The former head of the CIA unit responsible for hunting down Osama bin Laden says the terror leader made a “very overt threat” in his recent video appearance and suggests President Bush’s chief terror adviser was “malevolent” for dismissing the risk.
Michael Scheuer, author of “Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terror" and a 22-year CIA veteran, was singled out by bin Laden in his video message.
Scheuer tells NewsMax he was startled by reaction in the press that the recent bin Laden tape offered “no overt threat.”
In fact, Scheuer says, bin Laden made a “very overt threat.”
“He says basically our job will be to keep killing you and killing you faster if you don’t convert to Islam,” Scheuer recounted, adding, “If that’s not a threat I don’t know what is.”
Scheuer believes bin Laden “is an extraordinarily dangerous man for a couple of reasons. First, he commands an organization which is 20 years old, which NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] this summer I think accurately said is still in business and still very dangerous.
“The second reason is he is obviously succeeding in what has always been his primary goal, which is not military action, but instigating other Muslims to jihad.”
Bin Laden has been very successful in uniting the Arab world by characterizing American foreign policy as an attempt to undermine or destroy Islam, according to Scheuer.
But Scheuer says he was truly shocked just days after the bin Laden tape was released when Frances Townsend, Bush’s homeland security adviser, appeared Sept. 9 on “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “Late Edition” and provocatively characterized bin Laden as “virtually impotent” and “on the run.”
“This is about the best he can do,” Townsend asserted. “This is a man on a run, from a cave, who’s virtually impotent other than these tapes.”
Scheuer noted the irony of Townsend’s claim, which came in the wake of bin Laden ridiculing President Bush about the Iraq war as he reminded the world that he has not been captured.
Scheuer also noted that Townsend’s comments fly in the face of recent reports by U.S. officials warning that bin Laden’s al-Qaida has been reenergized. A National Intelligence Estimate in mid-July said al-Qaida will likely leverage its contacts and capabilities in Iraq to mount an attack on U.S. soil.
In an exclusive NewsMax interview, Scheuer said calling bin Laden virtually impotent would in the Muslim world be interpreted as “saying that he’s not a man. It’s comes across as nothing so much as a challenge.”
“This is a challenge not only to the enemy but to the virility and it’s from a woman, which in Arab culture is even more denigrating,” he said.
Scheuer described Townsend as "ignorant" and "malevolent” for her comments.
“The other thing that made me shake my head was that this great superpower is responding to a man who we claim is running from rock to rock and cave and cave. We’re losing the two wars being fought. We’re advising American families to have multiple evacuation plans in case we get attacked again. The Director of National Intelligence says al-Qaida is established in our country. And she’s saying al-Qaida is impotent! What the hell is she talking about?”
In an earlier NewsMax interview, Scheuer predicted there was going to be another major terrorist attack on the U.S. He says nothing from bin Laden’s latest appearance dissuades him from that assessment.
“[Bin Laden’s] been working fastidiously on [another attack] since 2001,” Scheuer concludes.
The former CIA unit chief says bin Laden made enemies among Muslims for his 9/11 attacks by failing to follow Islamic law and issue enough of a warning, seek converts, offer a truce and get the necessary religious fatwas authorizing the attack.
But today, Scheuer argues, bin Laden has done that. He concludes that his latest video – when analyzed with the previous statements of his second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, suggests another major attack could happen soon. Scheuer says he’s surprised that few in the West appear to be taking notice of what bin Laden and his surrogates are saying.
Scheuer also offered his observations on other aspects of bin Laden’s strategy:
He believes that with the 2008 elections fast approaching, bin laden may be wishing for the next U.S. president to be as confrontational as George Bush has been.
“President Bush has been a Godsend” for creating anti-American feeling, he declared. “Mr. Bush’s polices are not all that different -- aside from the invasion of Iraq, which is a big aside - than his dad’s or Mr. Clinton, but his rhetoric is just unbelievably useful to bin Laden and I’m very sure that bin Laden is hoping for somebody like [John] McCain who is as outspoken as the President.”
Scheuer was sharply critical of most of the current presidential candidates for avoiding serious debate on Iraq, Afghanistan and Islamic terrorism.
“We had 19 candidates and all of them except Mr. Kucinich on the left and Mr. Paul on the right are telling Americans that is all about women in the workplace and primary elections and all the rest of it, and that’s why nothing is going to change. This war is going to keep getting worse and the enemy is going to keep getting bigger.”
Iraq and Afghanistan
Scheuer charged that the U.S. is letting Afghanistan “rot away underneath our feet,” and will have to leave Iraq no matter who is president.
“When we leave those places, it is over and in a sense, it’s going to be a new beginning for the enemy. It’s going to be a galvanizing event that people in the West don’t have any idea of.”
Scheuer contends that the level of violence in Iraq may increase as the U.S. begins to pull troops out of the country. But he added: “There was a great deal of really intense worry in the United States when the Soviets decided to leave Afghanistan. The concern was that the insurgents were crazy people and they would keep attacking the Soviets on the way out -- and then Moscow would change its mind and come back in.
“So we sent very senior people out to talk to the [anti-Soviet forces] and we laid our worries out and they basically said, ‘Are you Americans crazy? We’ve been fighting 10 years to get rid of these people. Do you think we’re going to attack them on the way out and change their minds?’
“I think that you might see a reduction in violence against us in Iraq if they are convinced that we are going to leave.”
The Real Aim
Scheuer discounted the notion that if the U.S. were to leave Iraq and Afghanistan, pull all troops from the Middle East and stop supporting Israel, the terrorists’ war against America would continue.
He believes that if the U.S. withdrew, it would allow al-Qaida to focus on its real aim – overthrowing what bin Laden regards as police states in Arab nations.
“To the extent that we disengage -- not to please the enemy but to see if it is in the interest of the United States -- bin Laden’s ability to keep that momentum going toward the ‘far enemy’ as they call us, rather than the near enemy, the governments at home, will lessen…
“They are not interested in fighting us for any longer than they have to. They want to go after their main enemies - and so they want to get us out of there as fast as they can.”
The former CIA official told NewsMax that the U.S. faces a twofold threat – from al-Qaida itself, and from homegrown terrorists.
As for al-Qaida, “they are not going to attack us in our country unless it is bigger than 9-11. That’s the next step for them. It would be a sign of weakness on their part and it would be seen like that in the Muslim world if they resorted to car-bombing a pizza parlor or using a guy with a suicide vest in the middle of a mall.
“As for the homegrown groups – it’s a very disturbing thing when some in our government … are almost dismissive of these homegrown guys because they are so amateurish.
“But consider, everybody has a learning curve. People tend to forget that when al-Qaida first struck us in Yemen in ’92, they killed a couple of their own guys, a tourist and no Americans -- and it was only nine years between that and 9-11 when they did what they did in New York and Washington.”
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