Al Qaeda has officially added President-elect Barack Obama to its enemies list. In the terrorist group's first video message to Obama since his election, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda's number two, calls Obama a "House Negro" who "claims" to be Christian to be elected to high office. The new video says that because Obama has chosen to support Israel and has threatened to strike Pakistan and send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, he has decided to continue "the crimes of the American crusade."
This is militant Islam's version of the welcome mat. And it shows that Al-Qaeda has apparently taken Obama at his word when the president-elect vowed to "defeat" the militant Taliban and organizations like Al Qaeda and hunt down Usama bin Laden.
The 11-minute, 23 second video in Arabic with English subtitles, contrasts what Zawahiri calls "House Negroes" like Obama –- along with Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, who preceded her –- with Al-Qaeda's hero –- Malcolm X, or Malik al-Shabazz, as the video repeatedly calls him — Obama's "exact opposite." In fact, Zawahiri apparently borrowed the term "House Negroes" from Malcolm X. According to the Associated Press, the video includes footage of Malcom X's speeches in which he argues that black slaves who worked in their white masters' houses were more servile and less confrontational than slaves who worked in the fields.
Zawahiri also says that by choosing to abandon the faith of his Muslim father in favor of Christianity and to continue waging America's War on Terror –- albeit by different methods –- Obama has agreed to "pray the prayer of the Jews." As such, Zawahiri says, Obama has become "captive" to the "same criminal American mentality towards the world and towards Muslims."
In case anyone misses the point of this diatribe (widely distributed today on Arab television networks), the video portrays Obama wearing a yarmulke — a Jewish skullcap.
The video is a stark declaration of war on the incoming president, though it stops short of threatening him personally. Instead, Zawahiri taunts Obama, encouraging him to be "stubborn about America's failure in Afghanistan" by sending in more troops. Remember the fate of the Soviets and British before them among the Afghans, he says: "The dogs of Afghanistan have found the flesh of your soldiers to be delicious, so send thousands after thousands of them."
Al Qaeda apparently does not accept Obama's "one president at a time" policy. Zawahiri holds Obama personally responsible for the aerial attack last Monday on "Afghan Muslims at a wedding party in Kandahar." (Pentagon spokesmen have said that such strikes target Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists hiding among civilians).
President Bush and President-elect Obama had starkly different reactions today to Al Qaeda's welcome message. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, accustomed to such insults to the president and threats to America, dismissed Zawahiri's latest message as merely "more despicable comments from a terrorist."
President-elect Obama's PTT –- Presidential Transition Team –- issued no comment, choosing yet again to speak softly, or in this case, not at all, knowing that America wields a very big stick. But Obama adviser Richard Clarke, a counter-terrorism official in the Clinton and Bush White Houses who repeatedly tried to warn both his bosses before 9/11 about the danger posed by Al Qaeda, suggested today that the video smacked of desperation. "Obama's election," he said, "has taken the wind out of Al Qaeda's sails in much of the Islamic world" by proving yet again that democracy can "overcome ethnic, sectarian, or racial barriers" and by renewing America's "commitment to multiculturalism, human rights, and international law."
While Zawahiri says that Obama's vow to withdraw from Iraq is a victory for the "Muslim Ummah" or the world's Muslims, including, presumably American Muslims, it is also an admission of America's "defeat in Iraq." But Clarke argues that Obama's pledge to withdraw from Iraq denies Al Qaeda a key "propaganda tenet: that the U.S. seeks to occupy oil- rich Arab lands." Moreover, Obama's election, says Clarke, "sets Al Qaeda back enormously in the battle of ideas –the ideological struggle which will determine whether Al Qaeda will continue to have significant support in the Islamic world."