Some thoughts on Megrahi and Lockerbie

There is currently a huge amount of over-heated rhetoric on the airwaves and in the blogosphere, in reaction to the Scottish court’s decision to release convicted Libyan mass-bomber Abdel-Basset al-Megrahi before the end of his sentence, on compassionate/health grounds.
I think the court has done the right thing. This very sober analysis from the BBC makes quite clear that huge question-marks still hang over the issue of Megrahi’s actual criminal responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. It concludes thus:

    Megrahi was charged as a member of the Libyan Intelligence Services – acting with others.
    If he was involved, the Libyan government, once a sponsor of worldwide terrorism, including support for the IRA, must have been involved too.
    But with Britain and America doing big business with Libya now, perhaps it is in no-one’s political interests to have the truth emerge.
    Megrahi is now dying, but he may have been a convenient scapegoat for a much bigger conspiracy.

The warm welcome he got on his return to Tripoli indicates the high probability that he was indeed a Qadhafi-provided scapegoat.
In which case, all the angst and venom that has been directed against him personally, including by some but not all of those bereaved by the bombing, has been largely misplaced.
Of course, as always, it would be excellent to see even one-tenth as much US media attention paid to the sadness of such people as those Americans bereaved by the 1967 Liberty incident, or those Palestinians, Lebanese, and others bereaved by US-supplied Israeli weapons in more recent years.
Or even more so, the families of those scores of thousands of Iraqis killed by the US and as a result of the US outrageous and illegal invasion of their country in 2003.
The WaPo had a fascinating article Friday that described two Washington-area residents, both bereaved by the Lockerbie bombing, who had come to very different conclusions.
One was Anastasios Vrenios, 68, a singing teacher in Northwest Washington:

    Vrenios, whose son Nicholas was a passenger on Flight 103, is unbothered by the release of Megrahi, who was convicted in 2001. Vrenios said the terrorist merits a special mercy because of his grave prognosis. And continued imprisonment does nothing to eradicate terrorism, he argues.
    “I am thinking as a decent human being,” Vrenios said. “Let the man go and die in his own country — he’s dying anyhow. I am not going to say: ‘How dare you? Let’s go blow his head off.’ It’s the ill that has to be cured, and that’s a far more serious matter. I am just so disillusioned by man and the kind of thing he can resort to in this world.”

The other was Stephanie Bernstein, 58, a Bethesda rabbi, whose husband, Michael, a lawyer with the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, was killed in the attack. (The OSI is a special unit of the Justice Department that for 30 years or so has been dedicated to hunting down Nazis around the world and bringing them before the courts.)
According to the WaPo reporter, Rabbi Bernstein

    worries that flying Megrahi home to Libya so he can live out his final days with family violates both a biblical sense of justice and a promise made by the court system that convicted him.
    Bernstein has been tracking Megrahi’s case for weeks, trying to persuade the Obama administration to strong-arm the Scottish government to keep Megrahi imprisoned.
    “Releasing him sends the wrong message,” she said. “It will be seen by [Libyan president] Col. Moammar Gaddafi as a sign of weakness. If we don’t try to work towards a just world, what good is this release?”

The very different reactions of these two people indicates very vividly that not “all” Americans– and not even “all” the families of those bereaved– are “incensed” by Megrahi’s release.
Indeed, families who are bereaved through acts of terrorism go through very different processes as they struggle with finding the best way to think about their bereavement. One of the best books on this subject is this one by Susan Kerr Van De Ven, daughter of Malcolm Kerr, the president of AUB who was killed by a terrorist, suspected to be a Shiite– on his campus, in 1983.
Van De Ven’s mother, Ann Kerr, is a dear friend of mine. The family has wrestled hard, for many years, with how to respond to Malcolm’s killing, and her daughter’s book is an excellent, intimate record of that.
In the work I’ve done on (anti-)death penalty issues here in Virginia, one thing that has surfaced again and again has been a feeling by some of those who have been bereaved through acts of violence that in order to honor the memory of their departed loved one it is somehow “necessary” to seek the harshest possible vengeance against the killer– and that if you don’t do that, then somehow that dishonors the lost loved one or diminishes his/her memory.
Of course, plenty of people in the legal system, the media– and even among pastors, rabbis, and other religious leaders– are eager to validate and amplify those kinds of arguments.
Such arguments do, however, depart very radically from traditional Christian (and Buddhist) ideas of forgiveness. Also, how about the Old testament’s strong witness regarding “Vengeance is mine, said the Lord”–meaning, presumably, that vengeance should not be for mere mortals to dole out but should be left to the hereafter… And there are plenty of social activists and community leaders here in the US who urge a much less vengeful, calmer, and more constructive response to violently induced bereavement. Including, the people who work with the fine organization Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation.
In sum: No, it doesn’t diminish the memory of someone killed in violence by one iota if their surviving family members deal with the tasks of grieving in a non-vengeful manner.
Indeed, quite frequently, just the opposite.

Another Scary Terror Report

The new annual State Department Report on Terrorism is out. It’s primarily the same as last year’s report. You were expecting changes maybe?
Here are the lead paragraphs from last year. . .

    AL-QA’IDA AND ASSOCIATED TRENDS: Al-Qa’ida (AQ) and associated networks remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2007. It has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri. Although Usama bin Ladin remained the group’s ideological figurehead, Zawahiri has emerged as AQ’s strategic and operational planner.

. . .and this year.

    AL-QA’IDA AND ASSOCIATED TRENDS: Al-Qa’ida (AQ) and associated networks continued to lose ground, both structurally and in the court of world public opinion, but remained the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners in 2008. AQ has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities through the exploitation of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the replacement of captured or killed operational lieutenants, and the restoration of some central control by its top leadership, in particular Ayman al-Zawahiri. Worldwide efforts to counter terrorist financing have resulted in AQ appealing for money in its last few messages.

Same old stuff.

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The Devil Made Us Do It

The Devil, like the Lord, works in mysterious ways.

    ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) – A woman accused of taking more than $73,000 from the Arlington church where she was an administrative assistant blames the devil.
    Papers filed with a theft charge Wednesday in Snohomish County Superior Court say Collen R. Okeson told detectives she guessed “Satan had a big part in the theft.”

When it comes to stealing money from the peoples’ till, the United States government has its own Satan. Currently for the US it’s al-Qaeda and the guy in the cave, Osama bin Laden.
President Obama is waving the trusty 9/11 flag just as President Bush did. He mentioned al-Qaeda fifteen times in his recent Afghanistan speech, including:

    “So let me be clear: al-Qaeda and its allies – the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks – are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al-Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the U.S. homeland from its safe-haven in Pakistan. And if the Afghan government falls to the Taliban – or allows al-Qaeda to go unchallenged – that country will again be a base for terrorists who want to kill as many of our people as they possibly can.”

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“National Security Mom” – Gina Bennett

For too long, Americans have been intimidated by TV “experts” who tell them why being “tough” is the only way to defeat terrorism. Gina M. Bennett begs to differ in a splendid little book, entitled National Security Mom: Why “Going Soft” Will Make America Strong.
With Professor Richard Kohn’s forward, I agree that “this is a book every citizen should read, and every government official ponder….” If only.
The deceptively simple premise of the book is that “everything I ever needed to know about securing our nation I learned as a child and practiced in parenting my own children.” The companion educational poster for the book is quite accessible even to elementary children.
Yet this is not mere lipstick from a pit-bull “hockey mom.” To the contrary, Gina Bennett doubles as a multi-tasking mother of five children and a distinguished government analyst of terrorism. As far back as 1993, Bennett was presciently warning of a growing threat from Osama Bin Laden.
More recently, she was the principal author of the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the U.S.” The boldness of that report is matched by the delightful wisdom found in this slender volume.
I also am happy to note that Gina Bennett is a University of Virginia graduate, and we share the same mentor, in R.K. Ramazani, who helped instill in both of us a devotion to the principles of the University’s founder, Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson and the Professor will both be impressed.
So too is Oprah. Gina was recently featured as a model “superwoman” on the Oprah Winfrey show, a much deserved accolade.
Bennett writes first to fellow parents, offering hope, encouragement, and courage to believe that the key to national security is within them. She finds much national security wisdom in the guidance good parents give to their children, such as:

“clean up your own mess,” (e.g. Iraq)
“tell the truth,” (no, really!)
“actions speak louder than words,” (think Abu Ghuyraib, Guantanmo, torture, renditions, etc.)
“don’t give in to a bully,” (To defeat him, ignore him)
“choose your friends wisely,” (you’ll be judged by their actions… “Think for yourself.”)
“learn from your mistakes,” (e.g., surrendering our own values)
“think before you speak.” (or don’t speak at all…. )

Bennett encourages us “to think about our nation’s security in very different terms from the way it is typically depicted,” by de-mystifying the issues in a jargon-free manner.

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Goal of the Mumbai attacks: Sparking India-Pakistan war?

The perpetrators of the recent wave of anti-civilian (i.e. terror) attacks in Mumbai were evidently well organized and well prepared for their mission. It was almost certainly planned as a series of suicide attacks. These indicators point to (but do not prove) the responsibility of Lashkar-i-Taiba, “Army of the pure”, a group that originated in Indian-occupied Kashmir but has also operated elsewhere throughout the subcontinent and in Afghanistan. The nature of their attacks evidently had a strong anti-western and anti-Jewish/Israeli cast to it, along with an even stronger readiness/willingness to kill Indian civilians. Those in the west who have centered on the deaths of westerners– who included two devoutly spiritual followers of a Hindu swami who live near my home-town Charlottesville, one of them a 13-year-old girl– should remember that westerners have made up fewer than ten percent of the deaths confirmed so far, with the rest being Indian citizens.
Given the amount of planning, coordination, dedication to martyrdom, and resources that went into this mission, it must have had a political purpose broader than “simply” killing people (for revenge, or for “expressive” purposes, or whatever.) One possible purpose may have been precisely to try to spur a strong Indian military “counter-attack” against Pakistan that would also– because of the western casualties involved– receive the backing of the US and other western nations.
India may oblige. In fact, its military, security, and political chiefs are meeting right now to decide how to respond to the attacks. On Friday, Indian Foreign Minister already accused unidentified “elements in Pakistan” of being behind the attacks.
Islamabad seems to be bracing for the possibility of some harsh Indian response. Earlier, the Pakistani government had said it would send the head of the powerful (but Hydra-like) ISI intelligence, Lieut-Gen, Ahmed Shuja Pasha to New Delhi to help in the investigation. But now, as the cabinet holds an emergency session in Islamabad, it has also announced it will downgrade the level of that cooperation mission.
I’m sure the Indian government feels itself under a lot of pressure to “do something” forceful and rapid to re-assert an appearance of control over the national situation, to reassure its citizens and its foreign partners, and to “avenge” those who died.
Launching a military attack against Pakistan at this time would be the height of counter-productive folly. It would not solve, but rather would seriously exacerbate, the many problems India already has with its neighbor to the north. The governance system in Pakistan is already extremely shaky and stretched to near collapse. Does the Indian government want to push Pakistan– and with it much of the rest of the subcontinent– over the brink?
Where is the Security Council? It was precisely to deal with and defuse these kinds of crisis that the UN was established. But apart from issuing a pablum-y type of statement yesterday, the SC has taken no action on the crisis. Nor has Sec-Gen Ban Ki-moon.

Mr. Obama, tear down this war!

Mr. Obama, tear down this war! You have promised change and the “Global War on Terror” (GWOT) is the worst legacy of the Bush administration. You should denounce it.
Unfortunately, unlike other undeclared pseudo-wars like the Cold War, the war on poverty and the war on drugs, this “war” includes real violence on real people.
Using the “GWOT” as justification, the worst crimes in US history have been committed. These include war against nations which never threatened the US, imprisonment and torture of not only foreigners in large numbers but also US citizens (e.g. Jose Padilla) and unconstitutional domestic surveillance. If these crimes are to stop then their justification must be removed.
There ought to be no problem terminating the “GWOT.” A strategy based on military force has been thoroughly discredited, and it wasn’t even liked by the people who initiated it, but they continued to use it because it was useful against US citizens, to keep them frightened and unified in favor of the government which was busy committing aforesaid crimes.

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US Diplomats and Boumediene Case

I too am encouraged by the US Supreme Court’s Boumediene v. Bush ruling that detainees held at Gunatanamo Bay are entitled to Habeas Corpus protection — the right to challenge their detention in a US Court. I also appreciate this LA Times analysis on the “internationalist” considerations that likely influenced the Boumediene majority. Yet I’ve also been perplexed by the fury of the dissents and the hyperbolic claim by presidential candidate John McCain that the ruling was “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”
Three complaints stand out: First, dissenting Justice Scalia darkly warns that the ruling will “almost certainly” result in more American being killed. Second, because the US is deemed to be at”war” with those who don’t respect our values, we should not extend such rights to them. Cast as an inhuman “enemy,” they only understand the “language of force.”
Third, the critics condemn the Court for subjecting our laws to the dictates of international opinions — to the norms recognized by the rest of the world. That’s “judicial cosmopolitanism;” it’s “too French.” Or worse, it’d be like Thomas Jefferson in the first sentence of the US Declaration of Independence waxing about “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind.”
In researching case background (and hat tip to Helena for this resource) I came across a timeless and eloquent response to such concerns, in the form of a Friend of the Court filing, prepared last year by some of America’s best career diplomats. Endorsers include former US Ambassadors to Israel (and elsewhere) Sam Lewis, Thomas Pickering, and William (C) Harrop, as well as Bruce Laingen and the late William D. Rogers and our recently departed Charlottesville friend and mentor, David D. Newsom. (bless his memory)
Among their sage observations: (emphasis added):

If the mounting cost to American diplomatic interests is finally to be curbed, it is imperative, at minimum, to restore meaningful judicial review for prisoners at Guantanamo. Our nation cannot credibly champion the rule of law in the world, while being seen to disregard it in our own affairs….
[O]ur professional experience convinces us that American diplomatic credibility and effectiveness in many areas of international relations suffer greatly from the widely shared perception that, by denying prisoners at Guantanamo access to habeas corpus, our country has lost sight of its historic commitment to independent and effective judicial review of the lawfulness of detention…..
We have come to believe, in our representation of this country to other nations, that those nations are more willing to accept American leadership and counsel to the extent that they see us as true to the principle of freedom under the law. Indeed, the matter has rarely been better put than by President Bush in signing the Torture Victims Protection Act on March 12, 1992:

In this new era, in which countries throughout the world are turning to democratic institutions and the rule of law, we must maintain and strengthen our commitment to ensuring that they are respected everywhere….

(Perhaps this entire subject ought to be re-framed as, “Bush vs. Bush.”)

The admiration and respect for this nation abroad is a function of our own commitment to liberty under law. In this, we have led the world. The success of our interests in the wider arena turns importantly on the extent to which this nation is perceived as continuing to abide by these principles. Any hint that America is not all that it claims, or that it is prepared to ignore a “nonnegotiable demand of human dignity,” that it can accept that the Executive Branch may imprison whom it will and do so beyond the reach of the due process of law, demeans and weakens this nation’s voice abroad.
We have taken it as our duty to so state to this Court. There is no doubting America’s power at this juncture. But values count too. And, for this nation, there is no benefit in the exercise of our undoubted power unless it is deployed in the service of fundamental values: democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and due process. To the extent that we are perceived as compromising those values, to that extent will our efforts to promote our interests in the wider world be prejudiced. Such at least is our collective experience.
George Kennan’s Long Telegram from the American Embassy in Moscow to the State Department in 1946 defined the authoritarian bestiality of the Soviet system and its aim to break “the international authority of our state.” It was perhaps the most important American diplomatic communication of the last century. In closing, Kennan spoke for us all and for all time:

[T]he greatest danger that can befall us in coping with this problem of Soviet communism, is that we shall allow ourselves to become like those with whom we are coping.

I recommend this document as an enduring resource for policymakers, educators, and citizens alike, challenging us to consider that we don’t have to toss aside our values to defend them, that our values are a component of our potential influence abroad, that defending our principles need not detract from our “power.”

Yet more evidence of GWOT failure

In Chapter 2 of the Re-engage! book I present a chart (Fig.2.1) that displays the numbers of fatalities inflicted worldwide by terrorists, 1998-2006.  Now, the State Department’s National Counter-Terrorism Center has just published its report on how the "Global War on Terror" went in 2007, and once again the picture is sobering. Their main page of statistics is here.  Scroll down to see just how badly the GWOT has been going over the past three years.

However, the figures for just those years don’t show the size of the contrast between the situation before the US invaded Iraq, and the situation after.  Before 2003, the annual global fatalities from terror never exceeded 5,300.  In 2003 they climbed just above 6,000; and every year since 2004 they have exceeded 12,000, showing a continuing increase each year.

In 2007, the number reached 22,685.

I have now updated the chart on global fatalities.  You can download it as a Word document from here.

This record provides additional, very tragic evidence to my argument that the way the Bush administration has responded to the challenge posed by the terrorists has not worked. I still strongly maintain that a more effective policy would be based  on (1) solid, but always rights-respecting police work and cooperation among police agencies across borders; (2) a recognition that terrorist violence is a challenge faced by many of the world’s peoples, and not just Americans; and (3) pursuit of a holistic, ‘human security’ approach to building the security of all the world’s nations, interdependent as we all are.

The use of massive military force to invade distant countries has not worked.  We are surely smart enough to recognize that we need to try something different?

(Cross-posted onto Re-engage blog. Please go comment over there. But if anyone can tell me how to export an Excel chart into a web-page that can then be posted directly into a blog, please enlighten me. Thanks!)

Patrick Lang: “The Best Defense…”

On 9/11, the Miller Center at the University of Virginia featured a talk by Colonel Patrick Lang – who returned here by reputation as a voice of reason, experience, “independence,” and wit regarding the Middle East. He did not disappoint.
Miller Center lectures are a rather unique phenomena here. First, they are popular. For this one, I arrived five minutes “early” (e.g. very late) – to be escorted to the fourth and last overflow room. Not bad for forums that ordinarily are simulcast on the net. Yet Miller audiences are hardly filled with bright-eyed students; the Miller Center is off the main “grounds” (campus) and students rarely comprise more than a handful amid the throngs. Instead, these sessions draw from the extraordinary community of retired policy professionals who seem to be flocking here to Hoo’ville.
Colonel Lang himself is “retired” from full-time government service, having served with distinction in the U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) and then at the highest levels of U.S. Military Intelligence. His training includes a Masters Degree in Middle East studies from Utah, and he served in the mid-1970’s as the first Professor of Arabic at West Point. Today, he combines ongoing consulting and training projects with frequent media appearances, ranging from PBS to CBS to BBC. For more, see his bio and publications highlights, via this link on his blog.
Colonel Lang “sticks out” in Washington for his informed willingness to take on what passes for “received wisdom” regarding the Middle East. His publications include the memorable “Drinking the Koolaid” in Middle East Policy. It’s still an important, sobering read. Quite far afield from Graham Allison’s realist “rational choice” decision-making model, Lang attributes the disastrous decision to invade Iraq to a loss of nerve among policy makers and analysts. Instead of honorably sticking to their convictions, even if it meant “falling on their swords,” career-preserving senior policy makers were more inclined to drink from a Jonestown-like vat of poisonous illusions. “Succumbing to the prevailing group-think” drawn up by the small core of neoconservative “vulcans,” Lang’s former intelligence colleagues “drank the koolaid” and said nothing, leaving them henceforth among the “walking dead” in Washington.
Speaking here on 9/11, Lang’s comments were wide-ranging and stimulating; he didn’t stick narrowly to his talk title on Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah, but he had much to suggest related to all three. I offer a few highlights here:
On Military Options against Iran:
Here Lang summarized his now widely cited National Interest article from earlier this spring. (Issue #83 – no link available). Even though Lang and co-author Larry Johnson seem to accept standard worst-case assessments of Iran’s nuclear aspirations, their article makes a compelling case that there are no “realistic” military options to attack Iran, by land or air, conventional, or exotic. Air assaults, whether by Israel or the US, are a “mirage” – unlikely to succeed for long, while incurring the risks of severe retaliations by Iranian assets.
To Lang, these dangers are obvious. Yet spelling them out serves the purpose of going on record so that neoconservatives in the future cannot claim – as they did with Iraq – that the disaster could not have been foreseen. This time, we’ve been warned.
On the greatest source of conflict within Islam:
If I understood him correctly, Lang was not as concerned about a battle between extremists and political pietists, deeming the “pietists” overwhelmingly still in the ascendant. Instead, Lang’s “bigest concern” for the Muslim world was over the “revolution” in the Shia-Sunni equation. The old order of “Sunnis rule and Shias survive” is now in question. Lang depicted Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear option as the latest extension of a long-forming Shia effort to resist domination from the Sunni realm.
Yet Lang did emphasize that Muslims of all stripes come together in resentment towards Israel — as a direct affront to the well being of the faith. To accept the existence of Israel means having to admit that the Islamic world has been truncated, that part of the “realm of God” had been given back. Hizbullah thus has become widely popular among all Muslims, not just among Shia, for its demonstrated capacity to resist both Zionists and the modern day crusaders.
Iran’s support for Hizbullah:
Lang deems Iran’s support for Lebanon’s Hizbullah as “first and foremost” useful for Iran’s pursuit of respect and leadership within the Islamic world. Yet Iranian financial assistance for Lebanon has shrewdly earned friends among Arab Christians and Sunnis too. In this light, Iran’s low-key strategy has been quite successful; hardly a rat-hole, such “success” draws more support.
On Why Hizbullah beat Israel:

Continue reading “Patrick Lang: “The Best Defense…””

Good questions about Blair’s claimed terror plot

Craig Murray is the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan who lost his job over his refusal to go along with Blair/Bush plan to hide Uzbekistan’s ghastly torture record. He writes in this post on his blog that,

    Unlike the great herd of so-called security experts doing the media analysis, I have the advantage of having had the very highest security clearances myself, having done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis, and having been inside the spin machine.

So this what Murray says there about the “terror plot” that was announced with such fanfare by Tony Blair (and indeed, also by George W. Bush) last week:

    None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn’t be a plane bomber for quite some time.
    In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.
    What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year – like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.
    Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes – which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way…
    We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for “Another 9/11”. The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled.
    We then have the appalling political propaganda of John Reid, Home Secretary, making a speech warning us all of the dreadful evil threatening us and complaining that “Some people don’t get” the need to abandon all our traditional liberties. He then went on, according to his own propaganda machine, to stay up all night and minutely direct the arrests. There could be no clearer evidence that our Police are now just a political tool. Like all the best nasty regimes, the knock on the door came in the middle of the night, at 2.30am. Those arrested included a mother with a six week old baby.
    For those who don’t know, it is worth introducing Reid. A hardened Stalinist with a long term reputation for personal violence, at Stirling Univeristy he was the Communist Party’s “Enforcer”, (in days when the Communist Party ran Stirling University Students’ Union, which it should not be forgotten was a business with a very substantial cash turnover). Reid was sent to beat up those who deviated from the Party line.
    We will now never know if any of those arrested would have gone on to make a bomb or buy a plane ticket. Most of them do not fit the “Loner” profile you would expect – a tiny percentage of suicide bombers have happy marriages and young children. As they were all under surveillance, and certainly would have been on airport watch lists, there could have been little danger in letting them proceed closer to maturity – that is certainly what we would have done with the IRA.
    In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harrassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most of the very few – just over two per cent of arrests – who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do terrorism, but of some minor offence the Police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered.
    Be sceptical. Be very, very sceptical.

(Hat-tip to Jonathan Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution for the Murray link.)
So yes, Murray has persuaded me to be very skeptical. When I was writing this JWN post last Saturday about the Blair government’s “revelations”, I did consider for a while whether to refer to the plot as an “alleged plot”, or not, and finally decided not to.
I guess sometimes I’m just too naive. I would have found it hard to believe that the British police and other government agencies could be so politicized and so craven as to undertake this big, much-publicized “reveal and takedown” operation on the basis of such very, very shaky “information.” And as Murray notes, the timing of it all certainly did look extremely political.
Actually, the idea that the British government agencies might have participated in an intensely politicized exercise in this way makes me even more scared than I was last week about the (alleged, and definitely still not proven) plot itself.
Here’s what Murray wrote, very sensibly, on Aug. 10 itself:

    We wait for the court system to show whether this was a real attempted attack and, if so, it was genuinely operational rather than political to move against it today. But the police’ and security services’ record of lies does not inspire confidence.

Right. Testing and openly establishing the facts of the matter is one of the key functions of a well-run court system. Wouldn’t it be great if the 500 men who’ve now languished in Gitmo for more than four years, and the other hundreds languishing in other US-run “black hole” prisons around the world, could also rely on a court hearing that would show us all– the public in whose name they have been captured and detained this long– whether there was any evidence against them, and if so, what?