24 July 2007

Creating Terror: a lateral view

I recently did a talk on this subject at the Indian YMCA, and a couple of people have written summaries of it.

London Sound Posse kindly recorded the whole thing and have put it up online here:

http://media.putfile.com/Nafeez-Ahmed---Creating-Terror---7-13-2007

and/or here:

http://www.radio4all.net/proginfo.php?id=23955

A short synopsis and commentary on the talk can be found at 9/11 Cult Watch here, by Paul Stott, who works with the parapolitical journal Notes from the Borderland.

Another synopsis and introduction has been posted by Reprehensor on 9/11 Blogger here.

It's interesting that websites which offer quite opposing theoretical interpretations of the events of 9/11 are nevertheless both able to appreciate my work in this area.

18 July 2007

Lenin and 7/7: a Review of the Review PART 2

[Please note, this is Part 2 of a piece posted just below. If you haven't seen that yet, then please scroll down and start reading Part 1 first, as otherwise it won't make as much sense. Cheers.]

... Continued from Part 1

De Menezes: Illogical?

Lenin moves on to summarise my examination of the police assassination of De Menezes.

“Menezes was ‘a marked man’, but we don't know why. This portentous speculation, which substitutes for evidence or even discernible logic, is one of the most irritating aspects of the book.”

Why Lenin insists on being so repeatedly “irritated” by minor turns of phrase is difficult to understand. Menezes was indeed a marked man. He had been targeted by multiple police and security agencies for reasons that we still don’t know. The evidence and logic for that assertion is absolutely clear from the preceding several pages of discussion about the chronology behind his assassination, the evidence of senior official manipulation of events, and the inexplicable violation of Kratos procedures continually cited by official police spokesmen as the explanation of why he was shot.

Here is a fuller excerpt from that concluding paragraph in the book:

“In the Menezes case, the bulk of the evidence available in the public record strongly suggests that the threat perceptions of officers on the ground were manipulated by senior officials for reasons that so far remain difficult to fathom. While the weight of the evidence shows that Menezes was certainly a marked man, the conventional explanations of why he was targeted in this manner are either obviously false or riddled with inconsistencies. Although much clearly remains unknown about the shooting, one thing is certainly apparent: purported anti-terrorist operations conducted in the name of ‘national security’ without sufficient democratic accountability can backfire drastically, to the extent that the ‘security’ of an innocent civilian who should have been subject to the state’s protection instead became its victim.”

Does this really sound like “portentous speculation” substituting for “evidence or even discernable logic”? Or does it sound like Lenin trying hard to sound really clever and like he knows what he’s talking about, but really just doesn’t like the conclusions?

Warning: More Routine Misrepresentations

Lenin then moves on to the warning signs of the attacks.

“The Saudi warning ‘remarkably’ contained ‘very specific information’ - the target was the Underground, the cell contained four people (unnamed) and the month was July 2005 at the latest. Unfortunately, Ahmed omits the bit about the target being ‘the Underground or a London night club’ and the timescale being ‘within six months’.”

Lenin dude. Which book are you reading? It’s at this point that one is forced to conclude that Lenin simply can’t help but bullshit his way through a book review. Here’s the fuller text of my comments on the Saudi warning:

“In December 2004, Saudi intelligence provided MI6 with details of an imminent terrorist plot to bomb the London Underground. The Saudis even confirmed that the terror cell involved would consist of four people. Senior Saudi security sources told the Observer that the plot ‘involved a Saudi Islamic militant who fought with insurgents in Iraq and was financed by a Libyan businessman with links to Islamic extremists in the UK.’ The militant was arrested after returning to the Gulf kingdom from Iraq on a false passport in the name of a fellow insurgent known to have been killed.

Under interrogation he told Saudi intelligence officers that ‘he was on a mission to fund a plot to target the Underground or a London night club within six months’ – in other words, by July 2005… Remarkably, it contained very specific information alerting British security services to the threat of an imminent strike: it revealed the target – the London Underground; precisely established a maximum time-scale for the operation’s execution – July 2005; and confirmed the size of the cell involved, four men. During that six-month period, authorities knew exactly what was in preparation on UK soil.”


Was Lenin reading the same book? Is he just “making shit up”, to quote his well-crafted phrase?

“Similarly, Ahmed mentions the Spanish interception of a message ordering attacks on Europe - he neglects to add that the putative authors of the message, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade, are not the most reliable bunch. In fact, since this alleged group has taken responsibility for almost every recent terrorist attack including in London and Madrid, it is a matter of some doubt that they actually exist.”

A more balanced and informed description of Abu Hafs al-Masri and how Western intelligence agencies view it is here:

“The attacks for which they claim responsibility are generally attributed to al-Qaeda, or al-Qaeda-linked groups. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's #2, has claimed responsibility for the organization on more than one occasion... Doubts of the group's existence stem from the fact that several of their claims are clearly false. ... This claim certainly calls the group's credibility into question. However, there is no conclusive evidence to show that all of their claims are false. What is clear in their statements, though, is that the group subscribes to the ideology of al-Qaeda.”

This means that any warning of a terrorist attack coming from Abu Hafs al-Masri would not simply be rejected as wholly unreliable., as Lenin seems to imply. Neither would it be taken at face value. However, it would count as simply one warning amongst others, whose ultimate credibility would be considered in the context of a wider intelligence assessment of available warnings. One has to consider the warnings in the context of how they would input into the intelligence assessment process.

“Ahmed cites the preposterous Zionist propaganda site Israel Insider which supposedly 'confirms' a similar story (it cites a German newspaper story which claims that the bombing was linked to one in Tel Aviv).”

I love it! “Preposterous Zionist propaganda site”!! Doesn’t Lenin get the point? It’s the Chomsky-Herman methodology, to seek out nuggets of information precisely from within the mainstream media, and especially from sources least likely to make such admissions. The fact is that the Israel Insider is indeed a pro-Zionist news site, but one that is respected particularly as it is actually very well-connected to Israeli government and security sources. If they too confirm this story, then there is absolutely something in it. They would have no motive to manufacture such anti-Zionist propaganda about Israeli officials having some sort of advanced warning of the 7/7 attack.

“This is neither deduction, nor induction - it is reduction to absurdity. Based on retracted reports, the dodgiest of sources and pure rumour, Ahmed leaps to the most auspicious conclusions. He claims his analysis is supported by Stratfor, but it cites unconfirmed rumours.”

As usual, Lenin misses the point. Stratfor does indeed cite “unconfirmed rumours” within intelligence circles, rumours corroborated as real by several other sources (including Israeli security ones) as already noted. Stratfor, finally, which is a private intelligence firm, takes these rumours very seriously, so much so that it says, as I quote in the book: “The British government sat on this information for days and failed to respond. Though the Israeli government is playing along publicly, it may not stay quiet for long. This is sure to apply pressure on Blair very soon for his failure to deter this major terrorist attack.”

Those are not statements to make lightly, and Stratfor is not the kind of organisation which regularly makes such statements.

“Ahmed cites "inexplicable" bomb scares prior to the attacks such as this one - yet, he goes on to describe its explicability: there was a suspect package, and someone had made a prank call. Two days later, there was another in Scotland, near the G8 summit. Another suspect package. "In any case", Ahmed avers, this "should have heightened security concerns around the country". This is a 'warning'?”

This is really getting tiresome. Lenin needs someone to hold his hand and walk him through every minor turn of phrase. The bomb scares were indeed “inexplicable” because we (still) don’t know who was responsible for these scares. The suspicious package was “deliberately packaged to look like a bomb”, and investigators had “no idea for the reasons behind the prank” call. Does that make them explicable? Not when we don’t know who did them and why. We could probably argue back and forth about such things, but what’s the point? Such bizarre verbal sleights of hand are replete throughout Lenin’s review.

He is also incredulous that such events could ever constitute a “warning”. Perhaps he should interview a couple of ex-intel people and ask them what they think. I have. By themselves, the bomb scares wouldn’t mean anything more than what they were. But Lenin does not seem to understand how intelligence assessment works. It works by developing multiple sources into a single analysis of a specific threat. As I write in the book, and as Lenin ignores: “In view of the specific intelligence already clearly available about an impending strike on the London Underground, bomb scares occurring during this particular time period coinciding with the Summit were indications that an attack could be looming at any time.” The bomb scares occurred on the back of a whole series of warnings, one of which specifically pointed to July 2005 as the deadline for an attack on the UK.

“How about this theory? Abu Hamza was on trial that morning - perhaps the attacks were aimed at disrupting that for all of six months? Apparently, "terrorist trials are a traditional 'watch date' for security service", especially as 9/11 happened "on the same date as the conviction of al-Qaeda operative Ramzi Yousef ... 11 September 1996". Bollocks. Yousef was convicted on September 5th, 1996, not September 11th, 1996 - he was also convicted on other dates for other offenses. Why does he do this?”

I accept and acknowledge this error about the date of Yousef’s conviction. Unfortunately, some years ago I read the wrong material, an analysis of the 9/11 intelligence failure by the normally quite careful Dr Paul Monk, a former Australian defence intelligence analyst. Monk wrongly says that Yousef was convicted on 11th September 1996: “The date of Youssef’s conviction was 11 September 1996. From that point, given the fascination terrorists have with anniversaries, 11 September should surely have become a watch date.” Although Monk’s specific argument about 9/11 is therefore clearly false, as is my appropriation of it in the book, his logic as a defence intelligence analyst is correct; and is still applicable generally to 9/11 and 7/7. It is well-known that around September 2000, a videotape was released by al-Qaeda with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri promising to take revenge on the US for imprisoning the Blind Sheik, convicted of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a warning which may well have indicated the danger of another attempt on the WTC.

Lenin also, as usual dishonest, lazy and/or ideological in his approach, misrepresents my argument about the Abu Hamza trial. I don’t say that the 7/7 attack was planned for the specific aim to “disrupt” his trial. I do quote a Times article which notes: “On the morning of July 7 Abu Hamza was in the dock at the Old Bailey about to stand trial. But his case was postponed for six months.” The schedule of the trial “raises a possible new explanation for the timing of the attacks.”

The explanation may be that the timing for the London Underground attacks already being prepared was chosen on the basis of the date of Abu Hamza’s trial, but not because of the trial itself. The circumstantial evidence supporting this inference, explained in the book, is Omar Bakri’s January 2005 fatwa annulling the “covenant of security” and lambasting Britain’s anti-terror laws, just then being applied to his associate Hamza whose trial date was then scheduled for 7th July 2005. This is a plausible scenario requiring further investigation, pretty much impossible in the absence of an independent public inquiry. It is also one that I know for a fact the 7/7 Inquiry Group of survivors and families take seriously. But Lenin’s response is simply condescending dismissal, which I believe says more about his own approach, than the argument at hand.

Obfuscating on Behalf of the Alleged 7/7 Mastermind

Lenin’s treatment of the anomalies surrounding suspected 7/7 mastermind, senior al-Qaeda operative Haroon Rashid Aswat is equally astonishing.

“His accusers, however: ‘unnamed American counterterrorism officials’. Later, ITN news reported that Aswat has phone links with two of the bombers, (although Ahmed might have noticed that ITN was merely summarising what had been in some of the papers that day). Again, however, it is unnamed security sources: unnamed security sources tell me that the Times is full of shit.”

Sorry Lenin, it’s those awful unnamed security sources again. Then oddly, he continues:

“Well, at any rate, Aswat does seem to have some history of involvement in radical Islamist activity, so it is not impossible.”

So how does Lenin know that Aswat seems to have such a history? Er, security sources. So why is the history of Aswat’s terrorist activity plausible, but his connection to 7/7, not? Because Lenin says that the latter’s “full of shit”, that’s why. I don’t think most people would consider his a reasonable analysis.

“Similarly, what kind of feeble denial is it when Whitehall officials deny 'any knowledge' that Aswat was potentially an MI6 agent? I like to think, boys and girls, that if I was a state official asked to confirm or deny such a claim, I could do better than that.”

Not even clear what Lenin's ultimate point here is. Is he being critical or supportive of my argument, or engaging in yet more incoherent rambling? If critical, it hasn’t actually occurred to Lenin that perhaps the reason Whitehall has not specifically denied the allegations that Aswat was an MI6 informant, is because they cannot deny. But for Lenin even a non-denial such as this amounts to evidence to the contrary, or at least reason for scepticism! This is not a rational manner of inquiry.

“Loftus, as I say, makes the charge, and is supported in it by John O'Neill, a former FBI counter-terrorism agent. Unfortunately, Loftus displays a certain amount of ignorance in his claims, alleging that Al-Muhajiroun ‘got started’ when the British decided to recruit ‘some Al Qaeda guys’ to ‘defend the Muslim rights in Albania and in Kosovo’. That particular sect ‘got started’ in 1996, when it split from Hizb ut-Tahrir.”

Actually, former Justice Department official John Loftus is supported by former and active American intelligence officials, including FBI investigators, as well as their French counterparts. However, he is explicitly NOT supported by John O’Neill, a former FBI counter-terrorism agent who actually died in the 9/11 WTC attacks. Fair enough, the New Criminologist report doesn’t say anything about O’Neill having died, but still not sure how Lenin manages to misread the report which certainly doesn’t suggest that O’Neill supports Loftus (from the dead).

But anyway, the multiplicity of security sources across the Atlantic isn’t enough for Lenin. Perhaps they were all conspiring to come up with this story for some bizarre hitherto unknown motive?

A simpler and more credible conclusion is that they’re actually revealing credible information available to them, that is highly embarrassing for the British (and American) state intelligence agencies. But Lenin then tries to discredit Loftus for saying that al-Muhajiroun was founded when the British decided to recruit "some Al Qaeda guys" in Kosovo. He argues that al Muhajiroun is “a sect” that actually got set up in 1996, when it split from Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Actually, firstly, al-Muhajiroun is not a sect, and doesn’t claim to be one. Secondly, no contradiction here. The British SAS and US Special Forces were active in Kosovo training KLA fighters in 1996 according to Balkans expert Tim Judah, the same year that al-Muhajiroun was formed as a breakaway group from the Hizb. Loftus’ information thus shows that Omar Bakri and company were involved quite early on in Kosovo. This is consistent with many other reports about Anglo-American involvement in the Balkans, some available in my London bombings book and The War on Truth.

Abu Qatada, and More Trademark Verbal Wizardry

Moving on, Lenin talks about my discussion of Abu Qatada:

“His lawyer is cited by Ahmed is saying that he was being monitored by intelligence and that 'his actions had a large degree of tacit approval'. However, Ahmed's source actually has Qatada's lawyer stipulates Qatada's opposition to and non-involvement in terrorism. The 'tacit approval' alleged by Qatada's lawyer is actually for lawful, 'spiritual' activity. (The constant, and completely unnecessary, misrepresentation of sources by Ahmed is extremely discouraging).”

Once again, the misrepresentation here is on Lenin’s part. The Guardian piece referred to does not state that the security services gave “tacit approval for lawful, spiritual activity”. It makes two separate observations 1) that Abu Qatada denies involvement in terrorist activity; and 2) that Qatada’s activities as a cleric in the UK received “tacit approval” from British security services. Lenin takes both at face value, and therefore presumes that they are logically entwined. I don’t, and they aren’t.

The point is rather simple. I don’t accept that Qatada was entirely innocent of terrorist activity, and therefore do not find his denial credible. Does this mean I am obliged to ignore the second observation, that his activities as a cleric received tacit approval from MI5? In my view, no. The “tacit approval” is confirmed by his own lawyer as part of his defence, and finds coherence with other evidence such as the findings of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, as Lenin acknowledges, where MI5 specifically concedes that he had contact with dangerous extremists as part of his “spiritual” activity; and further, Qatada’s absolute innocence of terrorist activity is in contradiction to other evidence in the public record mentioned in the book. Hence, my focus on this particular observation is a perfectly reasonable interpretation, and indeed arguably the most plausible. Lenin, as usual, is simply nitpicking to avoid alarming conclusions.

Finally, in his summary of my argument about Abu Hamza, Lenin mentions the al-Qaeda Encyclopaedia that was used to secure his conviction, but not the 600 tapes containing evidence of incitement to violence and terrorism that police had confiscated in 1999, but returned, only to use 3 of them to obtain a conviction in 2006. Lenin remains unconvinced by the evidence described by MI5 informant Reda Hassnaine. He dismisses the evidence from British “intelligence sources” about Hamza’s terrorist training programmes using AK-47’s, describing them as “those mendacious guys?”; without pausing to read closely how these sources were in fact “worshippers at Finsbury Park who opposed” Hamza’s hardline stance, and were thus recruited by MI5 “to help monitor the activities of extremists”. He criticises my use of the report relying on testimonials from detainees in Guantanamo, which is fair enough, except he doesn’t point out that I fully acknowledge the exact same problem as follows: “Although the legal value of the testimonies is questionable, the details have been independently corroborated by other witnesses. Indeed, Hamza made no effort to conceal the extensive training sessions, which were openly advertised at Finsbury Park mosque.”

And finally, one more outstanding example of Lenin’s extraordinary analytical skills, where he takes issue with my criticism of statements by David Blunkett about the Hamza failure:

“(At this point, Ahmed is once more extremely sloppy, claiming that if Blunkett had used his extensive anti-terrorism powers, Hamza could have been arrested seven years before his conviction in 2006 - Blunkett became Home Secretary in 2001.)”

I of course accept that this is another silly error. Sloppy yes. Extreme, not quite.

Concluding Observations

“Unfortunately, Ahmed relies on tendentious sources, tentative reasoning, and sometimes straightforward misrepresentation. It is a pity because even when you discount for all that (and I have necessarily focused on those aspects of the book that I want to challenge or scrutinise most), there remains a strong case for an independent investigation, reasonable suspicions about the use of Islamist activists and groups by intelligence and serious misgivings about the official account provided by the government. There is an account of the relations between states and Islamist groups which use terror, drawing on the same kinds of media and internet sources that characterise Ahmed's book throughout, which is useful if equally tendentious.”

This is essentially Lenin’s summary of the book. The principal problem is that for the most part, Lenin’s criticisms apply less to the book and more to his own review. Perhaps the only main points that can justifiably apply are my two embarrassing blunders about the date of Ramzi Yousef’s conviction, and Blunkett doing something about Hamza before he was actually Home Secretary. Inexcusable errors, but hardly fatal. Apart from that, upon deeper scrutiny of Lenin’s methodological approach, his critique is far below compelling, to put it politely. (Lenin's own phrase about "making shit up" comes to mind....)

In conclusion, Lenin’s blanket approach to the issues and reports raised in the book signifies the extent to which his social analyses are highly ideologically-charged; he is able to accept official accounts in understanding 7/7 in general from police, government and media; but cannot accept particular kinds of reports from official police, government and media sources that contradict those official accounts; he cannot stomach material from the “right” or “ultra right” or “hard right”, which he feels somehow automatically mean the material is not worth considering; and once his mind is made-up, he uses these filters to ignore all information, however credible, that questions his preconceptions; and worse, he repeatedly uses verbal sleights-of-hand and outright misrepresentations in a concerted effort to disparage arguments which he finds unpalatable.

This is a shame, as from reading many of Lenin’s other posts, he is normally far more careful and sophisticated in tackling complex theoretical questions, such as those relating to capitalism and imperialism. Unfortunately, his treatment of issues surrounding terrorist attacks on the West, such as 9/11 and 7/7, although at first glance apparently formidable, upon close inspection is revealed to be surprisingly poor.

Lenin and 7/7: a Review of the Review PART 1

This is a detailed response to Lenin’s review of my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry. I apologise in advance for the length of this response, which was written after an exchange with Lenin on his website where he described his review as presenting "an unanswerable case". Hence, although his review was published last year, I decided that a full "review of the review" is in order. Due to length, this response is being posted in two parts.

The thrust of Lenin’s criticisms of my book is essentially that I am rather indiscriminate with sources, frequently misrepresent them, and in many cases use sources which are simply unreliable.

Brief Preamble on Methodological Issues

It’s worth noting that Lenin’s review does not address the bulk of the book. Chapter 1, he generally summarises with a few minor points of contention. Chapter 2, he looks in detail at about two-thirds of the chapter, veering off toward the end of sub-section 2.2. He then cherry-picks a few bits and pieces from chapter 4, noting references to hoax bomb plots in the run up to 7/7, Haroon Rashid Aswat, and that’s essentially about it. He doesn’t directly refer to the rest of the book at all, which he more or less dismisses as replicating the same sort of lazy, piecemeal, unreliable sourcing which he documents above. As such, his argument is that the book’s overall thesis is untenable. But this is odd, as Lenin’s review doesn’t really come across as a review. He doesn’t explain the book’s overall thesis and logic, but jumps straight into the deconstructive action, after which he seems to conclude that there’s no thesis or logic to bother with.

In doing so, I will argue that in fact Lenin’s methodological approach to the material presented in the book is unscientific, inconsistent, and systematically engages in misrepresentation, which could be down either to sloppiness or intellectual dishonesty, I don't know which. My basis for arguing this is that Lenin frequently confuses reasonable scepticism about official sources with grounds to dismiss any official source willy-nilly if it doesn’t fit one’s preconceptions. In the end, Lenin ends up doing what he accuses me of. I suspect that this is because he seems to be unaware of the importance of narrative analysis.

As the book was meant to be read by a general audience, I deliberately avoided talking about methodological issues involved in the research behind it in the text. However, I can explain those briefly here. Throughout my political writings, loosely speaking, I use a combination of narrative analysis with traditional empirical and historical criticism to understand events.

In interrogating the events of, and up to, 7/7, the source material available to the public is limited. We have:

1) The Whitehall official narrative published in May 2006.
2) The House of Commons Intelligence & Security Committee report, May 2006.
3) The London Assembly report into the emergency response, June 2006 (which is not used in the book)
4) Facts and allegations reported by the mainstream media from multiple primary sources, namely eyewitnesses, observers, and officials working for government, police and security agencies.

As most reasonable people don’t dispute, what emerges from these sources is ultimately riddled with anomalies and inconsistencies, some of which are currently impossible to resolve. I attempt to use these sources to do the following:

1) Chart the key anomalies and inconsistencies in the official narrative as publicly endorsed by the government and its agencies.
2) Discern chronological and material trends in the way these anomalies tend to appear, to see whether patterns can be adduced therefrom
3) On this basis, build up a more credible and plausible understanding of events.

Part of the problem here is that one simply cannot avoid official sources. One of Lenin’s repeated gripes is my use of official sources, particularly ones tracing back to unnamed officials. The problem is that everything we know about the attacks, except perhaps eyewitness accounts filtered through journalistic narratives, ultimately comes from official sources. And many key issues in the 7/7 narrative that are widely accepted come from anonymous security sources. So how to navigate the reliability of these sources and their claims? Internal consistency is one factor, of course; and the other is external coherency, how much the reports cohere with other reports from separate sources, and whether there is any solid body of alternative evidence that contradicts it. In some cases, one may be left with nothing but a pile of inconsistencies with little reason to go either way; in other cases, the overview of the available data will suggest more plausible interpretations than others. There is one further factor involved, and this has been outlined by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in their seminal book, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, which not only explains how the mainstream media is structured according to a “guided free market model” to generate propaganda in the service of state and corporate interests, but how a discerning member of the public can still derive valuable information from the same media system:

“That the media provide some information about an issue... proves absolutely nothing about the adequacy or accuracy of media coverage. The media do in fact suppress a great deal of information, but even more important is the way they present a particular fact - its placement, tone, and frequency of repetition - and the framework of analysis in which it is placed… That a careful reader, looking for a fact can sometimes find it, with diligence and a skeptical eye, tells us nothing about whether that fact received the attention and context it deserved, whether it was intelligible to most readers, or whether it was effectively distorted or suppressed.” [Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, ‘Propaganda Mill: The Media Churn Out the “Official Line” ’, Progressive (June 1988) p. 15; summary of Manufacturing Consent.]

Given “the enormous amount of material that is produced in the media and books”, it is therefore “possible for a really assiduous and committed researcher to gain a fair picture of the real world by cutting through the mass of misrepresentation and fraud to the nuggets hidden within.” [Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War, p. 14]

One of the most important criteria for navigating the mass of potential misinformation churned out by the media is, therefore, how a piece of information relates to an official or conventional narrative. Given the extensive armour of structural, financial, institutional and editorial filters that work to prevent dissenting information from surfacing, such information that surfaces in the mainstream yet contradicts officialdom bears some credibility. It will bear additional credibility, if different sources can be found to corroborate it. In this context, one cannot simply dismiss something simply on the sole ground that it comes from officialdom. This is a mistake made by many conspiracy theorists (and also by Lenin, very selectively). One needs to conduct a sometimes fairly complicated analysis of a large body of official data to discern outstanding “nuggets” of information contradicting the conventional wisdom, and general patterns of inconsistencies, by which to generate a more objective understanding of events.

Disputing the Covenant

I will start by dealing with the specific claims Lenin makes a couple of paragraphs into his review, where the substantial portion of his critique begins.

“And here, the book becomes rather lazy. Several sources are adduced to illustrate the claim that large, radical Islamist organisations operated from and through Britain - albeit from the same sources (police and media) which have proven so unreliable elsewhere.”

Here the fundamental flaw in Lenin’s methodological approach is clearly stated. In the previous paragraphs, Lenin summarises my critique of some of the more technical and logistical aspects of the official 7/7 narrative without much comment. He notes that much of this information came from police and media sources (to be more accurate, from either official police statements and/or police sources quoted in journalistic accounts). Here he seems to imply that as these “same sources… have proven so unreliable elsewhere”, I shouldn’t use them to illustrate that “large, radical Islamist organisations operated from and through Britain.”

As I’ve tried to make clear in my very brief discussion of methodological issues above, this is hardly a scientific approach. Lenin takes a very specific example of inconsistent official statements from police and media sources, and then concludes therefore that all such police and media sources have now been “proven so unreliable” and hence are unusable. The problem here is that, if Lenin really believed this, he wouldn’t be in a position to believe anything about anything, as much of what we understand about current affairs ultimately comes from such sources. The finding of “unreliability” cannot be extrapolated in blanket fashion to any information from “police” or “media”, simply because of some anomalies relating to a specific set of empirical/historical questions.

It is also, therefore, pretty obvious that in fact the sources I quote regarding the operation of radical Islamist organisations in the UK are in fact largely different to the sources discussed in relation to the technical and logistical inconsistencies in reports about the 7/7 bombings. Different media/news sources; different articles; different experts and different police/security officials. A quick perusal of my footnotes will show this.

If by “same sources”, Lenin means “same newspaper”, then obviously this is an absurd confusion of cause and consequence. The inconsistencies in these specific police accounts do not by themselves mean that everything the newspapers that reported such accounts say is unreliable. It means at least that the police made errors, for specific reasons that we’re not yet sure about, and these were reproduced by certain mainstream media outlets. We know that these specific accounts are unreliable not because they come from the police, or come from the media, as Lenin’s logic wrongly suggests, but because they are inconsistent.

“Glen Jenvey, a 'private intelligence professional' who alleges he had some role in getting information that led to the sentencing of Abu Hamza al-Masri, is cited as saying that Bakri is a 'prime suspect'.”

Lenin omits to point out that I begin this section by quoting directly from Omar Bakri Mohammed, the Syrian cleric in exile who heads the network formerly known as al-Muhajiroun. In the year before the 7/7 attacks, Omar Bakri warned about an impending attack being prepared by al-Qaeda affiliated/inspired groups in London and the UK; and less than six months before the attacks issued a fatwa declaring that Britain, and British civilians, were now a legitimate target of al-Qaeda jihad.

As for Glen Jenvey, Lenin describes him thus:

“Well, Jenvey is a reactionary Islamophobic bigot who thinks everything that moves and has brown skin is Al Qaeda, so I don't trust him and don't see any reason you should either. I have found no corroboration of Jenvey's alleged role in Hamza's arrest and sentencing, and at any rate, Hamza has not been found to have been involved in terrorist activity as Jenvey claims - the only conviction under the Terrorism Act is his possession of an Encyclopaedia said to have been written by bin Laden's network.”

Well I’ve interviewed Jenvey a number of times and simply disagree. Yes, much of his work is reproduced on Islamophobic websites espousing very hateful views. Yet in our discussions, Jenvey has been quite explicit in his statements about Islamist terror networks in the UK, that they are a marginal group of extremists that have no relationship either to Islam, or to the wider Muslim community. His work has focused specifically on people connected to Abu Hamza, Omar Bakri, etc. He has stated specifically that extremist preachers like Omar Bakri should not even be seen as Muslims, but are “Islamists” only in that they justify their activities using Islamic language, theological arguments, etc. As for corroboration of Jenvey’s claims about his role in Hamza’s arrest, I took the trouble to find out that a number of British and American police officials, as well as journalists, have confirmed his story. Jenvey is viewed as an expert on Abu Hamza by several security agencies. (And some of these confirmations are available in media reports for anyone who cares to look.) That doesn’t mean that we should take Jenvey at his word for everything, but that he does have some credible insight into the way these groups work.

Omar Bakri, Leader of al-Muhajiroun, and "Clown"

Lenin goes on with his deconstructive effort:

“Ahmed further cites the claims of an alleged al-Muhajiroun member and confessed 'Al Qaeda sleeper' named Muhammad Junaid Babar, who says that intelligence were watching Khan. He has, since being caught, become an 'informant' for intelligence.

Ahmed cites an unnamed 'investigator' who alleges that Hamza was closely connected to Al-Muhajiroun, which in turn was suspected of links to 'Al Qaeda' through Bakri. The source this time is a URL which turns out to be a
story in the Queen's Chronicle. (Quite a few of the footnotes, unfortunately, are URLs, without article titles or authors.) The attempts to trace a connection between the 7/7 bombers and 'Al Qaeda' at this point are extremely sloppy and unconvincing.”

I’m not clear whether Lenin thinks the two sources above are also sloppy and unconvincing. In any case, Lenin is happy to cite a court case and legal process relating to Abu Hamza as self-evident proof that he has not been involved in terrorist activity other than possessing a dodgy encyclopaedia. Here, I refer to an individual, Muhammed Junaid Babar, used as the chief witness for the prosecution in the crevice trial. Some of Babar’s information is therefore credible and is further corroborated by other sources not involved in such legal processes, such as that from the anonymous investigator on the links between Abu Hamza, al-Muhajiroun and al-Qaeda. The idea that al-Muhajiroun is associated with al-Qaeda is consistently at odds with the official police and government position.

“There follows a discussion of Bakri and his organisation's alleged involvement in terrorism, all sourced to this testimony from Andrew Dismore MP. I'm afraid the idea that a pathetic clown like Bakri has ever been a serious figure in these movements is unconvincing, and Dismore's claims are poorly sourced. Often they amount to Bakri mouthing off.”

Actually, Lenin omitted some important points. What followed from the previous comments in the book that Lenin ignores, was a preamble about the “covenant of security” between Islamist extremist networks and UK authorities. I quote a variety of general sources to illustrate that this framework did indeed exist for over the last decade, namely Lt. Col. (ret.) Crispin Black, a former senior intelligence officer and adviser to Downing Street on terrorism; a quote from Algerian Muslim journalist Mohamed Sifaoui who penetrated al-Qaeda cells, cited in the New Statesman; and a Chatham House briefing paper. These are strong, credible sources, two of which involved individuals with direct experience of the issues, on the subject of the blanket protection of radical Islamist groups by the British state, giving them free reign to plan and support operations abroad as long as they do not target home.

It should be noted that the official position of the government, police and security services is quite the contrary – that at no time were such groups ever allowed to operate according to such an intelligence paradigm. It should also be noted that the official position of the government, police and security services is exactly the same as Lenin’s: Omar Bakri is merely a “pathetic clown”, never a “serious figure” in “these movements”.

Lenin links to a Guardian article by Jon Ronson on some of Omar’s clownish behaviour. Yet this is hardly convincing. The ability to clown around and display idiotic behaviour with a journalist hardly discounts the point I’ve been making, which even Jon Ronson sheepishly admits in the same piece linked to by Lenin: “Without Omar clowning around on stage, how is Scotland Yard going to monitor the less clownish people who sit in his audience?” And towards the end, he observes: “ ... It is a shame that Omar has gone for good. Now there’s less chance that the security services will be able to monitor and scrutinise the other people in the room.”

Even by this naïve account of Bakri, naïve because it presumes that open interviews and meetings with an extremist Islamist militant will produce everything one needs to know about him without requiring any investigative journalism, Ronson nevertheless acknowledges that Bakri recruited “less clownish people” whom the security services need to monitor, in other words who may well get involved in serious militant activity. And this is precisely what Ronson doesn’t investigate in further detail even though he acknowledges it, mainly because his personal journalist remit is to focus on other more amusing issues. But many other sources do show that Omar Bakri was ultimately a point-man, a node, between generally younger vulnerable Muslims in the UK and al-Qaeda terrorist networks abroad. In fact this is very well-known in parts of the British Muslim community, and it's something I've seen as a college student.

Lenin’s dismissal of Andrew Dismore MP’s statements on this question in parliament about Bakri’s involvement in terrorist related activity is characteristic. “Poorly sourced”, just Bakri “mouthing off.” But in fact Dismore’s sources are not poor at all. He relies on a combination of sources, many which he has not cited directly as he is speaking in parliament not presenting an academic dissertation, including mainstream reports from journalistic investigations, observations from police and security officials, and admissions from the horse’s-mouth, that is, from Bakri himself, as well as from different members of his network, all of them forming a fairly coherent picture of their activities.

Now I referenced Dismore’s observations in the book because 1) he is one of the few MPs to be raising these questions in parliament 2) although many disagree with Dismore’s political views about the Middle East, large segments of the British Muslim community support his particular concerns about al-Muhajiroun 3) most of Dismore’s observations are amply documented by credible journalistic investigations. The oddity here is Lenin’s insistence on simply dismissing everything. A sample of links to relevant articles with some interesting analysis (though perhaps bit off-key in places) is here, and shows that Dismore’s arguments are strongly grounded.

“Ahmed also takes seriously the claims of Hassan Butt, a former member of al-Muhajiroun, who boasted that 60% of the fighters in Afghanistan were recruited from Britain by his organisation (Butt was also the source of the New Statesman story, by the way). Hassan Butt is described as having been arrested under the Terrorism Act but ‘unaccountably’ released - one possibly is that he is an obvious fantasist.”

Here Lenin’s own sloppiness is yet again apparent. It’s not “60% of the fighters in Afghanistan”, it’s 60 per cent of “foreign fighters” – a significant difference, as foreign fighters were a minority of the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, the majority of whom were Afghan. Similarly, Lenin conveniently ignores the Telegraph report that Butt’s claims were corroborated by British military intelligence. In the book, I concede:

“Butt’s claims regarding the size of al-Muhajiroun’s program seemed outlandish at first glance. However, they were subsequently verified by British military intelligence in Afghanistan, which concluded that, ‘1,200 British Muslims trained with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa’eda terrorist network in Afghanistan. … The names, addresses and other details of the Britons were found by British military intelligence during searches of bin Laden’s cave complex at Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan.’”

So now it’s both al-Muhajiroun members and British security sources who are confirming the same thing. I can understand the possible (but speculative) qualification that perhaps the figures are being mutually exaggerated, by Butt to sound more ominous and by UK intel to vindicate anti-terror powers; but cannot understand Lenin’s downright unqualified dismissal, which is not grounded in anything except an extended posture of knee-jerk incredulity.

Confused and Inconsistent Ramblings about Official Sources on al-Qaeda Connections

And he continues:

“This story which cites the ultra-right Heritage Foundation and an unnamed US defense analyst, is adduced to bolster the claims.”

Firstly, one can now see a pattern in Lenin’s approach. Anything from the “right” is automatically suspect. A very ideological approach. Does Lenin only want us to believe what’s published by Socialist Worker, or some other so-called “left” publication? Anything from an “unnamed” source is also suspect. Yet much of what we are told about 7/7 is largely from unidentified official sources. Yet Lenin finds nothing wrong with accepting this in general. He only takes issue with such a source if it doesn’t fit his preconceived views about the clownish nature of al-Muhajiroun.

Secondly, the statement from the Washington Times article cited in the book is from a “US government security and defence analyst” – not simply a “defence analyst”, an important difference, as the claim is therefore coming from an anonymous government security source. In contrast, the British government routinely and officially denies that al-Muhajiroun and Omar Bakri have anything whatsoever to do with al-Qaeda. The American government, officially, will not contradict the British position. But clearly privately a few of its own experts will, and the statement from this US source coheres with the body of data relied on by Dismore (a sample of which is linked to above).

Thirdly, Lenin seems unable to scan for useful or insightful information within articles. He dismisses the entire Washington Times piece because it cited the Heritage Foundation. What kind of method is this? The Heritage Foundation analysis is not worth dismissing simply because it happens to be of “ultra-right” persuasion, but because of the faulty nature of its analysis. A discerning reader would be able to note that Hizb ut-Tahrir, as referred to by the Foundation in its report therein cited, has never endorsed political violence as a means to secure the caliphate and is not ideologically or materially linked to al-Qaeda. On the contrary, it is fundamentally opposed to al-Qaeda’s philosophy and methods. That’s why it can be dismissed as nonsense. But Lenin then seems to assume that this somehow proves the whole article is useless.

Then suddenly, Lenin jumps to a few pages down and says:

“Similarly, an article on the hard-right Newsmax is referenced for a claim that the group is connected to Zarqawi, citing unnamed ‘French and German officials’. I'm afraid that much of the evidence cited in connection with these claims is like this - nebulous, poorly supported information, drawn from untrustworthy sources.”

Here, Lenin conducts an absurd act of obfuscation that illustrates the general sloppiness of his approach, which is clearly motivated by an unswerving desire to show that the book’s argument is wrong. Rarely does Lenin offer a serious balance to his analysis. He ignores, for instance, the preceding several pages which discuss in detail the terrorist activities of Abu Qatada, a close associate of Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri, during his tenure at the Finsbury Park Mosque. The information is cited mostly from multiple British press reports including a Sunday Times investigation based on the findings of Reda Hassnaine, an Algerian MI5 informant who infiltrated the mosque. Further down, the Newsmax report Lenin mentions is only one of a number of different reports cited in the book NOT directly about “the group” al-Muhajiroun as Lenin falsely suggests, but about a specific individual linked to Abu Qatada, his student Mohammed Guerbouzi.

I quote “Moroccan authorities” from the Agence France Presse who believe he is the leader of the al-Qaeda affiliated group, “Group of Islamic Combatants in Morocco”, and suspect him of organizing the Casablanca bombings. His group is on the UN’s list of banned terrorist organizations. By way of balance, I cite an Observer report showing that British officials are not convinced he is a terrorist. There is also the Newsmax report, the only one Lenin acknowledges, which cites “French and German officials” who say that Guerbouzi is connected to Zarqawi, not al-Muhajiroun per se! and “Spanish counter-terrorism experts” who think he’s connected to both the Madrid and London bombings. I continue to cite the US Homeland Security Dept’s MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base and a senior Brussels police source interviewed in the London Times showing that contrary to the official position, British authorities were indeed urgently searching for Guerbouzi in connection with 7/7; and finally a confirmation from Guerbouzi himself that Scotland Yard actually knew where he was all along.

I included the links here just to illustrate the gulf between Lenin’s routine misrepresentations, and my actual work. I clearly offer a far more nuanced and complex analysis than Lenin would want readers to think. He attempts to show that I rely on singular odd-ball right-wing sources, when in fact I have tried to build up a coherent picture from a diversity of mainstream sources across the political spectrum. A discerning reader will note that the information above from quite diverse sources can be made sense of. The data suggests that European security sources, including British, on the whole see Guerbouzi as a real terrorist threat, which is why the British authorized an Europe-wide man-hunt after 7/7 according to the Times, but despite this the British security establishment appears decidedly reluctant to pursue anything against him. This is consistent with my general argument and the notion of a covenant of security as British authorities’ operative intelligence paradigm.

21/7: Naiveties and Absurdities

Next Lenin moves on to my discussion of the 21/7 bombs. He summarises the gist of my argument and he begins his critique about here:

“Whatever the case, the fact that the bombs failed, and that Adiesu allegedly abandoned his device, at the very least suggests an amateur operation. Nevertheless, they did hold extreme views, and did belong to al-Muhajiroun at some point and so, Ahmed wants to know, how is it that one of the 'cell' was monitored prior to the failed attacks in Pakistan only for him to slip under the radar because Pakistani intelligence said he wasn't doing anything significant? Surely, given Pakistan's previous 'sponsorship' of Al Qaeda, one wouldn't 'blindly' accept their word? This isn't particularly persuasive: the British presumably had intelligence-sharing with the Pakistani government, since the latter is a client-state of the West. The idea that Pakistan would conceal nefarious activities against the West isn't plausible.”

The sheer naivety of Lenin’s analysis here is revealing. His observations about the relationship between Pakistan and the West betray how little he actually knows about Pakistan. He simply argues that because Pakistan is a “client-state” of the West, it “presumably” had intelligence-sharing, and therefore a priori it “isn’t plausible” that Pakistan would ever conceal nefarious activities against the West. This is another area where Lenin gets methodologically confused, mixing up odd, crude, a priori “leftist” generalisations about metropole-satellite relations between Western and non-Western states with empirical questions. Lenin’s logic, it seems, is that because Pakistan is a client-state, it simply would never consider concealing nefarious activities against the West.

If only life were so simple, we could all be happy pseudo-Marxist ideologues. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t work according to Lenin’s preconceptions of “plausibility.” The point is not Pakistan’s “previous” sponsorship of al-Qaeda. As I document quite clearly in parts of the book that Lenin hasn’t dealt with in his review, Pakistan continues to sponsor al-Qaeda to this day. I have sourced two declassified US documents that illustrate this in the book. But a recent example is the leaked paper written by a senior official at the Defence Academy run by the British Ministry of Defence, which describes the Pakistani ISI’s covert sponsorship of al-Qaeda and double-game activities, of course still officially denied by British authorities. The question that one needs to ask, but that apparently is of no interest to Lenin, is how much do British authorities know about this? My answer is that they do indeed know very much, but have pretty much given Pakistan a free-hand as they are supposed to be our major ally in the “War on Terror”, useful certainly from the perspective of securing geopolitical access to the wider Central Asian region.

The point is that the excuse just doesn’t make any sense in this context. We don’t rely on Pakistan to do our final threat assessments for us, only for the collection of raw intelligence data. MI5 and MI6 perform their own threat assessments, they don’t simply say, “oh, the al-Qaeda-toting ISI said the terrorist suspects are harmless, so we won’t bother”. So if plausibility is our criterion, it isn’t plausible that MI5 should be happy with a simple Pakistani assurance. The fact remains, then, that if MI5 missed a key target suspect vis-a-vis 21/7, it did so inexcusably, and partly because of its dubious military-intelligence ties to Pakistan, a state sponsoring al-Qaeda terrorists.

“Similarly, why were warnings unheeded? Or if they were heeded, why does the government claim to have had no warning? This point, too, would be more impressive if the cited source didn't stipulate that the warnings were heeded: Ahmed suspects more could have been done, but it is unclear what. It is not even clear if the Mirror's story is accurate.”

Continuing, Lenin suggests here that the Mirror’s report that police had reasonably precise warning of a second attempted bombing attempt on 21/7, is not clearly accurate. What is not clear is why Lenin thinks it is not clear. The article is perfectly clear to me, and contains no basis to view it as inaccurate. Lenin seems to forget that the basis to view something as inaccurate requires actual analysis to discern real inconsistencies, not merely an ideological predisposition or vague suspicion because it just doesn’t quite sound right. He then, curiously, manufactures an alleged contradiction within my text about unheeded warnings that were actually heeded, with little or no idea of what I mean by what the government could’ve done with these warnings. But my text is not confused on this at all. The text nowhere suggests that warnings were unheeded as Lenin, as usual, inaccurately implies. I state clearly that the official position is that there were no warnings whatsoever about the 21/7 attacks. The Mirror report provides some detailed and credible information from police sources indicating that actually some significant warning was received, and indeed acted on rather belatedly on the morning of 21/7 itself. My point is made simply as follows:

“Although the Mirror states that there was a visible increase in the presence of armed police at selected areas in London, this was simply insufficient as a preventive measure given the scale of the potential threat. In view of the fact that security sources confirm that warning of an attack ‘this week’ was based on ‘certain information’, such that security services ‘just knew it was going to happen … on Thursday’, London should have been on the highest state of alert.
If police were chasing one of the bomber-suspects on his way through Farringdon, they clearly had sufficiently precise intelligence to know that the London Tube network specifically, and transport system generally, were again the principal targets – an inference given credence by Secretary Clarke’s confidential Downing Street warning hours earlier of the probability of copycat attacks. But there have been no reports to suggest that the alert status on 21/7 had been raised in response to the specific intelligence available. Nor was the public informed in any manner. On the contrary, official pronouncements to the effect that the attack happened entirely without warning tended to confirm the opposite, that the government was taken entirely by surprise. Why did authorities fail to raise the alert level appropriately? Given the imminent possibility of further mass casualties in London, an immediate shutdown of the London Tube and transport systems for that day would have sufficed to prevent the attacks from proceeding.”

So actually, I make it rather clear what I think could and should have been done, given the information available to police suggesting a repeat of the London bombings. An immediate raising of the alert level to signify danger of an imminent attack; official notification of the public and public authorities of the danger; and in particular, a shutdown of London’s transport systems, at least in the areas under concern, on that Thursday. But none of this was done. Now Lenin may well disagree with these prescriptions, thinking them unwarranted, or overboard, or whatever. Unfortunately, he doesn’t even acknowledge them. He simply says: “Ahmed suspects more could have been done, but it is unclear what.” Now this is either simple intellectual dishonesty, or sheer ideologically-driven sloppiness.

“Ensuing claims are often similarly tentative - drawing from this story, he suggests that because Luai Zakra, allegedly one of the five most important people in Al Qaeda (not the 'number five man' as Ahmed has it), testified that he didn't know about 21/7, then it was conducted without Al Qaeda supervision. The conclusions seems right, but the supporting logic is extremely poor. At any rate, this is a curious 'Al Qaeda' leader who doesn't like to pray, but fancies a drink. Is it possible that Turkish intelligence are simply making shit up?”

What Lenin fails to understand is that the conclusions “seem right” because they’re not based solely on the information from Luai Sakra, but on the entire preceding body of analysis that repeatedly suggests a strong disconnect from the modus operandi of other al-Qaeda attacks, including the 7/7 bombing. I write:

“On the first issue, circumstantial evidence has already been discussed indicating that it is likely that the 21/7 attacks constituted a copycat operation executed by amateurs.... On the second issue, the amateurish copycat nature of the attacks, in particular the ineffectiveness of the devices, effectively rules out the idea that this was an operation planned and directed by al-Qaeda.”

This assessment is only made after several pages of detailed analysis on precisely those issues. It is only after I make these points that I bring in Sakra’s statements to Turkish intelligence. Again, Lenin’s sloppiness is apparent here. Sakra did not simply say he didn’t know about the 21/7 attacks, therefore I conclude al-Qaeda didn’t do them. He specifically stated that many “militants have the operational initiative” and that there are several autonomous groups “organizing activities in the name of al-Qaeda. The second attack in London was organised by a group, which took initiative. Even Laden may not know about it.” I therefore conclude, quite reasonably, that the 21/7 attacks didn’t involve senior al-Qaeda trainers or planners. Obviously, not reasonable enough for Lenin.

Finally, on the question of Sakra’s al-Qaeda credentials, he is well-known. Reports about Sakra’s arrest and al-Qaeda terrorist activities were carried by outlets as diverse as Spiegel in Germany, the BBC here, and the Washington Post. The instructive point is in Lenin’s question about Turkish intelligence “simply making shit up”. Once again surfaces the ugly head of incredulous ideology with all its unwarranted preconceptions. Lenin, unfortunately, doesn’t really do his homework. He claims to have read my 9/11 research in his later blog posting where he makes reference to my book, The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism (my responses to his post are in his comments section). Yet he seems curiously unaware of everything written in that book about the 9/11 hijackers. A sample of some that material is available online in my conference paper, “Subverting Terrorism” pages 5-6. I draw on reports from FBI investigators and credible eyewitness accounts published in mainstream local and national American media showing that several alleged 9/11 hijackers, including Mohamed Atta, and even the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, regularly engaged in acts of debauchery: basically getting pissed, stoned and laid. I also quote a specialist in Islamic and Middle East studies Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, Professor of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia, who incredulously observed: “It is incomprehensible that a person could drink and go to a strip bar one night, then kill themselves the next day in the name of Islam. People who would kill themselves for their faith would come from very strict Islamic ideology. Something here does not add up.”

Indeed. Yet the interesting thing is that endless reports connect up people like Atta with senior al-Qaeda operatives such as Ayman al-Zawahiri. So there is an odd pattern emerging here which brings into question our conventional understanding of al-Qaeda. The explanation for this sort of anomaly has very much to do with al-Qaeda continuing to function as a mercenary outfit for US covert operations.

PART 2, here.

6 July 2007

WHOSE BOMBS?

[The following is an extended deconstructive analysis quoting rather liberally from relevant sources. As far as I'm aware, it's the first of its kind to be published in either mainstream or alternative circles. Therefore, please circulate widely.]

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 central London’s major theatre and shopping districts. A day later, two men rammed a Jeep Cherokee, filled with flammable material, into a terminal entrance at Glasgow airport. The series of attempted attacks follows hot on the heels of an attempted al-Qaeda attack in the United States earlier in June.

The chronology requires further probing, and indeed, preliminary analysis raises some unresolved questions.

Their Terror… And Ours

We will start with the UK. First off, we need to consider the way government, police and security services dealt with events. On Friday, official sources immediately told mainstream media that they had successfully defused highly dangerous explosive devices in the cars. The general picture disseminated by government spokesmen was that the bombs could well have killed hundreds of civilians generating a huge and lethal fireball engulfing the surrounding area.

“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 Glasgow 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.”

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 UK. Some of these were flagged up by American journalist Chris Floyd, but largely ignored in the mainstream media.

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 UK commanders may have concerns, they have little choice given the decisions made for them by Bush and now Brown.

Yet the mainstream media has shown no interest whatsoever in our own 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 UK. Whatever those attacks “appeared” to be, they were clearly planned and conducted by people with absolutely no real idea of what they were doing. Despite official attempts to ratchet up the fear-level by insisting that the police had pre-empted a spectacular bombing plot that could have slaughtered hundreds, a number of experts have pointed out the obvious.

Improvised Un-explosive Devices?

Larry C. Johnson, a former senior US counterterrorist official for the CIA and State Department who works as a consultant to governments on terrorism issues, described the Friday episode as a “crock of crap”:

“… 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 Hollywood flick the 50 gallons of gas would not have shredded the Mercedes into lethal chunks of flying shrapnel.”

His observations on the next day’s Glasgow incident are even more cutting:

“Preliminary, unconfirmed reports indicate a nuclear blast has occurred at Glasgow’s international airport. No one has seen the mushroom cloud or heard the blast, but something by God is happening and it must be terrible. There is smoke and fire. In fact, a car is on fire. It must be Al Qaeda. Only Al Qaeda knows how to set themselves on fire inside a car. Please. Flee to the hills (leave your doors unlocked). Oh the humanity!...

… we need to stop equating their [religious fanatics’] hatred with actual capability. If today's events at Glasgow prove to be linked to the two non-events yesterday in London, then we should heave a sigh of relief. We may be witnessing the implosion of takfiri jihadists — religious fanatics who are incredibly inept… Propane tanks and petrol (gas for us Americans) can produce a dandy flame and a mighty boom but these are not the tools for making a car bomb along the lines of what we see detonating on a daily basis in Iraq.”

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, St. Andrews University: “Just using petrol canisters, nuts and bolts and a cell phone to trigger the explosion, the London bombing attempt would probably not have worked.” He continued about the Glasgow fiasco: “If you take a look at most al Qaeda attacks, they did a lot of work on reconnoitring. Now they got stopped by some bollards. They didn’t seem very familiar with the airport, then they would have known that the bollards would have stopped them or they overestimated the thrust of the Jeep Cherokee.”

For those tracking the recent round of terror plots against the US and Britain, the dire lack of expertise is a familiar pattern. On the August 2006 “liquid bomb plot”, similarly discredited as simply unworkable, former British Army intelligence officer Lt. Col. (ret.) Nigel Wylde pointed out: “Not al-Qaeda for sure. It would not work. Bin Laden is interested in success not deterrence by failure.”

The Propaganda War

Rather than reassuring the public of these facts and implications, the government did the opposite. The UK terror alert was raised to “critical”, and the citizens were urged to remain “alert” and “vigilant”. “If it moves to critical, you should worry”, a senior Whitehall source told the BBC when asked to explain the alert level system.

Rachel North, a survivor of the July 7th 2005 London bombings, comments:

“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 United States may well have been nothing more than Bush administration propaganda. Such was the accusation from Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Countdown show ‘The Nexus of Politics & Terror’, who further noted that this was consistent with a history of such pronouncements:

“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 Arkansas, to the effect that more 9/11's are needed to galvanise support for the Bush administration. 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.

Warnings, Warnings

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.

Warnings 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 UK. Therefore there was a strong likelihood of further attacks.” But officials insisted that there had been “no specific” information about the events of Friday and Saturday.
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 Pakistan by a Pakistani journalist invited for the occasion, was aired by CNN and ABC in that month purportedly displaying a suicide bomber “graduation ceremony”. The video claimed that “suicide bombers were supposedly sent off on their missions in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany.” The video included

“… 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 Britain.’ The video at the time sent a chilling note across the security services with warnings that attacks in the UK were more than likely this summer….”

For those with an eye for detail, the connection between our no doubt utterly justifiable June slaughter of Afghans and this particular warning from Pakistan of an imminent strike on Britain is notable. Yes, it is by no means the whole story, but it is undeniably a significant component. Meanwhile, British officials are falling over themselves to insist that there is no discernable connection to Pakistan – of course our ardent ally in the ‘War on Terror’. Also worth noting is, as the report above continues, the perpetrators of these particular attacks: foreign “trainee doctors are being held as suspects, having passed their security checks and been provided with official approval to practice in the UK.”

Dirty Skins

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 London and Glasgow car bomb plot were on the files of MI5”, reported the Telegraph, including one

“… 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. Whitehall sources said they had not been involved in previous plots, but were ‘people who knew people’ who were under observation… But British security sources insisted there was no intelligence that al-Qa’eda commanders plotted to infiltrate the NHS… Most of the alleged cell members arrived in this country after 2004 to take up NHS jobs.”

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 in Iraq up to three years ago. Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, an insurgency leader, was said to have been ordered to find young men to blend into Western society before staging an attack.”

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 UK”? MI5 already had these individuals logged, yet MI5 did nothing while these individuals predictably applied to join the NHS, the very reason they had arrived in the UK after 2004. The official insistence from British officials that they had no idea these people were trying to infiltrate the NHS is difficult to make sense of. What else would al-Qaeda associates with medical degrees arriving in the UK for the specific purpose of joining the NHS be trying to do?.

[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. Note how in this case police were happy to admit that the MI5 information was specific enough to quickly identify and track the alleged suspects. The 7/7 bombers 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 US official told ABC News that they had “received intelligence reports two weeks ago which warned of a possible terror attack in Glasgow against ‘airport infrastructure or aircraft’...” This was actionable intelligence, as it did indeed lead to action: except not in Glasgow. The official confirmed that “the intelligence led to the assignment of Federal Air Marshals to flights into and out of both Glasgow and Prague in the Czech Republic.” What did Britain know? “US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff declined to comment on the report, but on Monday told ABC News that ‘everything that we get is shared virtually instantaneously with our counterparts in Britain and vice versa’.”

It should not surprise anyone by now that the Brits are once again denying everything. “There was no prior intelligence” about the Glasgow attack, said Strathclyde police chief constable Willie Rae. No of course there wasn’t. American intelligence officials are no doubt hallucinating.

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 Middle East, who said he’d been warned by an al-Qaeda figure of an attack. The unnamed al-Qaeda leader from Syria told him on the sidelines of a religious summit in the Jordania capital, Amman “about how they were going to destroy British and Americans. He told me that the plans were already made and they would soon be destroying the British. He said the people who cure you would kill you.” The figure added that the plans “would be carried out in the coming weeks, and would target the British first.”

“Canon Andrew White, a British cleric working in Baghdad, claimed that he met an al-Qa’ida leader in Amman who had warned him about the imminent attack, saying ‘those who cure you will kill you’. Canon White said he passed the message to the Foreign Office. However a Foreign Office spokesman said there is no record of such a warning being given.”

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 Amman meeting, adding that it was considered at the time to be too vague to merit further analysis. White’s information has since been passed on to police investigating the Glasgow and London incidents, a Foreign Office spokesman said.”

Ah yes, too vague, although it cohered with all the other intelligence of plans to strike the UK being received just around that time. It certainly also cohered with the previous evidence of an origin for the attacks in al-Qaeda in Iraq; as well as in Pakistan.

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 Iraq and Pakistan.

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 UK over the last few years since after 7/7 has invariably involved rather inept cells with quite questionable expertise in explosives and other terrorist techniques. Many of these cells while purportedly ‘home-grown’, are nevertheless associated with international networks in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, where reside senior al-Qaeda operatives with real terrorist expertise. In the UK, USA and Western Europe, one group responsible for mediating communication and movement between these two domestic and international arenas is formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, purportedly banned by the British government, but still intact and still run by self-described cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed from Lebanon, where he was exiled by the British government. It is this that appears to produce a mismatch of actual expertise.

Omar Bakri’s protégé, Anjem Choudray, continues to run around the UK on Omar Bakri’s behalf (and with his regular guidance) attempting to mentor a new generation of Islamist extremists. It was former Justice Department prosecutor John Loftus who confirmed that Omar Bakri and his al-Muhajiroun network had been first hired by MI6 in the late 1990s to recruit British Muslims to fight in Kosovo. His UK underlings even continue to maintain a website for him which curiously remains devoid of his hundreds of most inflammatory statements supporting al-Qaeda terrorism. Despite exiling him to Lebanon, authorities have done nothing to curb his ongoing influence over his UK network, except to protect him from official investigation in connection with the radicalization of that very network. Al-Muhajiroun incubated those involved with Dhiren Barot’s grand plan to bomb targets in the US and Britain, with which the fertilizer and 7/7 plotters were also intimately linked.

Further questions arise when we probe the plausible al-Qaeda connections to these incidents from Iraq and Pakistan. We may remind ourselves that the alleged perpetrators of the latest crimes are mostly of Middle Eastern origin. In September 2005, I had already documented evidence from a number of credible sources suggesting that the United States was covertly supplying arms to Iraqi insurgents described as “former Ba’ath party” loyalists now joining with “al-Qaeda in Iraq”. The proxy for this funnel of weaponry was Pakistani military intelligence, according to a Pakistani defence source cited by the Asia Times. The next year, an outraged British colonel complained that Pakistan was sheltering al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But nevermind him, Bush says Pakistan’s our "major non-NATO ally", and the British government officially agrees.

This strategy of tension in Iraq was, it appears, extended to other key states in the region, namely Lebanon, by late 2006. On CNN, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh summarized his latest exclusive. Hersh’s critical discovery was that the Bush administration is actively sponsoring al-Qaeda affiliated groups across the entire Middle East, with a focus on Lebanon, to counter regional Shi’ite Iranian influence. Moreover, much of the finances for these covert operations are being funnelled by Saudi Arabia through Iraq:

“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 ‘Shiite Crescent.’ And a lot of this money… has gotten into the hands - among other places, in Lebanon, into the hands of three - at least three jihadist groups. There are three Sunni jihadist groups whose main claim to fame inside Lebanon right now is that they are very tough. These are people connected to al Qaeda who want to take on Hezbollah…

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, except yet again the theatre of war has shifted.

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.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

... 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 Iraq. ‘The Administration is trying to make a case that Iran is more dangerous and more provocative than the [al-Qaeda] Sunni insurgents to American interests in Iraq, when—if you look at the actual casualty numbers—the punishment inflicted on America by the Sunnis is greater by an order of magnitude,’ Leverett said. ‘This is all part of the campaign of provocative steps to increase the pressure on Iran. The idea is that at some point the Iranians will respond and then the Administration will have an open door to strike at them.’

… This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that ‘they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran’.”

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.

So why Iran and why now?

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 US and UK is its direct corollary. While the British police and intelligence services are congratulating themselves on having rounded up the terrorists and thus quelled the threat for now, the US government is actively fostering the source of the threat in the Middle East because of its antipathy toward Iran. Given Britain’s close alliance with the US in the ‘War on Terror’, the question must be asked, how precisely involved is the British government in this self-defeating strategy that consciously compromises civilian life?

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.



[Postscript:

If you've read this far and found this article at least nominally useful, then you'll be interested to take a look at the new website for our think-tank, the Institute for Policy Research & Development. Check it out and spread the word.]

Blog Archive