Osama bin Laden doesn't have former President George W. Bush to kick around anymore. That has made his sales job a little tougher, something in evidence in the Al Qaeda leader's latest propaganda tape dispatched from his latest presumed hiding place in Pakistan.
Bin Laden generally times the release of a tape to the anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks that he helped organize and which touched off the bloody ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This year was no different, with his "message to the American people" released on Islamic militant websites on Sunday.
But while his world view remains the same – the United States is a dangerous empire that backs Israel in its occupation of Arab lands – the packaging of his comments is now subtly different. Bin Laden was happy to describe Mr. Bush as "the evil one" responsible for authorizing what he describes as wars of conquest to subjugate Muslims.
But President Obama (he of the middle name "Hussein") comes in for gentler treatment. Bin Laden praises Obama for his acknowledgment of Muslim grievances in a speech in Cairo earlier this year. Rather than an evil plotter, Obama is merely a useful idiot for the secret cabal that bin Laden says runs Washington. Obama, he says is "powerless" to stop them and is in some sense a "victim" of their plots. Bin Laden's view is basically the popular conspiracy theory that "big corporations" and their agents actually run the US government with an Islamic twist.
In one summary of the tape, bin Laden is quoted as saying: "Any leader of the White House is set on tracks he can't leave. This President has become like a train set to move in a particular direction. He must accept these pressures otherwise his fate could be like President Kennedy or his brother."
He spends a lot of the 10 minute tape talking about US support of Israel. He says that America is weakening its own security to protect the Jewish state and once again explains that this support is the reason for Al Qaeda's repeated attacks on the US.
Much of his commentary would be right at home in a stump speech in the US, either Republican or Democrat. "The White House is occupied by pressure groups," Bin Laden said. "You Americans must liberate the White House from these groups." Of course, decades of failure by American politicians to curb the influence of lobbyists shows that the liberation he suggests is about as likely as bin Laden achieving his ultimate objective of uniting the entire planet under a single Muslim ruler.
As has become his wont, bin Laden also name-checked a number of American officials, good and bad. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen, and US Central Command Chief General David Petraeus are the "bad" carryovers from the Bush years responsible for leading Obama astray.
General Sanchez – the commander in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib torture scandal – apparently made it onto bin Laden's favorites list because of his criticism since retirement of US war policy in Iraq.
What are prison conditions like in Iraq now? Deteriorating and filled with human rights abuses.