The Bush administration can try to spin the latest communiqu & eacute; purportedly from Osama bin Laden as justification for war with Iraq, but the fact remains that bin Laden, the mastermind of world terrorism and the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on America's mainland, is a greater threat to our security than Saddam Hussein.
Why? Because he has the ability to energize Islamic extremists around the world as no other individual. It doesn't matter that bin Laden has been out of public sight for more than a year, he remains on everyone's mind.
Just consider the international press coverage of the tape recording that was aired Tuesday by Al-Jazeera, a satellite station in the Middle East, and the reaction of governments around the world. The prospect of 9/11 type terrorist attacks in the event of war with Iraq has prompted many nations to be on high alert.
Bin Laden's call for increased suicide bombings by true believers was clear: "We stress the importance of martyrdom operations against the enemy, these attacks that have scared Americans and Israelis like never before."
On the other hand, the Bush administration has latched onto the statement pertaining to Iraq as proof that bin Laden and his Al-Qaida terrorist network have close ties to Saddam: "We are following with utmost concern the Crusaders' preparations to occupy the former capital of Islam (Baghdad), loot the fortunes of the Muslims and install a puppet regime on you that follows its masters in Washington and Tel Aviv like the rest of the treacherous puppet Arab governments as a prelude to the formation of Greater Israel."
However, a subsequent comment seems to suggest that the White House has made a huge leap in linking Al-Qaida to Saddam: "True Muslims should act, incite and mobilize the nation in such great events ... in order to break free from the slavery of these tyrannic and apostate regimes, which is enslaved by America, in order to establish the rule of Allah on Earth. Among regions ready for liberation are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, the country of the two shrines (Saudi Arabia), Yemen and Pakistan. ... This war concerns the Muslims, regardless of whether the socialist party and Saddam remain or go."
This call for religious warfare and the installation of Islamic regimes in the Middle East is what makes bin Laden so dangerous. That he has evaded capture or death has exalted his status among his followers.
When the president declared after 9/11 that he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive," America's allies, especially those in Europe, applauded and pledged support for the war on global terrorism.
But now that the search for bin Laden has been overshadowed by Bush's preoccupation with Saddam, many of our allies are beginning to question the administration's priorities.