An October Surprise

As we get closer to November 4th, there is speculation in the press that we may become subject to an October Surprise. Not by John McCain, mind you, but from someone only slightly more sinister. Osama bin Laden. The prevailing theory is that Mr. bin Laden would like to keep his hands in American politics, by making some kind of nuisance of himself prior to the election. He did this in 2004, by releasing a somewhat threatening tape to the press just before the election, which many observers at the time felt contributed to John Kerry’s defeat by George “Mission Accomplished” Bush. The margin of victory was so slim for Bush, that it’s not unlikely this was true. The somewhat natural inclination of the voting public seems to be that in times of military threat, they vote Republican, on the theory that the Republicans are militaristic war mongers and more likely to protect us, while Democrats or insipid, spineless milquetoasts who run from their own shadows. At least, that’s the caricature that makes the rounds as political wisdom.

So if bin Laden unleashes a tape at best, or an attack at worst, just before the election, what should we make of that? That he wants to have a say in the American electoral process, by trying to affect the voting? It’s possible.  However, if he knows that our natural inclination is to hide behind Republican skirts when he says “boo!”, then what is his motivation, when having a Republican in office is perceived to mean a more aggressive stance against him in American foreign policy.

It seems to me that bin Laden knows that he cannot defeat the Great Satan America with a few hijacked planes every few years. We are too big, too powerful, to omnipotent if you will, to defeat militarily, especially when you lead a rag tag army of militant religious fanatics armed primarily with small automatic weaponry. No, the best way to defeat us is to bankrupt us, thereby causing our collapse from within. And what better way to do that than to convince us to vote for someone willing to spend billions, even trillions, of dollars in resources trying to track down and punish the bearded Islamic fruitcake responsible for 9/11. All he has to do is jump out from behind a tree, wiggle his fingers in his ears and yell “booga booga” then jump back in his cave, and we run shrieking into the arms of our Republican candidates.   This works well in Warner Brother’s cartoons, but as a national response it leaves much to be desired.  It did succeed quite nicely for bin Laden in 2004, with Bush’s foreign and domestic policies continuing for four more years, culminating in an economy on the verge of collapse, and our country more and more dependent on our enemies. But if we are rational, intelligent people who learn from their mistakes, it should not work again.

So, if we hear from bin Laden just before the election, we should not follow conventional wisdom and react stupidly by electing McCain, because that’s exactly what he wants us to do. Another four years of disastrous Republican policies, and bin Laden can metaphorically sit back and retire to the French Riviera, if he was so inclined. No, we should resist the temptation to fall for his ploy, and elect Obama.

No point in allowing bin Laden to have the last laugh.

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12 thoughts on “An October Surprise

  1. I suggest that you read Robert Taber’s “War of the Flea”.

    This is a collection of his essays from the Viet Nam era on dealing with insurgencies, why they succeed, why they fail, what works against them, what is tried that doesn’t. Very good read. Read it in context with the Viet Nam war and look at the present situation.

    One cannot help but feel that if bin Laden didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent him, by the thoughts of “pragmatic” gov’t officials. He has his uses.

  2. Clearly the people who buy into the “real America” bullshit should vote for Obama or else risk exposing to the world and to Al Qaeda that their parts of the country are the “real” parts and thus, be targeted for a future strike. They can smugly sit outside their trailers clanking cans of Pabst safe and content as some big city suffers again that their backwater “real” America is still safely hidden.

  3. I’ll bet that Senator Obama has a strong reply ready just in case Bush’s best friend forever, bin Laden, pulls that trick again. Bin Laden knows who he’s dealing with in Bush, Cheney, McCain, and Palin and he knows that when he jumps out and goes ‘booga booga’ that crowd will slice something else out of the Constitution and will further trash the treasury (making sure they and their friends get a piece of the action). The Republicans under Bush et al have been the biggest and best supporters of terrorism ever. But since they have, as I noted to Chappie, the intellectual depth of a teaspoon, they haven’t a clue about how they’ve been led to destroy the United States.

  4. If bin Laden and al Qaida pull an October surprise, we need to get the IRS or the Feebles to investigate them. A religious group trying to influence a Presidential election? Horrors. Bush would see this unconstitutional intrusion be religion into the workings of our secular democracy as, well, unconstitutional. Look how quick they have been to investigate Focus on the Fascist Family, the Immoral Minority, and all the other right wing radical religious groups who are putting out specious voter guides, forcing one-issue voting (which, by some odd coincedence, always benefits ther Republican candidate) and advetising in churches.

    What, the Bush administration is not pursuing these cases?

    Wow. Whodathunkit.

    Excellent post, SI, but you neglect one important variable in the equation: an honest media. Media honesty would actually point out that these pinprick attacks have done far less to damage America than the well-planned right-wing knee-jerk reaction.

  5. SI, you’re more optimistic than I am: if we are rational, intelligent people who learn from their mistakes, it should not work again. You are rational and intelligent, but I’m not sure that the majority of people voting in American elections are.

    Sarge said, One cannot help but feel that if bin Laden didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent him….” That’s why he still hasn’t been captured. He’s much more valuable on the loose, as a “threat,” than in jail or dead.

  6. I think you’ve got it pretty well pegged, Chap. Plus, he’s from a family that has to be handled with kid gloves, and who knows? A few things might come out about his ties to American intelligence (?)and, just where the hell DID all those stinger missiles wind up?
    Not to mention why did an intelligence service as supposedly sophisticated as ours and certainly as heavily funded miss finding a 6’5″ Arab who requires dialysis? Because they really knew all along?

    My father was a counter-intelligence officer, and twice held the position of chief security officer of the office of the secretary of defence. He never said much about his experiences and what I heard was usually something I shouldn’t have, or was told by someone else, especially after he died.

    But one time he actually DID talk about something was after Klaus Barbi was arrested “after all these years”.

    We lived in Germany after WWII in the late 1940s ( I was a small child)and my father’s unit was involved in hunting down certain former nazis, and Barbi was one of them. Very big push to get him, people were disciplined for inefficiency, and a couple of men he knew who had suspicions that they should look other than where the “clues” pointed, and persisted in going their own directions wound up dead.

    According to the documents declassified at Barbi’s capture and subsequent “war crimes” trial, my father’s superiors actually had Barbi in custody, had debriefed him, and were in the process of turning him loose all the while they had their own men running around supposedly to find and arrrest him. My father actually figured that the men who died were killed by “their” own side because they were getting too close to what actually was going on and in the name of “security” were “sacrificed”.

    Makes me wonder, really.

  7. Pretty keen observations all round folks.

    I can’t help bu think though that if they had bin Laden Bush might pull a rabbit out of a hat in a last ditch effort to sway the voters himself.

    I wonder also if an over reliance on technical surveillance rather than human intelligence has inhibited the states in tracking down Bush’s best friend.

  8. Well, remember when the US sent a unit from Germany, through newly “free” Hungary to go to Bosnia and what happened? They got stuck, literally, for weeks at the Sava river due to flooding.

    How was this missed? Why was the column not informed of this development? Or, more relevant, why?

    It’s not as if this hasn’t happened before: Suleiman the Magnificent got hung up at the Drava the same way when he was on his way to Vienna. Even I know that and I was just a sergeant.

    Probably because “they” were protecting “assets”. What my father used to call “The Green Door”.

    As for bin Laden, somewhere someone is thinking that he may yet again be useful in the “cause of freedom”. Many levels, many motives.

  9. Personally, I’m not the least concerned with this scenario. Americans can be pretty ignorant, but it has been drilled into their heads that they did the bidding of the Bin Laden and the GOP when they gave into fear in the last election. I don’t think a tape will pop up this time, but if it does, I predict Obama’s final margin of victory will be larger than the polls had him at the day before Bin Laden’s message.

  10. Sean the Blogonaut “I wonder also if an over reliance on technical surveillance rather than human intelligence has inhibited the states in tracking down Bush’s best friend.”
    The US has two sources of foreign intelligence; e-lint and Mossad. The former (electronic intelligence; monitoring communications of and by various means) is expensive and looks cool on a budget reports, but data-mining is only as good as the people who programmed what to look for (and they’re nerds, not terrorists) and they have so few people who can translate telecoms into, y’know, english, that they’re swamped by data. Mossad, meanwhile, has its own needs and goals. Books like Legacy of Ashes: the history of the CIA, as well as high visibility failures like the WMD/Iraq fiasco (which was, admittedly, partly ideological…as though anything involving politics, war and power isn’t) illustrate all too clearly just how through a glass, darkly the US sees the world.
    A bunch of mono-lingual white guys in suits will never be able to get into the proverbial heads of their enemies, no matter how big their budget is or how fast their computers are.

  11. Sarge, one correction. Osama bin Laden is not on dialysis. Apparently he required it at one point years ago, but it’s not like he is traversing the mountains of Pakistan tethered to a dialysis machine.

    Personally, I am not entirely convinced he is even still alive. Has anyone here ever seen the Akira Kurosawa film “Kagemusha”? It is set during the 16th century in feudal Japan. When the leader of one of the clans vying to become shogun dies, his inner circle uses a double to fool their enemies into believing he is still alive. It works for several years until the double has an accident which causes the secret to be revealed. It is certainly possible that al-Qaida is trying to maintain the fiction that Osama bin Laden is still alive.

    There’s a book out that I haven’t read yet, but I have seen the author on C-Span, called Overblown, which makes the case that the terrorist threat to America is, well, overblown. And there are people who are making big bucks off of this fear.

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