- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008

President Bush’s former counterterrorism chief says a new al Qaeda tape using a racial slur to describe President-elect Barack Obama shows that Mr. Obama’s victory represents an enormous setback for terrorists in the war of ideas.

The message from al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, posted on extremist Web forums Wednesday, said Mr. Obama’s election is “the American people’s admission of defeat in Iraq.” He also called Mr. Obama a “house negro,” a reference to slaves who labored in their masters’ houses.

“The election has taken the wind out of al Qaeda’s sails in much of the Islamic world because it demonstrates America’s renewed commitment to multiculturalism, human rights and international law,” Richard Clarke, who worked in both the Clinton and Bush White Houses, said in a statement distributed by the National Security Network, a two-year-old group that according to its Web site seeks to revitalize thinking on national security.

“By returning to American values the world admires, Obama sets al Qaeda back enormously in the battle of ideas - the ideological struggle which determines whether al Qaeda will continue to have significant support in the Islamic world,” the Clarke statement said.

He is considered a likely candidate to join the Obama national security team.

In the 11 1/2-minute video, al-Zawahri called Mr. Obama “the direct opposite of honorable black Americans” such as Malcolm X, who changed his name to Malik al-Shabaz after converting to Islam.

“You were born to a Muslim father,” al-Zawahri said, addressing himself to the president-elect, “but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America.”

The video features al-Zawahri speaking in Arabic with English subtitles. It includes still photographs and video clips of Malcolm X, and a photograph of Mr. Obama wearing a traditional Jewish religious skull-cap during a visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall.

White House press secretary Dana Perino called the comments “despicable and pathetic,” as well as “totally irrational.”

“They attack everything and anything that is American,” she said.

The Obama campaign had no immediate comment.

In the video, Al-Zawahri also insulted other prominent American blacks.

“In you and in [former Secretary of State] Colin Powell, [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice and your likes, the words of Malcolm X — may Allah have mercy on him — concerning ‘house negroes’ are confirmed,” al-Zawahri said. In the Arabic audio, he uses the term “abd al-beit,” which literally translates as house servant or house slave.

Malcolm X used the expression “house negro,” a reference to slaves who worked in their masters’ houses, to criticize blacks who rejected his ideology.

In Wednesday’s video, the first from a top al Qaeda leader in two months, al-Zawahri said:

“America has put on a new face, but its heart full of hate, mind drowning in greed, and spirit which spreads evil, murder, repression and despotism continue to be the same as always.”

He called Mr. Obama’s promise to redeploy U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan “a policy which was destined for failure before it was born.”

He also said the choice of Mr. Obama over Republican candidate Sen. John McCain was “the American people’s admission of defeat in Iraq.”

Daniel Benjamin, a Clinton-era national security official, said the comments about Iraq were “an effort to deflect attention from al Qaeda’s own problems there.”

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said al-Zawahri does not speak for Muslims.

“The legitimate grievances of Muslims in many areas of the world can never serve as an excuse or a justification for attacks on civilian populations,” Mr. Hooper said.

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