Global Issues

What a terrorist wants

What if these two things highlighted by Kevin Drum this morning are true? Does it mean anything? Should we care?

1. That Al Queda wants to prolong the American campaign in Iraq for as long as possible. As revealed in a letter captured in the Abu Musab Zarqawi raid, and translated by the Counterterrorism Centre at Westpoint (where I was visiting a couple of weeks ago incidentally). The letter states:

The most important thing is that you continue in your jihad in Iraq, and that you be patient and forbearing, even in weakness, and even with fewer operations… Do not be hasty. The most important thing is that the jihad continues with steadfastness and firm rooting, and that it grows in terms of supporters, strength, clarity of justification, and visible proof each day. Indeed, prolonging the war is in our interest, with God’s permission.

2. That according to CIA assessments, Bin Laden believes that his movement benefits from the polarization of him versus Bush, and that he therefore times statements to help Bush politically. From Suskind’z The One Percent Doctrine:

At the five o’clock meeting, once various reports on latest threats were delivered, John McLaughlin opened the issue with the consensus view: “Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President.”

Around the table, there were nods….Jami Miscik talked about how bin Laden — being challenged by Zarqawi’s rise — clearly understood how his primacy as al Qaeda’s leader was supported by the continuation of his eye-to-eye struggle with Bush. “Certainly,” she offered, “he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years.”

But an ocean of hard truths before them — such as what did it say about U.S. policies that bin Laden would want Bush reelected — remained untouched….On that score, any number of NSC principals could tell you something so dizzying that not even they will touch it: that Bush’s ratings [in the U.S.] track with bin Laden’s rating in the Arab world.

Of course, prolonging the war might just mean not losing, and propping up Bush might just be the type of politically useful characterization that we do in reverse with our enemies, but surely this should at the least make us reflect on the potential strategic downsides of belligerent posturing?

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