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For reasons I can't fathom without losing respect for the man, Colin Powell claimed that the most recent message from Osama bin Laden proves that al-Qaida is in league with Iraq. But of course, the tape doesn't show any complicity on Iraq's part (and thus can't be evidence to boost a case for war). Just because Osama loves Saddam doesn't mean Saddam loves Osama back.

But in fact the tape doesn't even show that Osama loves Saddam. As has been pointed out by many people, Osama describes Iraq's rulers as "socialist" and "infidel." We've known this about al-Qaida's attitudes to the Baath Party (which is in fact socialist and infidel [i.e. non-Muslim]) for some time. What remained in question was whether there would be a marriage of convenience, since (as Osama pointed out in his latest release) America is the greater enemy.

But Osama's message doesn't even say he's interested in a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" sort of deal (of the sort the US has gotten quite good at, in allying with such worthies as Uzbekistan and Pakistan). Osama says "there will be no harm if the interests of Muslims converge with the interests of the socialists in the fight against the crusaders." In other words, Osama is making the quite small concession that Muslims will be forgiven if, in their zeal to destroy the Great Satan, they inadvertantly help Iraq. That's quite an alliance they've got there.


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