By Waller, J. Michael
Insight on the News
Byline: J. Michael Waller, INSIGHT
Exploiting the liberties of free societies, terrorists are using the mass media to sow divisions among and within the democracies, terrorism experts report. The March bombing of the Madrid subway proved that low-budget terrorist attacks could be used to influence democratic elections and, by virtue of Spain's sudden military withdrawal from Iraq, to drive wedges between the staunchest allies in the international antiterrorism coalition. Senior Spanish and U.S. officials now believe al-Qaeda will plan more attacks in the United States to try to force President George W. Bush from office.
Playing directly into the terrorists' hands is Bush's increasingly shrill challenger, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). Democracies long have been vulnerable to manipulation by hostile foreign powers. President George Washington foresaw this in his Farewell Address of 1796. Though the popular notion is that the main point of the address was to warn against entangling alliances, the most persistent theme of Washington's speech was to warn against foreign subversion of America's democratic process. In his words, "It is easy to foresee that from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken, many artifices employed," to undermine the national identity and sense of purpose. Specifically, Washington feared that foreign adversaries would use the new democratic system to turn Americans against themselves.
Even now, external enemies are attacking the political fortress of the United States and its democratic allies through propaganda by word and deed. In his taped statement aired on the Wahhabi satellite TV network Al-Jazeera on April 15, Osama bin Laden not only sought to divide Europe from the United States by offering a "truce" with European countries that pull out of the coalition in Iraq, the al-Qaeda leader also explicitly feasted on the feeding frenzy among bickering American politicians about whether President Bush was to blame for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Good propagandists will turn their enemies' words against them, and the best will sow suspicion and division among them. This is happening now in the United States, where the terrorist enemy and its allies are using the rhetoric of the current presidential campaign in their jihad against the nation. Previous cautions against rash campaign words that provide aid and comfort to the enemy were thrown out the window long ago. Kerry steadily has become more and more shrill in his denunciations of the president as a leader, a man and a politician. Straying from legitimate policy differences with Bush or a healthy national debate about how best to fight the terrorist enemy, the Democratic nominee in waiting has yanked off the safety and fired full auto at the president.
Al-Jazeera and other anti-U.S. propaganda outlets have been quick to magnify whatever Kerry says in an attempt to show what a failure the United States has become under the Bush presidency. Kerry's increasingly strident and careless statements on the campaign trail reverberate abroad. His foul-mouthed interview with Rolling Stone became part of an Al-Jazeera feature on March 16. Although Kerry voted to let the Iraq war go forward, the Wahhabi-owned TV network noted, "He has suggested Bush's handling of the campaign is 'fed up.'"
"Bush misled Americans on the degree Iraq posed a threat," Kerry said in the Al-Jazeera broadcast, and the president is not "working closely enough with the international community." Bush's exclusion of France and Germany from competition for U.S. taxpayer-funded contracts to rebuild Iraq, Kerry said, was "dumb and insulting." Al-Jazeera rebroadcast, in Arabic, Kerry's allegation that in combating terrorist structures inside the United States, Bush and the Department of Justice have smeared "innocent Muslims and Arabs who pose no danger."
Such words, one of Kerry's former Senate colleagues says, grind down the image of the United States abroad and damage Washington's efforts to maintain allies and supporters in the Arabic-speaking world. …