ALSO: Have our British friends gone Mad?
I did quite a bit of reading yesterday (British time) and I want to share some of the highlights (and lowlights) with you.
On the British news scene, everyone seemed to have new and different revelations, all from unnamed sources, and all presented in a manner which (if you'll pardon my French) exuded an aroma reminiscent of a seafood market.
BBC: Terror detectives 'find bomb kit'
Police probing an alleged plot to bring down flights have found a suitcase containing items which could be used to construct a bomb, the BBC has learned.Personally I cannot imagine a terror investigator searching the woods near the place where one or more suspects lived, and coming out with a suitcase full of bomb-making materials, unless one -- or maybe even all -- of the suspects were personally responsible for the contents and location of that suitcase. Can you?
Officers have been searching a piece of land called King's Wood in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
A police source told the BBC the case contained "everything you would need to make an improvised device".
Other officers have confirmed only that a suitcase was found. Scotland Yard has not officially commented on any finds.
I mean, these investigators are not under any pressure to find anything, are they?
Ben Taylor and Stephen Wright / Daily Mail: 'Jet terror plot was to mark 9/11 anniversary'
The airline terror plot to blow up at least seven transatlantic jets was intended to mark the fifth anniversary of September 11, intelligence sources have revealed.Ohhh! Very convincing, don't you think? Let's take in some more details, shall we?
But it was not executed because its alleged conspirators were too 'inexperienced' to carry it out.
A highly placed source said: 'Look at their ages ... their faces, you will hardly believe that they are terrorists, but the fact is that they were motivated and had a plan to carry out attacks.'What about: "if they hadn't been arrested"? Or am I missing something?
'I don't know how close they were from executing the attacks, but I personally believe that they wanted to do it to mark the (5th anniversary of) 9/11 attacks.
'I personally think they would have carried out the attacks if they had been experienced enough.'
And it's my emphasis, by the way, above and below.
Guardian Unlimited: Al Qaida 'sanctioned terror plot'
The alleged terror plot to blow up US-bound planes was probably sanctioned by al Qaida No.2 leader Ayman al-Zawahri, a senior Pakistani intelligence official said.Oooh! That's a good one, isn't it? So good, it travelled all the way across the ocean in almost no time at all!
The latest investigations by Pakistan also indicate that a British national arrested in Pakistan, Rashid Rauf, was the planner of the attacks who recruited people to take part in the plot, the official said.
"We have reason to believe that it was al Qaida-sanctioned and was probably cleared by al-Zawahri."
CBS: Qaeda No. 2 Behind U.K. Terror Plot?
A Briton identified by Pakistan as a key suspect in the London airliner terror plot has links with an outlawed Pakistani militant group, and interrogations of those in custody indicate al Qaeda's leadership sanctioned the foiled plan, intelligence officials said Thursday.I definitely cannot imagine a senior Pakistani intelligence official telling a little white lie. Can you? Certainly not one decked out in fine raiment such as "probably" and "likely". And neither can you. Right??
Questioning of some of the up to 17 suspects detained in Pakistan over the alleged plot revealed that al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri likely approved the plan to blow up passenger jets flying from London to the United States, a senior Pakistani intelligence official told The Associated Press.
In my opinion, some of the reaction has been predictable, understandable, even inevitable.
Fahad Ansari / Black Information Link: British Values under Threat
Almost every day now we are all compelled to engage in a debate about the compatibility of Islamic and British values, whether it is possible for the two to co-exist or whether loyalty to one set must signal the death knell of the other.This is an excellent essay in my slightly frozen opinion and I wish you would read it all.
There are some values which cross the Islam-West divide, a crossing which signifies their importance in terms of human values. One of these common values is the presumption of innocence; that no individual shall be considered guilty until convicted in a court of law.
So fundamental is this right to the administration of criminal law that it has been explicitly stated in almost every legal code and constitution around the world from as far back as Ancient Greece, as well as being laid down in the Shari’ah and the Old Testament.
Despite its foundational value to a fair and honourable criminal justice system, the presumption of innocence has been suspended throughout the course of the ‘War on Terror’, and most recently in the current coverage of the alleged transatlantic bomb plot.
Even now, not one of the 24 individuals arrested on suspicion of involvement in the plot has been charged with any offence whatsoever. In fact, one man has been released without charge. Only time will tell whether there is any substantial evidence to charge, try and convict the remaining 23.
M K Bhadrakumar / Asia Times: Be skeptical ... be very skeptical
One of the significant contributions to the "war on terror" by Britain's home secretary David Blunkett before his abrupt departure from the Tony Blair cabinet last year was his statement on terrorism in the House of Commons that specifically flagged the possibility of a "dirty bomb" being planted in Britain by terrorists.That was a "significant contribution indeed", don't you think?
That was in November 2002, when preparations were already in an advanced stage for the march to Baghdad. We are still waiting for the dirty bomb and its lethal radiation.
Reports have appeared that the British security agencies were feeling increasingly uncomfortable that their American counterparts rushed to make out that the alleged plot was linked to al-Qaeda. More importantly, it appears that sources in London have begun distancing themselves from the plot by claiming that the British side was pressured from Washington to go public with the plot despite a lack of evidence and clear and convincing facts whether any conspiracy in fact existed at all.No kidding? Why don't they tell us these things?
Not surprisingly, the loudest voices of skepticism about the alleged plot are heard in Pakistan, where of course the public is habitually cynical over anything that goes to the credit of the establishment.
[I]t is extraordinary that the mainstream media in the US could so willingly suspend their disbelief over the patchy official claims that the plot was a "real idea" of cosmic significance. Furthermore, they dutifully ran "expert opinions" by commentators on the alleged plotters' al-Qaeda connections. Not a single mainstream newspaper in the US challenged the plot theory as such - leave alone pointed out the patent gulf between the London plotters' ambition and their ability to pull it off.Bhadrakumar goes on to share his thoughts about the recent bombing in India and its relation to al-Qaeda, or lack of same. I want you to read this whole essay, too.
Meanwhile, over at the Christian Science Monitor, I found that Tom Regan had written a good summary of the non-terror we've seen lately, under the heading Terrorist plots everywhere ... and nowhere:
In the week since British police conducted a major counterterrorism operation against an alleged plot to blow up airline flights between Britain and the US, a series of false alarms has shown how tense people have become about the threat of a terrorist attack in America. While all of the events were originally described [as], or considered, possible terrorist activities, none of them has been shown to have any connection with terrorism.You know what? I noticed that, too!
Seattle authorities evacuated dozens of workers and set up a half-mile perimeter around part of the city's port, after two sniffer dogs seemed to indicate that a container from Pakistan might contain explosives.There's plenty of jurisdictional nonsense going on as you will see if you read the entire article.
A bomb squad that searched the containers found nothing dangerous.
Also on Wednesday, a woman's odd behavior on a transtlantic flight from London to Dulles airport in Washington D.C. caused the pilot to make an emergency landing in Boston, accompanied by US Air Force jets. The woman was arrested, the passengers interrogated and their luggage searched. The Boston Globe reports that early media accounts on cable news channels, based on information from law enforcement officials, said the woman had a note mentioning Al Qaeda. This turned out to be false.
[T]he local prosecutor in Caro, Mich. reluctantly dropped terrorism charges against three Palestinian-Americans from Texas. Tuscola County Prosecutor Mark E. Reene had filed the charges against the men after they had bought dozens of cell phones at a Wal-Mart in Caro last Friday.
When the Texans were originally arrested, Mr. Reene said they had been targeting the Mackinac Bridge because they had pictures of it on their digital camera. On Monday, the FBI and state officials said the men had no relation to any terrorist group or terrorist activity, and that the photos on the camera came from "apparently wide-eyed tourists rather than would-be terrorists."
Instead, Maruan Muhareb, 18, Adham Othman, 21, and Louai Othman, 23, all of Mesquite, Texas, now face federal charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud by trafficking in counterfeit goods. They were arraigned on the new charges Wednesday in US District Court in Bay City, following a brief hearing in Caro at which a judge dismissed the state charges. The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years in prison. Money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
But in the meantime: What's going on here? Is it panic ... or fabrication ... or some of each? I suppose we'll never know. Or will we? Too many questions, not enough evidence. No evidence, actually. Meanwhile, in Great Britain:
Guardian Unlimited: 'People are definitely sceptical'
This is a man-in-the-street interview-type piece, and there's some women-in-the-street too, but that's an awkward phrase, don't you think?
American visitors to the capital say [... ] they are bewildered by the sceptical reaction of some Britons to what they see as a war.Notice the wording here, friends. Our Bostonian friend in London tumbles upon two politically charged words in the same breath: "conspiracy" and "evolution". Odd, no?
"We've been looking at your museums," says John LeClaire, from Boston, holidaying with family and friends. "In the first world war there's this blindly patriotic joining of this war that is in a sense pointless. In the second world war there is uniform support for the government once Chamberlain is got rid of. Now you have, what, about 20% of the people who think terror plots are a conspiracy? That's an extraordinary evolution."
Heck! That's nothing. Check the next paragraph.
I hereby award the First Ever Winter Patriot Prize for Orwellian Double-Speak to another Bostonian:
"It didn't cross my mind that this was a conspiracy," says Dogan Arthur, also from Boston. "It would show that terrorism is working if people think it's a conspiracy."That's still my emphasis, by the way. An extraordinary statement such as this one doesn't come along every day (praise the will of Allah!) and certainly deserves extraordinary highlighting.
What's so strange is that the vast majority of other people interviewed for this article just don't buy it.
In my opinion it is a cover-up because of what's going on in Lebanon," says Munir Khan. "When you turn on the TV you see innocent people getting killed. This [plot] distracts from that."Hmmm, a "moderate Muslim" ... there's a phrase we don't hear too often on this side of the ocean.
A moderate Muslim who has been a member of the Labour party for nearly 20 years, Khan quit about eight months ago to join the Lib Dems. He does not trust the evidence coming out of Pakistan in relation to this latest alleged terror plot. "The Pakistan government will say anything for money," he says. "If the UK government gives them money to say something, they will say it."
Well, who else is there?
Scepticism about the plot is shared by many in the area and not just by Muslims, says Qurban Hussain, a local resident and the deputy leader of Luton borough council. "People are definitely sceptical. They are not sure whether these claims are just to clamp down on British Muslims. Is it scaremongering tactics by the government or another reason to harass more innocent people?Hmmm... cannot trust the government. You don't say?
"It's a perception held by a lot of my constituents of all backgrounds. When you look back on the WMD, the information was wrong. Then we have the case of Jean Charles de Menezes. We picked up the wrong person altogether. Then the raid in Forest Gate in which a man was shot. There are so many cases people can refer to. It makes them feel they cannot trust the government."
Jerry Thornton, from Wiltshire, is with the tourists outside Downing Street. "There is so much we don't know. It [the government] is such a secretive organisation. They are all colluding together. Some of it's for our own protection, but I believe a lot of it is spin. I accept during the investigation they can't tell the whole truth but we'd like to know exactly what happened and how it was foiled."We'd like to know exactly what happened about a lot of things, Jerry.
John Jeffreys is unsure whether he trusts the government's line. "It's difficult to know. A lot of these terror alerts seem to coincide with an announcement about ID cards for instance. This time there obviously was some sort of plot but we don't know how significant it was. I don't trust the government at all. There's no doubt that Blair lied about the weapons of mass destruction before Iraq."Oh yes, it sure does! These Brits are smart, aren't they?
"It's propaganda, isn't it?" chips in his mate, Mick Perrone, 31. "It gets the whole nation on alert."
And they do some pretty good counterspin, too:
Muslim voters say they are also angered by the government's - and George Bush's - use of the term "Islamic terrorism". "Why Islamic? Look at Northern Ireland. Who was saying 'Christians' there?" says Khan.So I said to myself: "O Frozen One, it does appear that the people of Great Britain are much smarter than their American counterparts, and this might be a very good thing!"
By chance an Irish family on holiday from Belfast pull into the services on the M1 while I'm there. "This [plot] could be make-believe, so the government can say, 'Look what we're doing to fight the terrorists,'" says Joanne Burrows. "There must have been something to arrest 23 people, but plenty of people have done time in Northern Ireland for doing nothing".
Feeling all hopeful was I when I found the following extraordinary headline:
Toby Helm and Philip Johnston / Telegraph: Ditch US in terror war, say 80pc of Britons
"Eighty percent of Britons," said I. "Four out of five want to ditch the US. How extraordinary!"
According to the article, it's even more extraordinary than the headline.
[T]he survey exposed deep-seated distrust of the foreign policies championed by Mr Bush since September 11, 2001. Only 14 per cent believed Britain should continue to align itself with America.They're getting it! They're getting it! Or are they?
Well ... NO! Apparently not!
Seventy three per cent agreed that "the West is in a global war against Islamic terrorists who threaten our way of life".I still don't get this. The Brits are apparently more sceptical than Americans, by and large, and apparently they think the Bush/USA approach to terror is more or less what the Deputy Prime Minister says he didn't say, and yet they believe all the other lies! And they seem content to live with them, too!
When asked whether Britain should change its foreign policy in response to terrorism only 12 per cent said it should be more conciliatory, compared with 53 per cent who thought it should become more "aggressive" and 24 per who wanted no change.
People were divided about the Muslim community in Britain. Fifty per cent said "most British Muslims are moderate" while 28 per cent disagreed with the statement and 22 per cent did not know.
Some 60 per cent of people thought the war on terrorism would continue for at least 10 years, with 44 per cent of these thinking it would still be going on in 20 years' time.What to make of this? They see the light but they prefer the darkness? It rains too much and their brains have all gone mouldy? They're suffering side-effects from having to call soccer "football" and gasoline "petrol"? There's something in their warm dark beer that makes them psychotic? Their "embattled island" mentality insists on living forever? Or am I missing something?
Oh, wait! Now I get it: Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.
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