The McCain campaign aggressively pushed back against stories in the Washington Post and the Associated Press about a commentary posted on the website al-Hesbah, which some have suggested is linked to al Qaeda, calling for Al Qaeda supporters to help elect Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"Al Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election," the commenter said, arguing that McCain would continued the "failing march of his predecessor, Bush."
The poster, Muhammad Haafid — who experts say is said to NOT have "a direct affiliation with Al Qaeda plans or knowledge of its operations" — also said that a terrorist strike against the U.S. "will push the Americans deliberately to vote for McCain so that he takes revenge for them against al-Qaeda. Al Qaeda then will succeed in exhausting America."
Adam Raisman, a senior analyst for the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors the al-Hesbah website, told the Post that "The idea in the jihadist forums is that McCain would be a faithful ‘son of Bush’ — someone they see as a jingoist and a war hawk. They think that, to succeed in a war of attrition, they need a leader in Washington like McCain."
"If one takes one individual Islamist blogger from one terrorist Islamist blog, who has come up with this statement that it would be good to have McCain in the White House, I think one has to consider the motives," responded former CIA director Jim Woolsey, a McCain supporter.
On a conference call arranged by the McCain campaign, Woolsey said that Haafid "knows that the endorsement of people like him is a kiss of death, figuratively and literally, so it seems to me it’s pretty clear that by making this statement that he wants, that it would be a good thing for McCain to be President, he is clearly trying to damage John McCain, not speaking from his heart. So I must say I think the overall structure of the debate as one analyzes it coming out of this story taken at face value is quite remarkable."
More importantly, Woolsey said, McCain as one of the original proponents of the surge strategy in Iraq has been responsible for crippling Al Qaeda.
"On important aspect of the change in strategy was to link up with the Sunnis and the Awakening Movement in the Anbar Province and to cooperate in going after Al Qaeda in Iraq," Woolsey said. "In posting after posting, it was clear from al-Qaeda itself and from Bin Laden’s statements and Zawahiri’s statements that this link up which John McCain was essentially the father of, this change in strategy, was what was causing al-Qaeda in Iraq, which Al Qaeda put at right in front of their struggle, the biggest difficulty and the biggest problem. It was killing Al Qaeda in Iraq, leaders that drew the biggest concern from Al Qaeda and from really all of the Islamists."
Concluded the former CIA director: "John McCain was responsible as much as anyone in the country for that turn around. It is ridiculous to believe that in its heart of hearts Al Qaeda wants John McCain to be the President. And it is ludicrous."
McCain’s senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann said, "if we are going to talk about who had got support from terrorist groups in this election I am going to read some quotes, I am not going to characterize them, I will let others judge whether the amount of expression of support or opposition whether they amount to expressions of endorsement or opposition.
"First, this week a Hamas spokesman, Ahmed Yousef, said quote, ‘I do believe Mr. Biden is a great man and we do count on him as also a good partner with Mr. Obama to put the right policy regarding how to handle problems in the region. It is good for America to have the new administration with someone like Mr. Obama and his vision for change. I do believe actually with this administration, the Bush administration, we don’t have luck in ending our isolation. We as Palestinians are thinking we might have better luck with the new administration if Obama wins the election. I do believe that he will change American foreign policy in the way they are handling the Middle East.’
Scheunemann continued, "Second, last month when Iranian President Ahmadinejad was in the United States, he was asked by a student whether he supports Democratic nominee Barack Obama or Republican John McCain. This is what president Ahmadinejad, who has called for the extinction of Israel has said, quote, ‘the American government 28 years ago decided to cut its own ties with Iran. We do prefer to have relations whereas one of the candidates in this election would prefer that.’ I think everybody on this call understands which candidate for president has endorsed unconditional meetings with president Ahmadinejad.
"Three, from Muammar Qaddafi of Libya, he said talking about Obama ‘all the people in the Arab and Islamic world and in Africa applauded this man. They welcomed him and prayed for him and for his success and they may have even been involved in legitimate contribution campaign to enable him to win the American presidency.’"
The McCain adviser then seemed to suggest that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., would clearly be Al Qaeda’s choice.
"Only Senator Obama has advocated withdrawal and surrender to Al Qaeda in Iraq when Al Qaeda was at the peak of its power," he said. "Senator Obama advocated a withdrawal and voted against funding for our troops while we were engaged in fighting with Al Qaeda in early 2007, when Al Qaeda was at the peak of its power."
The Obama campaign had no comment about Haafid’s posting.