Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Politicizing intelligence

So Osama bin Laden is planning a new attack:

U.S. intelligence officials say a high-profile political assassination, triggered by the public release of a new message from Osama bin Laden, will lead off the next major al Qaeda terrorist attack, The Washington Times has learned.

The assassination plan is among new details of al Qaeda plots disclosed by U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports who, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the killing could be carried out against a U.S. or foreign leader either in the United States or abroad.
Not good news. But something smells funny... let's try and figure out what it is.

First of all, this isn't a terror alert. The information comes from "U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports... speaking on condition of anonymity." Why the secrecy? If there's a genuine threat, why not make a formal announcement? And if there's a reason to keep the information under wraps (say, to avoid hampering counterterrorism efforts), why would these "officials" leak the information to the press?

But the really funny stuff comes further down in the story:

"The goal of the next attack is twofold: to damage the U.S. economy and to undermine the U.S. election," the official said. "The view of al Qaeda is 'anybody but Bush.' "
This statement has nothing to do with national security. This is pure, ruthless political manuvering.

Sure, Osama wants Bush dead -- but only as the symbolic head of America and everything else bin Laden despises and demonizes. There hasn't been one shred of evidence that bin Laden or al Qaeda prefers for Bush to lose the November election. If there were, the administration would be publicizing the hell out of it. Karl Rove and the Congressional Republicans would love nothing more than to be able to say (or at least imply) "Osama wants Bush to lose! A vote for Kerry is a vote for bin Laden!"

But John Ashcroft can't make an official announcement that bin Laden has endorsed Kerry, so the Bushies are trying the back-door route -- with whispers. I can believe that the right-wing, Bush-cheerleading Washington Times would regurgitate this unreliable, politicized crap. I just hope other news organizations won't.

Granted, we'll probably never be sure if bin Laden has a preference in the election -- if he even cares, which is by no means certain. Osama is not likely to be sporting a campaign button in his next video. But even when making an educated guess, it's simply not reasonable to infer that bin Laden wants Bush to lose. Would Kerry, as president, stop pursuing terrorists? Would he embrace Islamic fundamentalism? Would he allow rogue organizations to obtain WMDs? No, he wouldn't do any of these things, and bin Laden knows it. The more reasonable inference is that George Bush is Osama's wet dream. Bush has done more to incite Islamic terrorism than bin Laden ever could. Bush has pissed off Muslims everywhere by invading Iraq, he's alienated most of the world in the process, and he's he's allowed Iraq to become a lawless haven for terrorists. How could Kerry top that? If bin Laden is smart (and unfortunately he is), he's rooting for Bush all the way.

(Thanks to TalkLeft for the pointer.)


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