Analyzing Bin Laden's TapeLeft, Osama bin Laden in an a video broadcast in 2004. Right, he appears in a recent banner advertisement on an Islamic militant Web site. (Photo: Associated Press)
Osama bin Laden made no "overt threats" against the United States in his first videotaped statement in three years, according to a transcript obtained by ABC News.
Several details appear to confirm that it is indeed a recent statement. The Al Qaeda chief mentions recent details on Iraq, the election of a new president in France and the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which he said was "just a few days ago." If true, that would place the taping at the beginning of August.
But he mainly railed against American politicians and voters for backing the Iraq war in the statement, according to the transcript posted on ABC News. [pdf] Here's one part of the message that was directed to the "people of America:"
The world is following your news in regards to your invasion of Iraq, for people have recently come to know that, after several years of tragedies of this war, the vast majority of you want it stopped. Thus, you elected the Democratic Party for this purpose, but the Democrats haven't made a move worth mentioning. On the contrary, they continue to agree to the spending of tens of billions to continue the killing and war there.
As he goes on, many names are mentioned, from the earthly (former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, an influential adviser, Vice President Cheney, two British prime ministers, former President Kennedy and President Bush) to the heavenly (Allah, Jesus and Mary).
He also endorses Noam Chomsky as "among the most capable" observers on the Iraq war and "the manufacturing of public opinion" and urges listeners to "read the book of Michael Scheuer," the former C.I.A. official who heavily criticized President Bush's strategy on fighting Al Qaeda.
Since an advertisement for the tape was posted to an Islamic militant Web site last night, analysts have been trying to parse another detail of this latest tape: Mr. bin Laden's beard, which mysteriously turned from gray to almost entirely black since the last tape in 2004.
In an interview today, Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, which monitors Islamic militant web sites, said there were two possibilities. "Either he is using a fake beard or he's dying it." The goal would have been to portray a healthy image, a common practice for Arab leaders, she said.
Margaret Foster, a colleague of Ms. Katz's, cited the past two Saudi leaders as good examples. Both King Fahd and King Abdullah, the current leader, "retained totally black beards into their 80s," she said. A BBC video obituary available here shows both of them.
Analyzing Bin Laden's Words and BeardAbdel Meguid al-Zindani. (Photo: The New York Times)
Abdel Meguid al-Zindani of Yemen, Osama bin Laden's friend, former teacher and fiery Muslim cleric, had a beard dying habit of his own, using henna to turn it red and symbolize piety, a Times report in 2002 said.
As analysts seek clues to bin Laden's whereabouts in the tape, Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism adviser, suggests that the strikingly black beard may be an excellent clue.
He told ABC News that the beard looked fake, which would mean that Mr. bin Laden dropped his own to avoid standing out in southeast Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia.
"No one's thought he was there, but that is an environment where most men, Muslim men don't have beards," he said.