President Bush came out today and said that a taped diatribe by bin Laden "inadvertently" aided his re-election. The tape, which was released a couple of days before the election, attacked Bush for all sorts of things.
Now, I would agree with the President that the tape did help him win re-election. Of course, when our enemy comes out and says that he is angry with our President, there will be people who will vote for the President.
My problem is with the 'inadvertent.' I believe that it was intentional. To begin with, bin Laden is not such a fool. Like him or not, he is an intelligent man who knows what he is doing. Bush's take on this requires that we consider bin Laden a chump, who thinks that we will all do what he asks for, and he is smart enough to know that isn't the case. In fact, bin Laden wanted Bush re-elected for two reasons.
The first is that ever since Bush made the 'dead or alive' speech, Osama has just not been much of a priority. We never committed the same kind of force in the fight against him and his supporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan that we have in Iraq. In fact, once the focus shifted to Iraq, the Afghan war became mostly an afterthought, and it has allowed bin Laden to evade capture, and in fact for his organization to continue to mount attacks worldwide. Osama must have been well aware that John Kerry promised during the campaign to renew the hunt for him, and in any case, he knows by now that what is happening in his part of the world is a second or third priority for Bush, so Bush winning was a matter of personal safety for him. It's possible that Bush may catch him, but less likely than if he was at the top of the priority list.
The second (and real) reason why bin Laden wanted Bush re-elected, is because of his own main objective. Bin Laden has preached repeatedly a continuing Jihad against America and the West. He wants a united Islamic world fighting against the Christian and secular west (and he draws no distinction between the Christian west and the secular west, he sees both as an enemy of Islam). In this regard, Bush's ham handed invasion of Iraq, together with outgrowths of this like Abu Graib and allegations of torture, have been a windfall for bin Laden. In a country where al-Qaeda had little or no influence before we invaded and which was ruled by a dictator who kept a tight lid on anyone who might challenge his rule, a whole new generation of terrorists is being recruited, trained and getting experience fighting (and killing) Americans. It makes it much easier for bin Laden to find an audience that members of his organization can reach. Bush's stubbornness, rigid inflexibility and refusal to work with anyone who doesn't want to do things his way also play right into bin Laden's hands. It is unlikely that Kerry or any other President would be as tone deaf to what is going on in other countries as Bush is, and as such he has been a boon to bin Laden. Of course bin Laden wanted four more years.