International Papers

Bin Laden’s Back

The surfacing, earlier this week, of an audiotape apparently recorded by Osama Bin Laden at some point in the last few weeks rang alarm bells in countries denounced by the al-Qaida leader. Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Germany, and Russia were singled out, along with Israel and the United States, for spots on Bin Laden’s enemies list.

Libération of Paris said Bin Laden’s warning “should open the eyes of those who still want to believe that France can escape the Islamist threat: She features prominently among the targets.” In Australia, the Age of Melbourne noted, “Enough pieces of a deadly puzzle had already fallen into place to leave Australians in no doubt that this is not just America’s war, or any other one country’s war, but the civilised world’s war. The tape is part of an effort to test the alliance between America and its allies.” In Russia, Izvestiya said Bin Laden “could not have done Russian propaganda a bigger favor” than by referring approvingly to Chechen separatists. President Vladimir Putin can now justify his claims that Russia’s war in Chechnya is part of the international war on terrorism. (Russian translation courtesy of BBC Monitoring.)

The Canadian papers seemed almost grateful for Osama’s shout-out. A sarcastic National Post op-ed began: “Great. This year we make terrorist Osama bin Laden’s Top Six list of iniquitous infidels. Last year we couldn’t crack President George W. Bush’s Top Ten list of axis-against-evil allies. Well, say what you want, but at least Osama mentions Canada in his speeches.” In a swipe at the Canadian government’s blasé assurances that the country faces no imminent threat from al-Qaida, the column declared: “[T]he indifferent federal yawn to news of his voice coming back from the grave to denounce Canada suggests we remain a passively unprepared enemy. … [Osama Bin Laden is] a one-man axis-of-evil who somehow figures Canada is a big-league target—even if it’s only capable of a bush-league response.”

Toronto’s Globe and Mail agreed that “Canada doesn’t get it” when it comes to Bin Laden and the international struggle against terrorism. Foreign affairs columnist Marcus Gee bemoaned Ottawa’s lack of resolve:

[L]istening to most government leaders, you can’t avoid the sense they think this is someone else’s fight. Our role, by and large, has been to act as helpful helpmate to the Americans—up to a point, and not on Iraq. No Canadian leader has made it clear to the public why this is our fight, too. … The war against terrorism is everybody’s war. Britain gets it. So does Australia. When will Canada?