Caught on tape

Posted: Dec 17, 2001 12:00 AM
The Osama bin Laden videotape released by the Pentagon is a cross between "Wayne's World" and a low-budget docudrama on Hitler's final days, with a focus on the Nazi toady inner-circle. One of the many reasons the administration didn't release the tape as soon as intelligence officials got their mitts on it, a U.S. official told me, was that intelligence types thought: "It's almost too good. People were a little worried: 'Is it real?'" No lie. At one point OBL discloses, "Abdallah Azzam (a Palestinian jihadist who died in 1989), Allah bless his soul, told me not to record anything." Officials aren't sure what that means because the comment follows a gap in the taping -- and there's bin Laden, having discussed not recording anything, mugging for a video camera and saying things no smart psychopath would want the world to witness. The man doesn't lack an ego. "We asked each of them to go to America" said bin Laden, making it clear he orchestrated what he calls "the day of the events." OBL used his hands to explain how "we calculated in advance the number of casualties" likely to die in the attacks on the World Trade Center, and how floors of the building might topple. Worse, OBL clearly enjoyed the carnage and seemed to get a chuckle out of the fact that not all the "brothers" knew about the details of their suicide mission until "just before they boarded the planes." He smiled as he recalled what fun it was to be listening to news of the attacks on the radio, while his henchmen watched television in another room. "They were overjoyed when the first plane hit the building, so I said to them: Be patient," OBL reminisced. Go figure why he stuck to the radio as others watched the telly. But then there are lots of things in this session that come across as, well, odd. Call it Freudian, but apparently Osama and his buds, when they're not applauding the death of American civilians, apparently spend a lot of time dreaming or talking about dreaming about planes crashing into buildings. A man off-camera tells of his dream of two planes hitting a building, another knows someone who had a vision about a plane crashing into a building. The unidentified, obsequious sheikh told of three people he knew who dreamed of planes hitting buildings. Do these phallic "plane-attacks-big-buildings" dreams suggest that those in OBL's circle have issues with their mothers? Or their fathers? Or is this the dreams one dreams when the big shots get four wives and the grunts get none? Said one U.S. official: "My guess is that after the events of Sept. 11, a lot of these guys who were claiming mystical abilities were saying, 'I knew this all along.' Or, 'Now it is all clear to me that Allah was telling me.' They're all now claiming to have dreamed it." With their swapping tales of dreams and visions, OBL and his buddies do not exude the aura of warriors. They're more like old ladies talking about various sheikhs and their sermons, and who sends greetings to whom and how difficult their travel was, but how comfortable their accommodations are. Far from the anguish and death they've left in their wake, they seem banal, out-of-touch, primitive. They are so snug in their evil world, they don't even realize how decrepit and vile they might appear to the rest of the world, if the rest of the world were to see how they talk without a script. If Hitler is watching from Hell, surely he is glad there were no video cameras in Nazi Germany.