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Nasr: 'He's sending a message to the American people'


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Octavia Nasr, CNN's senior editor for Arab affairs
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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The Al-Jazeera network aired a new videotape of Osama bin Laden Friday, in which the al Qaeda leader says that in order to avoid further attacks, the United States should not attack al Qaeda.

Octavia Nasr, CNN's senior editor for Arab affairs, spoke with "Crossfire" hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson about the new tape and bin Laden's message.

BEGALA: Octavia, what is [it] that bin Laden is saying?

NASR: Well, the most important thing about bin Laden's speech is that he's addressing it to the American people. He's trying to explain why 9/11 happened, the idea and when it occurred to him, and also telling the American people loud and clear that, unless they do something about it, America could be attacked again. ...

And he's sending a message to the American people, saying security is the most important thing to al Qaeda, as he says, and "it should be the most important thing to you." But he says, "security is in your hands. No one can achieve that security for you, not Bush, not Kerry, not al Qaeda. It is in your hands." Basically, he is saying, "if we are not attacked, we won't attack anybody."

CARLSON: Octavia, you said that, in the tape, he explains why 9/11 happened. What was his explanation for why 9/11 happened?

NASR: Well, he says it is a response to the aggression suffered by Arabs and Muslims at the hands of the U.S.

He talks specifically about the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and how the U.S. took part in that. And he said when he saw the towers of Beirut fall, this is when it occurred to him that he had to make the U.S. pay for that aggression. And this is when he started plotting for those attacks.

Now, he did say that the attacks went better than they had planned. And he said that they had agreed on 20 minutes, within 20 minutes, the attacks should have been completed, because he said that he discussed this Mohamed Atta and told him, "You have to finish this job in 20 minutes before the Bush administration realizes what is going on." But then he goes on to say, "but the president was sitting down, more interested in listening to a child's story about a goat, rather than 50,000 U.S. citizens trapped facing the worst nightmare of their life in the World Trade Center," and that gave the terrorists 20 more minutes, he said, to achieve a lot more than they had planned.

BEGALA: Octavia, there have been reports for years that bin Laden had advanced kidney disease or some reports that he may have been wounded in the American liberation of Afghanistan. As you watch the tape and you listen to his voice, any sense that perhaps he is sick or wounded?

NASR: Well, I'm not a doctor. And I can't evaluate his health. What I can tell you -- having watched bin Laden, listened to him for many years, in fact translated a lot of his speeches -- this is a man that looks fine to me. We have seen a bin Laden that was tired before, especially after the Tora Bora attack. We have seen a bin Laden that couldn't move his arm, and we all thought that he was wounded at the time.

This is a bin Laden that looks very comfortable, very composed. He's sitting down behind a desk, it looks like. He's talking very calmly. And he looks fine. He looks like he's aged a bit.

And you have to remember, we haven't seen bin Laden in over two years. What we have been receiving of him were audiotapes for over two years. So it looks like he's aged a bit, but he looks to be in good health. But, again, I mean, I'm not an expert on these issues.

There were reports also that said that the idea of dialysis and kidney failure and all that were not correct, that that was made up and that was not true. But, again, we do not know and there's no way anyone is going to be able to tell what his medical condition is at this point.


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