Osama bin Laden's Gift to the American Right.

The GOP has spent the last few weeks using the failed Christmas bombing to suggest that the current administration's national security policies are ineffective. But its criticisms have gone beyond, say, identifying weaknesses in the methods we use to identify and isolate potential terrorist threats. Rather, they've focused a great deal of attention on turning an embarrassing operational failure on al-Qaeda's part into a propaganda victory.

Alleged underwear bomber Umar Abdulmutallab didn't hurt anyone but himself, and he was quickly subdued by unarmed civilian passengers. But the Republican reaction -- hyping the failed bombing as a victory -- was so successful that Osama bin Laden claimed the failed operation in a recent videotaped message.

Marc Lynch writes:

Osama bin Laden has released a new tape to al-Jazeera claiming responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day bombing, linking it to Gaza and declaring that America would not be secure until Palestinians were truly secure. Bin Laden's ability to frame an entire tape around a failed bombing attempt demonstrates how badly the American public's over-reaction played into al-Qaeda's hands. It should not be surprising that bin Laden would claim responsibility on behalf of al-Qaeda Central or threaten new attacks, whether or not it's actually true.

Bin Laden's new tape merely emphasizes al-Qaeda's diminished capabilities post-9/11. In other words, al-Qaeda's struggling if this is the best it can do. But I don't doubt that the Republicans who reacted to the Christmas bombing with unfounded hysteria will see this as anything less than an opportunity to inflate the threat of terrorism in order to justify lawless policies, criticism of the current administration, or even simply to raise money.

With terrorism, killing people is simply a means to an end. And in this case, the end is to terrorize a society to the point of self-destruction. Republicans have decided that they are going to help al-Qaeda achieve that objective even when they fail to actually hurt anyone.

Sounds like al-Qaeda's grateful.

-- A. Serwer

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