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January 31, 2006

Unlike Bush, bin Laden Keeps His Word


by Paul Sperry

Now that he's under pressure to defend his domestic spying program, President Bush is suddenly very worried about Osama bin Laden. And Bush says if we had any sense, we'd also be worried about bin Laden and stop bitching about the loss of our Fourth Amendment rights.

"We're at war with an enemy that wants to hit us again," Bush warned last week. "Osama bin Laden made that clear the other day, and I take his words very seriously."

But that wasn't the case before Bush needed to justify the NSA bugging of Americans, and before bin Laden gave him a convenient excuse for doing that by issuing another threat in the heat of the controversy.

Bush hasn't given America's Enemy No. 1 the time of day since he escaped from Tora Bora four years ago and made the tough-talking Texan – who'd vowed to get him "dead or alive" – look like a dime-store cowboy.

Rewind to Jan. 17, 2002. Tom Brokaw asked Bush about the top terrorist's disappearing act, and Bush shrugged it off by saying, "Osama bin Laden is not my focus." He even stiffed the 9/11 mastermind in his State of the Union speech.

Then a couple of months later, as the press reminded him of the embarrassing failure, the president remained indifferent: "I don't know where he is, and I truly am not that concerned about him."

In subsequent State of the Union addresses, bin Laden didn't even warrant a single mention, upstaged as he was by Saddam Hussein. Even after ol' Saddam was caught and shown to be more a threat to his dentist than to any American, Bush kept jabbering about him. But not bin Laden.

While it's debatable how serious the president is now about bin Laden, he's not kidding when he says the al-Qaeda leader has made his threats very "clear."

In fact, bin Laden doesn't bluff or make idle threats. He telegraphs his every move and follows through on terror threats within months of making them, which is more than can be said for Sheriff "Dead or Alive" Bush, who's still hunting for the main 9/11 quarry going on five years now.

Meanwhile, bin Laden has not only stated his plans to again attack the United States but has issued three lists of allies to be attacked either for assisting Washington in Afghanistan and Iraq or for helping U.S. intelligence capture al-Qaeda members.

"In all cases, bin Laden indicated that these attacks would be designed to make the countries rethink their support for America," notes Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, in his book Imperial Hubris.

The first target list was issued on Sept. 28, 2001, the second on Feb. 11, 2003, and the third on Oct. 18, 2003. In that October tape, bin Laden warned that Spain and Britain would be among six nations targeted for their role in the Iraq war. "We reserve the right to retaliate at the appropriate time and place against all countries involved, especially the UK, Spain, Australia, Japan, and Italy," he warned.

All told, 20 nations made bin Laden's hit list. "Of the 20 nations al-Qaeda threatened, 18 have been attacked – a 90 percent correlation," Scheuer says.

His assessment included strikes on Bali, Casablanca, Istanbul, and Madrid, but not on London, which came after his book was released. So make that 19 nations hit out of 20 forewarned – a 95 percent correlation, making al-Qaeda at once the world's most effective terror network and the most predictable.

Only, you'd never know it from this president, who engages in false bravado about breaking "the back of al-Qaeda" instead of taking an honest measurement of the enemy, who is still lethal and poised to strike again.

Many terror analysts believe al-Qaeda will hit U.S. allies Italy and Australia next, perhaps both within this year. And bin Laden, saving the worst for us, has received the green light from a Saudi cleric to use nukes against American cities, killing potentially millions. "The real battle has not started yet," he warns.

Sure, it may be bluster. But given his proven track record, we can't afford to take him lightly.

Yet instead of burying bin Laden, Bush has wasted a lot of time trying to bury the political embarrassment of his escape by dismissing him as impotent and "on the run." Of course, bin Laden never retired from the terror business. On the contrary, he's been very active and is still a dangerous threat to America – something Bush is only now acknowledging as he grasps for an excuse to continue abusing his power while ineffectively fighting the war on al-Qaeda

Bin Laden is a man of his word. Bush, not so much. He's too busy playing politics with your security.

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Sperry, formerly Washington bureau chief of Investors Business Daily, is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of Crude Politics: How Bush's Oil Cronies Hijacked the War on Terrorism (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003).

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