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Terror Alert Level


When the Boy Who Cried Wolf Becomes The Mayor of Sheepleton

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration posted an unprecedented code-red alert for passenger flights from Britain to the United States and banned liquids from all carry-on bags Thursday, clamping down quickly after British authorities disrupted a frightening terror plot.

The recent arrests that our fellow citizens are now learning about are a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation.
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This country is safer than it was prior to 9/11. We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously, we're still not completely safe, because there are people that still plot and people who want to harm us for what we believe in. It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America. And that is why we have given our officials the tools they need to protect our people.

Travelers are going to be inconvenienced as a result of the steps we've taken. I urge their patience and ask them to be vigilant. The inconvenience is -- occurs because we will take the steps necessary to protect the American people.

Again, I appreciate the close cooperation between our government and the government of the United Kingdom. The American people need to know we live in a dangerous world, but our government will do everything we can to protect our people from those dangers.
     —George W. Bush

  • Red Alert!
  • Terrorists caught in nefarious plot!
  • War!
  • Fear in the headlines!
  • The next 911!
  • Dangerous World!
  • Al Qaeda! Islamo-fascists!
  • More restrictions on liberty and travel!
  • Fear! No Safety! Fear!
  • Danger! Help! Protect Us! Save Us!

Yes, that's right — it's election time again.

Q: When an inveterate liar tells the truth how is one supposed to know? Should we be inclined to believe him? How can one possibly reach a conclusion as to the veracity of a claim in such a circumstance, especially when it concerns information that only the liar is privy to?

Thus it's almost irrelevant whether or not this "terror" plot is for real.

No, let me correct myself — it is irrelevant.

Being one of history's great gamers, once again BushCo (and friends) have created a scenario that is a win-win for them. If the terrorist plot was for real, they have succeeded in foiling it. Hurray! If the plot was phony, they still appear to have come to the rescue while making themselves impervious to criticism. Hurray! Syndrome = BushCo

(And, coincidentally, this occurred so soon after the neocons lost their favorite democratic enabler, too...)

(Speaking of which, how about this bit of historical black humor:

"For Ned Lamont to say what's happening in Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror shows how ill prepared he is to be a U.S. senator," Gerstein said. "Iraq, right now, is ground zero in terms of terrorist activity."

Hmm...I wonder why Iraq is ground zero for terrorist activity? Can't imagine. They must hate the new freedoms America went to such pains to bestow upon them, I guess.

Undoubtedly there are plots being devised against America. Undoubtedly there are many plots. Undoubtedly one of them will successfully hatch (probably shortly before an election).

And of course it's far better to foil a crime before it occurs than to apprehend the criminals afterwards.

But there's a vast gray area between intent and commission. And we, the public, find ourselves in a position where we need to believe liars using instruments of propaganda to convince us of their heroism, foresight, and competency in preventing some horrendous crime.

For some reason I'm reminded of the I Love Lucy episode where a door-to-door salesman sells vacuum cleaners: when the lady of the house opens the front door the salesman immediately chucks a lump of dirt onto the carpet, soiling it terribly. Of course she's outraged at the effrontery. But then the salesman comes to the rescue by sweeping it up with his wonderful vacuum cleaner. And thus a sale is made to the grateful housewife. (Also, as we discover later in the show, sometimes the vacuum cleaner doesn't work.)

To extend the metaphor, instead of clumps of dirt let's say the salesman takes a shit on the carpet. Soon flies are attracted to it. The salesman, after beating the housewife, spreads the shit around, pretends to swat a few flies, then demands her eternal gratitude for getting rid of a few flies.

For flies like shit — they are attracted to it. So if an imperial power takes a dump on the world you can expect flies to show up. That's part of the whole point, isn't it? It provides the pretext that will justify the power's authority to maintain its power (while also providing the pretexts that will both funnel money to their pet industries and further restrict the sheeple's messy freedoms). Then, when flies swarm to the pile of shit the Imperial Protector will come to the rescue and swat them away to our abiding gratitude.
["The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the 'state of emergency' in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight." Walter Benjamin's diagnosis, which by now is more than fifty years old, has lost none of its relevance. And that is so not really or not only because power no longer has today any form of legitimization other than emergency, and because power everywhere and continuously refers and appeals to emergency as well as laboring secretly to produce it. (How could we not think that a system that can no longer function at all except on the basis of emergency would not also be interested in preserving such an emergency at any price?)
     —Giorgio Agamben]

Plus, I can't help but wonder what kind of clever schemes those islamo-fascists will come up with next. Incendiary cabbage-patch dolls? No, too obvious. How about exploding knee-caps? No, too unstable. I know — concentrated plastique inside dental bridges, with fiber-optic detonator threads hidden inside the elastic bands of underwear. This will unfortunately necessitate full strip and cavity searches of all airline passengers (except for business class passengers — correction: white business class passengers in expensive business suits).

And we just cannot overlook my favorite quote: "people who want to harm us for what we believe in". Yes, that must be the reason, the only reason, why America has so many enemies who wish to use their very own bodies as weapons with which to kill many Americans.

Then again, maybe Bush is right. Maybe the reason there are so many terrorists determined to kill innocent Americans is because they really do hate "what we believe in." Things like believing America can, with impunity, indiscriminately bomb, torture, rape and murder whomever it wants. Things like believing America alone has the moral authority to commit terrorism. Things like believing America has the right to submit the world to its diktats at the barrel of a howitzer. Yes, America does love its freedoms, especially those freedoms that grant it the impunity to run roughshod around the world, destroying the lives of innumerable innocent souls. I guess, from this perspective, perhaps they do want to harm America for what it believes in.

So just remember, rounding up a handful of terrorists intent on blowing up airplanes with iPods and Gatorade is protecting America from acts of incomprehensible evil — incomprehensible because how can anyone but insane islamo-fascists hate what we believe in: Freedom™, Democracy™, & Cheap Burgers™. But using a great nation's airforce to indiscriminately exterminate entire villages, institutionalizing torture, killing thousands of children, taking out a country's entire infrastructure... this is American-style evangelism, exporting Freedom™, Democracy™ & Cheap Burgers™ via genocidal violence. Clearly the islamo-fascists fail to appreciate just what America is doing for them.

The truth is, we will never know the truth about the recent escapade.

But then, it doesn't matter, really, does it?

One thing is certain, however. BushCo's numbers are down — except for their perceived ability to protect America from terrorism. There's an election coming up. Don't be surprised if there are more of these episodes to come.

(Personally, I think they'll reserve the really big "band-together call-off-the-election spectacular" for the next presidential election: I see little chance that the coming election will have any effect on the imperial exercise of executive power.)

Note: Seems I'm not the only jaded cynic who reached the same conclusion.

Update [added later on 08/12/06]
Bush gets 55 pct approval on security: poll
Sat Aug 12, 3:00 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of President George W. Bush's handling of homeland security, an 11 percent jump from May, according to a Newsweek poll released on Saturday.

The poll was taken Thursday and Friday, after British authorities foiled a plot to use chemical bombs to bring down as many as 10 airliners flying from Britain to the United States.

Bush's approval rating rose to 38 percent, a 3-point increase since Newsweek conducted its last poll in May.

Fifty-four percent of respondents said they would oppose a ban on all carry-on baggage on commercial flights, the poll said.

Taken three months ahead of congressional elections, the survey found 44 percent of respondents said Republicans would do a better job handling terrorism, compared with 39 percent who preferred Democrats.

Wow, what a coincidence — less than fourteen hours after my post, too.

Update [added 08/13/06]

Reuters Sun Aug 13, 9:42 AM ET
White House officials believe the importance of pursuing the war on terrorism, an issue brought to the fore by the British terror plot, plays to their favor and they plan to talk about it on the campaign trail.

Yes, it is indeed All About the Timing:

News comes tonight from MSNBC that there was disagreement between U.S. and British officials on when to make arrests related to the recent terror plot.

A senior British official knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

In contrast to previous reports, the official suggested an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports.

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This is not a definite thing here but it sure does look like the Bush administration is politicizing terror, again. The fact that folks such as Cheney, Lieberman, Mehlman and others started aggressively pushing the "weak on terror" narrative after Bush knew about the plot and before the arrests were made, makes it difficult to deny.

Seems the script is now so obvious, predictable, and trite that it's starting to become political cornpone.

Update [Added 08/16/06]

Seems I was a mistaken about airport security necessitating full strip and cavity searches of all airline passengers. That would be too cumbersome, wouldn't it? airport security

Seems that there's now technology "to reduce the 'hassle factor' in airports and to reduce security threats."

It also seems there are no limits to the invasiveness of the State in acquiring information in the name of security.

How much will people take before they won't cooperate anymore?

If the orderly lines to the showers or open pits are any indication, there are no limits — for both State Invasiveness & Victim Cooperation. Tragically, we seem to share much with frogs in a kettle and the chefs who put them there.

Wouldn't it be great if, instead of cooperating with these new "security" measures at airports, people decided to slow down and take the train or boat instead?

Update [Added 08/17/06]
The UK Terror Plot — What's Really Going On?
So this, I believe, is the true story.

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.
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We will now never know if any of those arrested would have gone on to make a bomb or buy a plane ticket. Most of them do not fit the "Loner" profile you would expect - a tiny percentage of suicide bombers have happy marriages and young children. As they were all under surveillance, and certainly would have been on airport watch lists, there could have been little danger in letting them proceed closer to maturity - that is certainly what we would have done with the IRA.

In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harrassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most of the very few - just over two per cent of arrests - who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do terrorism, but of some minor offence the Police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered.

Manipulating the news for political advantage is all part of the game. Bush Pere, however, didn't have his son's sledgehammer finesse:
"We had to manipulate him to get him down there," said William McMullan, assistant special agent in charge of DEA's Washington field office. "It wasn't easy."

White House and DEA officials said they did nothing improper in their efforts to help Bush illustrate how widespread the local trade is.