Thompson Warns of al-Qaida Threats in US
Saturday, September 8, 2007; 5:02 AM
SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- Republican Fred Thompson said Friday that terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden is "more symbolism than anything else" as the presidential hopeful warned of possible greater al-Qaida threats within the United States.
As a new video surfaced from bin Laden days before the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Thompson focused on the broader war on terrorism and the Iraq conflict. He argued that not only are the United States and Iraqi forces making progress in Iraq, but that public support for the war is increasing.
The new video of bin Laden is his first in three years. Thompson played down its release in talking to reporters on his second day of campaigning in Iowa.
"Bin Laden being in the mountains of Pakistan or Afghanistan is not as important as there are probably al-Qaida operatives inside the United States of America," Thompson said.
Bin Laden is considered the man behind the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. The former Tennessee senator and actor argued that "bin Laden is more symbolism than anything else. I think it demonstrates to people once again that we're in a global war."
Thompson said the al-Qaida leader and the Iraq war must be seen as part of the larger war on terrorism.
"It's one that bin Laden and people like him are heading up and we need to catch him and we surely need to deal with him, but if he disappeared tomorrow we still have this problem. If Iraq disappeared tomorrow, we'd still have this problem," Thompson said.
Later in the day, and after Democrats had been critical of his earlier remarks, Thompson took a much tougher stance. "Apparently Osama bin Laden has crawled out of his cave long enough to send another video and he is getting a lot of attention," he said at a rally in Mason City. "He ought to be caught and killed."
Thompson maintained, however, that killing bin Laden would not end the terrorist threat.
The release of the bin Laden video drew a strong response from two of Thompson's rivals, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
"Osama bin Laden and his henchmen must be hunted down _ and as president, I will," McCain said in a statement. "My presidency will be al-Qaida's worst nightmare."
Campaigning in Florida, Giuliani said it's "a very, very important objective to capture him and take him out."