Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden--From 9/11 to Abbottabad
American attack on Afghanistan would begin the United States’ self-destruction, causing “long-term economic burdens which will force America to resort to the former Soviet Union’s only option: withdrawal from Afghanistan, disintegration, and contraction.”
    O N O CTOBER 7, as the U.S. Air Force started bombing Taliban positions, bin Laden was inKandahar meeting with Mullah Mansour, a top Taliban official. Bin Laden and his entouragequickly decamped for Kabul, likely calculating it would be safer there since there were fewer Taliban leadership targets and a larger civilian population. The same day, al-Qaeda’s leader made asurprise appearance in a videotape that was shown around the world. Dressed in a camouflage jacket with a submachine gun propped at his side, bin Laden, in his first public comments since 9/11, said that the attacks were revenge for the long-standing Western humiliation of the Muslim world.
    “There is America, hit by God in one of its softest spots,” bin Laden said. “Its greatest buildings were destroyed, thank God for that. There is America, full of fear from its north to its south, from its west to its east. Thank God for that. What America tastes now is something insignificant compared to what we have tasted for scores of years. Our nation [the Islamic world] has tasted this humiliation and this degradation for more than eighty years.”
    Despite his approving remarks, bin Laden’s initial stance was total denial of his role in the attacks. In late September, for example, al-Qaeda’s leader told a Pakistani newspaper, “As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks.” The truth is, bin Laden was in something of a bind: if he admitted to his role in the attacks, the Taliban defense that there was noevidence that he was involved would be rendered moot, and Mullah Omar wouldn’t have much choice but to hand him over to the United States. Still, bin Laden’s ego demanded that he take
some
credit for what he believed to be his greatest accomplishment, and once the United States started to bomb Taliban targets in Afghanistan, he began asserting more ownership of the 9/11 attacks.
    Tayseer Allouni of Al Jazeera television was one of the only international correspondents the Taliban had permitted to work in Afghanistan in the years before 9/11. Bin Laden sat down with Allouni for alengthy interview on October 21. For reasons that Al Jazeera never convincingly elucidated, the network did not air this interview for a year. At one point Al Jazeera explained that the decision not to broadcast the interview was because it wasn’t “newsworthy,” an explanation that was risible. As this was his only post-9/11 television interview, it would have been news if bin Laden had simply read from the phone book.It seems likely that the Qatari royal family, which owns Al Jazeera, caved to Bush administration pressure not to air the interview, at a time when Bush officials were also putting pressure on American broadcasters not to air “propaganda” from bin Laden.
    In fact, the Al Jazeera interview was both wide-ranging and newsworthy, as became apparent three months later, when CNN obtained and broadcast it without Al Jazeera’s permission. During the interview, bin Laden appeared relaxed, and for the first time publicly, he explicitly linked himself to the 9/11 attacks. Allouni asked him, “America claims that it has proof that you are behind what happened in New York and Washington. What’s your answer?” Bin Laden replied, “If inciting people to do that is terrorism, and if killing those who are killing our sons is terrorism, then let history be our judge that we are terrorists.… We practice the good terrorism.”
    Allouni followed up with a key question: “How about the killing of innocent civilians?” Bin Laden countered: “The men that God helped [on September 11] did not intend to kill babies; they intended to destroy the strongest military power

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