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If you were Osama bin Laden

Article published on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004
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Let’s pretend you are Osama bin Laden (OBL). You have the power to launch a 9/11 type attack in the United States between now and Nov. 2, election day. Would you do it?

Before answering that question, you’d have to ponder another one: What effect on the presidential election would a massive terrorist attack on the U.S. create?

Possibility No. 1: Millions of American voters – many of them previously undecided on either Bush or Kerry – would say, “The attack by OBL is aimed directly at President Bush, whom OBL recognizes as his most implacable foe. Therefore, it is vital that we re-elect Bush and let him finish the job he’s started.”

Possibility No. 2: Millions of voters would say, “Look at the mess George Bush has gotten us into. He’s had three years since 9-11-01 to capture OBL, and he has failed to do so. He has embroiled the nation in a Vietnam-type war in Iraq when he should have been focusing on protecting our own borders. Let’s get rid of him. Kerry may not be the perfect answer, but he can’t do any more damage than Bush has done.”

Like most Americans, I hope we’ll see no major terrorist action between now and Nov. 2. I’m inclined to think we won’t. OBL and other anti-American warlords have had three years to inflict another major disaster on the continental U.S., and they have not done so, either by choice or by their inability to puncture the security firewalls the USA has slowly been building. Given their druthers, most terrorists choose to assault soft targets, rather than better-protected ones.

My understanding is that OBL and his supporters see the war against Western values as a long-term affair, perhaps an endless one. With that perspective, OBL probably views our upcoming election as merely a small blip on the terrorism radar screen. It is entirely possible that most Muslim extremists don’t really care who sits in the White House. It’s not our leaders they target – it’s our values and our way of life.

Whoever is elected on Nov. 2, this fact will remain: The U.S. is committed to expending hundreds, perhaps thousands, of additional American lives, plus untold billions of dollars, on the albatross that the Iraqi war has become. The Iraq venture (or adventure) has stretched our military capabilities dangerously thin; it has divided our citizens into warring camps; it is creating new financial burdens that our grandchildren may well have to pay; it has cost us the good will of many of our former allies.

Those facts surely must be a comfort to OBL, wherever he is. The irony is that when he launched the 9/11 attack, OBL probably wasn’t even thinking about triggering a U.S.-led war on Iraq. The Iraq morass is simply frosting on OBL’s cake. We have handed it to him on a silver platter.
Article published on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2004
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