November 5, 2004
UBL'S PRE-ELECTION TAPE: 'MISREADING THE AMERICAN MENTALITY'
** World media dubbed the UBL video an "October surprise" aimed to influence U.S. election.
** Many predicted bin Laden's tape would unintentionally "boost" President Bush's campaign.
** Even donning a "new image," bin Laden looked "weaker than ever," his video "too absurd."
** Others judged the appearance a "stark reminder" that the author of 9/11 is still "in business."
Bin Laden 'surprise' would 'not affect voting'-- Initial global reaction to the UBL pre-election video focused on the impact it might have on the American voter. Although it may have "added fuel to the election fire," few observers treated this appearance by the world's "arch terrorist" as a success. Many believed the "Great Manipulator" was trying to "sway" the election but, as Germany's business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland concluded, the "provocation was...unlikely to have any effect." It would be "naive," an Indian daily chided, to assume this "video message will change voter choice." Britain's center-left Independent held the best response to UBL's "sermonizing" would be indifference or "fury" that the 9/11 "mastermind" dared to exploit an American election for "his own intimidatory and self-aggrandizing ends."
UBL's 'disturbance' did 'more to help' Bush-- Though many believed bin Laden's words were intended to "debase Bush, to try to pull him from office," they predicted that such a ploy was likely to "backfire" because fear would "push people" to vote for President Bush. Echoing a typical Arab response that UBL "again misread the American mentality," London's pan-Arab Al-Sharq al-Awsat claimed bin Laden delivered Bush the "greatest boost in the election by launching his video missile." An Algerian writer agreed it actually gave "Bush a chance by playing to irrational fears to make people forget about Iraq." Writing just after the election was decided, India's centrist Hindu suggested bin Laden's "surrealistic election-eve foray into American politics might have contributed...to the margin of Mr. Bush's victory."
Bin Laden reduced to a 'pathetic wraith'-- Conservative Western and Asian dailies ridiculed bin Laden's performance as the "rantings of a fugitive," mocked his makeover into a "supreme leader of an imaginary army" and labeled his monologues "increasingly empty." These writers dismissed bin Laden as what the Australian described as the "leader of an increasingly isolated and ragtag network of fanatics." The repackaged Usama clad in "white robes, a golden cloak and turban" revealed, the Bangkok Post noted, "a different bin Laden, clearly weakened." Qatar's semi-official Al-Watan, meanwhile, detected a "change in tone" that might indicate bin Laden had developed a "political sense" that could signal a "truce to end this madness."
'Ominous warning to America, world'-- Arab, Asian and Euro critics depicted the UBL tape as "living proof that Bush has failed" in the war against terror. Pre-election editorials expected the UBL message to serve as a "blow" to Bush; it should have been a reminder of Bush's "failure" on terror which could have helped Kerry. "Despite the massive resources" spent to hunt him down, UBL appeared to be "alive and well." The "shadow of bin Laden," warned London's left-of-center Guardian, will "hang heavily over the next administration."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Irene Marr
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 41 reports from 20 countries over October 31-November 4 2004. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
BRITAIN: "Bin Laden's Surprise"
The left-of-center Guardian editorialized (11/1): "Whoever wins tomorrow's election, the shadow of bin Laden will hang heavily over the next U.S. administration. Defeating terrorism will require a far deeper understanding of its root causes, reaching out to Muslims, focused thoughtful action, better intelligence and the support of other countries alarmed by the abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib--and who think that the Iraqi quagmire is a dangerous distraction from the real business at hand."
"Americans Must Not Allow Bin Laden To Influence Their Vote"
The center-left Independent commented (11/1): "The two rational responses to bin Laden's sermonizing are indifference or fury: indifference in that his words do nothing to change the balance of advantage; fury that any outsider should have presumed to sway a democratic election, and particular fury that the mastermind of 11 September should have dared to exploit an American election for his own intimidatory, self-aggrandizing ends."
Nikolaus Busse had this to say in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (11/1): "The effect of the video on the American people should be minor--one reason is that bin Laden's statement does not favor either of the two candidates. Following the video, America is divided as never before. Many voters have the impression that the vote will this time be on the country's innermost values. The intellectuals in the country consider Bush a dangerous hick, while the rural population is afraid that Kerry could undermine the religious foundation of the United States. But all other voters, too, who are between these extremes, made their decision long ago. Race, income, and weltanschauung are more decisive for their vote than a video of America's most hated opponent."
Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg (11/1) argued: "Right on time for the final days of the U.S. election campaign he reported back. Osama bin Laden is reminding the United States of the fact that he is still at large and capable of acting. This provocation was a success but it is likely that it will not have any effect, since the video itself does not result in anything new. Bush voters should feel confirmed that the fight against terror must continue unabated; for Kerry voters, the video is just more evidence of the failure of the Bush administration. The certificates for both candidates were written even before bin Laden's video."
Jacques Schuster wrote in a front-page editorial in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (11/1): "[With his video], Osama bin Laden is trying to influence the U.S. presidential elections, but he will fail. His video is too absurd, his attempt too unrealistic to present himself as an equal enemy for President Bush and the United States.... Even though some attacks have taken place since 9/11 and even though we must expect further attacks, one thing has been clear for a long time: Osama bin Laden is on the defensive…. Neither Osama bin Laden nor the Taliban succeeded in torpedoing the free elections in Afghanistan. For the first time, a president is in power in the Hindu Kush who was elected by a majority of his people. And bin Laden reacted to it in a helpless way. Even bin Laden's warning to stay out of the Middle and Near East will not have any effect. On the contrary, even Europe has understood that lack of interest and indifference rather promote terrorism. To put it briefly, bin Laden is weaker than ever. His message is a waste of breath."
ITALY: "To The Elections With The Osama Nightmare"
Vittorio Zucconi wrote in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (10/31): “Osama Bin Laden’s image hangs over Bush and Kerry and over the honor of a great shocked democracy. It devours the little time that is left; it does away with the daily massacres in Baghdad, the failures of the war, the scandals, the shortage of vaccines, and unemployment. It causes the nation to focus its attention where Bush has always wanted it - on September 11, 2001.... Bush knows he can count on the effect of the reappearance, that has reminded voters of that day in September when he unquestionably and unanimously became the nation’s leader. Osama is the living reminder of the legitimacy of Bush’s doctrine, which emerged from those ruins...and of his failure in a war against terrorism that yesterday caused the death of eight more Marines in Iraq. Conquering the Presidential office with fraud and rigging is an old and accepted tradition of this electoral system. But to enter the Oval Office under the mark of Osama would be too much for a democracy that is seeking to find, with these elections, more than a president, its lost honor and self-respect.”
"Elections With Terrorist Blackmail"
Anna Guaita reported in Rome center-left daily Il Messaggero (10/31): “It’s too early to tell what will prevail in the minds of voters - the emotional or the logical side. What does appear clear, however, is that the much feared ‘October surprise,’ meaning the brick that fell heavily into the electoral pond at the very last minute before the elections, had the immediate effect of putting on the back burner a series of important issues that were damaging to the President.”
"The Great Manipulator Of Nightmares Want To Confuse Democracies"
Barbara Spinelli opined in centrist, influential daily La Stampa (10/31): “This is not the first time that Bin Laden inserts himself in democratic electoral campaigns.... He appeared dressed like a real supreme commander of an imaginary enemy army. He wasn’t dressed like a combatant, because the supreme leader is a political leader of a people more than a technician of war. He seems to know that the real sense of the U.S. electoral campaign lies here - in the figure of a political leader who tends to become more and more militarized, to govern his country with fear, to put force at the center of his concerns and programs. This was what the American campaign was all about: a battle to choose not a President, but a commander in chief.... Bush uses short, monotone and simplistic sentences - military-like language that is not much different from Bin Laden’s proclamations. After the elections we will know whether voters were seeking a military or political leader, who will not use wars as a propaganda weapon and to define national objectives. This is why so many people are interested in November 2. They’re not so interested in finding out what the Administration will do in the world or in Iraq...but to learn what America is, what it has become or what it will be.... The destiny of the American democracy...concerns all democracies and puts them all to the test: such is the influence of American culture on the rest of the West, on the people’s sentiments.... Bin Laden’s latest terrorist act - yesterday’s video - didn’t cause deaths but disorientation, which makes the attempt to understand America particularly difficult.”
"The Propaganda Of Terror"
Lucio Caracciolo notes in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (11/1): “In order to get citizens to support the various wars, the U.S. propaganda machine has always identified an archenemy - a single target. The war in Kosovo was against Milosevic, the one in Afghanistan was against Osama (and mullah Omar), and the war in Iraq was once against Saddam and currently against Al-Zarqawi. It’s a terrible simplification that explains much better than any strategic analyst why the Americans are never capable of winning the peace, of creating a new order after having toppled the preceding one. From the Balkans, to Central Asia to Mesopotamia history repeats itself. And we Europeans are called to ‘clean up’ where the U.S. military superpower is not able to uproot the deeply embedded evil that is superficially incarnated in an axis of evil or in its regime.... No matter who is elected on November 2, he must remember the lessons learned from the first three years of war in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes.”
RUSSIA: "Bin Laden Adds Fuel to U.S. Election Fire"
Mass-circulation Moscow daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets wrote (11/1): "On 29 October, that is, four days before the election, elusive Al-Qa'ida leader Usama Bin Ladin gave America an "October surprise".... Bin Ladin said it was no accident that Al-Qa'ida was carrying out terrorist acts against America, rather than against Sweden, say, which does not threaten the Arab world, that is, Al-Qa'ida terror is an eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth, blood for blood. That is the No 1 terrorist's message.... It was as if Usama was using the whole of his handsome face to demonstrate the Bush Administration's failures in the struggle against international terrorism and in so doing was involuntarily adding fuel to the election fire.... It is hard to say for whom the Usama Bin Ladin video will be a trump card and who will be trumped by it; how will the US voter see it -- as further evidence of Bush's incompetence or as an attempt by the No 1 terrorist to play up to Kerry."
CROATIA: "United States Hopes, Bin Laden Threatens"
Kresimir Fijacko commented in Zagreb-based Government-owned Vjesnik (11/2): “Naive speculations that Bush has maybe already captured Bin Laden and would ‘pull him out of a hat’ on the eve of elections as the main trump card, have materialized in a way least suitable to Bush, and they don’t suit Kerry either. It certainly isn’t good for America or the world. Osama Bin Laden himself has appeared, as an ominous warning to America and the world.”
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Election Freeloader Osama"
Petr Pesek commented in the center-right daily Lidove Noviny (11/1): "Bin Laden's message on Friday is a moderate one by its content and a new one by its form in comparison with his previous statements.... It looks more like a pre-election speech albeit interwoven with extreme demagoguery. Osama is not only on the run but also on the ideological defensive. However, al-Qaida has proved over the last three years that it can function even without Osama. This presents one of the few successes for bin Laden and a continuing danger for the West."
"Osama A Halloween Banshee"
Teodor Marjanovic opined in the business daily Hospodarske Noviny (11/1): "There is no hotter question in the U.S. right now than that of whom Osama bin Laden helped more with his TV appearance. The Republicans say that the video proves the success of Bush's fight against terrorism; al-Qaida has apparently little left other than to produce videotaped messages. The Democrats on the other hand say that it shows how big a fiasco the war is, as the Arch-terrorist can preach undisturbed from TV screens worldwide. Intuition suggests that the fear Americans have of [the murderer bin Laden] will increase their preference for Bush. Cynics would say that the pale thin worshipper of death actually fit quite well into Sunday's Halloween atmosphere. The traditional holiday unintentionally underlined political topic No. 1--security. Whoever will be elected the new U.S. president will need to work hard to make sure that a common enemy like bin Laden is not the only thing that unites Americans."
ROMANIA: "Return Of Bin Laden Not Coincidence"
In the independent daily Ziua, political analyst Sorin Rosca Stanescu commented (11/1): "What does this new appearance of Osama bin Laden brings anew? Is his message, launched just a few days before a tight electoral fight between Bush and Kerry, a simple coincidence? Can Bin Laden influence the American electorate?.... It is interesting to see how the American voters will react regarding Ossama’s message. The specialists who profoundly know the behavior of American citizens can tell us if his message will bring some more votes to Bush. Or to Kerry. Until then, one thing is sure - the return of Bin Laden cannot be a simple coincidence, right before elections in the U.S."
"U.S.' War Against Terror Will Continue"
In the independent daily Evenimentul Zilei, political analyst Traian Ungureanu opined (11/1): “Elections in America are not only for America. Starting tomorrow, when elections begin, many people from all over the world will hold their breath. America is at war. On the outside, with the Islamic terrorism, on the inside, with its own conscience, caught on two sides - by the patriotism of the crowds and the internationalism of elites that hate the classical values of America.... Bin Laden tried to interfere in choosing the President of the U.S. No matter how foolish it is, this pretension has its own logic and has become a historical moment.... Bin Laden has signaled to Americans that he is alive and well, that he lives in a civilized manner and that he is a living proof that Bush failed. The anti-Bush Americans will accept this rationale. The others will understand that the target is alive and the hunt must go on.... Bin Laden does not know anything about American culture and traditions. Americans don’t like to be threatened and scolded in order to go to vote. Announcing that he doesn’t want Bush any longer in the White House, Bin Laden can be sure of two things. First, Bush will win elections more decisively than he would have, anyway. And the war against terror will continue all the way. Bin Laden will be only a victim in this process.”
SERBIA: "The Leading Manipulator"
The independent Belgrade Danas commented (11/1): "The public concluded that Al-Qaeda's leader and America's #1 enemy has admitted that he masterminded September 11, and that he wants to influence the elections. However, he actually doesn't care whether Bush or Kerry wins. All he probably wanted was to show in a spectacular way that he is alive and well and to draw public attention. His message was addressed to the West, particularly to the U.S., but also to 1.3 billion Muslims around the world. He is aiming at getting new disciples and he is wrapping his private war into an all-Arab resistance to the West. He is a very good manipulator."
"Political Bomb of Osama Bin Laden"
The centrist Belgrade daily Glas Javnosti reflected (11/1): "Bin Laden was quiet for two years, even when the U.S. attacked Iraq and when Muslims united in condemnation of that action. He was probably smiling when the war between the U.S. and Iraq broke out because his dream of Muslims' confronting the U.S. was coming true. The latest speech sent several messages. First, Osama is alive, healthy and free. He didn't look like a person hiding in Afghanistani caves. Secondly, he could repeat September 11, and he successfully revoked the fear and reminded America of its vulnerability. However, Osama's message that 'your security does not lie in Bush's or Kerry's hands but in your own’ looks like an offer. He has offered a lull to Europe and maybe he is offering the same to Americans now. If his offer is turned down a new attack will follow and that shows that he is a long-time planner and strategist. There is no doubt that he threw a political bomb by saying things in a way that Americans could understand, and in a manner of a Western politician. This bomb, just few days prior to the elections, could change thinking of a part of the electorate. Some voters could consider that the war against terror has failed and that would signal the need for a change of leadership. On the other hand, he put Kerry right next to Bush and indicated that he has nothing new to offer and that Americans will not be safe with either of them. And by that he did a favor to President Bush, because Osama's message is re-affirming Bush's thesis that terrorism is still very much alive and that the U.S. needs a strong leader, one who can finish this job. Who will gain from Osama's message will soon be seen."
SAUDI ARABIA: "Playing Into Osama's Hands"
English language daily Saudi Gazette wrote (Internet Version, 10/31): "The appearance of a video tape courtesy of Al-Jazeera television featuring Osama Bin Laden only days before the U.S. presidential election is presumably designed to have some impact on the final result. The tape has Bin Laden making reference to Senator John Kerry so it must have been made relatively recently. It is a stark reminder that the man behind the September 11 attacks is very much alive and still in business. If toppling Saddam Hussein was about dealing with terrorism then the fact Bin Laden can still gain global media access to justify his actions is surely a measure of America's lack of success in dealing with that threat.... Bin Laden's aim to tap into the so-called Arab Street is in evidence in the video. His declaration that 9/11 was motivated by the plight of the Palestinians and the Israeli invasion of Lebanon helped by the US Sixth fleet in the 1980s should serve as a warning that when it comes to hearts and minds America still has a long way to go in convincing the Arab world of the justice of its case. Both President Bush and Senator Kerry responded quickly to the tape.... Such sentiments are understandable but they do nothing to deal with the concerns of even the most moderate in the Islamic world who believe that Washington is partisan in its treatment of the Palestinian problem. It is quite correct to argue that Bin Laden, a creature of the Cold War era, would still be what he is irrespective of the Palestinian situation, but he continues to exploit that injustice to play on the sentiments of the Arab public. The failure of both US presidential candidates to outline a visionary policy for the Arab-Israeli conflict is playing into Bin Laden's hands as the latest tape illustrates only too well."
"A Severe Blow"
Riyadh's moderate Al-Jazirah argued (10/31): "The expectations were that Bush was hiding a surprise he would disclose on the eve of the presidential election. Some were even forecasting this would be an announcement on the arrest of bin Laden. However, three days before voting day, bin Laden appears on U.S. and international TV screens, a severe blow to Bush as the Democratic Party candidate John Kerry exploits the situation...[including] the absence of tangible results in the hunt for prominent terrorist leaders.... The appearance of bin Laden, despite the massive resources which have been spent in hunting him down has increased criticism against the current U.S. administration for waging war on Iraq instead of concentrating its efforts and those of its allies in the fight against bin Laden."
"Boost For Bush"
London-based pan-Arab Al-Sharq al-Awsat remarked (10/31): "What bin Laden did not know is that he has given Bush the greatest boost in the election by launching his video missile. If Bush succeeds, bin Laden will have played a great role. U.S. voters consider bin Laden their enemy No. 1 and the video might therefore influence the voters to vote against bin Laden by voting for Bush."
ALGERIA: "For Whom Does Bin Laden Vote?"
Influential French-language Le Quotidien d’Oran noted (10/31): “Will bin Laden’s intrusion make frights resurface and sweep away the Democrats? No one is able to determine which candidate will be the beneficiary. Logically, the appearance of the al-Qaida leader claiming that he is indeed alive and capable of harm gives a strong argument to Kerry. For months, he has been blaming George Bush for having launched himself into a costly diversion by mounting a war against Iraq instead of concentrating the resources of the world's greatest power on Afghanistan and the elimination of bin Laden. However, fear cannot be easily overcome by rational analysis. Bin Laden's appearance gives Bush a chance by playing to irrational fears to make people forget about Iraq and other irregularities that might soil the ballot in the world's largest democracy. From this perspective, Osama bin Laden has voted for George W. Bush. It remains to be seen whether he has the capacity to influence voters.”
QATAR: "Bin Laden’s...It Was A Bad Shot!"
Faisal Al-Batout, AFP Bureau Chief in Doha and columnist, wrote in semiofficial Al-Watan (10/31): "A few hours before the elections, bin Laden decided to take his revenge on President Bush by urging--indirectly--that the American voter vote for Mr. Kerry. This was the most important message in bin Laden's tape; but I think it will not reach its goal. It was a bad shot, and it might really backfire and push people to vote for President Bush. Bin Laden again misread the American mentality. Bin Laden thought that the people would decide the presidency of the United States. This is not completely true because interests, pressure groups, lobbies, think tanks, etc., decide the presidency. What is really interesting is that bin Laden, this time, is more of a politician analyzing international affairs than a fighter fighting for his freedom as he said in the tape. Bin Laden changed his tone this time and instead of talking about the infidels in the Arab Peninsula, as he used to say, he started to talk about the Palestinian issue and Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, which inspired him to plan the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden’s political sense has been highly developed and we hope that he will develop his political actions and offer a truce to end this madness."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
AUSTRALIA: "The Rantings Of A Fugitive"
The national conservative Australian editorialized (11/1): "While all speculation over the impact of the latest Osama bin Laden videotape on tomorrow's U.S. election is just that--speculation--the tape confirms a great deal we already knew about al-Qaida's leader. It reveals him once again as deranged, evil and deeply opportunistic. That is a potent cocktail...and the fact bin Laden can taunt both contenders for the most powerful job in the world, a few days out from the election, highlights the obscenity of his remaining at large--the key battle not yet won in the war on terror. More than ever before, bin Laden in this tape appears to be appealing to opinion in the West.... Bin Laden blames U.S. foreign policy and Israel for all the death he has unleashed.... In fact, since September 11, 2001, al-Qaida has been responsible for attacks in at least a dozen countries, many of them opposed to U.S. foreign policy, costing a further 1,000 lives. Even more than the remarks on the Bush family, the remarks about Israel reveal the bin Laden of today as a pathetic wraith reduced to a doomed pitch for Western liberal opinion.... Al-Qaida is reviled, outlawed and hunted in every Muslim country where it is active.... Far from having provoked a groundswell of support for his ambition of returning the world to medieval darkness and cruelty, bin Laden is the leader of an increasingly isolated and ragtag network of fanatics. While there is no doubt that the network retains the potential to do great harm...it is a sign of reduced potency that bin Laden's much-anticipated 'October surprise' was a video, not an operation.... It is democracy and moderation, not theocracy and extremism, that we see on the march within Islam. Hideous as bin Laden's rantings are on his latest tape, they are also revealed as increasingly empty."
CHINA: "Bin Laden Disturbs The U.S. Presidential Election"
Liu Aicheng and Xu Jie commented in the official Communist Party international news publication Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (11/1): “It was unexpected for Bush and Kerry that bin Laden chose to show up at this time in this way. It is not a small ‘test’ for both of them. With just a little inappropriate reaction, they could lose a large group of supporters. Bin Laden’s words were intended to debase Bush, to try to pull him down from office. But in fact, bin Laden’s disturbance may possibly ‘help’ Bush, since Kerry may not reap any political benefit from it.... Public opinion is that the bin Laden tape increased the weight of the War on Terror in the election. But as long as 9/11 does not re-occur, bin Laden’s threats will only have a limited influence.”
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Usama Bin Ladin Has Campaigned For George W Bush"
Non-PRC-owned daily Ming Pao wrote (Internet Version, 11/2): "On the eve of polling-day in the US, surveys show that George W. Bush and John Kerry have been neck and neck. Therefore, the television appearance of Usama Bin Ladin, who masterminded the September 11 terrorist attacks, in the eleventh hour has had rather subtle effects on the situation in the run-up to the election.... Because Bush's war against terrorism has not proved totally successful, security and anti-terrorist efforts are what has dominated the US presidential candidates' campaigns. Controversy about whether the Iraq war and America's efforts against terrorism have led to the desired results has persisted throughout. Rarely in America's postwar presidential elections has the issue of security been given such prominence. That has polarised the US electorate.... Osama bin Laden has appeared and even threatened to launch another terrorist attack on the US at a critical moment of the presidential race. That may have tipped the balance slightly in Bush's favour.... However, whichever of the two may be the next US president, the US must seriously consider what it should do next to deal with the challenge posed by the international terrorist organisation headed by Osama bin Laden."
"Bin Laden Canvasses Votes For Bush"
Independent Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News had this to say (11/1): "Bin Laden appeared on television at a critical moment in the U.S. election. He threatened to launch a new round of attacks against the U.S. The Kerry camp never expected that bin Laden's re-appearance would work in Bush's favor. Nevertheless, no matter who becomes the next U.S. president, the U.S. should seriously consider the next step it should take to counter the new challenge of international terrorism led by bin Laden. For example, should the unilateral counter-terrorism strategy adopted three years ago be adjusted? Should the U.S. withdraw its troops from Iraq as soon as possible? Should the U.S. strive for support from its traditional Islamic allies and change its Middle East policy, which has the U.S. siding with Israel? All these issues are diplomatic and domestic policies that the next U.S. president will need to resolve."
"Bin Laden's Appearance Good For Bush; Bush Victory Good For Bin Laden"
Independent Chinese-language Hong Kong Economic Times commented (11/1): "Bin Laden, who has gone into hiding for sometime, reappeared on a videotape four days before the U.S. presidential election. It is obvious that he wants to influence the U.S. presidential election. No matter what his purpose was, it will have two effects on the election. First, it will secure votes for both Bush and Kerry. Bin Laden appeared on the tape full of vigor and well dressed despite being under the pursuit of U.S. military, and he publicly threatened the U.S. by saying that he would launch a new round of attacks. For Kerry's supporters, it proves that Bush has not handled counter-terrorism in the proper way. Thus, bin Laden is still at large. How can the U.S. allow Bush to continue to lead? For Bush's supporters, the reappearance of bin Laden shows that war on terrorism is not yet over. The U.S. needs a resolute leader who will press forward with an indomitable will to counter terrorism. In addition, bin Laden admitted for the first time that he launched the 9/11 attacks. It proves that it is reasonable for Bush to attack Afghanistan. Secondly, as Bush and Kerry continue to be neck in neck, the only factor that will affect the election outcome is the undecided votes. The reappearance of bin Laden may push the undecided votes toward Bush.... If Bush is reelected, he will continue his policy which will abet the anti-U.S. sentiments in the Middle East Islamic world. Terrorism may become more powerful and bin Laden, as a symbol of terrorism, will become more influential."
NEW ZEALAND: "Osama's Side-Effect On NZ"
Fran O'Sullivan wrote in the top-circulation, center-left New Zealand Herald (11/1): "Osama bin Laden's chilling interjection into the final days of the American presidential election will backfire, ensuring that whoever wins will intensify the hunt for the Islamic terrorist. The upshot is that the next U.S. president--Republican George W. Bush or Democrat John Kerry--will step up American anti-terrorist efforts. This means greater uncertainty in the world economy, and in New Zealand.... Neither Bush nor Kerry will bow to bin Laden's threats and withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq or Afghanistan. If anything the case for taking action outside America's borders is increased, and this will help cement Bush's wavering support."
SOUTH KOREA: "Bin Laden And Bush"
Yoo Jong-ha, former Foreign Minister and incumbent professor at Sogang University, wrote in the conservative Chosun Ilbo (11/2): “U.S. experts see that a recent videotape by Osama bin Laden will work in favor of Bush, who is firmer on the issue of terrorism than Kerry.... Then why is Bin Laden trying to help Bush at this sensitive moment? In my view, Osama bin Laden seems to have concluded that, whoever wins the U.S. presidential election, the USG will continue with the war on terrorism without any hesitation and that, since there has never been another U.S. president as unpopular as Bush, particularly in Europe and the Arab world, Bush’s staying in the White House will give more advantage to al-Qaeda and Bin Laden.”
"'Bin Laden Factor' On The U.S. Presidential Elections"
English version of independent, moderate Tong-a Ilbo wrote (Internet Version, 11/1): "As a videotape of Osama Bin Laden, leader of the international terror organization Al Qaeda, threatening to unleash more terror attacks against the United States was released, it has become the biggest variable factor to influence the results of the current head-to-head U.S. presidential election.... Immediately after Bin Laden's videotape was released, President Bush led Democratic rival Kerry by 50-44 in percentage points in a public survey conducted by Newsweek. However, it is unclear how the Bin Laden factor will work to favor which candidate since public support for President Bush was lower in a public survey conducted by Washington Post and Zogby. Meanwhile, the New York Times reported, 'the prediction that it will be the largest turnout of voters since the 1968 presidential elections will be another considerable variable, considering that the number of floating voters who will hold the power over the final outcome of the election is predicted to be still around five to 10 percent, and the fact that the electoral registration rate is 71 percent due to an increase in participation from young voters.'"
SINGAPORE: "Osama's Video Bid To Sway U.S. Voters"
William Choong and Shefali Rekhi wrote in pro-government English-language The Sunday Times (Internet Version, 10/31): "Usama Bin Laden sprang his own 'October surprise', seeking to influence the United States presidential election and giving himself the air of a statesman rather than that of a terrorist.... One unnamed US intelligence expert said: 'This appears to have been partly intended to create the impression that Osama is an emir, or even the leader of the whole Muslim world in a war of self-defence against Christians and Jews.' Osama's dressing reinforced this image. He donned white robes, a golden cloak and turban rather than his usual camouflage fatigues. There were also no weapons in view - a common feature of an Osama video. All these appeared to be an attempt to refashion Osama's image from that of a terrorist to one of a statesman, analysts said. But murderer or emir, Osama's message did Mr Bush damage - in particular, the reference to his slow response to the Sept 11 attacks in 2001, analysts said.... Other analysts, however, said the impact of Osama's latest videotape was still hard to ascertain. While Democrats stressed that Osama's reappearance would remind Americans that Mr Bush still had not nabbed Osama, Republicans argued that the videotape would stoke Americans' fears of terrorism -- an issue that favours Mr Bush."
THAILAND: "Terrorist Leader Trims His Vision"
The lead editorial in the top-circulation, moderately conservative, English language Bangkok Post read (11/2): “The United States election begins this evening, so it is only natural that early analysis of the re-emergence of Osama bin Laden examined whether the terrorist leader wants to influence the U.S. vote. There is no clear answer. Both President George W. Bush and John Kerry tried to exploit bin Laden's threat. It is unclear whether voters will lean to Mr. Bush as the trustworthy anti-terrorist, or agree with Mr. Kerry that the Saudi extremist should not be at large at all. Whatever its effect on the election, the videotape showed a different bin Laden. He is clearly weakened, has lowered his goal from expansion to mere survival, and no longer claims to be the sole interpreter of Islam.... Al-Qaeda is weakened and it appears bin Laden has lowered his goals. That does not mean the end of the threat. On the contrary, the best scenario is that bin Laden was telling the truth. Some analysts have suggested bin Laden now seeks to negotiate. Such a development is unthinkable, although surrender would be wonderful. Authorities in Thailand and around the world should step up efforts to identify, investigate and bring to justice any extremist involved in, or planning terrorism.”
"The Importance Of U.S. Presidential Election"
The lead editorial in the elite, Thai language Matichon read (11/2): “The fact that we must all admit is that the world is paying attention to the U.S. presidential election because it accepts the importance of this country as a superpower that plays significant roles, both good and bad, in the world arena.... Thais also are paying attention to the election because they want to see how the winner’s policies will affect their country, particularly with regard to economy, trade and finance. We must accept the fact that the U.S. is an important trade partner in terms of export volumes. That could also become a setback at the same time since it could become the U.S.’ bargaining chip used to force other countries to adopt policies it dictates or catering to its interests.”
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
INDIA: 'Mr. Bush's Triumph"
An editorial in the centrist Hindu (11/4): "The electoral system once again generated much tension and uncertainty before producing a clear winner in the contest for the White House.... In the final analysis, George Bush has won his second term not so much on the basis of his taking a clear majority of the popular vote...as on the strength of his victories in two key swing States, Florida and Ohio.... The 2004 election seemed like an eerie replay of the bitter fight of 2000...the political map of America remains virtually unchanged.... Given this situation, Bush might claim that he got the larger share of the popular vote because a sufficient number of cross-over voters responded to his campaigntheme that he was the candidate best equipped to safeguard national securityat a time of peril. While Bush's claim seems plausible, there might beother explanations for the boost in the popular vote.... Osama bin Laden,with his surrealistic election-eve foray into American politics, might alsohave contributed his mite to the margin of Mr. Bush's victory. With the electoral system coming close to deadlocking the presidency for the secondtime in succession, it would appear that a strong case has been made out forseriously rethinking the utility of the electoral college. However, in practical terms a change of system can be ruled out for the conceivable future.... Democrats...can take pride in a challenger who put up an intelligent, spirited, and issue-based fight."
"One More Spin In US Presidential Campaign"
B. Raman, Director of the Institute for Topical Studies and Fellow of Observer Research Foundation, Chennai Chapter wrote in nationalist Hindustan Times (Internet Version, 11/1): "The latest tape shows Osama bin Laden not as a dreaded jihadi terrorist hurling blood-curdling threats at the American people, against the background of rifles and the wildness of the Afghan terrain, but as a mujahideen statesman addressing well-reasoned arguments to the American people from behind a lectern in a TV studio-like ambiance.... Osama's spinmasters have manoeuvred his entry into the drawing rooms of millions of American homes as the third debater in the presidential debate.... How come every video and audio tape of Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri disseminated by Al Jazeera since the US started its war against Al Qaeda on October 7, 2001, has emanated from Pakistan and reached the Al Jazeera office in Islamabad?.... An Associated Press report carried by the USA Today on October 30, 2004, quoted Talat Massood, a defence analyst and former Pakistani general, as saying: "The fact that he has the courage to come out shows that he feel protected in his surroundings." Masood added his hearty appearance "shows that he is probably living in reasonable comfort and he is being taken care of".... This is the most perceptive comment to have come out so far on the tape. Who is taking care of him? Find that out and you know where Bin Laden is, who had the tape produced and disseminated and with what objective?"
"Sorry For The Interruption"
The nationalist Hindustan Times editorialized (11/1): "Just when America is getting ready for the climactic sequence of the Bush 'n Kerry Show, the screen frizzles, only to come back to life with the image of Osama bin Laden delivering a lecture.... Bin Laden...taunts the American president's slow reaction to the 9/11 attacks.... More importantly, bin Laden's target audience remains the Arabs of West Asia. His reference to the Israeli-U.S. alliance and its relationship to 9/11 as well as to the regimes of the region indicate that the wider goal of overthrowing pro-Western governments in the region retains its primacy.... In a way, the continuation of the present president is what the architect of 9/11 wants; it helps to reaffirm the battle lines and reinforce bin Laden's presence. One would be naive, though, to assume that this video message will change voter choice in the U.S. After all, both candidates have reaffirmed their task of hunting down and destroying bin Laden. If the video has done one thing, it is to bring back to the center something that could have shifted slightly out of radar vision: that Osama bin Laden is alive and kicking."
"Osama Hands Bush Advantage"
Washington-based Diplomatic Editor K.P. Nayar noted in the centrist Kolkata-based Telegraph (10/31): "Osama bin Laden parachuted onto the center stage of the U.S. presidential campaign...and injected a fresh dose of uncertainty to the results of Tuesday's voting that even the rashest of political pundits are now unwilling to predict. Bin Laden's injection into the heart of the year-long campaign was expected: but what was long expected--and feared by John Kerry and other Democrats--was that the head of al-Qaida would be produced in the second half of October in chains.... Instead, the Saudi billionaire-turned-terrorist swaggered into the drawing rooms of shocked Americans as they were preparing dinner...calmly addressing them from behind what looked like a lectern, apparently healthy and clad in traditional golden robes.... The overall effect of bin Laden's on-screen appearance will be to heighten threat perceptions on polling day. If that happens, many undecided voters may cast their ballots for Bush ensuring his victory. The conventional wisdom worldwide is that bin Laden prefers Bush to be re-elected because his policies have alienated Muslims, pushed moderate Muslims even in secular societies such as Indonesia, Turkey or Uzbekistan towards anti-Americanism and opened up a vast recruiting field for al-Qaida."
IRAN: "Kiss Of Death?"
Arabic-language Al-Vefagh held (10/31): "Bin Laden is now kissing [Bush] in his election campaign and pursuing him to the White House.... All were surprised to see [Bin Laden] in the middle of the U.S. electoral scene, thereby opening up a new file which indicates Bush's failure and the weakness of his administration in dealing with what he calls terrorism. This confirms Bush's failed reign. His mistakes will lead to his failure in the elections."
"Airing Of Bin Laden Tape Indicates 'Premeditated' Bush Plan"
Mehr News Agency wrote (Internet Version,10/30): "Only four days before the U.S. presidential election, suddenly a suspicious tape of Osama Bin Laden is mysteriously dropped off at the Aljazeera office in Pakistan, warning of another September 11. As the Republicans have been dogged by criticism of the futile attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, the disappearance of hundreds of tons of explosives in Iraq, and rising speculation about the possibility of vote-rigging, the airing of the videotape by the Aljazeera network seems to indicate that a premeditated plan devised by Bush administration neoconservatives is unfolding. Even though some consider the tape detrimental to Bush, with the immediate confirmation of the voice by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), unlike in the past, and the immediate reaction by Bush, it becomes clear that everything is going according to schedule and that Bin Laden is dancing to Bush's tune. The reasons for the game are clear. Over the past four years, Bush and his team have been hyping security concerns and invoking the shadow of terror in the U.S. in order to maintain control of the White House, believing that this climate of fear would scare the U.S. electorate into voting for warmongers."
PAKISTAN: "Usama's Electoral Attack"
Ejaz Mangi wrote in Ummat (11/1): "Al-Jazirah has aired the latest videotape of Usama Bin Ladin, which has removed the apprehension that President Bush would disclose Usama's arrest a few days before the presidential elections to ensure his victory. It has also proved that despite its massive political, scientific, and military resources, the international goon has miserably failed to catch the man who fully believes in a Koran verse that says 'Almighty Allah is sufficient for me.'.... By appearing on international media four days before the US elections, Usama Bin Ladin, who describes 11 September 2001 attacks as the result of Bush's policies, proved that all the speculations about him were false. While US action movie hero Arnold was crying /"Bush will back"/ to convince his fans to vote for the US President, Usama's threat in a low tone has turned the tide of the US elections.... Every war has many aspects. The United States has failed to achieve its goal of arresting Usama Bin Ladin even after invading Afghanistan and Iraq.... Bush has lost to Usama despite having snatching everything from the Al-Qa'ida chief.... Through this decisive attack on the US politics after 11 September 2001, which has confronted Bush with the clear possibility of defeat, Usama has placed two options before Kerry, war and peace. We pray that the coming US leader seizes the opportunity and makes the right decision to promote peace and reconciliation in the world."
"A New Threat"
English-language conservative daily The Nation wrote (Internet Version, 10/31): "Mr Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, has resurfaced through a videotape run by Al-Jazeera, after remaining quiet for a considerable period. He is threatening to repeat the performance.... Without endorsing the course of destruction Mr Bin Laden has adopted, we would like the Bush or Kerry administration, whichever comes into power after the election, to dispassionately reflect on his statement and see the truth that hits one in the eye about the provocation for such extreme acts. Washington's highly protective attitude to Tel Aviv has led it to grope for answers that have little relevance to the real causes of that outrage or, for that matter, the pervasive anti-US feeling and hatred in the Muslim world. Americans must understand that no one is grudging them their freedom or prosperity as Mr Bush likes them to believe. It is their government's policies that have given rise to antipathy. The surprise is that for all the sources of information they have access to and the analytical approach they generally adopt, virtually the whole American intellectual class went along with the administration's rationale for the tragedy. It is only after severe setbacks in its illegal occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq that there are some voices in favour of looking for the real grouse. But the administration remains adamant that it adopted the right course, is winning the war on terrorism and turns a blind eye to the plight of the Palestinians. If anything, they are accused of terrorist acts, while Israelis freely indulging in the most heinous human rights crimes are let off as defending their freedom. The absence of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] in Iraq and of a Baghdad-Al-Qaeda link tends to substantiate Mr Bin Laden's charge that Mr Bush has been lying to his people. Senator Kerry's campaign positions give no hope of any substantial policy change. The US would do well to rein in Israel and work for a just solution of the Palestinian problem. At the same time, it should say goodbye to the policy of hegemony in the region. Once these causes of discontent have been removed, the US may then expect to live in peace at least on this score."
|Office of Research||Issue Focus||Foreign Media Reaction|