language Al-Jazeera satellite television news channel and picked up by other regional broadcasts (click here to read bin Laden's statement). 

The sometimes rambling statement offered scarcely a hint of sorrow for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and actually suggested its victims partially deserved their fate. 

"When the sword falls on the United States, they cry for their children and they cry for their people," bin Laden said. "The least you can say about these people is that they are sinners. They have helped evil triumph over good." 

Bin Laden's hatred of America is fueled by the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam and home to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. He has also cited the strong U.S. support for Israel and the ongoing Anglo-American sanctions and military actions against Iraq as justifications for holy war. 

"Millions of innocent children are being killed in Iraq and in Palestine and we don't hear a word from the infidels," he said. "We don't hear a raised voice." 

Scion of a wealthy and powerful family in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden offered to lead battle-hardened Afghan Arab veterans against Iraqi forces after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, but the Saudi authorities declined his offer and invited in Western troops instead. 

Sunday's taped statement, which offered no apparent clue to the accused terrorist's whereabouts, went on to say the United States was "full of fear" as a result of the attacks, "from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that." 

Bin Laden appears in the video in what appears to be daylight, from either a cave or mountainside, dressed in his familiar fatigues and Afghan headdress, with an automatic rifle at his side. The tape references U.S. efforts to strike back at him, but was clearly made some time before the attacks began. 

Calling U.S. President George W. Bush "the chief infidel," bin Laden repeated his charges Western efforts against him are really an attack on the Muslim faith. "They came out to fight Islam in the name of fighting terrorism," he charged, accusing Bush of "splitting the world into two camps." 

Notable in bin Laden's statement was a new emphasis on the plight of the Palestinians in bin Laden's comments, perhaps an attempt to rally support from secular-minded Arabs and Muslims. But even that appeal was religious rather than nationalist in tone. 

"Let the whole world know that we shall never accept that the tragedy of Andalusia be repeated in Palestine," bin Laden said, referring to the medieval Christian reconquest of Spain from Muslims. "We cannot accept that Palestine will become Jewish." 

"Every day we see the Israeli tanks going to [the West Bank towns of] Jenin, Ramallah, Beit Jalla and other lands of Islam," bin Laden added. "We never hear anybody objecting to that." 

The Palestinian town of Beit Jalla is largely Christian. 

Bin Laden appeared on the tape after a shorter statement read by one of his supporters, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, outlining many of the same themes. 

"What happened in the United States is a natural reaction to the ignorant policy of the United States," said Ghaith. "If it continues with this policy, the sons of Islam will not stop their struggle." 

"The war against Afghanistan and Usama bin Laden is a war on Islam," Ghaith added. 

Observers in Islamabad interpreted the tape as the beginning of what they expect to be an all-out public-relations blitz by bin Laden and his supporters to portray the U.S. anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan as an attack against all of Islam. 

In an effort to refute that argument, the United States has kept up an intensive and so far successful campaign among Muslim countries to enlist at least their tacit support for the anti-terrorism drive. 

U.S. supporters in the region dismissed the bin Laden tape as a publicity gimmick, and predicted it would not generate him much public support. 

"It's going to be clear once this U.S. campaign gets underway just how hollow his words are," said one Pakistani pundit who watched the bin Laden tape broadcast. "We're not stupid. The people know the difference between a war on Islam and a war against bin Laden." 

Al-Jazeera has been the only non-Afghan news organization operating in Taliban-controlled territory with the permission and relative cooperation of the ruling government. 

The independently run Qatar-based channel has been criticized by some for cozying up to the Afghan rulers, but has been lauded by others for consistently reliable reports from inside Taliban territory. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report