By Peter Lee
The most remarkable thing about the Osama bin Laden tape was how eerily normal it seemed.
OBL came into our living rooms and looked like he belonged there.
He chose the right moment to cut through the clutter and deliver his message to the American people.
He soaked up hours of free air time and gallons of ink for his low budget infomercial from the sensation-hungry media just like a canny political candidate or savvy 527.
Bin Laden sounded like someone who owns a VCR and surfs the net.
Who's seen Fahrenheit 911 and knows the in-joke about My Pet Goat.
Who reads the political coverage knows Bush and Kerry's competing obsession with convincing Security Moms that I Can Keep You Safe.
He talked as if he could understand us...
...and we could understand him.
That's because he's part of our world. He pushed his way in with four jetliners and 3000 murders on 9/11.
A world we swore to remake in order to exclude him.
But it looks like nothing had changed.
After three years of hyperventilating crusader talk, blind flailing about in the Middle East, and thousands of lives shattered and billions of dollars lost...
...after all that sound and fury that was supposed to transform the world...
...or take it back to the days when we took our sense of control, immunity, and security for granted...
...or at least drown out his message with our pain, anger, and outrage...
...it looks like we spent three years going in circles like Boy Scouts lost in the forest...
...and ended up tired, bewildered, and not too far from where we started.
On balance, the tape may help Bush simply because neither the media or Kerry have the stomach for examining the tape and broadcasting bin Laden's punishing and rather spot-on comments about our prez, such as:
We did not find it difficult to deal with Bush and his administration, because it is similar to regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half are ruled by the sons of kings and presidents. We have a long experience with them. Both types include many who are full of arrogance and greed.
This resemblance became clear in the Bush the father's visits to the region. ... He wound up being impressed by the royal and military regimes and envied them for staying decades in their positions and embezzling the nation's money with no supervision
He passed on tyranny and oppression to his son, and they called it the PATRIOT act, under the pretext of fighting terror. Bush the father did well in placing his sons as governors and did not forget to pass on the expertise in fraud from the leaders of the (Mideast) region to Florida to use it in critical moments.
We had agreed with the general emir Mohammed Atta, God bless his soul, to carry out all operations within 20 minutes before Bush and his administration noticed. It never occurred to us that the commander in chief of the American armed forces will leave 50,000 of his citizens in the two towers to face these horrors alone.
It appeared to him (Bush) that a little girl's talk about her goat and its butting was more important than the planes and their butting of the skyscrapers. That gave us three times the required time to carry out the operations, thank God.
The media will revert to its dismal 2002 levels of chest-thumbing bombast, patriotic spin, and loyal obfuscation, at least on the subject of this tape, and that will suck quite a bit of news cycle oxygen from the highly damaging Iraq explosives story.
(N.B. the only version of the transcript that included the startling reference to Bush Sr. picking up pointers in the Middle East on how to install his prince lings into local satrapies was at the LA Times. I guess they didn't get the memo. Neither NYT, WaPo, CNN, MSNBC, Guardian, or Independent carried that part.)
And there's a subtler dynamic. One that should offer some direction to John Kerry.
In the waning days of Bush's first term, OBL is alive and kicking and seems to occupy a permanent place in our mental pantheon of things that disconcert, anger, and terrify us.
Like OJ, global warming, Swift Boat Veterans, death, and taxes.
A nagging, taunting presence that we can't seem to exorcize.
Maybe some voters will decide they were just deluding themselves by believing the optimistic promises of John Kerry and reconcile themselves to the failures and diminished moral horizons of George W. Bushóand a world in which OBL drops in for holidays and important national occasions.
It's up to John Kerry to project a message of hope and resolve as our President in Waiting.
To say that, unlike George W. Bush, he thinks about Osama bin Laden a lot, and considers it his first priority to capture OBL and dispel the psychic cloud and physical threat that bin Laden's continued freedom forces Americans to live under.
To say We Will Find Him, and America will move beyond the Groundhog Day futility of Bush's cycle of outrage, failure, and evasion in the Middle East.
To promise that John Kerry will lead America into a post bin Laden world stronger, more united, and wiser because of the ordeal we have gone through.
Into a Brave New World, indeed.
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in't!
Shakespeare, The Tempest
Wishing you all the blessings of peace and a new beginning on November 3.
Copyright 2004 Peter Lee
Peter Lee is the creator of the anti-war satire and commentary website Halcyon Days. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
"If one candidate's trying to scare you, and the other one's trying to get you to think; if one candidate's appealing to your fears, and the other one's appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope." - Bill Clinton
"He's a long way from being the Messiah, but at least he's not the anti-Christ."
Robert Wright, Slate Contributor, speaking of John Kerry.