In a 50-minute video released through Web sites sympathetic to al-Qaida, California-born Adam Gadahn urges followers of the organization to take action against Bush when he tours Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
If the president's security during the stops in seven Arab countries and Israel was already a concern as a matter of routine, the new development will certainly have a few Secret Service agents assigned to the presidential detail as well as local security officials biting their nails as Bush goes from one country to the next in a region filled with political tension and rampant anti-Americanism.
"Now we direct an urgent call to our militant brothers in Muslim Palestine and the Arab peninsula ... to be ready to receive the Crusader slayer Bush in his visit to Muslim Palestine and the Arab peninsula in the beginning of January and to receive him not with flowers or clapping but with bombs and booby-trapped vehicles," Gadahn said in Arabic. Much of the rest of the video, however, was in English, probably intended more for an American audience than al-Qaida rank and file. As he has done in the past, Gadahn's message echoes his master's voice, urging Americans to "repent."
In fact, the video is titled "An Invitation to Reflection and Repentance." Most of the footage involves heavy rhetoric and chest beating, with al-Qaida claiming Washington's "defeat" in Iraq and Afghanistan and the failure of the Bush administration in its Middle East peace-building efforts.
"We felt it necessary to address the American people and explain to them some of the facts about these critical and fast-moving events," said Gadahn, who wore a red and white keffiyeh, or headdress, over a white skullcap in the Islamist fashion.
"The first questions Americans might ask is has America really been defeated? The answer is yes and on all fronts," said Gadahn, who also goes by the name of Azzam the American and is believed to be living in Pakistan.
The new recording has Gadahn criticizing Washington for the invasion of Afghanistan, calling the presidents of Egypt and Pakistan the "worst dictators and tyrants." He doesn't spare Christians either, describing their religion as "baseless and doubt-filled." And as bin Laden has done in the past, Gadahn urges American war veterans to convert to Islam.
"Listen to me, and listen to me carefully, before you lose your mind to flashbacks, and drugs and drink-induced dementia and before your demons drive you to self-destruction and suicide, in these verses (in the Koran), God calls out to each and every one of you saying God forgives all sins ... if you simply stop and repent," he said.
Obviously meant to establish a date on the video, proving to the world this is a recent recording, Gadahn made a point to mention the Dec. 5 shooting in a shopping mall in Omaha that left eight people dead. Though the usual intelligence sources could not rule on the authenticity of the webcast, it does appear on a Web site known to carry messages from al-Qaida.
Gadahn has in the past appeared in many al-Qaida videos, always threatening bigger and more spectacular attacks against the United States. In the United States, Gadahn has been charged with treason and remains on the FBI wanted list. There is a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction.
Playing up the symbolism for what it's worth, Gadahn takes out his U.S. passport and rips it apart, saying to the camera: "In symbolic rejection of the American citizenship that honorable and decent and compassionate people are ashamed to carry, I will now proceed to destroy my American passport."
A symbolic gesture indeed, as his passport would get him a one-way visa to the Guantanamo Hilton, where accommodation would be provided for the next 50 years, unless the death penalty he faces catches up to him first.
(Claude Salhani is Editor of the Middle East Times.)
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