29.5.08

Hawk-Dove

The United States presidential election, 2008:

The United States presidential election of 2008 was held on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 to elect the 44th President of the United States of America. It was the 56th consecutive quadrennial election for the president and vice president of the United States. Republican candidate John Sidney McCain III, the senior United States Senator from Arizona, defeated Democratic candidate Barack Hussein Obama, the junior United States Senator from Illinois - the first African-American presidential nominee in United States history. The domestic economic recession and downfall of the American economy was the focal point of the lengthy campaign season. Democratic control of the White House seemed inevitable until an "October Surprise" of unprecedented magnitude, The 24 Scenario, gripped the American psyche and handed the presidency to McCain in a landslide victory.

Background: The 24 Scenario

Named for its similarity to a situation in the popular American dramatic television series "24" The 24 Scenario came to public attention on October 3, 2008. With Barack Obama holding a 55-41 lead over McCain in nationwide polls, a news story broke with a purported Al Qaeda video. In it, Ayman al-Zawahiri claimed that Al Qaeda had smuggled and hidden a nuclear "suitcase bomb" into the United States and would detonate the explosive unless all "the sons of Islam were released from US run prisons and CIA Black Sites across the world by the 15th of November."

Response and the Lead-Up to Election

A furious hunt for the weapon ensued and the world's delegations at the United Nations were removed to a summit in Berlin to discuss a response to the situation. Americans fled urban centers by the millions; the population of New York City plummeted from approximately 8.5 million to 5 million just four days after the Al Qaeda tape appeared. This became the largest mass evacuation in United States history.

While the immediate focus turned to sitting president, George W. Bush, whose waning days as a "lame duck" president were reversed and thrust into an unprecedented international crisis once again, a sudden and drastic shift in American political sentiment was also registered in the only poll taken between the October 3 announcement and the November election. In it, John McCain leaped from a 14-point deficit, with seemingly little hope of victory, to an astounding 65-30 lead just seven days after the story broke.

The American public demanded an immense military response to the threatened attack and rallied to McCain's hawkish promise to "find them and destroy them." The moderation and promise of engagement with foreign nations, including enemies, that had characterized Obama's vision of diplomacy - and won welcome praise from many Americans, if not talking heads, after eight years of unilateral Bush policies - suddenly fell completely out of favor. Further, his proposed view to "look at the source of this antagonism - look at the lack of justice in these prisons" while, simultaneously, searching out the bomb, and Zawahiri in the mountains of Pakistan were seen by most Americans as "Doveish" and not of sufficiently retaliatory rhetoric.

On election day a record-low turnout ensued with most major urban centers emptied of voting ranks. The result was an enormous victory for McCain by a margin of 70-25.

The Fallout

On November 11, 2008, days after the election, it was discovered that the video from Zawahiri had been produced inside the United States and dubbed over with a computer generated imitation of Zawahiri's voice. Still, the public worried this did not necessarily mean there was no suitcase bomb. Yet November 15th passed and the prisoners remained in Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere without incident. While many credited George Bush's "military manhunt" - which included cooperation from NATO and United Nations peacekeeping forces - in the mountainous Peshawar region of Pakistan for once again uprooting Al Qaeda manpower and disabling any capability to detonate, or deliver instructions to detonate, the weapon, others began to propose that the entire crisis was a hoax.

The Capture of Osama Bin Laden

In the mountains of Pakistan a British Special Forces unit detained a group of senior Al Qaeda officials after a two-day long firefight. Among them was 9/11 financier and mastermind Osama Bin Laden who claimed that Zawahiri had died the previous July and had produced neither a video nor a suitcase bomb before his death.

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