“Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear — kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor — with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.”
General Douglas MacArthur, 1957
So now we’ve (choke) just been (gasp) saved from the simultaneous blowing up of ten airplanes headed toward the United States from the UK. Wow, thank you Brits, thank you Homeland Security. Well done, lads. And thanks for preventing the destruction of the Sears Tower in Chicago, saving lower Manhattan from a terrorist-unleashed flood, smashing the frightful Canadian “terror plot” with 17 arrested, ditto the three Toledo terrorists, and squashing the Los Angeles al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airliner into a skyscraper.
The Los Angeles plot of 2002 was proudly announced by George W. early this year. It has since been totally discredited. Declared one senior counterterrorism official: “There was no definitive plot. It never materialized or got past the thought stage.”
And the scare about ricin in the UK, which our own Mr. Cheney used as part of the buildup for the invasion of Iraq, telling an audience on January 10, 2003: “The gravity of the threat we face was underscored in recent days when British police arrested … suspected terrorists in London and discovered a small quantity of ricin, one of the world’s deadliest poisons.”
It turned out there was not only no plot, there was no ricin. The Brits discovered almost immediately that the substance wasn’t ricin but kept that secret for more than two years.
From what is typical in terrorist scares, it is likely that the individuals arrested in the UK August 10 are guilty of what George Orwell, in 1984, called “thoughtcrimes”. That is to say, they haven’t actually DONE anything. At most, they’ve THOUGHT about doing something the government would label “terrorism”. Perhaps not even very serious thoughts, perhaps just venting their anger at the exceptionally violent role played by the UK and the US in the Mideast and thinking out loud how nice it would be to throw some of that violence back in the face of Blair and Bush. And then, the fatal moment for them that ruins their lives forever … their angry words are heard by the wrong person, who reports them to the authorities. (In the Manhattan flood case the formidable, dangerous “terrorists” made mention on an Internet chat room about blowing something up.)
Soon a government agent provocateur appears, infiltrates the group, and then actually encourages the individuals to think and talk further about terrorist acts, to develop real plans instead of youthful fantasizing, and even provides the individuals with some of the actual means for carrying out these terrorist acts, like explosive material and technical know-how, money and transportation, whatever is needed to advance the plot. It’s known as “entrapment”, and it’s supposed to be illegal, it’s supposed to be a powerful defense for the accused, but the authorities get away with it all the time; and the accused get put away for very long stretches. And because of the role played by the agent provocateur, we may never know whether any of the accused, on their own, would have gone much further, if at all, like actually making a bomb, or, in the present case, even making transatlantic flight reservations since many of the accused reportedly did not even have passports. Government infiltrating and monitoring is one thing; encouragement, pushing the plot forward, and scaring the public to make political capital from it is quite something else.
Prosecutors have said that the seven men in Miami charged with conspiring to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and FBI buildings in other cities had sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda. This came after meeting with a confidential government informant who was posing as a representative of the terrorist group. Did they swear or hold such allegiance, one must wonder, before meeting with the informant? “In essence,” reported The Independent of London, “the entire case rests upon conversations between Narseal Batiste, the apparent ringleader of the group, with the informant, who was posing as a member of al-Qaeda but in fact belonged to the [FBI] South Florida Terrorist Task Force.” Batiste told the informant that “he was organizing a mission to build an ‘Islamic army’ in order to wage jihad.” He provided a list of things he needed: boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios, vehicles, binoculars, bullet proof vests, firearms, and $50,000 in cash. Oddly enough, one thing that was not asked for was any kind of explosives material. After sweeps of various locations in Miami, government agents found no explosives or weapons. “This group was more aspirational than operational,” said the FBI’s deputy director, while one FBI agent described them as “social misfits”. And, added the New York Times, investigators openly acknowledged that the suspects “had only the most preliminary discussions about an attack.” Yet Cheney later hailed the arrests at a political fundraiser, calling the group a “very real threat”.
Perhaps as great a threat as the suspects in the plot to unleash a catastrophic flood in lower Manhattan by destroying a huge underground wall that holds back the Hudson River. That was the story first released by the authorities; after a while it was replaced by the claim that the suspects were actually plotting something aimed at the subway tunnels that run under the river.
Which is more reliable, one must wonder, information on Internet chat rooms or WMD tips provided by CIA Iraqi informers? Or information obtained, as in the current case in the UK, from Pakistani interrogators of the suspects, none of the interrogators being known to be ardent supporters of Amnesty International.
And the three men arrested in Toledo, Ohio in February were accused of — are you ready? — plotting to recruit and train terrorists to attack US and allied troops overseas. For saving us from this horror we have a paid FBI witness to thank. He had been an informer with the FBI for four years, and most likely was paid for each new lead he brought in.
There must be millions of people in the United States and elsewhere who have thoughts about “terrorist acts”. I might well be one of them when I read about a gathering of Bush, Cheney, and assorted neocons that’s going to take place. Given the daily horror of Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine in recent times, little of which would occur if not for the government of the United States of America and its allies, the numbers of people having such thoughts must be rapidly multiplying. If I had been at an American or British airport as the latest scare story unfolded, waiting in an interminable line, having my flight canceled, or being told I can’t have any carry-on luggage, I may have found it irresistible at some point to declare loudly to my fellow suffering passengers: “Y’know, folks, this security crap is only gonna get worse and worse as long as the United States and Britain continue to invade, bomb, overthrow, occupy, and torture the world!”
How long before I was pulled out of line and thrown into some kind of custody?
If MacArthur were alive today would he dare to publicly express the thoughts of his cited above?
Policy makers and security experts, reports the Associated Press, say that “Law enforcers are now willing to act swiftly against al-Qaeda sympathizers, even if it means grabbing wannabe terrorists whose plots may be only pipe dreams.”
Commonly, the “terrorists” are watched for many months, then the police pounce on them at a politically opportune time. The reasons in the current case may stem from some aspect of the Blair and Bush administrations being under attack from all sides, including the defeat of super war-supporter Senator Joseph Lieberman (just 36 hours before the British announcement), and the upcoming November elections, when the Republicans will be running on the War on Terrorism issue. “Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big,” said a White House official, adding that “some Democratic candidates won’t ‘look as appealing’ under the circumstances.”
Referring to the alleged UK terrorism plot, the New York Times reported that:
“The White House and the Republican Party had pounced on that news, along with the defeat of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary by an antiwar candidate, Ned Lamont, to paint the Democrats as weak on national security. Mr. Cheney had gone so far as to imply that the defeat of Mr. Lieberman, a strong backer of the war, would embolden ‘Al Qaeda types’.”
Vote Republican or the terrorists win!
The announcement of this particular terrorist threat may also be explained by this news item:
“Much of the televised discussion yesterday concerned the investigative tools available in Britain that U.S. officials credit with allowing authorities to get ahead of the plot before it proved catastrophic. [Homeland Security Secretary Michael] Chertoff said the ability to monitor monetary transactions and communications and to arrest suspects for a period of 28 days on an emergency basis made a significant difference in the case.”
We should be hearing further from the administration about these things.
WILLIAM BLUM is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.
He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com
1. Vorin Whan, ed. “A Soldier Speaks: Public Papers and Speeches of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur” (1965)
2. The Daily News (New York), February 10, 2006
3. Washington Post, April 14, 2005; United Press International, April 18, 2005
4. Time, July 7, 2006, article by Joshua Marshall; Associated Press, July 14, 2006
5. Sears case: Knight Ridder Newspapers, June 23, 2006; The Independent (London), June 25, 2006; St. Petersburg Times (Florida), June 24, 2006; New York Times, August 13, 2006
6. Associated Press, July 14, 2006
7. Associated Press, April 18, 2006
8. Associated Press, July 8, 2006
9. Agence France Presse, August 11, 2006
10. New York Times, August 17, 2006. p.23
11. Washington Post, August 14, 2006, p.9