Thursday, February 14, 2008

SECDEF SHAKES AL QAEDA BOOGEYMEN AT THE UNCOOPERATIVE: The terrorists will kill you all if you don't do what we say

Please, Daddy, please! No more al Qaeda stories!

One of this country's major problems is its lack of honesty in all things. In the rest of the world, the sensible assume that when they are told a thing by a very important man from the United States, they're getting sold a line of crap, custom-made to encourage their country to do something that will benefit only the US.

In Munich on February 10, the secretary of defense continued this practice in a speech aimed at hectoring NATO into doing more in Afghanistan, a war the Bush administration screwed up when it decided it was more important to peremptorily attack Iraq.

"...I am concerned that many people on this continent do not comprehend the magnitude of the direct threat to European government," Gates told his audience. "Many Europeans question the relevance of our actions and doubt whether the mission is worth the lives of their sons and daughters. As a result, many want to remove their troops."

And then came the threadbare script, the one that everyone in the current administration pulls out when it's time to ask for something. You'd better do what we want or the boogeymen will come to kill you.

Gates then ran off a list of terror plots broken up in Europe with the insinuation that not helping more in Afghanistan would some day allow new ones like them to be visited all at once on Euro cities.

If one is unfamiliar with terror plots, it almost sounds reasonable. If you are, however, you immediately recognize that the laundry list of terror boogeymen is seeded with massive flops, distortions and stories exaggerated for political effect.

"A plot to use ricin and release cyanide in the London Underground" was one indicator, claimed Gates.

The alleged ricin plot, of which DD knows quite a bit, being the first person to nationally report on it in this country, was not tied to al Qaeda. It was one man named Kamel Bourgass, a loner with a handful of castor seeds, a paper laden with cherry stones and some ludicrous poison recipes posted here.

In 2003, Bush administration fuglemen -- most notably Colin Powell, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz -- used the al Qaeda ricin boogeymen story as a prop to convince everyone it was proper to invade Iraq.

The ricin plot has always been a convenient story for the US government. In England it is regarded somewhat differently, as part of a hyping of terror and the rush to war with Iraq.

In 2003, Bob Gates wasn't the secdef. He was, if the story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine was correct earlier this week, in retirement at a lake house in Washington.

The Sunday mag story was aimed at telling readers that the new secdef wasn't like the old secdef, the well-known rascal Don Rumsfeld.

It's probably true. Bob Gates is much more polite.

But politeness is overrated and Gates still appears to follow the same general Bush administration marching orders: When in need of justifications for something, make stuff up about terrorists and how they'll kill everyone in the audience unless orders are followed. The best thing about the NYT piece was that the secdef indicated we'd be rid of him, he'd go back to where he'd rather be -- his lake house, once GWB was gone.

In Munich for the Euros Gates went on to involve the more recent failed car bomb plot in England, too. If you can't recall, it was the one in which one terrorist parked his car in a tow-away zone and had it ... towed. Another unsuccessfully attacked an airport in Glasgow by setting himself on fire, whereupon he was beaten into submission by a civilian and policemen. And he's dead now.

Of course, the plots invoked by Gates all have truth to them. But in the hands of the US government, they're expanded into horrors which they demonstrably are not, used as cudgels to scare those who haven't yet become well and truly sick of the American practice.

"Ambiguities arise in Spain's alleged terror plot," reported the Los Angeles Times, one day after Gates' speech in Munich. (See here.)

"Pakistani immigrants were detained and accused of planning suicide bombings of the Barcelona subway as part of a broader attack," read the newspaper in a subhed. "But doubt has been raised about the charges."

"[The] story seems ambiguous," it continued. "Investigators found only a trace of explosives. No plot was detected in France, and no arrests have been made in any of the other countries. Leaders of the Pakistani community in Barcelona say they were unfairly targeted."

A photo of seized evidence which ran in the paper edition showed only a couple nine-volt batteries and some miscellaneous trinketry -- stuff which could have been anything.

In Munich, however, Gates had it all figured out: "Just in the last few weeks, Spanish authorities arrested 14 Islamic extremists in Barcelona suspected of planning suicide attacks against public transport systems in Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, and Britain."

"We must find the resolve to confront together a new set of challenges," Gates grandly told his audience.

It would be refreshing if the American government resolved to stop using fear, bribes and arms sales as its only motivational tools. Until that happens, those with common sense can resolve to stop paying attention to us.

Late in November, Bob Gates gave a speech at Kansas State. It was remarked upon in the press as a call to redevelop America's soft power, to go beyond "guns and steel."

It was reprinted in the January/February issue of Military Review. DD found one section of it especially precious.

"For example, public relations was invented in the United States, yet we are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals," said Gates. "It is just plain embarrassing that al Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America. As one foreign diplomat asked a couple years ago, 'How has one man in a cave managed to out-communicate the world's greatest communication society?'"

Well, that's simple, Mr. Gates.

Al Qaeda hasn't out-communicated the American people. It has out-communicated the American government, an entirely different thing.

We're not to blame.

It's you -- the class of leaders who are in power who can't tell the truth. No one listens to people who can't be trusted to say that which is honest and real. And "public relations" has long been a functional slur meaning lies and manipulation.

Another point to Gates' K-State lecture, a tedious one, was that we civilians needed to do better in the war on terror and lend a hand to the Department of State. American expert civilians were to rush to augment the power of the military, showing the essential fine qualities of the people while at the same time lending the nation and military the benefit of their skills.

Gates quotes Teddy Roosevelt to inspire his audience and presumably anyone reading the gist of it in a newspaper. It's his "ask not what your country can do for you" moment, one that struck this reader as old garbage from any run-of-the-mill authority figure used to being treated courteously while lecturing. In another manner of speaking, similar to an admonition to get to eating your peas and cease skipping church on Sundays.

"A great work lies ready to the hand of this generation; it should count itself happy indeed that to it is given the privilege of such a work," is the exhortation.

You've never heard the war on terror and Iraq described in quite that manner, we bet.


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