First Published: 2012-04-30

 

Bin Laden: from world’s most wanted terrorist to campaign slogan

 

Al-Qaeda leader's killing is now spur for Obama’s furious row with Republican campaign of his White House rival Romney.

 

Middle East Online

By Stephen Collinson - WASHINGTON

Obama led Romney by 43 to 33 percent in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released this month

A year after his death, Osama bin Laden has gone from being the world's most wanted terrorist to serving as a punch line in a campaign speech.

President Barack Obama's decision to launch a daring special forces raid to kill bin Laden, fraught with military and political risk, is now the spur for a furious row with the Republican campaign of his White House rival Mitt Romney.

US Vice President Joe Biden has been touting the raid on the stump, using it to bolster Obama's credentials as commander-in-chief, and former president Bill Clinton cut a campaign ad warmly praising Obama over the operation.

"If you're looking for a bumper sticker to sum up how President Obama has handled what we inherited, it's pretty simple: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive," Biden said last week.

The president, in keeping with his role as commander-in-chief, has been more circumspect, but has long been noting the Al-Qaeda leader's killing on May 2, 2011 in fundraising speeches.

"Osama bin Laden will never walk this Earth again," the president said, for example, at a political event in Hawaii in November.

Obama has also used the anniversary of bin Laden's death to tape an interview with NBC News from the White House Situation Room, scene of an iconic photo as senior officials watched the raid unfold.

Republicans, who for years branded Democrats as soft on terror and weak on national security, are crying foul.

Obama "took something that was a unifying event for all Americans... and he's managed to turn it into a divisive, partisan, political attack," said Romney senior advisor Ed Gillespie on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday.

"I think most Americans will see it as a sign of a desperate campaign."

The Obama campaign however insists the decision to order US Navy SEALs on a secret raid deep into Pakistani territory last year, with the outcome uncertain, shows Obama as a commander-in-chief with rare judgment.

It also argues that the presumptive Republican nominee may not have made the same call, had he been in the same position.

"This isn't the politics of fear, this is the politics of brave decision making. That's what (being) commander-in-chief is all about," said senior Obama advisor Robert Gibbs, also on NBC.

Gibbs noted that Romney had once argued it would be wrong to infringe Pakistan's sovereignty even if there was intelligence that a top terror suspect was on its soil and suggested he would not have ordered the bin Laden raid.

"Quite frankly Mitt Romney said it was a foolish thing to do a few years ago. Look, there's a difference in the roles they would play as commander-in-chief. I certainly think that's fair game," Gibbs said.

Asked whether Romney may not have ordered the raid on the Al-Qaeda leader's hideout in Abbottabad, Gibbs replied: "I don't think it's clear that he would."

The bin Laden row fits into the Obama campaign's strategy of portraying Romney as unfit to be president, as it tries to make his character and judgment a key point in an election dominated by a stuttering economy.

The political insulation offered to Obama by the successful operation to kill the Al-Qaeda leader and mastermind of the September 11 attacks complicates Romney's assaults on Obama's foreign policy.

For years, Republicans profited by slamming Democrats as soft on national security -- the tactic was used to devastating effect in the 2004 election when George W. Bush narrowly defeated Democrat John Kerry to win a second term.

A video by bin Laden aired a few days before the vote, and may have aided Bush's effort to portray Kerry as unsuitable for leading the US war on terror, after the first presidential vote since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Deprived of the terror card, Romney instead is forced to critique Obama's performance on issues like "reset" ties between Washington and Moscow, and his response to Syria's uprising and nuclear challenges from Iran and North Korea.

But it is not clear whether such attacks have the same kind of resonance as the traditional Republican tactic on national security.

Obama got a short-term political boost last year after the bin Laden raid, but in an election shaping up as a referendum on his handling of the economy, it is unclear how influential the operation will be as an election theme.

But the president's handling of national security and the US campaign against Al-Qaeda do appear to be helping his overall political image.

Obama led Romney by 43 to 33 percent in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released this month, when respondents were asked who would be a good commander-in-chief.

 

US carries out first weapon airdrops to Kurd fighters near Kobane

Qaeda inflicts heavy losses on Huthi rebels in central Yemen

Kerry seeks help of Southeast Asia in anti-Islamic State push

Turkey gives Iraq Peshmerga forces passage to Kobane

Acid attacks on women in Iran: Wear ‘proper hijab’ or be disfigured!

Israel to supply Egypt with natural gas despite sabotage

Morocco accuses Algeria of firing on civilians across border

Australia finalises deal for deployment of Special Forces to Iraq

Tunisia calls on Libya authorities to locate missing journalists

Turkey rejects calls to arm ‘terrorist’ Kurdish party in Syria

Western powers threaten sanctions against hostile actors in Libya

New deadly terrorist attack targets Egypt army in Sinai

‘Islamic State’ suffers heavy losses in Syria battleground of Kobane

After full formation of Iraq government, time comes to visit Iran

UN appeals for four-day truce in Western Libya

Gaza tunnel collapses before demolition: At least 3 Egypt soldiers dead

Erdogan begins one-day visit to Afghanistan

After weeks of delay, Iraq gets new security ministers

Diplomats scold Turkey over ambiguous relation with Islamic State

Lebanon pleads for Iran military aid to fight Islamic State

Kurds repulse new jihadist attempt to cut off Syria town

Huthi rebels meet fierce resistance in Yemen Sunni areas

Former Iraqi pilots train IS to fly Syria fighter jets

Two Millstones Drowning America into Premature Oblivion

Iraqi forces launch anti-IS operation north of Tikrit

Ben Ali cohorts planning comeback in Tunisia polls

Battle for Libya's Benghazi heats up

Kurdish fighters still holding out in Syria's Kobane

Russia denies agreed with US on IS intelligence-sharing

Saudi’s National Commercial Bank to offer $3.6 billion IPO

Qaeda counters advancing rebels with Yemen town seizure

Iran warns Saudi cleric death sentence could escalate tensions

No breakthrough in US-Iran intense nuclear talks

Kuwait ends decades of diesel, kerosene subsidies

US airstrikes ‘push back’ IS in Kobane

New desperate attempt to reach Europe: Hundreds storm Morocco-Spain border

Turkey Kurdish party plans talks with armed PKK rebels in Iraq

Iraq beats back ‘Islamic State’ assault on Ramadi

Saudi court sentences Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr to death

Iran nuclear talks: Search for elusive breakthrough begins

US air strategy in tatters as ‘Islamic State’ extends gains

Tunisia activist Jabeur Mejri receives second presidential pardon

Heavy toll as Qaeda-Huthi clashes rock central Yemen

Unshackling US-Iran Policy from Distrust

Turkey eyes greater police powers after pro-Kurdish protests