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Is Al Qaeda Messing With Our Elections?

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The front page of Drudge is hyping the much anticipated "Al Qaeda endorsement" saying that "al Qaeda Wants Republicans, Bush 'Humiliated."  Of course Drudge's whole point here is to try and get folks believing that Al Qaeda supports Obama.  The reality is much more complicated. 

As Reuters reports

An al Qaeda leader has called for President George W. Bush and the Republicans to be "humiliated," without endorsing any party in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, according to a video posted on the Internet.

"O God, humiliate Bush and his party, O Lord of the Worlds, degrade and defy him," Abu Yahya al-Libi said at the end of sermon marking the Muslim feast of Eid al-Fitr, in a video posted on the Internet.

Libi, one of the top al Qaeda commanders believed to be living in Afghanistan or Pakistan, called for God's wrath to be brought against Bush equating him with past tyrants in history.

The remarks were the first comments from a leading al Qaeda figure referring, albeit indirectly, to the U.S. elections. Muslim clerics often end sermons by calling on God to guide and support Muslims and help defeat their enemies.

A few things to note here.  First, it's not even clear that this has anything to do with the election. The quote is somewhat dubious and it's not all that rare for Al Qaeda videos to decry Bush and his allies.  They've been doing that for years.

Even more noteworthy though, is the fact that this video should never have been made in the first place.  Why?  Because al-Libi was being held at an American prison in Afghanistan in 2005 when he escaped.  It's really hard for conservatives to now try to use his statements to their advantage when it was George Bush's detention policies and general incompetence that allowed this man to escape in the first place. 

Finally, it also worth noting that Al Qaeda has done this before. Terrorism expert Richard Clarke  warned earlier this month about Al Qaeda attempts to interfere in our elections.  And just last week former NY and Current LA Police Chief Bill Bratton penned an op-ed writing:

This is a critical election for Al Qaeda. The U.S.-led invasions of two Muslim countries during the Bush years and scandals such as Abu Ghraib have been a boon for Bin Laden's demagoguery. He and other Islamists continually (and dishonestly) cite these wars as evidence of a U.S. war on Islam. That has helped create a steady stream of suicide bombers eager to destroy U.S. targets on their way to paradise.

Bin Laden is likely to believe that a President John McCain - who has jokingly sung of bombing Iran and who championed the troop surge in Iraq - is more likely to engender Muslim anger and resentment than would his opponent. Indeed, international polls, including those in Muslim countries, show striking support for Barack Obama.

Put simply: Bin Laden probably realizes it could become markedly more difficult to paint the United States as the "Great Satan" with a new President who is admired internationally. The remaining 14 days before the elections should be seen as a time of high threat, and state and local police should be on high alert. With so much at stake in these elections, Bin Laden will probably attempt to make his opinion count.

This view would also seem to be confirmed by a posting on an important Al Qaeda forum just last week that argued that McCain was most likely to continue George Bush's failed policies
- policies that have actually made Al Qaeda stronger.  And Spencer Ackerman has done additional reporting interviewing a number of intelligence experts who agree with this assessment.

Overall, let's hope that these types of statements play no important role in this election.  But it's pretty obvious that conservatives are on weak ground if they want to argue that  any of this somehow shows an Al Qaeda preference for Barack Obama.