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Is McCain Helping Al Qaeda? « The Washington Independent

John Harper, of the libertarian Cato Institute thinks so. In a post on the think tank’s "Cato @ Liberty" blog, Harper argues that Sen. John McCain’s frequent statements that radical Islamic terrorism is the "transcendent’ challenge of our times — which the likely GOP nominee often follows with a vow to chase Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, if that’s what it takes to capture the Al Qaeda leader — sends precisely the wrong message to potential terrorist recruits:

McCain’s “gates of hell” talk is leadership malpractice, and he should stop using it immediately. Calling the threat of terrorism “transcendent” is equal parts incoherent and false. Terrorism stands no chance of defeating the United States or the West unless we ourselves collapse the society. Speaking this way about terrorism thrills our terrorist enemies and draws recruits and support to them. Silence would be much better, presidential campaign or no.

I wrote here a year and a half ago about the sensible thinking of Bill Bishop, director of the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security. He understood that the our national ID law, the REAL ID Act, fails as a security tool. Something else about Bishop came back to me as I was recently reading Abrahms’ article: Bishop wouldn’t even speak the name of Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. This is how he exhibited his loathing for a shameless terrorist killer, and it also happens to comport with sensible counter-terrorism.

Exalting terrorism — as John McCain does with his “gates of hell” talk — is precisely the wrong thing for a national leader to do. The country will be made more secure by deflating the world image of Osama bin Laden and making his movement less attractive. Our leaders must withdraw rhetorical power from terrorists by controlling their tongues.

Of course, it’s kind of hard to use bin Laden as a campaign prop if you don’t inflate the threat he poses — or even mention his name.

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