Every now and then I end up agreeing with the Bush administration. And at least to a degree, this is one of those times.
Osama bin Laden sent a tape offering a 'long-term truce.'
The Bush administration, after confirming that it was indeed bin Laden on the tape, rejected the offer.
Now, unless bin Laden is completely delusional, he must have known that this would be the answer. So either he is desperate (I hope that is the case, but probably not, given our failures to date, and the diversion of American resources into Iraq which could be used looking for him) or he thinks that by making a tape like this he can divide the American people.
If so, then he is wrong about that. I believe that the Bush administration made a stupid and completely wrongheaded move into Iraq, but that has nothing to do with the fight against Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden is still the man who has repeatedly attacked America, and who has killed thousands, both Americans and those who simply got in his way. Allowing him to move about freely while rebuilding his organization is absurd in itself (even without the added benefit he would gain just by virtue of his survival of being able to claim that he 'defeated' us which he could then use to stir up even more unrest throughout the region). The President was absolutely right to reject this offer. My only complaint on this topic with the President is that he hasn't done enough to take out Mr. bin Laden, instead focusing on Iraq. But as far as the need to catch and either kill or capture Osama bin Laden, there is no disagreement with that here. I hope that whatever else the President achieves (and thus far, little if any of it has been good) he does leave with Osama bin Laden neutralized as a threat. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by accepting his offer. The only way such an offer could even remotely be entertained is if he agreed to renounce publically everything he has devoted his life to, and lived by that renunciation, and I doubt if we will ever have to consider whether to accept it in that kind of context.
So let me say it here:
I fully support President Bush in his quest to kill or capture Osama bin Laden.
Now, that is not to say that there aren't other things we can and should be doing to address the situation we now find ourselves in involving Mr. bin Laden.
Let me draw an analogy. Our foreign policy in the middle east, in particular, propping up unpopular monarchies that plunder their countries' wealth and oppress their people, and which we do because we need the oil, is like a lifestyle, which has produced the cancer of Osama bin Laden and his followers.
Now, President Bush has said that we need to get rid of them. And he is absolutely right about that, we should aggressively treat the cancer until it has been eradicated. If he has not done so vigorously enough, instead choosing to concentrate on what amounts to muscle enhancement instead (i.e. Iraq) then I only urge that he get re-focused on the task at hand, beating the cancer.*
What the President has not done, is address the underlying causes of why we are having to contend with the likes of Osama bin Laden. It is as if someone who was fighting cancer continued smoking three packs a day, eating the same poor diet they had before, and other risky behavior. Sooner or later, they would be likely to have more cancers, even if they were successful at treating that one.
What the other part of this equation is, is that we need to 1. conserve oil and develop more fuel efficient vehicles to be able to cut middle eastern oil out of the picture, 2. quit propping up monarchies like the Saudi and Kuwaiti royal families and let the people there make their own decisions about what to do about them, and 3. work at least behind the scenes with reformists and Democratic leaders in those countries (but absolutely never with Osama bin Laden-- the only right we should be willing to grant him, is the right to hire a defense attorney, should he be fortunate enough to live to see the day when he needs one.)
*--and before anyone suggests that Iraq is a part of this fight, I'd like to point out that al-Qaeda's only foothold in prewar Iraq was an enclave way behind Kurdish lines, nowhere near anyplace that Saddam had any control over; and if we left Iraq, then it would be Zarqawi and the other terrorists who have come there to kill our troops, who would then be seen as the foreign invaders and would be opposed by the local populace.