Scheuer on Bin-Laden's 'Truce' Tape
By Richard Fricker
February 3, 2006
Editors Note: Below is an interview with Michael Scheuer, a former CIA counter-terrorism expert on al-Qaeda, commenting about Osama bin-Ladens proposed truce for the United States if it leaves Iraq and halts other military operations in the region.
Not surprisingly, the Bush administration rejected bin-Ladens offer, but there has been a difference of opinion among Middle East analysts about whether bin-Ladens truce offer was just a political stunt or whether it foreshadowed another terrorist attack inside the United States. Scheuer believes the latter.
Q: Is he reading us our rights?
Scheuer: In many ways thats
exactly what hes up to, one final try to get us to change our policies or hes
going to attack us again.
Q: Can he do it?
Scheuer: Oh sure, our borders are wide open. The other thing I always point to is that the Soviet nuclear arsenal isnt under control. Also the message is very much in the tradition of Islamic history. The prophet offered truces to infidels; Salidin offered truces to Europeans during the Crusades. It will be a message that resonates very loudly in the Islamic world, in a positive way.
Q: Can he carry out an attack?
Scheuer: Oh sure, I dont know
why not. Weve been whistling past the graveyard on this.
Q: All that weve been doing on homeland security with the shakedowns of people and the intercepts of phone calls and e-mails and the like, and now this guy pops up and says, By the way Im getting ready to do it again, you might want to know that. Have we just been fooling ourselves, has all this been for naught?
Scheuer: Im not sure its been
for naught, but I think weve been fooling ourselves because weve been
continuing to tell ourselves that hes isolated, the whole organization is
broken, he cant communicate with people. Weve assumed hes gone away rather
than really trying to take any scientific measure of how much damage weve done.
We havent done a hell of a lot .
Q: So a lot of this has just been window dressing and self-massage?
Scheuer: And, self-deception. We
want to believe that these people are just a small bunch of lunatics and
gangsters. This is a very big worldwide movement and bin-Laden is very
important. Until hes dead. he will be a dire threat to America.
Q: Does this mean that George Bushs view of the war on terrorism has been fatally flawed?
Scheuer: Not only George Bush,
but Bill Clinton and George Bushs father before him.
Q: Yes, but George Bush is in charge now.
Scheuer: Yes, the whole American
Q: So the whole system if fatally flawed?
Scheuer: Yes, fatally flawed.
Q: Regarding nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union, what is out there and who has access to it?
Scheuer: Anyone who has money
has access to the weapons. There was a program set up in Congress to get the
weapons cleaned up, but Congress cut the money for it. We know that al-Qaeda has
been looking for a weapon since 96. We know that money is no problem. And, we
know that theres any number of people in the former Soviet Union that hate us.
Q: What qualifies as a weapon?
Scheuer: Anything from a nuclear
warhead payload to a landmine. I was at a briefing recently from one of the
nuclear labs and they said the only problem with constructing a bomb would be
getting the fissile material, its highly enriched uranium. Theres no shortage
of the stuff world wide.
Q: How do you know that bin-Laden has been trying to buy nuclear weapons since 1996?
Scheuer: We had solid
intelligence at the CIA that he had set up a special unit composed of scientists
and engineers to make sure they werent scammed. A lot of scamming goes on
around the world.
Q: From your position, what kind of delivery system would they use?
Scheuer: If I were running the
operation, I would use a truck. And pick a city in the Southwest where I could
drive and detonate the same day, drive in from Mexico. The city that occurs to
me is Houston. You dont want to have to drive into the country and wait.
Q: What would be the goal or purpose of another attack?
Scheuer: Their goals have always
been three-fold: First as much economic damage as possible, Second is as many
casualties as possible. And the third and this is the reason they want nuclear
weapons is to cause damage only the U.S. military could administer. For
example, a nuclear devise would require martial law, it would require all kinds
of airplanes to move things around. Their goal is to create a situation that
would cause the military to commit so much of its assets here that they could
keep up the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bin Laden says that very specifically
in at least two of his speeches.
Q: So, hes offered this truce and weve said no, now what happens?
Scheuer: I think there will be
an attack on America within the next year. I think
it was about nine months after he warned the Europeans that London occurred. I would think before the November 06 elections, but Im not sure hes interested in influencing the elections. Although he clearly prefers the
Republicans to the Democrats. Hes afraid the Democrats will fool Muslims by not changing policy but having a softer rhetoric.
Q: Have you talked to anyone in the intelligence community since the tape
was released? And, are they taking it seriously?
Scheuer: A couple of people. And
yes, theyre taking it very seriously. Im just not sure the politicians and
administration is taking it seriously.
Q: What does bin-Laden mean by a truce?
Scheuer: He means surrender. He
means exactly what he says, get out of Iraq and Afghanistan and we wont attack
you. We, the Muslims, will rebuild those countries. He stays on message which is
we have no war with you, we just want you out.
Q: So if were not there we wont get attacked, then why 9/11?
Scheuer: Because we were in
Saudi Arabia and the money we give to Mubarak and the money we give to Israel.,
thats all part of being there.
Q: Is the war on terror as now configured by the Bush administration winnable and what is winning?
Scheuer: We dont have a choice
between war and peace, we have a choice between war and endless war. Winning is
using your military to kill as many of this generation of terrorists as possible
and then formulating polices to prevent the generation after that from coming
after you. Something must be done about oil, the whole region would not be worth
one Marine life if it werent for oil.
Q: Are you aware of any intelligence that al-Qaeda has acquired weapons out of Russia?
Scheuer: Not as of a year ago.
Q: Then why this message now?
Scheuer: The message indicates
they are ready to attack in the United States, he did the warnings, the offers
of conversions, hes gotten the requisite religious permissions. Now, he gone
the extra mile, he said, I didnt intend to do this to warn you.
Q: If he does attack, what will be the reaction in the Muslim world?
Scheuer: There will be a
tremendous feeling of satisfaction that the Americans
finally got theirs. Had we not invaded Iraq there may have been some revulsion, but now it will be that we got what we deserved. I think it will ripple around the world, absolutely.
Back to Home Page