Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Not widely reported in the US media...

Al-Qaida’s vote for Bush
By Imad Khadduri

Monday 25 October 2004

Who would the 'terrorists' like to see elected in the upcoming US presidential elections?
Predictions about how they would try to influence this form of the democratic process were sparked by the train bombings in Madrid last March.

The timing of the attack, coming immediately before presidential elections in Spain, produced a backlash of anger against Jose Maria Aznar’s right-wing government, leading to the victory of the Socialist Party (PSOE).

The bombing was seen by many as a consequence of Aznar’s support for the US-led war in Iraq, a war opposed by the overwhelming majority of Spaniards. Aznar’s attempt to exploit the bombings to push the agenda of his Popular Party backfired and lead to his defeat.

But what does this augur for the US? National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was one of the first to speculate on this event's impact on the US presidential elections.

In an 18 April interview on the US news talk show Face the Nation, she said: "I think that we do have to take very seriously the thought that the terrorists might have learned, we hope (sic), the wrong lesson from Spain. I think we also have to take seriously that they might try during the cycle leading up to the election to do something."

This statement was followed by one from Attorney General John Ashcroft. In a 26 May press conference, Ashcroft said: "The Madrid railway bombings were perceived by Usama bin Ladin and al-Qaida to have advanced their cause. Al-Qaida may perceive that a large-scale attack in the United States this summer or fall would lead to similar consequences."

Ashcroft's supposition is that Bin Ladin would like to influence the US elections in the same way al-Qaida influenced Spain's.

What would similar consequences mean for the US? Defeat for the hawkish incumbent, Bush, at the polls and the derailment of a neo-conservative policy on Iraq.

Ashcroft all but said 'Usama bin Ladin wants you to vote for John Kerry'.

"The message the terrorists learned in Madrid is that attacks can change elections and change policy."

A handful of reporters chimed in, among them David Sanger of the New York Times.
In a May article, he issued what could be seen as a serious warning to the American people. Entitled Calculating the Politics of Catastrophe, the piece describes "obsessive" talk within political and national security circles about the possible electoral consequences of another terror attack in the US.

Sanger quotes a senior administration official as saying, "The message the terrorists learned in Madrid is that attacks can change elections and change policy.

"It’s a very dangerous precedent to have out there."

Immediately following the elections, administration officials and right-wing media pundits in the US denounced the Spanish population for learning the "wrong lesson" from the terrorist attacks and for "appeasing" terrorism.

According to Sanger, however, the Bush administration is making its own calculations over whether a terrorist attack can "change elections" in the US - in Bush's favour.

He writes: "Mr Bush's political aides - speaking only on background, because no one dissects terror on the record - argue that the crazier the world gets, the more it plays to the theme of the campaign: Now more than ever, the country needs a president who has proved to be strong on terror."

A more authoritative political aide, Vice President Dick Cheney, announced on 7 September that the US will risk another terrorist attack if voters make the wrong choice on election day, suggesting Senator John Kerry would follow a pre-9/11 policy of reacting defensively.

"It's absolutely essential we make the right choice on 2 November because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney told supporters at a town hall meeting.

If Kerry were elected, Cheney says the nation risks falling back into a "pre-9/11 mindset" where terrorist attacks are seen merely as criminal acts that require a reactive approach. Instead, he says Bush's offensive approach roots out terrorists where they plan and train, and pressures countries that harbour them.

In all of this, little notice has been given by the Western media to an al-Qaida declaration following the Madrid bombing and published in full on 17 March in the Arabic-language dailies al-Quds al-Arabi and al-Hayat in the UK.

A week after the Madrid attack, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, which claims to act on behalf of al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the bombing and declared a truce in Spain to see if the new government would withdraw its troops from Iraq, but warned that it was gearing up for new attacks.

This part of the declaration was widely reported. However, very few mentioned the more ominous part of that declaration, short of excerpts which were reported by the BBC and Reuters.

The declaration turned its attention to President Bush, saying: "A word for the foolish Bush. We are very keen that you do not lose in the forthcoming elections as we know very well that any big attack can bring down your government and this is what we do not want.

"We cannot get anyone who is more foolish than you, who deals with matters with force instead of wisdom and diplomacy.

"Your stupidity and religious extremism is what we want as our people will not awaken from their deep sleep except when there is an enemy.

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilisation.
"Because of this we desire you [Bush] to be elected."

A political tactic of this calibre should have perhaps appealed to pundits and political scientists in the media.

However, al-Qaida gravely underestimates the likely political result of an attack against the US in the months leading up to the election. It would lead to a landslide victory for Bush as it would resonate with the American culture's "circle the wagons" mentality and take orders from John Wayne.

Such an attack would play to Americans' deep inner insecurity and violent reaction to any threat has had disastrous effects, and not only to the American Indians.

Whether that threat is real, or manufactured, as that of Cheney's dire threat of an Iraqi invasion of Saudi Arabia in 1991 citing satellite photos (that have not been shown or proven to this day) which induced Saudi Arabia to invite US forces to invade Iraq, or his pushing the assertion and spin of an Iraqi nuclear threat in 2002 and 2003 (he was claiming that US intelligence had proof of Iraq's nuclear weapons up to two days before Iraq's occupation) and ended with the disastrous occupation of Iraq, the American people's reaction is explosive and dangerous.

What is a cause for concern is that half the American people still wrongly believe that Iraq had links with al-Qaida and a hand in the 9/11 attacks, and that cushions the outrage they should feel after tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, as well as more than a thousand of their soldiers.

The wide-eyed view of America's "war on terror" is dangerous to the whole world.

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