Two stories about Al Qaeda surfaced recently, but only one of them should be surprising. Nobody should be surprised to hear that some Al Qaeda supporters want McCain to win, or that they hope for a new terrorist attack that will boost his chances. The surprise came a few weeks ago, when we learned that Bin Laden recites his poetry at "weddings, ceremonies, and ... recruitment events."
He does weddings?While you wrap your mind around the image of Bin Laden as the entertainment at somebody's nuptials ("Hey, asshole! Sing 'Feelings'!"), consider the reasons why it might be reasonable to think that Al Qaeda might want a McCain victory on November 4:
- The Longer the War in Iraq Goes On, The Better It Is For Recruitment: The invasion and occupation of Iraq was a recruiting windfall for Al Qaeda and other terror organizations. Why wouldn't they support a candidate who says he wants to stay there for "50, 100 years"?
- Ignorance and Confusion Help Them: A President who repeatedly confuses "Shi'ite" and "Sunni" is a public insult to Arabic culture. That's a propaganda win. And a President who subscribes to the failed national security policies of the last eight years -- years that have seen a drastic rise in worldwide terrorism -- is a boon.
- Obama's Identity Is a Powerful Anti-Terror Tool: Leaving aside the relative merits of the two candidates and their policies, one simple fact remains. The election of an African-American named "Barack Hussein Obama" to the U.S. Presidency would be an enormous propaganda and diplomatic victory for the United States. "America is the Great Satan?" How could Al Qaeda's recruiters continue to make that case in the teeming slums of Karachi or the decimated neighborhoods of Fallujah when a black man with that name leads this country?
Nobody is suggesting that American voters should make their decision just to spite these villains. (My reasons for opposing them with all my heart and soul aren't just political, ideological, or moral, though they are that. They're also personal.)
But Americans should decide, in part based on which leader and which party will do a better job fighting terrorism and creating a more secure world. Some of us have been making this argument for some time now: The Republican record on terrorism has been one of disastrous failure -- think Katrina, but worse, on issues that range from security screenings to diplomatic containment to containing loose nukes. The bumbling is epic, the results could be apocalyptic ... and John McCain's gone along for every mile of the ride.
I could have simply satirized Bin Laden's poetry, as I did with al-Zawahiri"s a couple of years ago. But the stakes are too high. They could act in the next two weeks. Remember: There was a time when Bin Ladin was inundating the world with videotaped messages (at one point he was putting out more product than Ryan Adams). But he's been silent for a while now, which would give a new tape even greater impact.
Or, God forbid, they could even carry out another attack. I'm sure I wasn"t the only one worried about this scenario back in June. Obama's been running a pretty brilliant campaign, and presumably he has a contingency plan. But it would be wise to start addressing the terror issue immediately, by laying out the many ways GOP policies have left us vulnerable to another attack. (Al Qaeda's stronger than ever, and we haven't executed on our own plans to reduce the WMD threat.)
Democratic insiders still say that Bin Laden's videotape in 2004 cost Kerry three points, and thus the election (whatever your criticisms of that campaign, three points would have made the difference). As a result of Kerry's loss, the United States failed to execute on the anti-terror strategy he articulated -- a strategy of smart policing, targeted strikes, and most of all wise diplomacy.
Bin Laden may well be free today because of Republican mistakes at Tora Bora (Kerry was also correct, as most experts now agree, when he says we "outsourced" that task). John McCain, despite his undeserved reputation for national security expertise, has endorsed the failed policies that continue to put Americans at risk. It would be ironic, but certainly not unprecedented, if another Republican rode to victory on the fruits of his own failures.
RJ Eskow blogs when he can at: