[T]he latest Al Qaeda propaganda short, circulated around the Internet this week, looks pretty effective if you ask me. Various shots of mujahideen, striking heroic poses, are set alongside translated quotes from terrorist leaders such as Ayman Al Zawahiri, who promises that previous Al Qaeda terrorist attacks are "nothing compared to what you will see next." Wait--sorry. That's a description of the latest campaign ad from the Republican National Committee. My mistake. The ad, entitled "These Are the Stakes," plays clip after clip from real-life Al Qaeda videos in order to impress upon voters that the terrorist organization is not to be trifled with. It's supposed to be an attack ad--imploring Republicans to vote this November. It looks like a recruitment film.At a time when the Republicans need the fear card more than ever it is failing them them this time around but they continue to play it.
That isn't entirely a coincidence. Shortly before the 2004 presidential election, a videotape surfaced featuring bin Laden himself criticizing George W. Bush. According to Ron Suskind's recent book, The One Percent Doctrine, CIA analysts agreed that "bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection." The revelation didn't get much attention, but it confirmed what many on John Kerry's campaign had felt in 2004, and bolstered an argument liberals have been making for years: The GOP badly needs Al Qaeda alive and kicking--a fact the press continues to ignore.
Republicans quite obviously believe that hyping the terrorist threat brightens their electoral prospects. Partly that's because it really has worked in the past. Partly that's because reporters still insist that terrorism always helps the GOP, even though recent polls now give Democrats an edge on national security issues, and even though Bush received only the tiniest of rating bounces from this year's September 11 anniversary. Just this past week, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux noted, approvingly, "As long as [Republicans are] talking about national security three weeks before midterm elections, they believe that's going to be a strong issue." That same week, the New York Times flatly stated that terrorism was a "winning issue for Republicans." Bill O'Reilly recently said, "If the terror thing stays in the news, the Republicans have a better chance in November." It doesn't matter if Republicans are now recycling the very Al Qaeda training videos that used to be too dangerous to air--they still win! No doubt terrorism can be a winning issue for the GOP so long as the press insists that it must be.Does Al Qaeda want the Republicans to win?
Liberals have often pointed out, rightly, the rather perverse incentives that the Bush administration has to inflate the terrorist threat and enshroud the nation in permanent crisis. The new GOP ad, like the Al Qaeda broadcasts it mimics, tries to foster the sort of fear and loathing that helped lead to, for instance, the war in Iraq. But as long as the press insists that the GOP benefits anytime terrorism is in the news, Republicans have little reason to do otherwise. (For that matter, if, according to the press, any terrorism news is good news for the Bush administration, why should it even bother to pursue effective policies on that front?)
One could make the case that Al Qaeda operatives appear to understand this dynamic. In March of 2005, the Jamestown Foundation brought to light an Al Qaeda strategy book that urged jihadist groups to try to manipulate domestic politics in foreign countries. It hardly strains credulity to suggest that Al Qaeda might want Republican candidates elected. There's a broad consensus among terrorism experts that the GOP's signature policy issue--the Iraq war--has been a boon to Al Qaeda. Suskind reported that, in early 2003, a top Al Qaeda operative, Yusuf Al Ayeri, even wrote a book arguing that "an American invasion of Iraq would be the best possible outcome for al Qaeda ... achieving precisely the radicalizing quagmire that bin Laden had hoped would occur in Afghanistan." If, as CIA analysts seem to believe, bin Laden really did release his 2004 video to help Bush's re-election, it's not hard to see why.The last thing Al Qaeda wants is Speaker Pelosi?
Reporters have yet to unearth evidence of the reverse--that Al Qaeda's hopes and dreams hinge on Nancy Pelosi becoming speaker of the House. Nevertheless, the prevailing view among conservatives is that Islamic jihadists, along with other avowed foes of the United States, would prefer the Democratic Party to take power. The press has followed suit. In 2004, CNN correspondent Kelli Arena said, "[T]here is some speculation that Al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House." (No mention where this "speculation" came from.) CBS's David Martin recently suggested that terrorists are "step[ping] up its attacks against American troops" in Iraq in order to "influence the November elections"--and hurt the GOP. And O'Reilly recently argued that Iran is explicitly "ramping up the violence [in Iraq] so Americans will turn against the Bush administration."Why wouldn't Al Qaeda want the republicans to win?
If Iran or Al Qaeda really wanted to elect Democrats, surely they wouldn't try, around election time, to instigate further crises, which, according to the reporters, always redound to the benefit of Republicans. And, at any rate, why should any of America's avowed enemies fear the Bush administration? In the past six years, the Bush administration has bogged its military down in Iraq and looked on helplessly while North Korea and Iran developed their nuclear programs. Why on earth would bin Laden--if he's even still alive --worry that voters might endorse the most inept national security strategy in recent memory?
If you vote to keep the Republicans in power Al Qaeda wins. It's that simple!