Bin Laden deputy calls Bush a failure and liar, criticizes pope
CAIRO, Egypt -- Al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri called President Bush a failure and a liar in the war on terror in a video statement released Friday, and he compared Pope Benedict XVI to the 11th century pontiff who launched the First Crusade.
"Can't you be honest at least once in your life, and admit that you are a deceitful liar who intentionally deceived your nation when you drove them to war in Iraq?" Osama bin Laden's deputy said, appearing in front of a standing lamp and a small, decorative cannon.
Al-Zawahri also criticized Bush for continuing to imprison al-Qaida leaders in prisons, including al-Qaida No. 3 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind who was captured in Pakistan in March 2003.
"Bush, you deceitful charlatan, 3 1/2 years have passed since your capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, so how have you found us during this time? Losing and surrendering? Or are we launching attacks with God's help and becoming martyrs?" he said.
"What you have perpetrated against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other Muslim captives in your prisons and the prisons of your slaves in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan and elsewhere is not hidden from anyone, and we are a people who do not sleep under oppression and who do not abandon our revenge until our chests have been healed of those who have committed aggression against us," he said.
"And we, by the grace of Allah, are seeking to exact revenge on behalf of Islam and Muslims from you and your soldiers and allies."
Al-Zawahri accused the United States and its agents of torturing Muslim prisoners seized across the Middle East.
"Your agents in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan have captured thousands of the youth and soldiers of Islam whom you made to taste at your hands and the hands of your agents various types of punishment and torture," al-Zawahri said.
Ben Venzke, head of the Virginia-based IntelCenter, which monitors terrorism communications, said al-Zawahri essentially gave al-Qaida's spin on the arrests and detentions of its leaders.
"They are countering arguments that individuals have been able to provide useful information," he said. "And they are continuing to reinforce their intentions for revenge."
Al-Zawahri said Benedict is reminiscent of Pope Urban II, who in 1095 ordered the First Crusade to establish Christian control in the Holy Land.
"This charlatan Benedict brings back to our memories the speech of his predecessor charlatan Urban II in the 11th century ... in which he instigated Europeans to fight Muslims and launch the Crusades because he (Urban) claimed 'atheist Muslims, the enemies of Christ' are attacking the tomb of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him," al-Zawahri said.
Al-Zawahri's remarks about Benedict were a clear response to the pontiff's comments this month that sparked outrage across the Muslim world. In that speech, Benedict cited a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman," particularly "his command to spread by the sword the faith."
"If Benedict attacked us, we will respond to his insults with good things. We will call upon him and all of the Christians to become Muslims who do not recognize the Trinity or the crucifixion," al-Zawahri said.
Al-Zawahri also called a U.N. resolution to send peacekeepers into Sudan's war-torn Darfur region a "Crusader plan" and implored the Muslims of Darfur to defend themselves.
"There is a Crusader plan to send Crusaders forces to Darfur that is about to become a new field of the Crusades war. Oh, nation of Islam, rise up to defend your land from the Crusaders aggression who are coming wearing United Nations masks," he said. "No one will defend you (Darfur) but a popular holy war."
The nearly 18-minute statement, titled "Bush, the Pope, Darfur and the Crusades," was produced by al-Qaida's media arm, as-Sahab, and made available by the IntelCenter. An initial segment shows al-Zawahri in an office-type setting, while in the second part he is in front of a brown backdrop. The first segment also has English subtitles.
After conducting a technical analysis of the videotape, the CIA concluded "with confidence" that the speaker is in fact Ayman al-Zawahri, said a CIA spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity
An intelligence official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. experts view the latest video as a typical propaganda message, whose main thrust is a call for more people to join the jihad, or holy war.
It wasn't immediately clear when the message was recorded, the official said, but al-Zawahri's reference to the pope indicated the message was produced sometime after Benedict's Sept. 12 comments about Islam.
Al-Qaida has released a string of videos to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, showing increasingly sophisticated production techniques in a likely effort to demonstrate that it remains a powerful, confident force despite the U.S.-led war on terror.
The IntelCenter said Friday's video was the 48th released by the al-Qaida Web site this year, three times more than last year's number -- which had been the highest. It said al-Zawahri has appeared in 14 of the 2006 videos.