SLUG: 3-533 livingston bin Laden
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HOST: Al-Jazeera television late Tuesday broadcast an audiotape attributed to al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. In it...the voice calls for Muslims around the world to demonstrate solidarity with Iraq and says anyone cooperating with the United States against Iraq is hostile to Islam.
Neil Livingstone heads Global Options, a security and crisis management firm based here in Washington. He tells News Now's Tom Crosby there is reason to believe this voice is that of Osama bin Laden:
MR. LIVINGSTONE: It appears to be an accurate bin~Laden tape. Voice prints and other intelligence would suggest that it is authentic. And my belief is the U.S. Government has basically acknowledged that fact.
The tape itself I think does some disservice, however, to Saddam Hussein, because the Bush administration has had a very difficult time in linking Iraq and Saddam's regime with al-Qaida. In this case, it looks like Osama bin Laden is putting his arms around Saddam Hussein and essentially declaring that they have an identity of interest.
MR. CROSBY: And indeed, this is a particular time when Saddam Hussein probably would like to distance himself from such people.
MR. LIVINGSTONE: There is no question that this does not come as good news to Saddam Hussein. But it is very characteristic of bin Laden and his movement. They tend to be oblivious to many of the geopolitical trends and pressures around the world. They think of themselves - everything seems to flow from essentially how they view the world at any particular moment. And I think they probably did not consider the fact that this is actually probably aiding the Bush administration's war against Iraq, if that comes.
MR. CROSBY: You talk about the geopolitical impact; what about the economic impact? We saw the U.S. stock market take a bit of a downturn after an early rally. Some analysts were blaming this alleged tape for that downturn.
MR. LIVINGSTONE: Look, al-Qaida is fighting a war not against the people of the United States, although they are the victims, but it is fighting a war against our economy. They see us as the umbilical cord to Israel. And they see us as essentially the country that, in their view, is propping up the conservative regimes in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East. They believe that the source of our power is our economic wealth, and if they can destroy our economy, they can essentially render us powerless. So, everything they do, in one way or another, is designed to have an impact on our economy and on the well-being of the average American.
MR. CROSBY: Could this also undermine the idea that the United States does have a very thorough and powerful intelligence agency if indeed it is proved that the voice on the tape is Osama bin Laden?
MR. LIVINGSTONE: Well, the United States has been trying to get Osama since the 9/11 attacks. And we missed a golden opportunity apparently during the fight at Tora Bora, where many people believe that Osama bin Laden was allowed to slip away through the passes into Pakistan or into the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Whatever happened at that time, he has been a very elusive character.
I will say that while he has great symbolic value, even if he were dead it probably would not affect the war against al-Qaida significantly. Because they have demonstrated a remarkable resiliency and very strong secondary and tertiary leadership that is willing to step up and assume the positions of those who are killed or captured. So, I think we are fighting really an institution here in al-Qaida rather than one man.
MR. CROSBY: And indeed, if he were dead, would he not assume the mantle of martyr at that point?
MR. LIVINGSTONE: Well, I wish he were a martyr. I would like to make more martyrs in the war against terrorism. I do not really think that that makes him any more dangerous than he is today. Some would argue that he is a living symbol. Well, the difference between a living symbol and a dead martyr may be a matter of some debate. But the fact remains that I would rather have him dead not only to punish him for the attacks that he has already carried out against our own citizens, but the fact that at some point this would create some disruption in his organization, even though it would certainly not be a lethal disruption.
HOST: Neil Livingstone, the chairman of Global Options and a recognized authority on terrorism and counter-terrorism strategies.
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