Who would have thought that one of the chief challenges confronting congressional Democrats would be a need to distinguish themselves from Osama bin Laden? His latest missive, delivered to coincide with the 6th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, contains rhetorical flourishes and far-left policy ideas strangely similar to what we hear on a daily basis from leading liberals in Congress.
I do not question the patriotism of these lawmakers. But, as one who once served as communications director for a member of the congressional leadership, I know that no speaker or majority leader wants to hear bin Laden ape his rhetoric and policy positions.
A close analysis of this and other bin Laden rants sheds light on how easily passionate anti-Bush sentiments within our own political system can morph into broader anti-American and anti-capitalist attitudes and, eventually, into an all-encompassing anti-Western mindset.
Let's go to the videotape. To bin Laden, the war in Iraq was "entirely unnecessary" and based on "deception and blatant lies." America's "prestige" has been "broken globally." Bush and his neoconservative cronies are "the real tyrannical terrorists." Our international reputation suffered, he argues, because of Bush's insistence on "not giving the United Nations expanded jurisdiction in Iraq."
America, in bin Laden's view, has been "bled dry economically" by the war. The real beneficiaries are "the warmongering owners of the major corporations." The war is really about "the pilfering of Iraq's oil" on behalf of "the shady Bush administration-linked mega-corporations, like Halliburton and its kind."
But the pernicious effects of capitalism extend well beyond Iraq. Capitalism, bin Laden argues, "seeks to turn the entire world into a fiefdom of the major corporations under the label of" -- drum roll, please -- "globalization." The bottom line: Capitalism "make[s] the rich richer and the poor poorer."
Bin Laden is particularly peeved at Bush's decision not to sign the Kyoto treaty on global warming. Global warming, he explains, threatens "the life of all of mankind" and will lead to the "death and displacement of … millions of human beings."
Sound familiar? Liberal lawmakers make these points every day. Some examples:
Deception and blatant lies? "The American people," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin believes, "were deceived into this war" (a "war of choice" he calls it). The actual source for bin Laden's characterization may have been Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), who says we entered Iraq based on "distortions … blatant lies and manipulations."
America's prestige broken? Speaker Nancy Pelosi also calls this a "war of choice" and believes it has "damaged the standing of the United States in the international community." Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) concurs that it "hurts America's reputation in the world."
Americans as "tyrannical terrorists"? Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) famously compared the mistreatment of suspected terrorists at the prison in Abu Grahib to "Saddam's torture chambers" which, he roared, had "reopened under new management: U.S. management." Durbin compared the acts of U.S. servicemen caught in the scandal to atrocities committed by "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, … Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings."
Wrong not to cede authority to the United Nations? "At the root of much of the anti-Americanism that has surfaced in recent years," Sen. Kennedy speculates, "is the perception of American unilateralism in international affairs." And the root of that unilateralism, Pelosi explains, is our disdain for the United Nations. Bush "missed an opportunity" when he failed to secure "a United Nations mandate" to bring "security and stability to Iraq." Indeed, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) says, "the United States needs the United Nations."
Global warming? Bin Laden's concern over the Kyoto accords and global warming mimics that of many liberal lawmakers. Global warming, Sen. Durbin says, poses "a clear and present danger to our environment, our economy, our security and our health, and the survival of many species on Earth." Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sees it as "not only a potential environmental catastrophe but a national security emergency" as well.
Rich getting richer and the poor poorer? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid summed up the common critique among liberals that capitalism favors the rich and harms the poor when he said recently: "All for the rich, nothing for the poor, an in between … the middle class is being squeezed."
What's next -- bin Laden ranting against Gen. "Betray Us"?
The lesson here is that liberals need to wean themselves from this sort of excessive rhetoric. Return to more measured criticisms of the policies espoused by their political adversaries. Leave bin Laden behind.
Michael G. Franc is vice president of government relations for The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Human Events