FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

New Fakers at the New Yorker

The US Department of State’s Counterterrorism Office released its annual report, “Patterns of Global Terrorism”, on April 30th and said that, “The Triborder area (TBA) — where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay converge — has long been characterized as a regional hub for Hizballah and Hamas fundraising activities, but it is also used for arms and drug trafficking, contraband smuggling, document and currency fraud, money laundering, and the manufacture and movement of pirated goods. Although there were numerous media reports in 2002 of an al-Qaida presence in the TBA, these reports remained uncorroborated by intelligence and law-enforcement officials.”

The triborder area, also known as the Triple Frontier, has been vilified as an “ungovernable zone” loaded with Arab radicals waiting to pounce.

Reuters covered the release of this report in a short brief for their Latin America subscribers. The story was translated into Portuguese and Spanish, but did not run in English, so it makes sense to review it here because fever over the idea that Islamic terrorists were plotting revenge from a remote area in the South American tropics originated here in the US.

It started quietly in Paraguay in late October 2000, 11 months before the terrorist attacks of September 11th, when a Lebanese businessman named Ali Khalil Mehri was arraigned for selling pirated CDs and not-so-pirated CDs that had messages espousing Hizballah’s ideals. The State Dept ran their “Patterns” report for that year on April 30th, 2001, where the arrest was cited along with the incarceration of a Palestinian man named Salah Abdul Karim Yassine who “allegedly threatened to bomb the US and Israeli Embassies in Asuncion.” (I don’t know where the man is now or if the allegation even turned out to be factual.) It was the only mention of Arabs in Latin America. It took up exactly three paragraphs.

After that, this tiny region of the world, a blackmarket Wal-Mart where one can buy pirated Microsoft products and domestic electronics on the cheap, became a potential second-base to Osama bin Laden (according to an Agence France Presse report on Sept 19, 2001), a scary hideout for Islamic extremists (according to UPI on Oct 11, 2001 and El Pais International, S.A. on Nov 9, 2001) and a report by the BBC on Sept 10, 2002 by Andrea Machain said that US officials “strongly suspected” Al Qaeda to be operating in the region.

In the Jan 2002 issue of the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, run by US-Israeli front group, the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon (ideological home to the ususal suspects like Elliot Abrams, Eleana Benador, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle and now trumpeting the ‘fact’ that Syria has weapons of mass destruction aimed at Israel) and the Middle East Forum (run by Daniel Pipes, a man who sees anti-Semites on every college campus), there was a long report on Hizballah’s activities in the region. This entire story relies on the arrests of the aforementioned and their financial ties to the organization.

But the triborder region became truly infamous after Jeffrey Goldberg, a New Yorker magazine reporter, wrote his series called “In the Party of God”, published last October. After that, it almost became official. Yup…Hizballah and Osama’s mafia are drinking mate and caipirinhas somewhere outside Foz do Iguacu, Parana, a large, red-earthed state south of Sao Paulo.

Goldberg wrote in the New Yorker that “intelligence officials in the region and in Washington said the place is crawling with terrorists, many of them associated with Hizballah, some with Hamas, and some with Al Qaeda.”

Apparently, those same officials are now saying that they are wrong, at least in part. There are no Al Qaeda cells operating in the region.

In March, Reed Lindsay, an American reporter in Buenos Aires, spoke with a Security Secretary at the Justice Ministry in Argentina. The Argentinian official wished to be kept anonymous. He told Lindsay that Argentina had no knowledge of terrorist groups operating in the Triborder area or that money from illegal activities such as CD piracy and drug trafficking was going directly to fund terrorist activities.

“Terrorist cells do not exist in the Triple Frontier,” the Security Secretary said. “When people start talking about terrorist hot spots that don’t exist, it does tremendous damage to our countries. There might have been activities of financing terrorist organizations, just like any other community. Just as Argentines in North America send money to Argentina, I imagine that the Muslim community must help people in places like Lebanon, and part of that money might be sent to terrorists.”

Goldberg had already invested heavily in Al Qaeda “links” with an immense New Yorker piece in the spring of 2002, purporting to establish an Al Quaeda-Saddam link. The article was extremely influential. It was also rubbish, convincingly demolished by a less credulous journalist Goldberg described the region as, “a community, or perhaps less disingenuous journalist from the London Observer. Goldberg’s excursion to the Three Frontiers region was a reprise. Unknown officials supposedly told Goldberg that Hizbollah runs weekend training camps out in the rain forest near Foz do Iguacu, where young soldiers and even children are “indoctrinated into Hizballah ideology — a mixture of anti-American and anti-Jewish views inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini.” None of these officials were ever quoted in the mainstream press in Brazil and if they were ever quoted in Argentina, at least one key government official knows nothing about it.

The “threat” of terrorism in what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has defined as “ungovernable areas” in Latin America has led to a diplomatic disaster just waiting to unfold. Stories of terrorist cells in these nations are seen as a pre-text to greater US military involvement in national affairs.

Nations are in disagreement over the US definition of terrorism. And there is almost zero agreement on how to fight it, especially given the fiasco that led up to the US invasion of Iraq on the pretext that Hussein was backing terrorists and had weapons of mass destruction. Both notions hang like a loose tooth at best.

The Organization of American States was to hold a hemispheric security meeting in Mexico City this month, but it was cancelled by heads of state in Latin America. It is likely that it was cancelled because no one wants to play by Rumsfeld’s rules, that US defined “ungovernable areas” are a hotbed for illegal activity that can lead to terrorism that strengthens US security.

Brazilian Defense Minister Jose Viegas Filho recently described the first-ever meeting of South American Defense Ministers on April 23 in terms that will not please the Rumsfeld team. Filho said that South American states should strengthen their military and work together in an affirmative action to protect their own sovereignty and create civilian-military projects that foster economic development and security. Such a move, if ever implemented, would be an obstacle to the much more punitive US plans to turn the region into a terrorist and druglord hunting ground for the Pentagon’s new Roman Legion Army.

KENNETH RAPOZA, an American reporter, divides his time between the US and Brazil. He can be reached at rapoza@counterpunch.org

 

More articles by:

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
Victor Grossman
Red Flowers for Rosa and Karl
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail