A New Message From Al Qaeda

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," Sept. 9, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight, Al Qaeda's No. 2 man, second only to Usama bin Laden, on Al Jazeera TV just hours ago. What message was he delivering? Joining us is the former ambassador to Morocco, Marc Ginsberg, who just reviewed the tape.

Ambassador, what is Mr. al Zawahiri saying?

MARC GINSBERG, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO, FOX NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: First of all, it's out, Greta, because we have the day before the anniversary — the third anniversary of September 11. This is the 20th audio and videotape that has been issued. Back in 2003, we've seen bin Laden, as well as al Zawahiri appear together. Here is al Zawahiri, Dr. Evil, coming out of his rock, appearing, in effect, with an assault rifle next to him — the first time we've seen an assault rifle, maybe symbolic, maybe a signal.

What he's saying was really focused on Afghanistan. He said that the Americans are losing Afghanistan, that the southern and eastern provinces are "blood-driven," were his words, that the Americans are caught in the trenches and that they're being driven away from controlling Afghanistan and that they're caught between the — the Americans are caught between Iraq and between Afghanistan, and that we're bleeding them to death.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why would this message be sent, though? Because it's not necessarily a hugely powerful message. I mean, I guess that I'm sort of thinking, Why are we getting this now? I'm a little bit suspicious.

GINSBERG: Well, with good reasons. First of all, what disconcerted me so much about this, Greta, is that he appears so healthy. I mean, for a guy who appears to be on the run, or should have been on the run, he looks very healthy. He was very coherent. His Arabic was not slurred at all. And we have to remember that while we keep believing that Usama bin Laden and al Zawahiri are somewhere on the Pakistani-Afghani border, we have never caught a senior al Qaeda member on the border. They've all been caught in cities in Pakistan. And this looks like this was shot in a studio.

VAN SUSTEREN: I must say, it's a very professional video.


VAN SUSTEREN: It doesn't look like it was done in a cave at the — you know, underneath some mountain.

GINSBERG: Absolutely. And the question that you raised about the potential symbolism — why is he doing this? Why is this focus now? First of all, there's an election coming up in Afghanistan in about three-and-a- half weeks.

VAN SUSTEREN: But that sort of seems way too democratic. I mean, I - - for some reason, I would expect him to come out and do the usual ranting and say how bad we are and how rotten we are. For some reason, the fact that the message seems sort of tame and seemed like a report, to me, made me all the more suspicious.

GINSBERG: He is trying to rally the Taliban. The Taliban are clearly facing an enormous offensive on the part of the Afghani and NATO forces in Afghanistan. There have been confrontations and fights and firefights. Just today, the Pakistanis had a major firefight on their own border and took out a significant number of Taliban. He's trying to rally the troops.

He's also trying to send a signal to the Americans, I'm here. I'm alive. We're alive. And guess what? We're still in charge. That was one of the reasons why that tape was sent, as well. And it's also a reminder to the Americans that, Yes, we are not only alive in Afghanistan, we are not only confronting you in Afghanistan, but our theory, our plan, our plan of action is also to bleed you in Iraq.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, two things. One, is there any indication of the time, whether this is a new tape or not? That's the first thing. And secondly, in the past, historically, when we've gotten from the tapes, has there then been a substantial amount of terrorism that followed the tape?

GINSBERG: The answer to the second question is, no, there hasn't been a substantial amount of terrorism. But yes...

VAN SUSTEREN: So it's not necessarily code to gin up the troops to go do something horrible.

GINSBERG: Well, I can read into so many things because, remember, again, he never, ever in any of his videotapes had an assault rifle next to him. Usama bin Laden did. So I don't know what we read into that symbolism. No. 2, there's always been audio or audiotapes issued, again, on the anniversary or close to the anniversary of September 11. But there was a horrific, horrific terrorist attack in Jakarta today, targeted at the Australian embassy, wounded over 180 people and killed 9 people. So there was an attack that coincided — maybe coincidentally, maybe not coincidentally, on the release of that tape. There may be other attacks as we get closer to September 11 that are...

VAN SUSTEREN: We're awfully close.

GINSBERG: Yes — In other parts of the world.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of dating, is there anything on the tape to date it, so that we know this wasn't a month ago or two months ago and just hitting the air now?

GINSBERG: No. No. In fact, the only thing that I can surmise from it, Greta, is that it was done within the proximate time of today because he refers to certain issues and circumstances, including the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan that, however incorrect may have been his facts, they appear to relate to facts that are occurring just recently.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Ambassador Ginsberg, thank you very much.

GINSBERG: Sure, Greta.

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