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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Osama endorses Bush

Literally, of course, Osama bin Laden didn't endorse the President. But he didn't endorse Kerry either and the talking heads on TV (at least some I've seen on CNN and MSNBC, save Keith Olbermann) act as if he did.

It is ridiculous.

OBL is a terrorist and is obviously still at-large. If he appeared in the tape (the CIA apparently thinks it was him) and is as healthy as he looks, then three plus years after September 11, 2001, OBL does not seem to be too much the worse for the wear.

Sometime in 2002, of course, George W. Bush decided to turn the war on terror away from Osama bin Laden and focus on Iraq. Real resources were diverted, including Arabic speakers, special forces, spying technology, etc.

In an interview that year, the President famously said:
I truly am not that concerned about him [OBL]. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban.

But once we set out the policy and started executing the plan, he became -- we shoved him out more and more on the margins. He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore.
Obviously, there's no way of knowing with certainty whether the US could have captured and killed OBL by now with more effort; yet, it is fairly clear that George W. Bush is fixated on state sponsorship of terror and seems to ignore the reality of non-state networks of terrorists.

Moreover, it is true that the US thought OBL was at Tora Bora in December 2001. And journalist Peter Bergen points out that the US military, as John Kerry says, didn't take it seriously enough and "outsourced" his capture:
Sadly, there were probably more American journalists at the battle of Tora Bora than there were US troops. And in that sense, Sen. Kerry's charge that Tora Bora was a missed opportunity to bring bin Laden to justice isn't "garbage", but an accurate reflection of the historical record.
So bin Laden escaped when the US had a serious chance to get him, right at the beginning of the "war on terror."

So...if you were OBL and looked at the 2 candidates, who would you support? The relatively unknown challenger is a US Senator and former soldier who wrote a book in 1997 about the need to confront new transnational threats like terrorism (though the book focuses primarily on transnational crime, it does mention the prospect of nuclear terror). He has publicly called for returning the focus of the war on terror on to OBL and wants to rebuild America's relations with the rest of the world.

By contrast, the incumbent botched Tora Bora, focused tremendous international attention on the wrong war, consumed $200 billion doing it, lost the cooperation of much of the world, and now serves as the primary recruiting poster. Plus, one of OBL's goals is to foment a global clash of civilizations, Islam against the West. At various times, Bush has threatened to bumble into that.

If OBL were going to make an endorsement, I do think it is rather obvious he'd prefer Bush to Kerry.

Update. Billmon's Whiskey Bar is open again and his latest post is "Osama's Endorsement." He calls the tape "virtual terrorism," an interesting phrase, and argues that al Qaeda is now acting as a 527 organization..

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