The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Friday, October 29, 2004

OBL's Latest Tape

So he is alive after all. After three years of telling us he was probably dead or that his capture didn't matter and not even mentioning him, Osama Been Forgotten resurfaces on Al Jazeera with a tape in which he says essentially nothing other then to drop enough clues for everyone to figure out that he is very much alive and very much still thinking of ways to hurt us. Of course stateside everyone is fixated on the political implications.

Did OBL endorse Kerry? Hardly, but that's not stopping Fox, the WSJ and the whole Right Wing echo-chamber. Yet OBL did not call for the election of Kerry nor did he say much about Bush other than to say he was lying to the American people. Analysts see this as an attempt to influence the election but it's a pretty vague one if it is. Maybe OBL just thinks his visage is enough to send a message but it's puzzling that he would leave open the message people could take way from the tape without trying to give a better signal of his preferences.

So what to do? My advice to Kerry would be:

1) Don't make the issue political unless Bush attacks and makes an issue of it. I think Kerry's comments to a local reporter were somewhat unfortunate in this respect as they open the door to further discussion of the tape when getting past the tape should be the main priority. It also allows Bush to accuse Kerry of using the tape to play partisan politics. Kerry's initial comments of being united were on point. The follow up interview was not.

2) OK so if it's an issue what to say? First, "if we hadn't taken our eye off the ball and focused on Iraq we wouldn't have to be listening to video tapes from this guy. He would be either in jail or dead. If we had committed the resources, the intelligence, and the manpower to hunting him in Afghanistan and securing that country before shifting our intelligence units and special forces and troops to Iraq, he would probably be no longer a threat. In 2000 Bush complained that Democrats had let the armed forces get in a state that threatened our security. He talked about 2 divisions not being ready for duty. Well the latest report from the Army indicates that 4 divisions are not ready for duty. Our enemies know that the US security apparatus is overstretched and this is not helping us with threats from Iran and North Korea."

3) If the Right starts spinning this as an effort to elect Kerry because OBL would prefer him, then the response ought to be that in fact, OBL would prefer to see Bush re-elected and if he is likely to want to influence the election it would be to swing voters toward Bush, even if he needs to do it by appearing to prefer another outcome. But it's clear that while the tape lays down no preference, in fact a Bush victory serves his interests. Most analysts of the Arab world know that OBL wants the clash of civilizations, wants to make the war seem to be a war between the Arab world, the Muslim world and the US. Bush plays into his hands by alienating other countries, by radicalizing the Arab world with his strategy and his use of words like crusade and his indifference to public opinion. Does this mean the strategy is to appease the Arab street? No, it means recognizing that it's called diplomacy for a reason. James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute makes this clear below:

"There's no question bin Laden would rather have Bush in the White House. The Iraq war has been a fantastic recruiting tool for him and the behavior of this administration has played into his hands."

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