How to understand the attempted but largely
failed terrorist plots uncovered since last Friday? Police officers on June 29
dismantled two car bombs made from gas canisters, gasoline and nails, parked in
The chronology requires further probing, and indeed, preliminary analysis raises some unresolved questions.
Their Terror… And Ours
We will start with the
“Although the two London car bombs were
rudimentary, depending on a lethal mixture of petrol, gas canisters and nails,
they could still have killed hundreds”, wrote Nigel Morris in the Independent:
“They were intended to be triggered by calls to mobile phones left in the cars. Although the bombers rang the phones several times, the bombs failed to go off. Did the calls fail to create the necessary detonation? The
attack appears to have been a failed suicide bombing. The Jeep Cherokee that smashed into the city’s airport was set alight but the gas canisters inside failed to ignite.” Glasgow
Fortunately, there were no casualties.
Unfortunately, elsewhere in the world, British and American troops were
complicit in acts of terrorism which did result in Afghan and Iraqi civilian casualties
far outweighing in scale and horror what was going on in the
More than 100 Afghan civilians were killed in a three-hour NATO bombing raid on a
village in the British-run district Helmand on Saturday, so reported the Observer citing local officials of the US-backed Afgan government, capping
off a month of bloodshed in which over 200 Afghan civilians were killed, “a
kill ratio far outstripping that of the violent sectarians of the Taliban”,
observes Floyd. Hapless British commanders involved in the operations aren’t
happy, noting that new NATO commander, US Gen Dan McNeill’s penchant for massive
airpower could be “counterproductive.” “Every
civilian dead means five new Taliban” said one British Army officer, noting
the direct connection between their radicalization and our terrorism. But while
Yet the mainstream media has shown no interest whatsoever in our terrorism. “Why do these people hate us, why do they want to attack us?” I was asked repeatedly over the weekend by various media pundits wanting to know the secret of how angry Muslims become so radicalized they want to blow themselves and others up. The usual demands for Muslims the world over to buck up and confront the bin Laden-esque “enemy within” were trumpeted. Yet there was little soul-searching about a phenomenon of equal concern – the creeping radicalization of Western societies, where the slaughter of hundreds of Afghan or Iraqi civilians by Anglo-American military forces is justifiable as a form of “collateral damage”, regrettable, but an inevitable corollary of trying to “smoke ‘em out”. Sounds disturbingly similar to al-Qaeda’s own rhetoric of justification for targeting our civilians.
But of course, we’re the free, civilized world. They’re wrong, and we’re right.
So let’s get quickly back on track to look
at the terror attempts in the
Improvised Un-explosive Devices?
Larry C. Johnson, a former senior
gasoline is not a high explosive. If we were talking 50 pounds of Semtex or the
Al Qaeda standby, TATP, I would be impressed. Those are real high explosives
with a detonation rate in excess of 20,000 feet per second. Gasoline can
explode (just ask former owners of a Ford Pinto) but it is first and foremost
an incediary. If the initial reports are true, the clown driving the Mercedes
was a rank amateur when it comes to constructing an Improvised Explosive Device
aka IED. Unlike a
His observations on the next day’s Glasgow incident are even more cutting:
unconfirmed reports indicate a nuclear blast has occurred at
need to stop equating their [religious fanatics’] hatred with actual
capability. If today's events at
As Thomas Greene further observed, absent
an oxidiser, the devices, if one could call them that, would simply have been unable
to detonate. The implication that they could have detonated, then, is
precisely state propaganda. No wonder ex-CIA terror expert Johnson described
the weekend incidents as “non-events.” Thus, concluded Peter Lehr, a research
fellow at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence,
For those tracking the recent round of
terror plots against the
The Propaganda War
Rather than reassuring the public of these
facts and implications, the government did the opposite. The
Rachel North, a survivor of the July 7th
“Oh for heaven’s sake. We ‘should worry’. That’s the suggestion is it? The official advice is: to be afraid and stay afraid? And what pray, does being told ‘to worry’ do to help aid the fight against terrorism? Terrorism being of course designed to worry, nay, terrify and terrorise people, using terror: the state of being afraid?
...What is the ‘critical - attack imminent’ stuff then, if not intimidating, and likely to make people anxious and therefore stop them getting on with their lives? … like most of the new anti-terror intitiatives, all it does is sound scary and ramp up the fear without actually doing anything practical to tackle the situation… We didn't have this during the IRA campaign or during the Blitz, so I don't see why turning the adrenalin dial up to eleven is going to help now. We can all see the news, thank you. We don't need to have our strings pulled like this.”
So we have established that there is, indeed, a sharp disparity between the reality of these plots as utterly amateur cock-ups by people with no idea whatsoever of how to actually pull off a terrorist attack, and the official propaganda from the state that these attacks could have killed hundreds – which they simply could not have done.
Perhaps it is cynical to recognize that these doomed-to-fail plots coincided with the British government’s new counter-terrorism proposals. Days before these incidents, on 27th June, the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee announced it was planning to hold a short inquiry into the new proposals for extended anti-terror powers, originally set out on 7th June by the Home Secretary.
Ironically, the Home Secretary’s
announcement for new anti-terror legislation followed hot on the heels of revelations
that a purported spectacular al-Qaeda terrorist plot unearthed in the
“The abstract, hypothetical terror plot at JFK: It sounds ominous until you ask the experts. Blow up part of the jet fuel pipeline and you still stand zero chance of blowing up the airport… We will truth squad the plot and update the ‘Nexus of Politics and Terror,’ the now 13 times officials in this country have revealed so-called terror plots at times that were just coincidentally to their political benefit, no matter how preposterous the actual schemes might have been, including the plot against Fort Dix where pizza delivery men were supposed to kill at will at an Army base full of soldiers with guns.”
But perhaps most
disturbingly, Olbermann references the extraordinary public statement by the
newly-elected Chairman of the Republican Party in
The full statement, made in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette by Chairman Dennis Milligan, is reported in Raw Story as follows:
“In his first interview as the chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, Dennis Milligan told a reporter that America needs to be attacked by terrorists so that people will appreciate the work that President Bush has done to protect the country. ‘At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing, and I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001],’ Milligan said to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, ‘and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country’.”
With all due respect: what kind of closet Stalinist thinks that “we need” another terrorist attack “like” 9/11, in order that popular dissent might “come around” in favour of Bush and his policies of domestic and international militarization, mirrored faithfully here in the UK, originally by Blair, and now it seems by his heir Brown?
To those who have researched the development of neo-conservative ideology and geopolitical strategies behind the rise of the Bush administration, this is actually a startlingly familiar sentiment among elements of the American policymaking establishment. Recall the exhortations of Bush’s home-grown think-tank, the Project for a New American Century in its September 2000 report “Rebuilding America’s Defenses”; or three years earlier, the carefully-crafted expansionist geostrategy charted by former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in his Council on Foreign Relations study, The Grand Chessboard – all looking to a spectacular Pearl Harbour-type event as a useful tool for the control of public opinion at home, and thus the legitimization of military interventionism abroad.
More closet Stalinists to add to the collection? And some of them are now in charge of the most powerful state in the world.
Further questions arise in view of the emerging evidence of several warnings of the plots received by British and American intelligence services. Now the existence of these warnings ought to be contrasted with the official line expressed at the outset, that there was no intelligence chatter, no prior intelligence, and no specific warning about what was going to happen. That stance has now been pretty much discredited.
were issued three months ago [in April 2007] about the threat of a
terrorist campaign to mark the end of Tony Blair's premiership, security
sources have revealed”. Two major agencies, the
Centre for the Protection of the National Infrastructure, which reports to MI5,
and the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, which reports to chief
police officers “warned in April about the possibility of a renewed campaign”.
One senior security source told the Guardian:
“The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre [JTAC] assessed that a group of
individuals, it is not known how many, clearly had the capability and the
intent to carry out attacks on the
Further details came from the Sunday Times which obtained a leaked copy of the JTAC assessment. The newspaper cites Patrick Mercer MP, former homeland security spokesman, asking: “If they had a JTAC document saying there was a high risk of an attack to mark the end of the Blair administration, why didn’t they raise the threat level and why weren’t people warned?”
An alleged al-Qaeda-Taliban
video, shot on 9th June in
images of Taliban military commander Mansoor Dadullah, his brother was killed
last month by US forces. On the tape, the leader of the British team speaking
of the mission in broken English said ‘Let me say something about why we are
going along with my team to tell a suicide attack in
For those with an eye for detail, the
connection between our no doubt utterly justifiable June slaughter of Afghans
and this particular warning from
They were not clean skins,
police officials are happy to admit, noting that MI5 had logged several of them
in its surveillance database of “desirable” targets, thus allowing them to be
quickly identified and apprehended. What a resounding success. “Several doctors
arrested over the
“… on a Home Office watch list after being identified by security
services - meaning their travel in and out of Britain was monitored by
immigration officers. Others were found to be on the MI5 database, which
contains an estimated 2,000 suspected jihadists or supporters of terrorism.
Desirable targets are
individuals directly associated with known al-Qaeda operatives actively engaged
in terrorist activity, and/or those involved in fundraising for terrorist activity.
But there are slight problems here. For one thing, “American intelligence
sources suggested yesterday that some cell members were recruited by al-Qa'eda
So the Americans knew about them. What about the British? In fact, who exactly were these doctors associated with? The Americans had more to tell. The Telegraph noted that:
“… reports from the US that the three men had been identified and known to be an associate of Dhiren Barot [convicted last year of a transatlantic terror plan involving nightclubs, car bombs, and other plots], a suspected terrorist who had planned to set off bombs across London, were dismissed by government officials.”
British officials are denying
what the Americans are confirming. But the Americans do not merely share all
their intelligence with the British as a matter of routine; their intelligence
operations are fundamentally inter-coordinated, and have been increasingly so
after 9/11. There are more problems. How on earth did foreign trainee doctors
logged by MI5 as al-Qaeda associates manage to pass
“their security checks” to receive “official approval to practice in the
Just on a side note, the 7/7 bombers (at least Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shahzad Tanweer), it has been admitted, were also logged by MI5 as “desirable” targets. They will have been, similarly, identified along with other relevant background data, as al-Qaeda associates, at the very least. They will have had files open on them, just as with these “desirable” targets.
And More Warnings
More embarrassing information
from the Americans has continued to appear. A senior
It should not surprise
anyone by now that the Brits are once again denying everything. “There was no prior
intelligence” about the
Yet another official
Foreign Office denial came regarding a separate warning from British priest
Canon Andrew White, head of
the Baghdad-based head of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the
“Canon Andrew White,
a British cleric working in
In any case, White points out that he did not mention the medical angle. But it looks like the Foreign Office has got itself into a bit of a tiz. Although issuing repeated denials to various foreign press, insisting that no record of the warning existed and that no recollection of the conversation could be unearthed, Bloomberg was able to report an admission:
“The Foreign Office today acknowledged receiving
information from White about the
Ah yes, too vague, although it cohered with all the other
intelligence of plans to strike the
The official British government position is not tenable.
Credible sources confirm that multiple warnings were indeed received. Repeated
official denials contradict the evidence and are internally-inconsistent. In
this context, the response of the authorities is telling. The denials eclipse
the connections of this obviously untrained group of amateurs to an
international al-Qaeda-affiliated network in
Al-Qaeda or Not? And the Strategy of Tension
The “al-Qaeda or not” question, however, is not a black or
white case. The pattern of terror plots particularly in the
Omar Bakri’s protégé, Anjem Choudray,
continues to run around the
Further questions arise when we probe the plausible
al-Qaeda connections to these incidents from
This strategy of tension in
“This administration has made a policy change, a decision that they are going to put all of the pressure they can on the Shiites, that is the Shiite regime in Iran, the Shiite - and they are also doing everything they can to stop Hezbollah - which is Shiite, the Hezbollah organization from getting any control or any more of a political foothold in Lebanon.
… we are interested in recreating what is happening in Iraq in Lebanon, that is Sunni versus Shia… we have been pumping money, a great deal of money, without congressional authority, without any congressional oversight, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia is putting up some of this money, for covert operations in many areas of the Middle East where we think that the - we want to stop the Shiite spread or the Shiite influence.
They call it the ‘
My government, which arrests al Qaeda every place it can find them… is sitting back while the Lebanese government we support, the government of Prime Minister Siniora, is providing arms and sustenance to three jihadist groups whose sole function, seems to me and to the people that talk to me in our government, to be there in case there is a real shoot-‘em-up with Hezbollah…
… So America, my country, without telling Congress, using funds not appropriated, I don't know where, by my sources believe much of the money obviously came from Iraq where there is all kinds of piles of loose money, pools of cash that could be used for covert operations… We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11, and we should be arresting these people rather than looking the other way...”
Déjà vu? An unholy triangle, the US at the helm, Saudi Arabia providing the funds, Pakistan providing military intelligence support, but this time not into Afghanistan as during the Cold War, but into Iraq and thereby throughout the Middle East. It seems, al-Qaeda is still a useful mercenary outfit for our covert regional geostrategy.
In March 2007, Hersh firmed up this conclusion in the New Yorker magazine, citing White House insiders and other US government officials, all confirming in perhaps the clearest terms that the US was deliberately attempting to control al-Qaeda terrorist activity through Saudi Arabia (among others) to be re-directed against Iran:
“The ‘redirection,’ as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
... The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.
... Flynt Leverett, a
former Bush Administration National Security Council official, told me that ‘there
is nothing coincidental or ironic’ about the new strategy with regard to
… This time, the
So, we know the al-Qaeda salafis will throw bombs. But apart from trying to blow up American, British and other civilians (and perhaps themselves if they’ve got that vibe), funnelling them arms, funds and logistical assistance will allow us to “control” them sufficiently to make life difficult for the Iranians (or even the Palestinians), perhaps even provoke them into a response that will legitimize an Anglo-American “strike at them.” Notice that national security, I mean real national security in terms of the protection of the lives of the Western publics, is not an operative factor calculated into this strategy.
Whose bombs indeed. There is a term for this kind of covert sponsorship of terror networks. It’s called “complicity,” if the Modern Law Review is anything to go by. Thus, by law, the Bush administration, and perhaps now Brown’s also, is aiding and abetting al-Qaeda. They cannot be absolved of culpability in the fall-out.
Nothing to do with oil, of course. It is merely a coincidence that in late June, a former White House energy consultant and NATO energy delegate Dr. Roger Bezdek, annoyed the Bush administration by demanding that it “must immediately and rigorously assess the looming impact of peak oil.” He said: “... it may already be too late to avoid serious problems.” Dr. Bezdek’s warning came shortly after the publication of British Petroleum’s influential Statistical Review of World Energy which claimed optimistically that sufficient oil reserves remain to meet current demand for the next 40 years. BP’s report, which echoes that of other American and British giant oil corporations, was refuted by leading independent oil industry experts including Dr Colin Campbell, a former chief geologist and vice-chairman at several major oil companies, who noted that on the contrary, the latest data shows oil is set to peak within the next four years. Indeed, Chris Skrebowski, a former chief planner for BP and now editor of Petroleum Review, observes: “I was extremely sceptical to start with. We have enough capacity coming online for the next two-and-a-half years. After that the situation deteriorates.”
Bush administration officials have long been aware of the impending oil crisis. Indeed, it was a key factor in Vice-President Dick Cheney’s formulation of the strategy in Iraq only five months prior to 9/11. Reports like that of BP are designed to misinform, steering public attention away from the real cause of the problem.
If ever there was a resource-driven strategy of
tension, this is it; and the fear being ratcheted up in the
You want to fight the terror Mr Brown? Perhaps you can start by fighting your new boss, Mr Bush.
Somehow, I don’t see it happening.
Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is the author of The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry (Overlook, 2006) and The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism (Olive Branch, 2005), among other books. He teaches international relations at the
Universityof Sussex, and directs the Institute for Policy Research & Development in (www.globalcrisis.org.uk). London
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