ago a task force of British police, some armed and others in chemical
protection uniforms, raided an East London working home and arrested
two brothers - shooting one. It was part of an alleged "terrorist
plot" to use the deadly substance ricin on an unsuspecting citizenry.
It was also a fiasco, with no terrorist plot, no ricin, and no
crime, except the shooting of an innocent man.
Yet now the
public is asked to give grateful thanks to these same law enforcement
officers who have, in the words of politicians and officials from
both sides of the Atlantic, foiled another "terrorist plot". This
one, based mainly in the similar London suburb of Walthamstow,
would have caused "mass murder on an unimaginable scale" in "Britain's
9-11" at a time of "the most severe threat since the end of the
second world war." Worse than Stalin!
the release of more facts about the 21 (or 23, or 24) young men
and one (or two) young women who intended to blow up in mid-air
nine (or 10 or 12) transatlantic airplanes "soon" or in the "next
few days" or just "imminently".
The two-score young Muslim Brits allegedly were preparing liquid
explosives disguised as soft drinks, but actually nitroglycerin
(or nitormethane, or triacetone triperoxide). However, one of
these was so unstable it was likely to fail (as it did in another
plot) or smelled so pungent a patrol dog would sniff it at half
a mile, or was "almost impossible" to mix on an airplane.
two-score young Muslim Brits
allegedly were preparing
liquid explosives disguised as
soft drinks, but actually nitroglycerin
(or nitormethane, or triacetone
triperoxide). However, one of these
was so unstable it was likely to fail
(as it did in another plot) or smelled
so pungent a patrol dog would sniff it
at half a mile, or was
"almost impossible" to mix
on an airplane.
Then we were
told the British police had been tracking this plot for a "year"
or "several months" but decided to pounce on the alleged perps
last Wednesday because of "information" from a "source" in Pakistan.
Why then? A good question, especially as we were also told none
of the intended terrorist travellers had yet purchased an airline
ticket. Odd... for at this time of year in Britain transatlantic
tickets are not immediately available - unless these were going
to be First Class terrorists, perhaps comparing their last-minute
arrangements over drinks in the VIP lounge?
But we must
not be flippant about what president Bush called the "Islamic
fascist" threat, which included, according to the Sunday Times
of London, the Al-Quaida terrorist group leader in Britain, who
was (allegedly) among those arrested. There have of course since
9-11 been terrorist attacks in several countries that killed hundreds
of people of a dozen or more nationalities.
Yet it is
difficult to avoid the conclusion that the authorities, from police
to secret service agencies, the military, civilian security forces,
and politicians including national leaders and those of cabinet
rank, behave in these times in such a way as to erode any confidence
or trust not only in their efficiency, but their good faith. It
is almost as if they were encouraging the conspiracy theorists.
we were told the British police
had been tracking this plot for a
"year" or "several months" but
decided to pounce on the
alleged perps last Wednesday
because of "information" from a
"source" in Pakistan. Why then?
Arab press immediately expressed suspicions of official motives
and explanations. Their media are poorly reported in Britain and
America, so here is a summary offered by an Arab journalist colleague
from the Al Quds al Arabi newspaper in London (from the Arabic):
latest terror plot) "is mostly intentionally exaggerated
news. The aim is to serve the political goals of the Blair-Bush
duo in their war against what they call 'Islamic terror'.
government spokespeople claimed in the past that they unveiled
terror cells and Blair has been using the policy of frightening
his people every time he is faced with a political campaign
against his policies of supporting the genocide of Arab
and Muslim people. He and his accomplice Bush, desperately
want to shift world attention from their fascist policies
of conducting daily massacre against Arab and Muslim people
in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
it was a real terror plot as claimed by UK police, then
Blair is responsible for putting his people in the danger
zone because he runs with his accomplice Bush a fascist
terror war against the children of Iraq, Afghanistan and
Lebanon, thus creating the best environment for extremists.
"If the UK police have been following up this plot for months,
as was announced, why did they wait for such a long time
to announce it - until just when the majority of British
public opinion was standing against Blair-Bush support of
the Israeli aggression against Lebanon? We doubt the UK
police claims because we know very well that faking such
plots is a very easy practice by the USA and UK governments,
who also faked the plot that Iraqi had arms of mass destruction.
these claims prove correct, we denounce those involved,
who should be punished severely. But the real responsibility
is on Bush-Blair, the axis of fascism and evil, who are
targeting Arab and Islamic countries in their new crusade..."
claimed as fact is inaccurate. The opinions are a curious reversal
of what Bush and Blair say about Muslim extremists (note the "evil
axis"), but turned upon them. The allegation of fakery is posed
- not stated as fact - but such a notion, held by many, earns
little or no space in British-US media. Not even if you replace
the word "fakery" with, for instance, "gross exaggeration." So
this media presentation is no worse than what is offered by the
English-language mainstream press; it could be argued that at
least it also presents an alternative view.
were also told none of the
intended terrorist travellers
had yet purchased an airline ticket.
Odd... for at this time of year in Britain
transatlantic tickets are not immediately
available -- unless these were going
to be First Class terrorists...
Arab subscribers were not told, as British readers of the Sun
were on Monday: "HATE-filled mums willing to sacrifice themselves
and their BABIES are being hunted in the war on terror." This
referred to a young woman with little child allegedly arrested
as one of those preparing to "die with their tots in their arms."
The Sun is well informed on what it means to be "hate filled."
the "Blair-Bush duo" has been on vacation during the alleged plot
disclosure. Blair's stand-in, the minister for home affairs, John
Reid, spoke in London in a manner that the Arab newspaper would
find familiar. He said police had caught the "main players" in
the plot, without using the word "alleged" and thus possibly jeopardizing
any trial by "prejudging" the evidence in Britain's far stricter
rules of criminal justice proceedings. He also dismissed with
contempt the charge that Britain's recent foreign incursions into
Muslim nations had exacerbated extremist hatred of its policies.
he suddenly changed his mid-week schedule to deliver an extraordinary
speech, on Wednesday itself. Instead of an address about immigration
and the justice system, he switched to "protecting the public"
from "fascists with unconstrained capability" because of their
"access to modern chemical, biological, and other means of mass
destruction." He could have been talking about the new case -
but the arrests did not happen for another 12 hours. No official
explanation was offered for the changed speech but "something
changed" a ministry spokesman admitted, without saying what.
Reid is responsible
for the police forces of Britain, and under his jurisdiction were
the disgraceful events of two months ago in the neighborhood of
Forest Gate, East London. The two brothers arrested were later
released and no charges were brought. The police who shot and
wounded one have been exonerated. Also exonerated is the police
officer who shot and killed an innocent Brazilian immigrant aged
27 on a subway train after an earlier "terrorist" raid in London
last year. The man's parents are being forced to seek justice
over their son's death through a private legal action. Meanwhile,
the police officer in charge of the death raid has put in for
her promotion, which is under "consideration."
only the Arab papers but anyone
with a cynical eye on politics in
London and Washington cannot fail
to notice how convenient was the
timing of this raid. The bloody fiasco
of Israeli aggression in Lebanon
was removed from the headlines
just as they became the worst.
gets worse. It is an established and much criticized fact in the
US and elsewhere that the most suspicious kind of tips on alleged
crimes come from a committed "informant" who clearly has reason
to gain from the information.
In the Forest Gate case the tip was from an informant, as it was
in Wednesday's arrests. Overall, the Guardian of London reported
recently, of the 701 people arrested under Britain's Terrorism
Act since the September 11, 2001 attacks, half have been released
without charge and only 17 convicted. Only three of those cases
relate to allegations of Islamist extremism. The US conviction
record over 9-11 is even worse.
Add to this
a lawyers' consensus that conspiracy charges are the hardest to
prove and the riskiest to bring, with their strong potential for
misuse. The reason is simple: Conspiring means mostly talking
("planning" police would call it) and that can mean something
serious and intentional, or speculative and without possible completion.
Yet in London's new case, conspiracy is likely to be the main
grounds for any prosecution (although already one person has been
the Arab papers but anyone with a cynical eye on politics in London
and Washington cannot fail to notice how convenient was the timing
of this raid. The bloody fiasco of Israeli aggression in Lebanon
was removed from the headlines just as they became the worst.
And, as Al Quds noted, mounting British protest and parliamentary
threats of an official inquiry, were swept away for the rest of
is difficult to avoid the conclusion
that the authorities, from police to
secret service agencies, the military,
civilian security forces, and politicians
including national leaders and those
of cabinet rank, behave in these times
in such a way as to erode any
confidence or trust not only in their
efficiency, but their good faith.
Tony Blair has also, like George W. Bush, already exploited fear
of terrorism to pass repressive new legislation severely threatening
or curtailing traditional personal and civic freedoms. He is currently
seeking to extend to 90 days the period - already lengthened once
to 28 days - during which terrorist suspects can be detained.
Blair was prevented from doing that by his parliament, but now
perhaps the mood might change...
A few Muslim
journalists in London have been permittted to voice some concern
over Britain's racial politics. One in the Sunday Times, Navid
Akhtar, who investigated young Muslims' attitudes for a British
television channel. He countered Reid's claim that terrorist attacks
prior to 9-11 invalidated the charge of British foreign policy
as an aggravation of Islamic anger.
out that most of those arrested seemed to be "fully integrated"
into British society. Two were even converts. Most were also in
their young to mid-twenties, so that "they have been caught up
in the war on terror for much of their adult lives. They have
seen their fellow Muslims being killed in wars conducted by their
own government and they feel responsible.... and live in a dual
in Britain usually avoid
rhetoric and go to lengths to be
dull even about the most spectacular
crimes... Their bold claims and
extravagant talk in this case are
grounds alone upon which to be
deeply suspicious of the
official version and the motives
of those promoting it.
As a consequence,
"a number of disillusioned youngsters feel more attached to the
global community via the internet than they do to their immediate
community on the ground."
immediate nonsense of Reid's argument about British-American foreign
policy. Yet the divisions of society come not from just that.
They are spurred by the repellent enthusiasm with which the forces
of "homeland security" pursue their dubious trade - appearing
almost to rejoice in the mayhem they believe is leveled against
in Britain usually avoid rhetoric and go to lengths to be dull
even about the most spectacular crimes. They "detain" someone
who "may help us in our inquiries" as they say about an arrest
in a horrific ax murder. Their bold claims and extravagant talk
in this case are grounds alone upon which to be deeply suspicious
of the official version and the motives of those promoting it.
Note: Christopher Reed usually reports from Japan but is in
England on a visit. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Reed previously wrote a weekly column for the Business Times in
$ingapore from the USA. It was abruptly terminated when he moved