Analysis of the Latest Usama bin Laden Audiotape

This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, April 15, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Tonight: Usama bin Laden -- he's alive, and he's trying to cut a deal. For more on his audiotape, let's go to Fox's Catherine Herridge in Washington.

CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Greta, after a swift technical analysis, CIA sources telling Fox that the recording is, quote, "most likely the voice of Usama bin Laden." That's about as definite as their confirmation gets, the CIA often reluctant to describe how the analysis is done, but one official telling Fox the more tapes they have as bin Laden pumps out the propaganda, the more information they can load into the agency's databases for analysis. And that makes it easier to get a positive match for the voice.

In that tape broadcast on Arab TV networks, bin Laden apparently offering a truce to the Europeans if they stop attacking Muslims. Also vowing revenge on the U.S. for Israel's assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, leader of the militant Palestinian group Hamas. The rhetoric appearing to be classic bin Laden -- ``President Bush and his ilk, the media giants, and the U.N. are all a fatal danger to the world, and the Zionist lobby is their most dangerous member. Allah willing, we will persist in fighting them.

That so-called peace offer spurned by the Europeans, the Germans, even the French saying they will not negotiate with criminals and terrorists. British foreign secretary equally dismissive.


JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: I'm afraid that it is yet another bare-faced attempt to divide the international community. It cannot and will not succeed because everybody knows that there is only one side on which the international community can be in the fight against terrorism.


HERRIDGE: That direct and clear language welcomed by the State Department. The international community has been divided by the war on terror, but in this instance, it is taking a firm stand against intimidation by terrorist elements.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I think that the international community realizes that they cannot give into these kinds of threats. And I hope this will strengthen our determination to deal with terrorism and especially to do everything we can to bring Usama bin Laden to justice.


HERRIDGE: The last tape thought to be bin Laden was broadcast January 4 on Al Jazeera. It mentioned Saddam Hussein's capture. Significantly, this tape also appears to be recent, referring to March 11, the Madrid train attacks that killed 191 people. And some analysts believe that this could really be a significant shift in his tactic, trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and its European allies.

VAN SUSTEREN: Catherine, thank you.

HERRIDGE: You're welcome.

VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us on the phone from Islamabad in Pakistan is Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, who has interviewed bin Laden three times. Hamid, has the information about this tape hit the streets of Islamabad?

HAMID MIR, PAKISTANI JOURNALIST: You see, I have no doubt that the tape is genuine, but the contents of the message are not new for me because he said the same kind of things to me when I interviewed him in November, 2001. But the difference is that at that time, in November, 2001, he was asking the same things to the American people also His words were that, I ask the American people to force their government to give up anti-Muslim policies. The American people had risen (ph) against their government's war in Vietnam. They must do the same today. And he was also addressing the European people, and he said there are many innocent good-hearted people in the West.

But this time, he is only addressing to the Europeans, not to the American people. So this is his second attempt to create problems for the American government and the European governments, and he was trying to divide the people of the European American people and their governments, but...

VAN SUSTEREN: Hamid, what -- what...

MIR: ... this time, he's only addressing to the Europeans.

VAN SUSTEREN: Hamid, what do the people in Pakistan say, though, on the street when these tapes come out from Usama bin Laden?

MIR: Yes, you see, the people are divided. Some people are saying that all the big European governments have rejected his truce offer, but some of the people are of the view that his truce offer should not be rejected outrightly. At least, somebody should ask him to surrender in front of international community. Some people are saying that he must be engaged in talks, and somebody should ask him -- that he should come out, have negotiations, negotiations on a table, and he should surrender himself to the international community for justice because if the international community have a lot of evidence against him, then they can ask him to come to the court. So the people are divided in Pakistan.

VAN SUSTEREN: Hamid, I only have a minute left and then I got to go. But where do most people -- or where do you think Usama bin Laden is? What's the area? Is it still the Pakistan-Afghan border?

MIR: Some weeks ago, he was moving between Pakistan and Afghan border, but according to the latest information, some people told me yesterday that now he is in the southern part of Afghanistan, close to the Iranian border. And from there, he is organizing -- he is going to organize some big attack. And I am feeling more attacks in America because whenever he says these kind of things, after that, there are big attacks. So I think that he is trying to preempt the situation. He is going to organize big, big attacks, and he is saying that the European governments and people should not support America.

VAN SUSTEREN: Hamid, I only -- I really want to get this question out to you, and I really want to, you know, do it very quickly. But do you have specific information that he's planning attacks on the United States?


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Hamid, thank you very much for joining us.

Joining us here in Washington is former U.S. ambassador to Morocco Marc Ginsberg. Ambassador, you actually listened to this tape in Arabic. Tell us what you heard.

MARC GINSBERG, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO MOROCCO: It's a defiant, in-your-face tape, Greta. Listening to it, it's clear that the man is healthy, that he -- it was consistent. He didn't miss a beat during the entire seven minutes, at least what I listened to on Al Arabiya. It is a Machiavellian tape, in that it is trying desperately to send a signal to the populations of Europe that, I'm going to give you a three-month truce, during which time, if you pull your troops out of these countries and force your leaders to do so, you will not be attacked, and then promises vengeance against Israel and the United States for the killing of Sheikh Yassin in the Gaza strip, targets the media companies of the United States, targets the president of the United States, and targets other interests that are supporting the United States in Iraq.

VAN SUSTEREN: But -- all right, so he's defiant. He's -- he's ugly. He's cruel. He's mean. He's all the things, but he's done this so many other times since 9/11. Is this tape different from the one -- from any other of his tapes, or even al Zawahiri, his No. 2's tape?

GINSBERG: Yes. He uses a phrase in here that is really interesting. He uses a phrase in Arabic, "mukhtadarat sulk (ph)," which means -- it's a mediation offer. It's not a peace offer. He's offering to the Europeans an opportunity to drive a wedge politically between themselves and the United States. It's the first time that he -- that it has not been a theologically-based diatribe. He is essentially appealing to Europeans to understand that the only reason why he's engaged in what he calls retaliation, and not terror, Greta, is because he believes that the Europeans and the United States have been attacking Muslims. He said, You stop attacking Muslims, I will stop attacking Europeans. And he promises that he would stop attacking Americans if they also pulled out...

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know what's sort of interesting...

GINSBERG: ... of Muslim lands.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... I mean, in some ways, though, it was -- I mean, that is sort of a bad strategy because if you look at the European countries, they've all come out right away and say, We're not negotiating with a killer.

GINSBERG: Exactly. And at the same time, his timing was impeccable, coming in the wake of President Bush's press conference with Prime Minister Sharon, which antagonized the Arab world further. He clearly has events that he knows are taking place. He also understands the significance of what he may have been directly or indirectly responsible for, the bombings in Madrid. And he is sending a signal here that he is going to launch further attacks. It's quite clear from what he's saying that he's targeting now specific economic interests.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it's sort of -- usually, his tapes have been to his people, to his listeners.


VAN SUSTEREN: This was directly to the European nations, and then a little bit to us.

GINSBERG: That's right. And that's why, in some respects, I found it to be significant because he didn't send a signal to the Muslim people. He was sending a signal to Europeans, including Muslims in Europe. He called for the creation of a grand committee in Europe, composed of scholars and Muslims in Europe and those who understand the importance of how to view the suffering of the Palestinian people.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's what I don't get, though, that -- I mean, the world -- at least, most of the -- I mean, at least the Western world and Europe sees him as a mass murderer. He doesn't get that, that people want to...

GINSBERG: Oh, he is trying to position himself, Greta, as the aggrieved party here, and that's what is so fascinating. Given the fact that this is a political appeal in the wake of the -- the clear differences of opinion between Europeans and Americans over the war on terror and what the objectives are in Iraq, he doesn't see himself at all in this tape as anyone who's done anything but has suffered and has had to retaliate because of the sufferings that have been inflicted on him and his people.

VAN SUSTEREN: So the killing is totally justified.

GINSBERG: In his mind and on that tape, it's clearly justified. And what's interesting, he specifically names Halliburton, as well as other companies. In effect, he's trying to create a leftist aura that it's the multi-nationals that are earning millions of dollars in Iraq at your expense.

VAN SUSTEREN: But you know, it's sort of interesting. When he -- when he says Halliburton, some -- he might think that that's going to divide the country, sort of the Republican and the Democrats, because Vice President Cheney has sort of been aligned with Halliburton, for better or for worse. But when you threaten the United States, everybody joins forces against you.

GINSBERG: Well, exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: All bets are off. I mean, that Republican-Democrat thing sort of vanishes.

GINSBERG: Exactly. In fact, what's interesting -- or this thing could backfire because in the wake of the president's speech and in the wake of the Europeans' solidarity with the United States, despite what the Spanish government is doing, it's quite clear that, in the end, he could wind up undermining his very objective because he's showing to both the Europeans and Americans that there's a direct link between al Qaeda and what's going on in Iraq.

VAN SUSTEREN: Al Jazeera straight news, or are they a little bit too involved with him? They're always getting all these tapes.

GINSBERG: Look, I watched General Abizaid and others criticize Al Jazeera vociferously. I saw Secretary Rumsfeld do so today during his press conference, that they're engaging in nonsense accusations that are unfair. And you know what? I've been watching Al Jazeera about what's taking place in Fallujah and others. They have contrived certain circumstances way beyond what anyone else is reporting. Of course, we're not showing all the suffering that's being inflicted on the populations of these cities, as well, and they're showing that and exaggerating that to a great extent, like they've done in the Palestinian territories.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Never dull. Unfortunately, never dull. Ambassador Ginsberg, nice to see you, sir.

GINSBERG: Thank you, Greta.

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