I knew it was going to happen. I predicted it months ago. I knew that, when the political going got heavy, when the voices of logic and sanity threatened to get too strong, when the people's will to follow their established leadership into the Valley of Death was most in doubt, Osama bin Laden would surface in Baghdad.
OK, he's not really in Baghdad, but he's allied with Saddam Hussein.
Well, not really "allied with", but expressing support for. All right, not actually expressing support for, but warning us of the consequences if we attack. And warning our client states in the region, as well.
The current Bush administration is falling all over itself, so happy is it to finally have a "smoking gun", or at least something that can be presented as one. In truth, of course, the recent bin Laden tape proves nothing more than the fact that its author despises the US perhaps even more than he despises the Iraqi regime. It no more proves that the two Islamic groups are allied than a tape I might make, warning Fidel Castro not to attack Dallas, would prove that I was a Cowboys fan (perish the thought!).
How did I know this would happen? Easy -- I cheated. I didn't read the book, I saw the movie. It's an old movie, a classic, starring Errol Flynn and David Niven. The Charge of the Light Brigade.
You remember, the noble British Light Brigade was off on a perfectly honorable mission furthering Imperial rule in India, and returned home to find their wives and children mercilessly slaughtered by the despicable Islamic chieftan, Surat Khan. Years pass, the brigade gets redeployed to another continent, another enemy. The British army gets bogged down in the Crimea. Neither side can move. The situation is hopeless. Morale begins to sink.
Miraculously, the word comes through that Surat Khan has been spotted in the battle lines of the enemy. As a man, the Light Brigade mounts up, grabs their lances, and charges through the Valley of Death to break the Russian lines and avenge their terrible loss. The movie has been termed "an epic dripping with patriotism, pageantry, and heroism."
Of course, Osama bin Laden has seen the movie, too. No spy sneaked through enemy lines to bring us the latest report, bin Laden sent it, himself, in the most public manner possible. He wants us to invade Iraq. He's inviting the Light Brigade to charge.
Why? Because reality isn't like old movies. The battle of Balaklava wasn't directed by Michael Curtiz. The Russian lines were not broken.
The massive casualties suffered during the charge achieved no military victory. The massive casualties suffered during the war, as a whole, achieved no political victory. The most significant outcome of the Crimean War was the breakdown of the alliance which had fostered peace in Europe for over four decades.
Bin Laden knows that the only way he can go down as a hero is if there is large-scale war between fundamentalist Muslims on one side, and the secular West (especially the US and its client governments in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, etc.) on the other. The events most likely to cause that war to occur include a US-led invasion of an Arab country, preferably Iraq. Remember, bin Laden isn't really in Baghdad. His recent message, properly interpreted, boils down to "lets you and them fight!"
In truth, a US-led invasion of Iraq would be the Charge of the Light Brigade in reverse. We wouldn't suffer massive casualties on the battlefield, we'd inflict massive casualties on the battlefield. And on the civilian population. Bin Laden knows this, and has decided, to quote Madeline Albright, that it's "worth the price".
If the current Bush administration uses the recent bin Laden announcement as a final inducement to attack Iraq, bin Laden wins two ways. First, he has two of his declared enemies fighting each other: the bloodier, the better. Second, he gets full-color video of US forces attacking an Arabic, Muslim nation to boost his recruiting efforts and the motivation of his troops. He not only benefits during the war, he benefits during the peace (or, at least, the cease-fire) that follows.
So, I've seen the movie. Bin Laden has seen the movie. Many of you have seen the movie. The question is: has George W. Bush seen the movie? And, of course, if he has, did he recognize it as militaristic propaganda? Did he know it was fiction?
Richard Martin is a project analyst, teacher, publisher of www.protestsongs.us, and in the lengthy process of shifting his loyalties from the Washington Redskins to the Philadelphia Eagles. He lives in Cazenovia, NY.