“If this president does not get us out of Iraq, when I am president, I will,” pledged Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in a televised Democratic debate broadcast nationally and around the world.
“The first day, I would get us out of Iraq by diplomacy,” said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, on the debate stage with seven other Democratic presidential hopefuls.
“We are one signature away from ending this war,” declared Illinois Senator Barack Obama, adding that if Bush won’t change his mind about vetoing a bill requiring troop withdrawal, Democrats need to work on rounding up enough Republican votes to override him.
Former North Carolina senator John Edwards, who together with Clinton and some other Democrats voted to authorize the Iraq war, apologized for his earlier support and said he wanted to see a withdrawal.
The debate, held in April, was followed closely in the Middle East, where it was covered by Arabic news outlets and partially broadcast on major Arab satellite networks. Among those watching were Palestinian terrorist leaders.
There is a tendency to think of terrorists as living like barbarians in caves. Actually, a lot of terrorists, certainly those in Gaza and the West Bank, reside in well-decorated apartments with all the trappings of a modern production company. They have some of the most advanced communications equipment in the world and are quite Internet-savvy.
While terrorists spend much of their time in the field carrying out or planning attacks or undergoing or leading military training, they also find the time to follow the news media closely. Many of the terror leaders I’ve spoken with understand some English, although they pretend not to and almost always demand we speak with the aid of an Arabic interpreter.
I know they understand my English because during in-person talks they have responded at times to my statements with gestures or laughter or disagreement before my words were translated for them into Arabic. Some Palestinian terrorists actually speak fluent Hebrew, from time spent in Israeli jails.
I was stunned by how closely some terrorists follow U.S. developments – how familiar they are with our political system and a lot of the top players. The day after the April Democratic debate, I happened to call Abu Jihad, one of the leaders of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades terror organization, for an article I was writing about Palestinian rocket capabilities. Out of the blue during our interview, without any prompting on my part, Abu Jihad commented on how thrilled he was with the Democrat debate.
“We see Hillary [Clinton] and other candidates are competing on who will withdraw from Iraq and who is guilty of supporting the Iraqi invasion. This is a moment of glory for the revolutionary movements in the Arab world in general and for the Iraqi resistance movement specifically,” said Abu Jihad. “I think Democrats will do good if they will withdraw as soon as they are in power.”
Wow, I thought. A terrorist sounding off about an American political debate. I quickly called one of Abu Jihad’s bosses, Nasser Abu Aziz, the deputy commander of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades in the northern West Bank. He, too, paid attention to the Democrat debate.
Aziz said the debate proved “the invasion of Iraq was judged by Allah to be a failure. America needs to stop letting its foreign policy be dictated by the Zionists and the Zionist lobby. The Democrats understand this point and want to prevent this scenario.” He declared it is “very good” there are “voices like Hillary and others who are now attacking the Iraq invasion.”
“I think the more Americans receive the bodies of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the more the conservatives in the U.S. will be sentenced to be thrown in the garbage,” he said.
Rooting for the Democrats
With America heading toward 2008 presidential elections, I talked with the terrorists about which parties they favor and who specifically they want to see in the White House.
Overwhelmingly they told me they hope Americans sweep the Democrats into power, in part because of the party’s position on withdrawing from Iraq – a move, as they see it, that ensures victory for the worldwide Islamic resistance.
“Of course Americans should vote Democrat,” said Jihad Jaara, an exiled member of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades and the leader of the 2002 siege of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity.
“This is why American Muslims will support the Democrats, because there is an atmosphere in America that encourages those who want to withdraw from Iraq. It is time that the American people support those who want to take them out of this Iraqi mud,” said Jaara, who talked to me from exile in Ireland, where he was sent as part of a deal that ended the church siege.
I asked the terrorists what they thought of statements from people like Senator Barbara Boxer and Representatives Barbara Lee and John Murtha that the U.S. must immediately withdraw from Iraq. What do they think when they hear prominent politicians comparing Iraq to Vietnam?
“These Democrat leaders are starting to ask the right questions: what are we doing in Iraq after we got rid from Saddam Hussein?” stated Jaara. “You succeeded in killing him and in establishing a new regime but why are you still there? And this is what these Democrats are asking. They understand that the American occupation causes the resistance and we are glad the resistance is succeeding to beat the Americans.”
(I must stop Jaara here and point out his deceptive rhetoric. When it suits them, terrorists claim the American occupation of Iraq is the reason for their attacks. But terrorists have been waging their war for Islamic domination far before the U.S. deposed Saddam Hussein. 9-11 occurred before the Iraq war. Jihadists constantly struggle to find new U.S. policies to blame for their terrorism.)
Regarding the Democrat debate, Ala Senakreh, chief of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank, said making statements is not enough, but Democratic policies make him hopeful.
“It is not enough to compare Iraq to Vietnam. There must be a big campaign to start this withdrawal. What is happening now in the Congress is encouraging, it gives hope for a change, but I am afraid that it will still take time. As for us, this proves that the resistance always succeeds by the end of the day.”
I read to the terrorists an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” in which then-House Minority Leader and now House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, stated, “The jihadists [are] in Iraq. But that doesn’t mean we stay there. They’ll stay there as long as we’re there.”
Muhammad Saadi, a leader of the Islamic Jihad terror group in the northern West Bank city of Jenin, laughed. “There is no chance that the resistance will stop,” he said.
An American withdrawal from Iraq, Saadi explained, would “show the resistance is the most important tool and that this tool works. The victory of the Iraqi revolution will mark an important step in the history of the region and in the attitude regarding the United States.”
Abu Ayman, an Islamic Jihad leader in Jenin, said he is “emboldened” by those in America who compare the war in Iraq to Vietnam.
“[The mujahedeen fighters] brought the Americans to speak for the first time seriously and sincerely that Iraq is becoming a new Vietnam and that they should fix a schedule for their withdrawal from Iraq,” he boasted.
The exiled Al Aksa member Jihad Jaara said an American withdrawal would “mark the beginning of the collapse of this tyrant empire [America].” He added that America’s vacating Iraq would also “reinforce Palestinian resistance organizations, especially from the moral point of view. But we also learn from these [insurgency] movements militarily. We look and learn from them.”
Hamas’s Abu Abdullah argued that a withdrawal from Iraq would “convince those among the Palestinians who still have doubts in the efficiency of the resistance.”
The terror leaders each independently urged American citizens to vote for Democratic candidates. I never once came across a single terrorist who supported any Republican. And why would they? The Democrats largely want to withdraw from Iraq. They want dialogue with Syria and Iran. The terrorists share those same goals, because they believe it will lead to the downfall of the American empire and the spread of Islam.
It was under a Democratic president, Bill Clinton, that PLO leader Yasir Arafat returned from exile in Tunis, established a fiefdom in the West Bank and Gaza and was built up as a legitimate leader, becoming the most frequent foreign dignitary to visit the White House.
The terrorists love that. They believe the Democrats are their ticket to victory and they are hopeful a Democrat will soon sit in the Oval Office.
Hillary’s the One
I asked them about particular presidential candidates. Overwhelmingly, they favored Hillary Clinton in 2008.
Brigades chief Ala Senakreh, who planned and orchestrated multiple suicide bombings and has himself carried out at least a dozen shooting attacks against Israelis, told me he “hope[s] Hillary is elected in order to have the occasion to carry out all the promises she is giving regarding Iraq.
“I hope also she will maintain her husband’s policies regarding Palestine and even develop that policy. President Clinton wanted to give the Palestinians 98 percent of the West Bank territories. I hope Hillary will move a step forward and will give the Palestinians all their rights.”
Abu Hamed, leader of the Al Aksa Brigades in the northern Gaza Strip, said that Hillary’s antiwar position “proves that important leaders are understanding the situation differently and are understanding the price and the consequences of the American policy in Iraq and in the world.
“The Iraqi resistance is succeeding. Hillary and the Democrats call for withdrawal. Her [Clinton’s] popularity shows that the resistance is winning and that the occupation is losing. We just hope that she will go until the end and change the American policy, which is based on oppressing poor and innocent people.”
Ramadan Adassi, leader of the Al Aksa Brigades in the Anskar refugee camp in the northern West Bank, said he also backs Hillary. With a straight face, Adassi said he was worried that if Hillary defies Israel she will be brought down like her husband, claiming White House intern Monica Lewinsky was an Israeli implant sent to lure Bill Clinton into a sex scandal after he pressured the Jewish state to evacuate territory to the Palestinians.
“If Hillary goes too much against the Zionist interests she will face the same conspiracy like her husband who fell into the trap of Lewinsky,” said Adassi. “I have no doubt [Lewinsky] was planted by the Zionists, who wanted to send a message to all future American presidents – do not go against the Israeli policy. Bill Clinton made the Oslo agreement and promoted peace but the Israelis did not give him a chance.”
The notion of Lewinsky as an Israeli agent is commonly believed in the terror community. It came up many times in my conversations and interviews with Palestinian terrorists.
The terrorists weren’t familiar with the particulars of some of the other presidential hopefuls, but they all knew of former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani. He is quite famous in terror circles for the time in 1995 when he booted Yasir Arafat from an invitation-only concert at New York’s Lincoln Center celebrating the UN’s fiftieth anniversary. Arafat attempted to crash the event. When Giuliani saw the PLO leader and his entourage making their way to a private box seat near the stage, the mayor immediately ordered Arafat off the premises.
The incident occurred at the height of Oslo euphoria, when Arafat was being promoted as some sort of statesman and even most mainstream Jewish groups disgracefully embraced the murdering terrorist.
“Giuliani doesn’t deserve to live or even to be mentioned,” said Brigades leader Ala Senakreh. “He wants war and he will most probably receive war. He hates Palestinians and we hate him. He hates Arafat and I tell him that it is Arafat who brought us to be very close to our independent state after decades during which Israel and your government did everything in order to prevent us from having our state.”
Ramadan Adassi threatened Giulani: “If I had the occasion to meet him, I would hurt him. For the sake of the American people Giuliani shouldn’t be elected. He is a disgusting guy and I think Americans must think very hard about their future and their soldiers who will be killed when they come to elect their leaders.”
While the terror leaders each independently urged American citizens to vote for Democratic candidates, not all believed the Democrats would actually carry out a withdrawal from Iraq. They believe most American politicians are controlled by Israel.
“Unfortunately,” said Islamic Jihad’s Saadi, “I think those who are speaking about a withdrawal will not do so when they are in power and these promises will remain electoral slogans. It is not enough to withdraw from Iraq. They must withdraw from Afghanistan and from every Arab and Muslim land they occupy or have bases.”
He called both Democrats and Republicans “agents of the Zionist lobby in the U.S.”
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com and a weekly columnist for The Jewish Press. This essay is adapted from his new book, “Schmoozing With Terrorists,” available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com and other major booksellers.