Jewish World Review Jan. 20, 2006/ 20 Teves, 5766

Wesley Pruden

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Some big talk from the bug cave | That may be Osama bin Laden crying "uncle." Or it might be Osama crying out to make mischief. He might not make peace in the saloons, but he could make trouble in the salons.

The villain of September 11 threatens to attack Fortress America again, blowing hard about how he can huff, puff, sweat, strain and maybe even burp any time he wants to. The most interesting and perhaps revealing part of the audiotape, broadcast yesterday on Al Jazeera, was his convoluted feeler for "a long-term truce" with the Great Satan.

The White House replied with the hard-nosed reply everyone, perhaps even Osama himself, should have expected: "Clearly the al Qaeda leaders and other terrorists are on the run," the president's spokesman said. "They're under a lot of pressure. We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business."

Even the top Democrat speaking ex-officio reacted semi-responsibly, briefly echoing the White House. "You don't negotiate with terrorists," Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told Fox News Channel. "These people have killed 3,000 Americans. There is no truce with al Qaeda, and there never will be. You can't trust them. I think we're doing exactly the right thing on the Pakistani border."

But Howard Dean being Howard Dean, the leader of the death-wish cult couldn't restrain his impulse to blow off a little partisan steam: "I do again point out, I wish we had not spent as much of our time and efforts in Iraq as we have, because the real battle against terror is in Afghanistan and the surrounding areas where al Qaeda is now holed up."

The vice president offered the view most popular in Washington. "I'm not sure what he's offering by way of a truce," Dick Cheney told interviewers. "I don't think anyone would believe him. It sounds to me like it's some kind of ploy."

Osama, though an archvillain who deserves whatever misery God, Allah and the U.S. Armed Forces deal to him, is not dumb, and he has demonstrated that he understands a little about how politics and public opinion work in the land of the big PX. The voice on the tape, which the CIA quickly identified as authentic, refers to dates and places calculated to reassure his followers that he may have diseased kidneys and maybe even a leaky bladder, but he's staying alive with the bugs and snakes in the bat cave somewhere on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

His blustery threats to inflict more mayhem on Jewish and Christian innocents seem aimed at encouraging his partners in crime, boasting that just because he hasn't inflicted evil since September 11 doesn't mean he can't do it when he wants to. "The proof of that," he says, "is the explosions you have seen in the capitals of European nations. The delay in similar operations happening in America has not been because of failure to break through your security measures. The operations are under preparation, and you will see them in your homes the minute they are through with preparations, with G-d's permission."

Wise men (so called) in the intelligence services warn against blowing off stuff like this as mere bloviation, however tempting that may be. Osama's boasts of coming carnage in America sound a lot like the defiance of the outlaw cornered by the patient Marshal Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit." When Rooster threatens to take Lucky Ned Pepper back to Fort Smith "to be hanged at Judge Parker's convenience," the old outlaw returns empty contempt and daring: "That's mighty big talk, Rooster, from a one-eyed fat man." We all know what happened to the not-so-lucky Mr. Pepper.

The latest from Osama may be aimed most of all at the anti-war left in America, the Democrats desperate to destroy the presidency of George W. Bush oblivious of the collateral damage inflicted on everyone else. Osama explains that he is directing his offer of a truce — a "peace process," you might say — because public-opinion polls show "an overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq but [Bush] opposes that desire."

But if Osama is as smart as a lot of people in the West think he is, he knows that a truce is the last thing the radical left, including a lot of Democrats in Congress, want. Such a truce, which would differ not at all from al Qaeda surrender, would redeem George W. overnight. His approval numbers would soar, and the blue states would turn to a deep shade of crimson.

Such a surrender would save the American lives the president's critics insist are their only concern, but at what cost? The prospects of restoring Democratic control of Congress would evaporate. So no truce, please. No peace. Not yet.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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