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Al-Qaeda's choice

Justin Webb | 16:21 UK time, Monday, 18 February 2008

Bedd Gelert and Vagueofgodalming may well be right about Rees Mogg.

Barack Obama with secret service agentsMy own concern about his piece is this. He writes: "There are, of course, hypothetical events that could change everything. There could be an attack on Mr Obama himself, but he is protected by the Secret Service.

"There could be an action by al-Qaeda, which would refocus American anxiety on the threat of terror. But al-Qaeda is itself highly political. It would probably not be in its interest to secure the election of Senator John McCain. Al-Qaeda may be unpredictable, but it would be a mistake for it to interfere in American politics, even if it had the capacity to do so."

But that is manifestly untrue, is it not?

Islamic terrorists want war. They want suffering - among others and their own people alike.

They would surely surmise that McCain will give them what they want. Bin Laden himself intervened with what many thought was the effect of keeping President Bush in power in 2004 with that weird tape just before the poll.

I think al-Qaeda would back McCain - that is not an argument for or against America backing him, but it seems to me that the vague assumption that the terrorists would back a lefty is lazy thinking...

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 05:10 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Grant wrote:

You might be guilty of the same lazy thinking. If the recent progress in Iraq, even if one step in a long long process, even if it only means Iraq might be the most feeble quasi-stable sort-of-democray out there, you could argue that the one think Al Queda might want, other than a ham-handed Bush in office for another 4 years, would be a precipitious withdrawal that might allow the insurgents to turn up the fires of sectarian violence again. And the one campaign promise Obama could never go back on, for fear of a revolt among his base, would be to start pulling brigades out of Iraq immediately, no matter the situation on the ground.

Al Queda might have liked 8 years of an easy-to-caricature Bush, but now, perhaps they want to see Americans leaving like they left Saigon, rather than an uneasy, somewhat violent, but sustainable peace in Iraq

  • 2.
  • At 05:17 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • JR wrote:

"Islamic terrorists want war. They want suffering - among others and their own people alike."

This seems like quite lazy thinking as well. While I agree that perhaps "the terrorists" have no preference as to who the next president of the US is, I think a broad statement regarding their motivations for attacking us a bit imprudent.

If you saw US or Israeli jets bombing your home and killing your family, you might grow up seeking revenge. It would not be because you want suffering for all. We see this same situation played on a much less dramatic scale in the civil justice systems in the US, UK, and most developed states. If someone kills your mother, you will most likely call for their prosecution in court. If there were no court in which to prosecute them, some people might take that responsibility into their own hands. Not because they want general suffering, but because they want to find some way of equalizing their own suffering. Most call this concept "justice" when it is in their own interest, and "terrorism" when it is against. I want to make it clear that I am in no way advocating violence of any kind, or excusing it, but I think that this is an important piece of the problem that time and again gets overlooked both by the world powers and the world media.

Blowing oneself up is not a decision I expect most make lightly.

  • 3.
  • At 05:39 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Henry wrote:

William Rees-Mogg obviously doesn't understand American society well, and, more to the point, he doesn't seem to understand the role Republicans and independents have played in Obama's primary and caucus wins. Mark my words: An Obama nomination would be the culmination of a shrewd GOP conspiracy. When November comes, many of Obama's non-core backers will abandon him and vote for McCain, who's bound to use the scare tactics of his party to portray Obama as soft on terrorism.

  • 4.
  • At 05:44 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Diana wrote:

Well, I can't say that it is "lazy thinking" to think that the terrorists would back a lefty. After all, it is a fact that it was Bill Clinton's Administration or himself who decided not to go ahead with the attack that could have killed Bin Laden as intelligence forces info suggested.
Moreover, it was Clinton's Administration who decided to cut down the personnel for intelligence agencies.
To top it all off, the Democrats' most recent budget proposal intends to cut down funding for the US Center for Disease Control, who are the ones in charge of finding the cures and producing the vaccines in the event of an epidemic in the US.
Now you tell me if all these measures of the Democrats do not harm the US and its security.
In any case these are not the reasons why I have chosen to vote for McCain, but one can't deny that the Democrats have a scary record to be held accountable for in terms of foreign policy and national security.

  • 5.
  • At 06:07 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Thomas T wrote:

Your comments are true. A lot of religious zealots want world war as it answers prophecies in holy texts. Bush was Osama's best recruiter.

  • 6.
  • At 06:11 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Carl wrote:

Lazy, huh? I don't want to be one of those partisan conspiracy theorists, but considering that you're quoting from a Murdochpaper, I think "lazy" is being very generous. They have after all been winning elections that way for a while now, and only time will tell if 2006 was really a paradigm shift or not.

  • 7.
  • At 06:31 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Colin wrote:

I agree with you on this Justin. Al Qaeda want a fight, does anyone really believe they thought the US wouldn't strike back after 9/11?

  • 8.
  • At 06:38 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Paul wrote:

Absolutely. Bush's action in Iraq gave AQ a new powerbase where they had none. Meanwhile the US has alienated allies with its demands for them to help fight its failed wars and lost the moral high ground with its torture and abuse of prisoners and denial of their legal rights. Not to mention the fact the US is bankrupting itself like the soviets did in Afghanistan. AQ would just love 4 years more.

I agree.

It's pretty obvious that al-Qaeda maintains the level of support it has through the actions of the US. They would want to keep the status quo.

I think at least part of the problem is the significant group of people that continue to talk about what the "Arab world" thinks, concluding that al-Qaeda, the Iranian government and the millions of Arab people somehow have a broad consensus on the US.

  • 10.
  • At 06:41 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • cj wrote:

"I think al-Qaeda would back McCain... the vague assumption that the terrorists would back a lefty is lazy thinking" ... and that, my friend, is fuzzy logic.

In 2004, Bin Laden's interjection in American Politcs was hardly intended to help re-elect a strong military leader whose opposition would prevent advances in other areas. It was more likely intended to produce the election of a capitulating leftie as was achieved after the Madrid bombings.

Thanks to Bush, Blair, Howard, Merkel, and others, the islamo-fascists have been slowed down in their "take-over" of the western world. They do not want to be fought. They want to be bowed to.

  • 11.
  • At 07:36 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Eric Rife wrote:

I couldn't agree more. If someone like Obama is elected, U.S. foreign policy might take a radical shift, emphasizing human rights over corporate profiteering. That might sound simplistic, but if the US showed genuine concern for the plight of people living under some of the ruthless regimes it has historically supported, the appeal of terrorism begins to fade.

Of course the US would have to make human rights and social justice the cornerstone of its foreign policy ... rather than simply maintaining a steady flow of cheap consumer goods and labor markets. Obviously that's easier said than done, but it is still the direction the country needs to go if (a) we truly care about freedom and democracy for others and not just ourselves; (b) if the US is to have anything resembling safety and security.

If I was a member of Al-Quaeda, I'd be hoping someone was elected who would maintain the current policy, since its the best recruiting tool.

  • 12.
  • At 07:41 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Chris wrote:

In reference to David's post. This is something which has always confused me about Americans; that they can be so offended when foreigners meddle in their politics by expressing a preference for one candidate or another and yet at the same time they are so completely comfortable with meddling in the domestic politics of other countries by supporting the overthrow of democratically elected governments (in the 70s and 80s) or through simple invasion (like now).

I agree with David that it is as sloppy for Justin Webb to assume that a Republican administration will be more war-like than a Democratic one as it is for others to assume that Al Qaeda would prefer a passive American administration.

  • 13.
  • At 07:41 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Pendragon wrote:

I agree with this article,but by the same token,I am certain that at this very moment Republican Politicians will be desperatly trying to find a fight to pick in order to make Americans feel threatened and divert attention from issues to which theur Party has no obvious answers ,like Healthcare and The Economy.

  • 14.
  • At 07:44 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • d00d wrote:

The only power Al Queda really has over us is the power that we give them.

More than wanting war & suffering, what Al Queda really wants is to achieve their political goals.
It's too easy to lose sight of that key fact in all the "liberal" vs. "conservative" puff that passes for argument these days.

My impression is that a lefty is more likely to hand them their victories without a fight, whereas a McCain would not.
Having the US leave Iraq as soon as possible certainly counts as one of Al Queda's political aims & we know who wants to give that to them.

I think people in Iraq are tired of fighting & if something better is offered, they will take it. Someone has to be there to offer the better way. Leaving Iraq ASAP & turning it over to Iran or Al Queda in Iraq, or opening the door to every other faction with a grievance & a gun is the absolute worst possible idea I've ever heard of, but seems to be the Democratic Party platform this election cycle.

  • 15.
  • At 08:16 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Andy, London wrote:

Surely the outcome al-Qaeda fear most is the election of a female president? No matter what you think about Hillary, nothing would send a more powerful message right into the family home of any Muslim fundamentalist than the infidels a woman becoming the most powerful person on the planet. I like the sound of that.

  • 16.
  • At 08:20 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Mick wrote:

David, yours wasn't a meaningless rant - it was a perfect illustration of the myopic conceit that typifies US delusions about it's own culture and behavior.

Oh, and wasn't it McCain who said the US is going to be in Iraq for 100 years; who warned Iran that the US would do whatever was necessary to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons technology; and who reassured his constituents that there are more wars ahead? The very definition of war mongering, I think.

  • 17.
  • At 08:33 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Bogdan wrote:

A simple yet perceptive analysis, based on the obvious "success factors" of a conflict driven, politico-military organization such as Al-Qaeda.

McCain is a Republican and (coincidentally not causally) a war-monger, hence a preferable choice for Al-Qaeda, who would see its relevance diminished by a US President with a foreign policy based on appeasement, consensus building, security, prosperity enhancement and self-determination (at least to a point), all factors that would appeal to the moderates in Iraq and Afghanistan, and would marginalize the extremist, violent fringe. People would rather trade and watch football games rather than blow themselves up, no matter what Bush says.

As to America's defiant nature that prompts them to cut off their nose to spite the face, no one disputes them that right and characteristic.

  • 18.
  • At 08:42 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Jean Desjardins wrote:

It is my assumption that, given the choice, Islamists want a fight with Ring-Wing american conservatives more than they do left-wing liberals, yes.

  • 19.
  • At 08:51 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Mary wrote:

It is rather difficult, and a catch 22 situation. If a Republican wins, they are a war monger, giving the terrorists what they want-war and suffering (even if its not necissarily physical, and even though some Americans may see it as defending the country). But if a Democrat wins, they are "appeasing the terrorists" (even though they would protect our nation just as well as a Republican would-and by all accounts better since they would actually work with other countries to ensure this protection). Me, I'd choose the Democrat-simply because I identify more with the large majority of the wider world's thoughts on this issue-their beliefs in diplomacy- over the unilateral mind set of many conservitives (in this country at least).

  • 20.
  • At 09:03 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Nilanjon wrote:

Just a quick word about the type-casting going on for McCain. If you follow American politics you are bound to realize that 1. party policies are ever changing and members rarely agree with all of them. For instance, Democrats are type-casted as apposed to the war, but Hillary Clinton actually vote FOR the war. There is just more independence from parties in America.

On another note, I wanna ask if anyone actually believes the Democrats's promise to get us out of war within some odd days of their inauguration. I think that whatever is being said, at the end of the day we have to face the facts that we will be stuck there for a while, best case scenario being a couple of more years, worst case: a couple of decades.

  • 21.
  • At 09:25 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Tom wrote:

It is worth noting that Obama has been on record as saying he would attack Bin Laden in Pakistan - something Bush has outright rejected, as he believes Bush has been too soft in going after the terrorists. It isn't necesssarily correct to assume that Democrats will be less likely to vigorously attack these people, they simply have a different outlook on Iraq.

  • 22.
  • At 10:00 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Diana wrote:

I don't think Al-Qaeda or Muslim-Fundamentalists would worry about the message a woman President would send, after all, they are the ones holding the gun and they will beat down their wives to death if they have to while those around them support and maybe even encourage such brutality.

I think it is unwise to give points to a candidate because she is a woman or a man or black or white. After all, US women and blacks and any US citizen has the same rights as the one standing next to him, THAT is guaranteed by our Constitution not our President. It would be wrong for a candidate to favor one group above another such as women, blacks, whites, or the so called "poor class" which Democrats claim to favor all the time. After all, Americans are also middle class (greatest majority) and rich class and business class(who actually provide most of the jobs for the rest of Americans).

A good candidate would be someone who is strong on foreign policy and who has a good perception of domestic policy. Moreover, we must not forget that the President of the United States is the Commander in Chief of the Army, among other things. Obama lacks the experience and has not shown any quality for this position. Hilary has the experience in public office but her results have proven to be deficient. Personally I find McCain more qualified to be a President than the other two.

  • 23.
  • At 10:44 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • John wrote:

al-Qaeda derives it's strength from conflict. As long as the "War on Terror" continues they will be able to recruit more soldiers willing to fight and die for their cause.

By calling this a "War on Terror" we reinforce these "Jihadist's" idea that they are in fact true soldiers, and not common criminals.

The only way we can end this conflict is to give the people we are fighting more reasons to like us than hate us. Killing their friends, neighbors, or family members will only perpetuate the cycle of violence. Remember, Iraq has suffered the equivalent of over ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY 9/11 attacks going on very conservative estimates of deaths. This has ensured that there are many more willing martyrs ready to fight the US and the Coalition.

  • 24.
  • At 10:48 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • michael wrote:

personally I think the constant references to Osama Bin laden and Al Quaeda simply serve to overinflate the importance of this group of thugs, largely inspired by the media's need to put a face on an amorphous terrorist threat.
So far as who these people might prefer, well what they would probably prefer is a president who is going to keep giving them attention, inflating their importance in the Islamic world. The most damage any president could do to their cause is focus on repairing the fractures in American society and investing in energy efficency and renewable energy sources. A USA able to press the value of freedom and democracy without looking like hypocrites and free of a dependence on oil, and all the entanglements that brings, would be the most dangerous adversary for these fanatics.

  • 25.
  • At 11:11 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • jundi wrote:

'Blowing oneself up is not a decision I expect most make lightly.'

That crass, stupid comment rules out (1) the leaders of terrorist groups who use suicide terrorism as a tactic, and (2) the innocent men, women and children (a surprising number who happen to be Moslems) who get blown to shreds by a suicide bomber.

Grow up.

  • 26.
  • At 11:24 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Greta wrote:

Mr. Webb, spare a few lines for supporters a bit closer to the candidates. Campaign and policy advisors who will -- most likely -- populate the Cabinet. Remember Rumsfeld? And Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle, and the self-appointed Cheney? All floored the accelerator of an impetuous, dim-witted dune-buggy.

Behind Obama and Clinton: Who's whispering in their ears says a lot

Contrast the teams and the themes.

Hillary is ready ... with Bill's ever-so-yesterday foreign policy advisors Berger, Holbrooke and Albright, Bill's Secretary of State whose counterpart "first-female" Condi Rice was also mentored by Albright's father, Josef Korbel, at Denver University. Probable Secretary of State? Richard Holbrooke, Clinton I Ambassador to the UN, and notorious Suharto and Marcos apologist under Carter. Holbrooke is burning to play Alexander. Conquering the Persians is definitely a Crusade of a different color. Madness.

Obama also uses "mainstream" analysts -- your pal over at Brookings is a good example, Mr. Webb -- as are Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anthony Lake and former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig. BUT -- Hillary would never employ or attract the range of scholars advising Barack, notably human rights advocate Samantha Power.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but ALL of Hillary's intelligence and foreign policy advisors supported the war ... and NONE of Obama's.

Let's judge 'em by the company they keep.

  • 27.
  • At 11:44 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

I don't think there is too much further mileage in a debate about who Al-Qaeda might want in the White House. Bluntly, the difference in foreign policy from a Clinton to a Bush presidency would not have been all that huge to, say, the Irish peace process, or to what went on in Kosovo.

There have examples of intervention from both Republican and Democrat presidents, and there limits on the room for action set by the court of public opinion.

When one thinks of the situation in Northern Ireland, where one administration was pushed into steps like internment without trial, and a later Government under Thatcher who refused to enter into any dialogue - it is difficult to see how one can state which of two candidates might be more appealing to Al-Qaeda.

Obama might be more circumspect, and less willing to undertake knee-jerk responses to political violence - and so have less appeal to terror groups.

But McCain could also present himself as someone who might take strong action against terror groups, but who might be very firm on not dealing with various guerrillas and factions until they had renounced violence.

And since McCain appears to be a very different animal to Bush [despite his support for him], one could navel [naval?] gaze for a long time about this, before even thinking about any 'double-bluff' situations.

So despite my earlier light-hearted comment about 'Mystic Mogg', I have some sympathy for his argument. The British Government know that they have no influence on the American elections - and will carry on pretty much the same as before whoever ends up in the White House. I suspect Al Qaeda will have a similar outlook...

  • 28.
  • At 11:51 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Andrea wrote:

I don't think AQ would be interested in another Republican president.

The truth is that AQ got beaten quite badly in Iraq -- this while its recruitment was supposedly thriving because of that war.

I think many people just don't realize how far AQ has fallen in the last year.

  • 29.
  • At 11:56 PM on 18 Feb 2008,
  • Mark wrote:

Dare I say that the point of terror is either to hit an iconic target, or create fear in a way that unnerves an entire population. Many so called targets fit neither of those two categories. That is why most of Bush's gestures have been more about intimidating Americans than assessing and dealing with the real threats.

Obama is iconic and that makes him vulnerable in the same way as Harvard Yard is, or the 42nd street crossrail subway; vulnerable, but not an automatic victim. Nor should one presume that an attack on Obama would lead to a McCain presidency. It could lead to a desire by the electorate to do quite the reverse by rejecting all that had caused such a state of affairs. I'm sure that is understood.

What the US needs to do now is move away from the language of war for Iraq to the language of reconstruction: the environment including afforestation, agriculture, water, communications, and anti-pollution changes for the oil industry. If the US gave people a job to do and money, the incentive to fight would be greatly diminished.

  • 30.
  • At 12:19 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • William wrote:

Why should it matter what Osama wants for America? We shouldn't be blindly voting the opposite of what bin Laden wants. We should be voting what's best for America, whether al-Qaeda wants it or not.


Either you're being disingenuous, or what I've been mistaking for anti-American bias for so long is in fact naivety.

Who do you really think al Qaeda wants to win the election?

McCain, who was one of the biggest supporters of a policy that has seen al Qaeda pushed to the brink of defeat in Iraq, with key leaders being killed there and elsewhere; who has pledged to continue the fight for as long as is necessary; and who isn't afraid to call the threat of Islamic extremism by its true name?

Or Obama, who has promised to withdraw US troops from Iraq despite knowing that it will enable al Qaeda to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and turn Iraq into a terror state – Afghanistan with oil wealth; who refuses to even talk about the threat from Islamic extremism; and who has pledged to meet with the leaders of the world's most dangerous terrorist states within weeks of taking office?

Do you seriously think for one moment that a US withdrawl from Iraq will mean an end to the wider war that Islamic extremists are waging against us? It won't. It will simply mean that instead of being driven from Iraq and suffering a crushing propaganda defeat, al Qaeda will be able to retake enough of that country to establish bases (and no, Obama, those bases won't take the form of rows of tents and assault courses in the middle of the desert, with the flag of al Qaeda flying above the parade ground, which you'll be able to bomb with impunity from Kuwait; they'll be blended invisibly and inextricably into re-subjugated Sunni communities who will be pushed back into the arms of the extremists as a result of their betrayal by the US). It will be free to intensify its efforts to topple the fragile government in Afghanistan, from where Obama is also likely to retreat, just as soon as he's picked up his Nobel Peace Prize for withdrawing from Iraq). And al Qaeda will be free to launch attacks throughout the Middle East, Europe, and of course the US.

How long do you think it will be before a gloating bin Laden films his first video message to the world from inside a 'liberated' Iraq? And what lessons, and how much inspiration, do you think other terrorist organisations and their state sponsors will draw from a US defeat?

You're absolutely right about one thing however, obvious though it is. You wrote:

"Islamic terrorists want war. They want suffering - among others and their own people alike."

I can't believe I'm hearing that from you; your bête noir, President Bush, couldn't have put it better himself. It's just a shame that you and your colleagues don't make this point more forcefully and more often, and in an environment rather more public than your blog – on the 6 o'clock or 10 o'clock news bulletins on BBC1 for example, or on the front page of your news website that's read by millions around the globe. Or would that be frowned on as 'editorialising'?

Instead, along with the mainstream US media, the BBC too often passes off acts of terrorism as some kind of unfortunate and inexplicable natural disaster, or actually makes excuses for it (most egregiously in Gaza, but in Iraq and Afghanistan too), while seizing with something approaching glee on every mistake made or perceived transgression committed by the US, and every setback that it suffers. I can understand this attitude from the utterly defeated hard left, but why is it that even among the 'soft left' (who of course don't see themselves as taking sides at all, but as fair-minded spokespeople for some imagined global 'consensus'), the desire to see Bush's America humiliated appears to trump the desire to see genuine evil defeated?

Yes, Islamic terrorists want war. But they know they can't win on the battlefields of Anbar or Helmand without first winning on the battlefield of public opinion. It's a strategy that succeeded spectacularly in Spain four years ago, and an Obama victory will be a sure sign of further progress on that front.

  • 32.
  • At 12:58 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Simon West wrote:

The Bush administration had the opportunity to crush Al Qaeda in the hills of Afghanistan where US high-tech weapons gave them a clear advantage. Instead they chose to take the battle to the streets of Iraq, where high-tech weapons counted for nothing and the civilian death toll was inevitably going to be catastrophic.

These completely senseless and counter-productive policies instead of defeating Islamic extremism, have poured high octane fuel on the once flickering flames and supplied the terrorists with an inexhaustible supply of volunteers and a common enemy to unite against.

Al Qaeda wanted chaos. Bush gave them the chaos they wanted.

Will leaving Iraq now cause more chaos? Probably. Will US troops staying in Iraq for 100 years stop the chaos? Of course not.

So, which President, other than George Bush, would Al Qaeda choose? It doesn't really matter now, does it? They already got what they wanted.

  • 33.
  • At 02:12 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Michael Amior wrote:

What about Qaeda's last-minute intervention in Spain's 2004 election? It's unlikely they were trying to bolster the rightists.

  • 34.
  • At 03:38 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Mike wrote:

Wow. And I thought the US had liberal media.

  • 35.
  • At 03:51 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • james wrote:

uh-huh.and adolph hitler,no doubt,preferred winston churchill to chamberlain.and the soviets preferred reagan to jimmi carter.

  • 36.
  • At 04:08 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • bob wrote:

the idea that what the left offers, cowardice, appeasement, retreat somehow scares osama has to be one of the most laughable things I've ever heard.

neville chamberlain could have written this blog.

Barack Obama has a better understanding of Al-Qaeda and the real challenge it presents to U.S. national security than either Bush or McCain. Do not forget that even with lower American casualties in Iraq with the surge, the United States is spending almost ten billion dollars in borrowed money each month on this war, while Al-Qaeda has grown stronger in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A President Obama will choose a path that is different from the failed strategy of the Bush-McCain Republicans.

  • 38.
  • At 05:09 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • H wrote:

Al Qaeda constantly calls for Bush's death, not his ascension to a higher power. They've consistently called for Americans not just to follow similar platform pieces as the Democrats, but literally endorsed the Democrats' desired course of action. They're stated goals are those of lefties, not conservatives.

Go ahead. Say it's reverse psychology, that they're just baiting on Americans to get what they really want, which is "war. They want suffering - among others and their own people alike." They thought that by attacking America they would expose them as weak and unable to respond, saying that our response would be to sue them, and that if we chose to attack they'd repel us with no problem. They sought to defeat the allies in Iraq not to bring misery on their own people, but for the same reason they attacked from Afghanistan: Because they thought they would beat the west and win territory as a result. They've now been defeated by the very people they sought to turn on the US, alongside the infidel army. They've succeeded only in being scattered to the point of being able to be largely picked of by police action rather than military action - which could not have happened without the latter.

Their stated goal is all non-muslims out of the middle east, Israel wiped off the planet and the world ruled by their re-established caliphate. Doesn't sound a thing like McCain, but it does sound like the anti-Israel, pro-detente and isolationist platform of today's Democratic party and/or the far left. Recognize that, rather than your fantasies that people who didn't have the forethought to come up with halfhearted lies on their immigration forms (and got into the US solely because of luck and a beauracracy too large to act on common sense). You can oppose McCain for a lot of reasons, but don't try to based on this false reasoning.

  • 39.
  • At 07:02 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • RB wrote:

Al-Qaeda wants defeatists that promote the propagation of radicals not only by foolishly believing that a stern talking to replaces military strength but also promotes the kind of civil rights that suits Sharia infiltration so well.

Tribal societies that use despicable violence to oppress and even maim large percentages of their own populace flourish world wide when liberals are leaders.

Al-Qaeda hearts the HillObama cabal.

  • 40.
  • At 08:10 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Tom wrote:

Oh btw - there is a simple and obvious truth to any party that "just wants war" ...

There will be war - no matter what the other party wants.

Don't tell me that there's anyone amongst you who hasn't seen this principle demonstrated even on the yard of his/her elementary school, or in the history lesson about WWII and others.

Violence can only be responded to by more powerful violence. And can be solved by more powerful violence (as the Iraq war has evidently demonstrated - al qaeda lost, they lost big)

(oh and if you think "but we have gandhi" - then please explain what those 10 million people died of in the partition)

  • 41.
  • At 09:44 AM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Jip wrote:

How utterly disgusting! Your logic is this = Al-Qaeda want McCain as he will fight and destroy them as is currently happening in Iraq. While what they really don't want is = an isolationist anti-war Obama, who will run away from Iraq and then Afganistan when that proves difficult. Utterly, utterly contemptible! I would say Anti-Americanism is the twenty-first century version of the anti-semtism of the 1930's, but I think that is still actually err, anti-semtism.

Thanks for the nod there - it was only a piece of snark.

Yes, I did a double-take on reading that about Al Qaeda, too - the more so as one can imagine Bin Laden reading it and saying "What, a mistake? Praise be to Allah for Rees-Mogg! We nearly went wrong there!"

On this particular issue, I think where Obama has the edge is not his supposed liberalism as such, but that he lived part of his childhood in a Third World country and so is more likely to understand how the USA's actions will be interpreted. That's pretty rare in the American ruling class, whereas he can always rely on a ready supply of military expertise for advice.

  • 43.
  • At 01:08 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • max wrote:

"Islamic terrorists want war. They want suffering - among others and their own people alike."
Either justification or investigation is lacking from that sentance. Jihad is "the struggle", and a struggle implies both the presence of a goal and a difficulty in attaining that goal. Were the war and suffering the final goal, there would have been no attempt on the part of various militant Islamic movements to justify the taking of civilian life. That is not to say that the justifications have been convincing, only that the attempt to make said justifications conveys an understanding of the negativity inherant in the nature of conflict. One does not justify an action with an inherantly positive or neutral nature. While we may see the actions of terrorists as "evil", those that commit the actions may see them as a "necessary evil". To place the morality aside for a moment, to imply that the extremist Islamic movements are interested only in conflict for conflict's sake is to indulge in the demonising of one's enemy. No good was ever gained in willful ignorance.

  • 44.
  • At 04:20 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Ben wrote:

How strange it is that no one here seems to care what the Jihadis actually say. They just "project" what they wish they would say.

Al Queda prefers the Democrats to the Republicans. It's fact. It's been said- often, and by many Al Queda leaders, Osama included. It's history. And reality has borne them out. Had Kerry beaten Bush in 2004, Iraq would be a collapsed state today, a Somalia in the heart of the middle east. Instead, Al Queda has failed there, driven out by the very people it had hoped to galvanize, and shot down by American and Iraqi bullets. And this, despite all the help the BBC and like minded institutions were able to offer to AQ. All because Bush won the 2004 election.

Contrary to popular belief, Al Queda does not want a fight. It wants victory. They have dreams of nothing short of global supremacy under a new theocracy, and if we gave it to them, yes, we would have peace. Of a sort. Prostrating ourselves and asking for mercy would end the war with the Jihad quickly and nicely, in their eyes. Of course, not all of us would survive, but we would hope the new Caliphate would keep its murderous excesses to a moderate level. Perhaps they would be merciful to the Danes despite the Danish flirtation with blasphemy- a few weeks of mass beheadings in public places might be adequate catharsis for the crimes of insulting Islam, yes?

Yes, McCain recognizes that a long war is ahead. But this is warmongering in the same way that warning of a coming century of global warming is heatmongering. It is a reality, wishing it away, appeasing it away will not make it go away. Recognizing it, despite its unpleasantness, that is wisdom. And courage.

When the phrase "Dar Al Harb" is no longer used to describe the non-Moslem world, when Saudi Arabia does not practice the most despicable religious apartheid in the world and get a free pass on it from the western media, and when radical Imams no longer preach hatred to cheering masses, it will be over, not before.


  • 45.
  • At 04:47 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • walt wrote:

"William Rees-Mogg obviously doesn't understand American society well, and, more to the point, he doesn't seem to understand the role Republicans and independents have played in Obama's primary and caucus wins. Mark my words: An Obama nomination would be the culmination of a shrewd GOP conspiracy. When November comes, many of Obama's non-core backers will abandon him and vote for McCain, who's bound to use the scare tactics of his party to portray Obama as soft on terrorism."

What is going on in America right now is unique. Americans are extremely angry and stirred up over the state of the country, and they are hell bent on cleaning up the quagmire in Washington. It is a phenomenon akin to FDR's avalanche of support during the Great Depression. People are discarding their self-interest and uniting behind Barack Obama because they believe he can fix a sick system. I myself am a Texan and a Republican (a traditional Republican who can't stand what his party has become) who is voting for Obama and completely dedicated to his cause. My parents have never voted for a Democrat, but they are wholeheartedly behind Barack Obama. I could go on and on. What is going on in American politics isn’t a conspiracy. It is real, and it is awesome.

-By the way, if Hillary Clinton somehow cheats the electorate out of their vote, how do I apply for citizenship in the U.K.? I am dead serious.

  • 46.
  • At 05:19 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Gimme A Break wrote:

It is patently obvious to even the most feeble mind that Al-Q would want a lefty in power.

The response of lefties throughout recent history has been meek, mild, and cowardly. Those who would exercise violent power smack them in the face and they sniffle and ask "Why would you do that? Did I do something wrong to you? I did, didn't I?" The violent opposition says "Yes", and then, after a time, smacks them again.

The flip-side of that coin, a non-lefty, HITS BACK.

So yeah -- Al-Q doesn't want McCain, they want Hillary, or, better yet, Obama -- because, if Al-Q strikes again like on 911, the response will be dithering and hesitant, and it certainly won't involve hitting back.

(And yes, despite Iraq's "lack of involvement in 911", it is HITTING BACK to take out -a- source of major financial support, to say NOTHING of eliminating 3 out of 6 terrorist training camps in the world, one of which conveniently has its own airframe to train people in takeover operations... It's also hitting back indirectly to show Islamic people that they don't have to live in a collection of religious nutjobs, that Islam is capable of providing more for its people than humiliation and anger).

  • 47.
  • At 06:04 PM on 19 Feb 2008,
  • Aaron wrote:

"Islamic terrorists want war."

No, they want to win. Their goals are accomplished with the Democrats' style of backing away from conflict with the maddened Islamic terrorists while offering hope and flowers.

Without fighting with the US military that has devastated them in Iraq they achieve a weaker US, less resistance from moderate Muslims and a takeover of US interests.

If you would only pay attention to the current situation in Iraq you would know terrorists hate a shooting battle. They want victory, not necessarily war.

  • 48.
  • At 01:01 AM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Yusuf Musaji wrote:

I think we are heading towards challenging times and am very disappointed that we are not selecting a candidate who has the experience to do the job.

The candidate of Choice is Surely Hillary J Clinton.

We do not want novices such as Condolesa Lice who has botched up the whole Secretary of State position. We do not want a candidate who is placed there because they are black or minority. We want a candidate who can do the job.

Why are we letting the best candidate such as Hillary Clinton slip away and allow us to be sunk deeper in to Chaos.

Let the democrats wake up and not sink the ship. Tora, Tora, Tora.

Yusuf Fidahussein.

  • 49.
  • At 03:03 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Caleb R. wrote:

Jip: Are you accusing J. Webb of anti-Americanism??? against wall>

Actually, one of the problems with militant islamist groups is that it is
almost impossible to generalise about their aims. Some have rather
short-term, immediate aims, like the destruction of the State of Israel or
the ending of the American occupation of Iraq; others see themselves as
part of a much more long-term strategy to introduce Islamist rule
throughout the Muslim hemisphere. One thing that I think can confidently be
said about about almost all of them is that the outcome of elections in
(nominally!)secular, democratic Western nations is of only tangential
relevance to them. Islamist militants (like some Christian extremists) are
totalists: they see liberal democracy as doomed to wholesale defeat.
Squabbling between left-of-centre and right-of-centre is thus irrelevant to
them, like shuffling deck-chairs on the Titanic. I really don't think they
particularly care, no matter how much alarmist right-wingers may protest
that they do. The only point on which I would say the election is relevant
is that certain US/UK policies in the Middle East have certainly
contributed to growing numbers of (usually young and male) Muslims becoming
radicalised in places as disparate as Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, and
Britain. These policies are certainly not the only reason for this trend,
but from my experience I believe they are a major factor. So while radical
Muslims probably don't care if McCain wins, moderates - who are the first
to suffer when there is an upsurge of violent islamism - will be hoping
that he doesn't.

  • 50.
  • At 07:48 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • J Burke wrote:

Webb is wrong in so many ways, it's hard to know where to start. First, al Qaeda is going to get war from the US no matter who is President, and bin Laden is not so stupid as to miss this. At another level, al Qaeda understands that it can divide more and less resolute Americans and Westerners from each other to gain important tactical successes. Thus, their minions targeted Spain on the eve of elections there to push that nation to the sidelines. It would be a stellar breakthrough to drive the US out of Iraq (regardless of the US rationale for the war) and regrettably, the Democrats keep promising to let that happen. To the extent al Qaeda can control events, we can expect violence in Iraq to "surge" as a way of making it a hotter issue in the US and tip the balance to anti-war sentiment. However, they are in for a surprise since no US administration, Democrat or Republican, is going to bolt for the door in Iraq, however many promises to start on "Day One" Clinton or Obama make. No President is going to sit and watch as al Qaeda acquires vast territories in Iraq from which to operate, Iran gets free passage to the Arabian Peninsula and regional hegemony, and bin Laden issues claims of victory.

  • 51.
  • At 08:00 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Christian wrote:

What an irresponsible blog post. Twenty years ago, would you have tagged a mainstream Labor or Tory candidate as the IRA's choice? Well, maybe a Tory...

But to your point, you need look no further than Al Qaeda's attacks on Spain and the subsequent fall of the Aznar government.

  • 52.
  • At 08:26 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • canvas wrote:

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton:

"John McCain’s remarks tonight shows why he’s offering nothing more than a third term of George Bush’s policies – more fear-mongering, more than a century of war in Iraq, and more budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthiest few at the expense of hardworking Americans. The reason that Barack Obama is attracting Democrats, Independents, and Republicans to his cause is because he’s offering real change that will end this war, finish the fight against al Qaeda, restore our standing in the world, and rebuild our economy for the struggling middle-class."

It's about what the American people want - and they clearly want Obama.

Go Obama!

  • 53.
  • At 11:45 PM on 20 Feb 2008,
  • Fred wrote:

Where does the BBC find such jackasses? Clinton and Obama have stated unequivocally that they intend to abandon Iraq as precipitously as possible, a move that would hand Islamic extremists nothing less than a propaganda coup. How does it follow that al-Qaeda would not prefer either Democratic candidate? And by the way, Justin, the only people who have suggested that the 2004 Bin Laden tape had any effect on that year's presidential election are addled liberals (yes, I recognize the redundancy).

  • 54.
  • At 01:37 AM on 21 Feb 2008,
  • Chez wrote:

The premise is nonsensical...but politically useful. The Democrats are the party of appeasement, which is their Achilles heal. The BBC is trying to put an inverted slant on things to mitigate this reality.

  • 55.
  • At 08:57 AM on 21 Feb 2008,
  • ChubbyCheshire wrote:

I posted this on the R4 message boards and Anna suggested I ask you, Justin -

Is the cheering on the coverage of the Primaries canned ?

I have noticed from the coverage of the American Primaries that when any of the candidates make a speech, the crowd's reaction is identical.

There appears to be identical whooping and squealing reaching a crescendo at the same point - is it a recording put on by the American press to avoid accusations of favouritism in their coverage, or is the original crowd noise blanked out to ensure the speech can be heard and cheering added later ?

What has caused my question is that they certainly sounded the same when, on Today yesterday morning,the speeches by the main contenders were played back to back.

Poor stuff. McCain has got it right more than anyone else. Him coming to power would be a bad day for AQ and a good day for the free world. Spare me this naivety.

  • 57.
  • At 08:20 PM on 21 Feb 2008,
  • Francisco wrote:

I disagree with this comment. The withdrawal of troops from Iraq would signal a victory to fundamental terrorists and use it as propaganda to recruit. It is in their interest to have a president that they feel will withdraw our troops so that they can claim victory. I think it’s silly to say that AlQaeda supports one presidential candidate over another, since both no matter how much may differ in opinion still stand strong for the fundamental principles of the American people, which is what terrorists despise. But the situation getting worse in Iraq will favor the democratic candidate. I LOVE Obama but I don’t think he will be able to get out of Iraq as smoothly as he proposes and I believe terrorists will bank on his willingness to throw in the towel on a war that only gives them purpose.

  • 58.
  • At 11:14 PM on 21 Feb 2008,
  • m wrote:

i think you are wrong when you say islamic terrorists ONLY want suffering. i think this kind of singular perspective will keep us mired in war and conflict. the longer we continue to misdiagnose the goals of islamic terrorists the longer this insanity will continue, i fear. i believe that islamic terrorists have aims outside of suffering for sufferings sake. because if they didn't they would not be human beings. they would be simply evil animals. and if you believe they are not human ... then there definitely is no hope.


You really think that al-Qaeda would prefer an experienced politician over a novice that says 'change' a lot as US president? It must be a BBC thing.

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