Monday, September 20, 2004
Our allies plainly have not seen the latest intercepts, and therefore do not share Dennis Hastert's informed opinion as to which presidential candidate al Qaeda will be backing come November. From the Scotsman, courtesy of Zemblan patriot K.Z.:
The government was drawn into a diplomatic row with the United States and Italy last night, after a senior British ambassador described President George Bush as "the best recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda".Juan Cole, on the other hand, says bin Laden doesn't give a rat's ass who wins in November:
Sir Ivor Roberts, the British ambassador in Rome, made the extraordinary comment during a weekend meeting of politicians and journalists.
His remarks were designed to be off-the-record but they proved so explosive that Italy's leading newspaper, Corriere della Sera, decided to breach the rule and publish them.
Corriere reported Sir Ivor as saying: "George W Bush is the best recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda. If there is anyone ready to celebrate his eventual re-election it is al-Qaeda, while it’s clear that the Palestinians hope that a Kerry victory will help unblock the situation."
The Corriere reporter, Moncia Guerzoni, added that Sir Ivor also said that the Bush administration was "conditioned and pressured by groups of powerful Israelis".
Sir Ivor last night issued a short statement via Britain’s Foreign Office in London which said: "These remarks as reported do not reflect my personal views" . . . .
A senior administration official at the White House made it clear that the Bush administration took a dim view of Sir Ivor’s comments.
He told The Scotsman: "I would not consider it proper diplomatic discourse, but they are not comments which would merit a response." Another senior Republican, who is close to the Bush administration, said that George Bush was al-Qaeda’s greatest enemy and the Italians should be told that.
The comments will come as a particular embarrassment to Tony Blair, who has been the biggest ally of Mr Bush in his war on terror and in Iraq. They are also particularly sensitive given that the British government is trying to secure the release of a British hostage, Kenneth Bigley, who was captured in Baghdad last week along with two Americans, one of whom was reported last night to have been executed by his captors.
But Hastert is just wrong. Al-Qaeda does not care who wins the elections. If the US withdraws from Iraq (which could happen willy-nilly under Bush as easily as under Kerry), that would be seen as a victory by al-Qaeda. If the US remains in Iraq for years, bleeding at the hands of an ongoing guerrilla insurgency, then that is also a victory for al-Qaeda from their point of view. They therefore just don't care which candidate wins. They hate general US policy in the Middle East, which would not change drastically under Kerry. To any extent that al-Qaeda is giving serious thought to the US elections, it would see no significant difference between the candidates. But given its goal of creating more polarization between the US and the Muslim World, it is entirely possible that the al-Qaeda leadership would prefer Bush, since they want to "sharpen the contradictions."Meanwhile, that bulwark of journalistic integrity Robert Novak is predicting that Bush will cut and run the moment he's reinaugurated:
INSIDE THE Bush administration policymaking apparatus, there is strong feeling that U.S. troops must leave Iraq next year. This determination is not predicated on success in implanting Iraqi democracy and internal stability. Rather, the officials are saying: Ready or not, here we go.(N.B.: We made several calls to various authorities familiar with the Novak oeuvre, and to a man they reassured us that the last paragraph above was in all likelihood intended unironically. According to some, Mr. Novak also believes that the late Ronald Reagan will be best remembered by historians for turning back the Sandinista assault on Harlingen, Texas.)
This prospective policy is based on Iraq’s national elections in late January, but not on ending the insurgency or reaching a national political settlement.
Getting out of Iraq would end the neo-conservative dream of building democracy in the Arab world. The U.S. would be content having saved the world from Saddam Hussein’s quest for weapons of mass destruction.