Osama does it again

Osama bin Laden’s last communique of January 2006 attempted to exploit the writings of leftist icon William Blum—but, as we noted, rather garbled it. Now The Guardian calls him out on similarly exploiting—and garbling—the work of one of their reporters in his latest missive. From the Sept. 11 edition:

Bin Laden takes liberties with contents of Guardian video
To the long list of crimes committed by Osama bin Laden a new one can now be added: manipulation of the media. In his latest video address, released last Friday, the al-Qaida leader refers to a film made by the Guardian in Iraq and misquotes the contents of the documentary to suit his own dramatic effect.

In his speech, billed as a “message to the American people” and broadcast on al-Jazeera television, Bin Laden invokes the testimony of a black American soldier in Iraq.

Bin Laden invites American viewers to “listen to the poignant messages of your soldiers in Iraq, who are paying with their blood, nerves and scattered limbs.

“Among them is the eloquent message of Joshua which he sent by way of the media, in which he wipes the tears from his eyes and describes American politicians in harsh terms.”

“By way of the media” is a reference to the work of Sean Smith, the Guardian’s award-winning photographer who has spent months embedded with US troops in Iraq. In his video, “Inside the Surge: Baghdad,” he records the words of a specialist soldier from 2nd Platoon.

“We have people up there in Congress with the brains of a two-year-old,” the soldier tells Smith. “They don’t experience it. I challenge the president to ride along with me.”

Contrary to Bin Laden’s account of the interview in his speech, the soldier does not wipe away tears from his eyes – he wipes away sweat from his forehead. Smith, reached on assignment in Libya yesterday, confirmed that there had been no tears.

In Smith’s film, the soldier is referred to as Spc Vassal. The name Joshua is not used – though it was given by ABC News in a version of the film that it syndicated from the Guardian.

Bin Laden presumably picked up the reference from ABC, perhaps through the media company’s website.

The fact that Bin Laden quotes in his first video for three years information contained in a recent Guardian film – inaccuracies notwithstanding – shows that he continues to be a keen consumer of world affairs.

The 30-minute tape also refers to the US mortgage crisis, high taxes and global warming, as well as to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

There has been some speculation that large parts of the speech may have been written by a Californian-born American convert to Islam, Adam Gadahn, known as “Azzam the American“.

US intelligence experts have confirmed the latest video as genuine, though they stressed that it underlines Bin Laden’s impotence.

An Islamist website announced yesterday that it was poised to post a new Bin Laden video showing the al-Qaida leader introducing the last testament of one of the 19 hijackers from September 11. Al-Qaida has on several occasions marked the anniversary of 9/11 by releasing the killers’ recorded messages before conducting the suicide mission.

In his Friday message, he referred to the hijackers, saying they were able to change US policy. “Nineteen young men were able by the grace of Allah, the most high, to change the direction of its [US government] compass.”

See our last posts on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

  1. Azzam the American killed

    Al Qaeda media director Adam Gadahn, who faced treason charges in the United States, was killed early this year in a strike on a camp in Pakistan, near the Afghan border, US officials said on April 23. (Reuters)