Osama vs. Obama

For many people in the the Arab world, attacking George W. Bush is one thing. Going after Barack Hussein Obama is another.

That's the impression I'm getting from North Africans who've seen the latest video diatribe from al Qaeda's No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

In the video, which is airing widely on Arabic TV channels, al-Zawahiri accuses the U.S. president-elect of everything from denying his racial heritage to outright apostasy.

Referring to Obama, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell as the Arabic equalivent of "house Negroes," Osama bin Laden's deputy compares Obama unfavorably with Malcolm X, the black American leader who converted to Islam. Obama, al-Zawahiri says, is "the direct opposite of honorable black Americans" like Malcolm X.

The video also charges that Obama, whose father was a Muslim, "chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews ... to climb the rungs of leadership in America."

The problem is, from what I can tell, it seems most people in North Africa — and perhaps in the Middle East, as well — so admire the new president-elect that not only do the accusations fall flat, they serve to discredit an increasingly unpopular al Qaeda.

It looks as if we've stumbled upon an effective, if unwitting, strategy in the war on terrorism: elect as president a man with African roots, a Muslim father and an Arabic name.