In an audiotape released this past Thursday on a Islamic website, Bin Laden calls for attacks on the oil industry and urges militants to disrupt the
flow of oil to the west, claiming that he successfully drove the Soviet Union into bankruptcy in the 1980s. Bin Laden also alledgely praises the
attacks on the American consulate in Saudi Arabia which occurred on December 6th. Bin Laden hopes that attacks on the oil industry will cripple the
U.S. economy, but analysts suggests that only an attack on the stock exchange would cause any major effect, most feel that the US economy can absorb
attacks on the oil supply.
"Go on and try to prevent them from getting oil," the speaker said. "Concentrate your operations on that, especially in Iraq and the Gulf."
It was believed to be the first time a purported bin Laden tape in effect called for attacks on the oil industry. But he has flaunted the economic
theme before, recalling in his most recent video how Afghan mujahedeen "bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt" and taunting the U.S.
government over the size of its budget deficit -- which peaked at $413 billion last year.
Security and terrorism experts suggest bin Laden's claims to be undermining the United States economically are largely propaganda, noting the
flexible, market-driven U.S. economy is a far cry from the creaky, bureaucratic Soviet giant that disintegrated in 1991.
Still, the economic argument gives bin Laden a tool he can use to rally his supporters and inflate his aura of success by claiming damage caused by
other factors as his own handiwork.
Spurred by the new audiotape, Muslim radicals using chat rooms on Islamic Web sites debated Friday what weapons could be used to attack an oil tanker
in the strait of Hormuz in the Gulf.
Bin Laden "sees us as poised on this precipice, and he's going to push us into the abyss," said Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Rand
As Bin Laden put it in his video aimed at Americans just days before the Nov. 2 presidential election: "The real loser is you. It is the American
people and their economy."
The al-Qaida leader cites the experience of Afghan mujahedeen fighters "in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical
superpowers" to drive the Soviets out.
Bin Laden was among U.S.-supported Islamic fighters in Afghanistan, backed with money and weapons in hopes of weakening Russia, the United States'
opponent in the Cold War.
The Soviet comparison is aimed as much at bin Laden supporters as at Americans, says Rand analyst Hoffman. "That's how he motivates and animates
people and addresses morale -- telling them, 'No one thought we could achieve that feat, and by the same token no one thinks we can achieve this feat
of defeating the United States, but we will,'" Hoffman said.
Retired Gen. William Odom, a scholar at the Hudson Institute and an expert in the Soviet collapse, said bin Laden's analogy is off base since the
Soviet Union collapsed for reasons other than Afghanistan, including the weakness of its state-run economy.
As far as spending on Iraq, Odom said damage to the U.S. economy is attributable to the Bush Administration embarking on a costly war. In the fall
2003, Congress approved $87.5 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $25 billion more last spring, and Bush is expected to request another
$75 billion to $100 billion early in 2005.
"If we're stupid enough to go off and do something like that, bin Laden can justly crow about it," Odom said. "But I don't think he can take
credit for having caused it."
Odom believes no al-Qaida strategy can topple U.S. dominance.
"In an operational sense, U.S.-made policies, not bin Laden's actions, have risked putting the United States in a very serious situation," he said.
Terrorists "have never brought down a liberal democracy," Odom said. "Terrorists like bin Laden can cause trouble but they're not a strategic
problem, they're a tactical nuisance."
Princeton University economist Alan Krueger said, "The U.S. economy is too large and diverse to be sunk by terrorism."
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One major discrepancy I noted in this article, is that there is no mention of CIA confirmation of this latest audiotape being that of Bin Laden.
Regardless if the voice on the tape is Bin Laden or not, the tape served it purpose by giving Islamic Extremists more fodder to chew on. While the US
economy will not crumble due to attacks on the oil industry, it will certainly make life for Americans more difficult with higher prices at the gas
stations and deeper dents in our wallets as we try to stay warm this winter.