Monday, October 20, 2008

ENTER THE FT. DIX FIVE or "gimme a break!"

With apologies to Shukri, Abdulrahman, Mohammad, Ghassan, and Mufid, I have just come to a startling realization: the main problem with “terrorists” in America is that they are just not very smart.

I mean, if I were going to plan an attack on a US army base to kill American soldiers, I would not—I repeat, I would NOT—take my training film to be transferred to DVD at Circuit City. Dritan Duka, Shain Duka, Eljvir Duka, Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, and Serdar Tartar surely should have learned a lesson from the HLF: don’t keep legal records of your "illegal" activities. Don’t file IRS form 990, don’t keep years of credit card and bank statements, and STAY OUT OF CIRCUIT CITY!

There is no way to express in words the dismay and incomprehension any sane American should have that these two trials are happening at the same time. In his essay “Notes from a Naysayer,” John Mueller says, “Perhaps the most common reaction to terrorism is the stoking of fear by members of what might be called the ‘terrorism industry.’” Both the HLF Trial and the Ft. Dix Five Trial are the result of the stoking of fear by the governmental arm of the “terrorism industry.”

Even now, with our economy in meltdown, the government arm of the “terrorism industry” is producing another spectacle, while the media arm of the “terrorism industry” gives it full coverage, framing it exactly as the rest of the “terrorism industry” hopes they will:
guilty of “jihad” until proven innocent.

Dr. Mueller, who is the Woody Hayes Professor of National Security Studies at Ohio State University, where he teaches courses in international relations, makes the point far better than I can. I quote from his article:

....Threat exaggeration is encouraged, even impelled, because terrorism bureaucrats have an incentive to pass along vague and unconfirmed threats to protect themselves from later criticism should another attack occur. And the result, as statistician Bart Kosko points out, is a situation in which “government plays safe by overestimating the terrorist threat....”

This is tidily illustrated by the FBI’s “I think, therefore they are” spookiness when the purported terrorist menace is assessed. In testimony before the Senate Committee on Intelligence in February 2003, FBI head Robert Mueller proclaimed, “The greatest threat is from Al Qaeda cells in the U.S. that we have not yet identified.” [Emphasis added.]

He rather mysteriously judged the threat from those unidentified entities to be “increasing in part because of the heightened publicity…” and he claimed somehow to know that “Al Qaeda maintains the ability and the intent to inflict significant casualties in the U.S. with little warning.”

However, if the bad guys had both the ability and the intent in 2003 and if the threat they had presented was somehow increasing, they had remained remarkably quiet by the time Director Mueller testified before the same committee two years later (2005). Despite that posited ability, intent, and increasing threat; despite continued publicity about terrorism; and despite presumably severe provocation attending the subsequent U.S. invasion of Iraq, no casualties (significant or otherwise) were suffered in any attacks in the United States. Nonetheless, Director Mueller remained unflappable, calmly retreating to his comfortable neo-Cartesian mantra: “I remain very concerned about what we are not seeing,” a profundity this time dutifully rendered in bold type in his published script.

He failed to mention a secret FBI report that in the meantime had noted that after more than three years of intense, well-funded hunting, the agency had been unable to identify a single true Al Qaeda sleeper cell anywhere in the country—rather impressive given the 2002 intelligence estimate that there were as many as 5,000 people “connected” to Al Qaeda loose in the nation. For Mueller, absence of evidence apparently is evidence of existence.

Not to be left behind in the fearmongering sweepstakes, CIA analysts, convinced that Al Qaeda already had a nuclear weapon, responded to the observation that no abandoned nuclear material was found when the terrorist organization was routed in Afghanistan with the artful riposte, “We haven’t found most of the Al Qaeda leadership either, and we know that they exist.” We also know that Mount Rushmore exists; by their logic, that could be taken to suggest the tooth fairy does as well.

Mueller, John. “Fear Not: Notes from a Naysayer. Politicians, bureaucrats, and the media all have a vested interest in exaggerating the threat of terrorism— which is exactly what Al Qaeda wants.” BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS 63.2 (Mar/Apr2007) 30-37.