x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

McCain rejects al Qa'eda endorsement

According to a commentary on an al Qa'eda-affiliated website, if John McCain wins the election he would persist in the 'failing march of his predecessor,' President Bush and thereby exhaust America's resources and bankrupt its economy. The McCain campaign views such support as 'a kiss of death' and questions its authenticity. In the presidential contest, as far as money counts, Obama has already won the race.

"Al Qa'eda is watching the US stock market's downward slide with something akin to jubilation, with its leaders hailing the financial crisis as a vindication of its strategy of crippling America's economy through endless, costly foreign wars against Islamist insurgents," The Washington Post reported. "And at least some of its supporters think Sen John McCain is the presidential candidate best suited to continue that trend. "'Al Qa'eda will have to support McCain in the coming election,' said a commentary posted on Monday on the extremist website al Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the 'failing march of his predecessor,' President Bush. "The web commentary was one of several posted by Taliban or al Qa'eda-allied groups in recent days that trumpeted the global financial crisis and predicted further decline for the United States and other Western powers. In language that was by turns mocking and ominous, the newest posting credited al Qa'eda with having lured Washington into a trap that had 'exhausted its resources and bankrupted its economy'. It further suggested that a terrorist strike might swing the election to McCain and guarantee an expansion of US military commitments in the Islamic world. "'It will push the Americans deliberately to vote for McCain so that he takes revenge for them against al Qa'eda,' said the posting, attributed to Muhammad Haafid, a longtime contributor to the password-protected site. 'Al Qa'eda then will succeed in exhausting America.' " Wired magazine said: "Senior advisers to John McCain on Wednesday lashed out at the news that a prominent al Qa'eda sympathiser is rooting for their candidate. "'This individual knows that an endorsement by people like him is a kiss of death both figuratively and literally,' said CIA director and current McCain adviser Jim Woolsey. 'It's pretty clear that by making this statement that it would be good for McCain to be president, he's trying to damage John McCain - he's not speaking from his heart'.... "But Adam Raisman, a senior analyst at the Site Intelligence Group in Bethesda, Maryland, which monitors terrorism websites and uncovered the statement, said the Post story had been entirely faithful to the substance of Haafid's statement. "'I don't believe the words were twisted - this is what the jihadist said, and he's been writing since 2003 with more than 600 posts,' Raisman said. 'And there have been other posts in this regard as well - there have been many individuals saying this since early 2008.' "He added that postings on extremist websites are important because the forums serve as social communities and grassroots think tanks, generating ideas for 'jihadist enthusiasts'. "'I'm not going to extrapolate that what one member writes is going to translate into an attack, but some of the members of the forum are active in the field,' Raisman said." Meanwhile, The Guardian reported: "Websites being used to disseminate propaganda by al Qa'eda appear to have come under systematic cyber-attack, forcing the closure of three for well over a month and fuelling speculation that governments are targeting them in a shadowy new front in the 'war on terror'. "Al Ekhlas, al Buraq and al Firdaws, all linked to al Fajr - the media distribution arm of al Qa'eda - have been down since just before Sept 11, when the broadcast of a video commemorating the 2001 attacks was inexplicably delayed. "All have suffered occasional disruption but this is the longest period they have been out of action. Al Fajr blamed technical problems and denied that the sites had fallen 'into the hands of the enemy'. "Yet suspicions of a deliberate disruption campaign have been fuelled by the fact that a fourth website, al Hesbah, continues to operate unimpeded, with several experts suggesting it may be being used by Saudi intelligence to monitor and entrap jihadi militants." William McCants, a Washington area-based analyst of militant Islam and founder of jihadica.com, which monitors al Qa'eda Web activity told The Christian Science Monitor: "It's unprecedented, because before they've been able to come back [within] a few days. "Mr McCants says that in June, he noticed that a prominent al Qa'eda forum had disappeared. It came back in a few days but then shortly before Sept 11, it and several other forums went down. 'It seemed like June was a test run.' "As for who is responsible, it is 'a bit of a mystery,' says Evan Kohlmann, who also monitors al Qa'eda online at the Nefa Foundation in Charleston, South Carolina. "Private groups involved in countering online terrorist activity have denied responsibility and US intelligence agencies declined to comment, Kohlmann says in an e-mail, adding, 'I would say this much: It certainly does not appear to be a coincidence that the forums encountered these technical problems on Sept 10'." Outside the cyber realm, The Christian Science Monitor reported: "Saudi Arabia has begun the judicial process for putting on trial nearly 1,000 suspected al Qa'eda militants accused of terrorist-related crimes dating back to 2003, the Saudi Interior Minister announced. "'We have started to bring before the judiciary 991 people implicated in various incidents,' the interior minister Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz told the Saudi Press News Agency late on Monday. 'Each case will be examined in stages.' "This is the first time the government has disclosed the number of defendants accused in connection with the wave of terrorist violence that hit the nation. "Prince Naif said that 90 civilians, both foreigners and Saudis, were killed in 30 violent operations between May 2003, when three residential compounds in Riyadh were targets of suicide bombers, and a foiled attack on an oil-processing plant in 2006."

"By one important count, this election is over. Barack Obama and the Democrats have trounced Team McCain in fund raising. So much for the Republicans being the party of Big Money - and for some other illusions about American politics," The Wall Street Journal said. "As reported to the Federal Election Commission on Monday, the Obama campaign broke its own monthly record, raising $150 million in September. Since this election cycle began, the junior Senator from Illinois has brought in US$618 million (Dh2.2bn), about double the take for John McCain. After opting for the one-off $84 million in federal money in post-convention spending, Mr McCain hoped the Republican National Committee would narrow the gap. Bad assumption. The RNC raised $66 million last month, to help the Presidential and Congressional tickets, but the Democratic Party isn't far behind at $50 million. "Mr Obama is using these resources to build leads in battleground states, and make inroads in once firmly Republican territory like Georgia and Virginia. The Democrat is outspending Mr McCain four-to-one on television, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group - three-and-a-half to one, if Republican Party dollars are included." Politico said: "For the GOP, the cavalry apparently isn't coming. "Republicans attuned to conservative third-party efforts say that with less than two weeks to go until Election Day, the prospects for any 11th-hour, anti-Obama ad campaign are highly unlikely. "Many in the party, including inside the McCain campaign, have held out hope that a deep-pocketed benefactor would emerge to bankroll ads in the campaign's final days - spots that might, for example, resurrect the most incendiary clips from the Rev Jeremiah Wright. "But thanks largely to lack of passion for McCain within the conservative base, diminished hopes that he can win and a sharp decline in the stock market that has badly pinched donors' pockets, veteran Republican operatives say it appears almost certain that what could be the most damaging line of attack against the Democratic nominee will be left on the shelf." In the National Journal, Charlie Cook wrote: "One of the most unsettling aspects of this campaign is that for an election cycle so turbulent, with so many surprising twists and turns, over the last few days it suddenly has had the feel of concrete setting. Just seven or eight weeks ago, Sen Barack Obama had a lead over Sen John McCain, but it hardly seemed sure; we wondered, is this lead real, is it durable? "But today it seems very unlikely that the focal point of this election is going to shift away from the economy. And as long as the economy is the focal point, it's difficult to see how this gets any better for Republicans up or down the ballot. It's sobering to think of the magnitude an event would have to have to pull voters' minds off the economy, the credit markets that have seized up, the stock market that has been pummeled, the values of their 401(k) and other retirement plans that have plummeted. How can an election that was so volatile now suddenly seem to be so inevitable? "At this point it would be difficult to see Republican losses in the Senate and House to be fewer than seven and 20 respectively. A very challenging situation going into September turned into a meltdown last month, the most dire predictions for the GOP early on became the most likely outcome. "The metrics of this election argue strongly that this campaign is over, it's only the memory of many an election that seemed over but wasn't that is keeping us from closing the book mentally on this one. First, no candidate behind this far in the national polls, this late in the campaign has come back to win. Sure, we have seen come-from-behind victories, but they didn't come back this far this late." This coming weekend's The New York Times magazine recounts a meeting in late September in which the McCain campaign deliberated on how their candidate should respond to the financial crisis. "[McCain's chief campaign strategist, Steve] Schmidt pushed for going all in: suspending the campaign, recommending that the first debate be postponed, parachuting into Washington and forging a legislative solution to the financial crisis for which McCain could then claim credit. Exactly how McCain could convincingly play a sober bipartisan problem-solver after spending the previous few weeks garbed as a populist truth teller was anything but clear. But Schmidt and others convinced McCain that it was worth the gamble. "Schmidt in particular was a believer in these kinds of defining moments. The smartest bit of political wisdom he ever heard was dispensed by George W Bush one spring day at the White House residence in 2004, at a time when his re-election effort was not going especially well. The strategists at the meeting - including Schmidt, who was directing the Bush campaign's rapid-response unit - fretted over their candidate's sagging approval ratings and the grim headlines about the war in Iraq. Only Bush appeared thoroughly unworried. He explained to them why, polls notwithstanding, voters would ultimately prefer him over his opponent, John Kerry. "There's an accidental genius to the way Americans pick a president, Schmidt remembers Bush saying that day. By the end of it all, a candidate's true character is revealed to the American people. "Had Schmidt been working for his present client back in 2000, he might have disputed Bush's premise. After all, in McCain's first run for the presidency, 'true character' was the one thing the Vietnam hero and campaign-finance-reform crusader seemed to have going for him eight years ago in the Republican primaries. Bush had everything else, and he buried McCain. What campaigns peddle is not simply character but character as defined by story - a tale of opposing forces that in its telling will memorably establish what a given election is about. In 2000, the McCain effort played like that of a smart and plucky independent film that ultimately could not compete for audiences against the Bush campaign's summer blockbuster. Four years later, in the race against John Kerry, Schmidt and the other Bush strategists had perfected their trade craft. With a major studio's brutal efficiency, they distilled the campaign into a megabudget melodrama pitting an unwavering commander in chief against a flip-flopper, set in a post-9/11 world where there could be no room for error or equivocation. "Schmidt has been in charge of strategy for the McCain campaign since early this summer, and his effort to prevail in the battle of competing story lines has been considerably more problematic. The selling of a presidential 'narrative' the reigning buzz word of this election cycle has taken on outsize significance in an age in which a rush of visuals and catch words can cripple public images overnight. Mitt Romney, it is said, lost because he could not get his story straight. Hillary Clinton found her I'm-a-fighter leitmotif too late to save her candidacy. By contrast, the narrative of Barack Obama has seemed to converge harmonically with the shifting demographics and surging discontent of the electorate. It may well be, as his detractors suggest, that Obama is among the least-experienced presidential nominees in our nation's history. But to voters starved for change, the 47-year-old biracial first-term Democratic senator clearly qualifies. That, in any event, is his story, and he has stuck to it." pwoodward@thenational.ae