Spectacular coverage of spectacular terror influences public opinion
By Daan de Wit
This article has been translated into English by Ben Kearney.
In it's lead editorial in Wednesday's edition, headlined The Politics of Fear, The New York Times writes: 'The message, as always: Be very afraid. And don't question the president'. This in response a report presented by the director of national intelligence entitled The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland and Fran Townsend, Bush's homeland security advisor, who went over the report at length in a news conference. Unfiltered criticism at a time when tensions are high: the interests of the Bush Administration versus the interests of what looks to be the majority of the American people. Tension emanated from the Senate during the vote that took place overnight from Tuesday into Wednesday (the result: the proposal for a partial withdraw of troops from Iraq failed) and from the flood of disturbing news reports that preceded it.
The flood of reports began with the attacks in London and Glasgow at the end of last month, at which critics pointed to the strategic interests at stake for the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the American President George W. Bush. The Scotsman Brown had just been appointed prime minister, and he portrayed himself as being tough in the wake of the attacks in Scotland and England, which took place right before the commemoration of the attacks of 7/7, 2005. Bush underscored the coverage leading up to the important decision by the Senate last Tuesday night to continue the war in Iraq.
The attacks in London (June 29
) and Glasgow (June 30
) were the beginning of a series of unsettling reports on the influence and resolve of Al Qaida. NRC Handelsblad writes
in it's lead editorial that London and Glasgow escaped a bloodbath. 'A new drama failed to materialize', states the editorial with relief. On Dutch TV, Tim Overdiek characterizes
the events as near-catastrophes and as a serious terror offensive, while a day earlier former agents of the CIA
and Scotland Yard
had already explained that there was really nothing going on. Even if the explosives had gone off. On July 2nd ABC News reported
that 'al Qaeda is planning a terror "spectacular" this summer, according to a senior official with access to the document. "This is reminiscent of the warnings and intelligence we were getting in the summer of 2001," the official told ABCNews.com. [...] Unlike the United States, officials in Germany have publicly warned that the country could face a major attack this summer, also comparing the situation to the pre-9/11 summer of 2001.' The results of the attacks in London and Glasgow have not failed to materialize. Admiral Sir Alan West, the new security minister under the new British prime minister, responded
by saying that he expected his countrymen to keep an eye on each other in the fight against terrorism, a fight that could last fifteen years: 'Sir Alan called on people to be "a little bit un-British" and even inform on each other in an attempt to trap those plotting to take innocent lives. "Britishness does not normally involve snitching or talking about someone," he said. "I'm afraid, in this situation, anyone who's got any information should say something because the people we are talking about are trying to destroy our entire way of life."'
It was a remarkable series of reports which, when rendered graphically, would undoubtedly show up as a peak. The high summer temps certainly weren't suggesting that the time was ripe to slowdown, but were instead a reflection of the build-up in tension. The secret report Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West
, that was leaked
prior to the release of the National Intelligence Estimate
how Al Qaida has regrouped and is once again just as strong as it was prior to 9/11. For the first time
in the NIE
, emphasis is placed on the terroristic threat posed to the domestic security of the U.S. The NIE was worked on
for two years by sixteen secret agents. Both reports were linked
to each other on Tuesday by Bush's homeland security advisor, Frances Townsend: '[...] the analysis and the facts in the NIE and the classified report were not a surprise to decision-makers and have been the subject of extensive discussion, planning and action over a considerable period of time. [...] We are facing a persistent terrorist enemy led by Al Qaida that remains driven and intent on attacking the homeland and that continues to adapt and improve its capabilities.' Given the threatening and terrifying message coming out of the press conference, it would seem that the writer of the New York Times editorial had summed up Townsend's remarks accurately: 'Be very afraid. And don't question the president'. On the same day Townsend added
that 'U.S. officials believe al-Qaida wants to launch "a mass casualty, spectacular event" in the United States but don't think it can do so. "Make no mistake, they're determined to figure out a way," said Frances Fragos Townsend.'
Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum said in an interview on July 7th: 'between now and November, a lot of things are going to happen, and I believe that by this time next year, the American public's going to have a very different view of this war, and it will be because, I think, of some unfortunate events, that like we're seeing unfold in the UK.' Capitol Hill Blue reported in 2005 on a secret Republican memorandum: 'The closely-guarded memo lays out a list of scenarios to bring the Republican party back from the political brink, including a devastating attack by terrorists that could "validate" the President's war on terror and allow Bush to "unite the country" in a "time of national shock and sorrow."' Someone who would agree with that is the chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, Dennis Milligan. Last month he said: '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."'
On Tuesday of last week the head of America's Department of Homeland Security said that he had a gut feeling that the U.S. would be running an increased risk of an attack by Al Qaida this summer. He is warning citizens to be extra vigilant, and in the article the attacks in Glasgow and London, the attacks in London on 7/7 and the averted attacks of the Liquid Bombers are all referred to. Al Qaida is also danger number 1 for President Bush: 'In total, the president mentioned the movement more than 20 times in his appearance in the White House press room', on Thursday of last week. Two days before that, still more Al Qaida via ABC News, with the headline: 'Al Qaeda Cell in the U.S. Or On Its Way, According to New Intel', writing: 'Senior U.S. intelligence officials tell ABC News new intelligence suggests a small al Qaeda cell is on its way to the United States, or may already be here.' The following day, the head of the CIA's analysis directorate said that 'he begins with the premise that al-Qaida would consider attacking the U.S. a "home run hit" and that the easiest way to get into the United States would be through Europe.' One of the countries that he specifically identifies is The Netherlands, because citizens of this country can enter and exit Pakistan with relative ease, and The Netherlands also takes part in the 'U.S. visa waiver program', which makes it possible to get into America without too much scrutiny. 'Large teams of newly trained suicide bombers are being sent to the United States and Europe, according to evidence contained on a new videotape', reported ABC News as early as June. The Daily Telegraph wrote in the first week of July that, according to an extremist chat-website, 45 doctors are ready to carry out attacks in the U.S. using car bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. The next day CBS reported on the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Dr. Mohammed Asha and his wife on England's M6 motorway, after Asha had sought contact with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates in Philadelphia. He is still in custody, while his wife has been released.
Al Qaida has long since been the icon of global terrorism, and for some time now has also been designated as the driving force behind the Iraqi resistance: '"The No. 1 enemy in Iraq is al-Qaida," White House press secretary Tony Snow said Wednesday. "Al-Qaida continues to be the chief organizer of mayhem within Iraq."' With the statement by Snow and this sentence from the NIE: 'AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] helps al-Qa'ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks' the role of Al Qaida has been secured as the reference point for all of the misery caused to the U.S. in Iraq, in the U.S., and in the rest of the world. The logic of Al Qaida energizing the Sunni resistance is nonetheless hard to come by - the only logic to be found in it is that it's consistent with President Bush's line that Bin Laden and Saddam acted together. While this collaboration appears to have been non-existent, and continues to crop up only in articles which cite polls showing how persistent this rumor is among portions of the American public, Bush continues to cling to it. Pulling out of Iraq 'would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda', according to Bush. It's unlikely that Al Qaida would support the Sunni resistance. The use of the term Al Qaeda in Iraq is not based on any evidence that this group exists, but is instead the result of 'The Zarqawi PSYOP program', 'The Zarqawi PSYOP program is the most successful information campaign to date', according to an internal briefing produced by the U.S. military; PSYOP stands for 'psychological operation'. This 'propaganda campaign', as the Washington Post characterizes it, had the goal of portraying Zarqawi as the leader of Al Qaida in Iraq. The term Al Qaeda in Iraq has since taken on a life of its own after being mentioned time and time again by the Bush Administration and repeatedly cited in the press. Conversely, the contention that the U.S. is supporting the Sunnis is actually widely-held, which according to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh is quite logical and can be explained as a new American strategy. According to an English vicar, the now notorious phrase referring to the attacks in London and Glasgow - 'Those who cure you will kill you' - originated with an Iraqi Sunni, who according to the British Foreign Office is an key member of Al Qaida.
Regarding the leaked report Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West, the Associated Press writes: 'The findings could bolster the president's hand at a moment when support in Congress for the war is eroding and the administration is struggling to defend its decision for a military buildup in Iraq.' It's not only the House that could gain inspiration from findings in the report that indicate that Al Qaida is preparing to attack the West. The Senate also hesitated in the lead-up to the all-night session (which took place from Tuesday into Wednesday). Bin Laden again let his voice be heard just prior to that with his first video message in years. The doubtless reaction by the neoconservatives to this video is once again that it's 'a little gift', just like the last video from Bin Laden in 2004, right before the presidential election. Back then the video was referred to as 'a little gift' by a Bush campaign strategist because it functioned as a shot in the arm for Bush in his contest against John Kerry, a fellow member of the sinister secret society Skull & Bones. 'We want people to think 'terrorism' for the last four days, said a key Republican Party strategist at that time. 'Anything that makes people nervous about their personal safety helps Bush'. The problem with this video was that Bin Laden didn't look like himself, and was suddenly right-handed. The problem with the Bin Laden video that was made public last Saturday was that the images were five years old and had already been broadcast on two separate occasions. These were facts overlooked by the press, which resulted in the video being regarded as new the world over.
The nighttime session from Tuesday into Wednesday in the Senate, complete with cots, did not end up leading to the reaction that the New York Times had anticipated: 'By now, Congress surely can see through the president's fear-mongering and show Mr. Bush the exit from Iraq that he refuses to find for himself.' In its commentary the paper did not mince words: 'The White House denied that the report was timed to the Senate debate. But the administration controls the timing of such releases and the truth is that fear of terrorism is the only shard remaining of Mr. Bush's justification for invading Iraq. This administration has never hesitated to play on fear for political gain, starting with the first homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, and his Popsicle-coded threat charts. It is a breathtakingly cynical ploy, but in the past it has worked to cow Democrats into silence, if not always submission, and herd Republicans back onto the party line. That must not happen this time.' Yet it did. Outside of Congress - though also within Congress - the criticism of the war in Iraq and of the Bush Administration is increasing. So much so that journalist Bill Moyers has already devoted a segment to it, entitled Tough Talk on Impeachment: 'Impeachment...the word feared and loathed by every sitting president is back. It's in the air and on your computer screen, a growing clamor aimed at both President Bush and Vice-President Cheney.' The mood that Moyers is picking up on is also being felt by others, among them the producers of No End In Sight. This documentary 'focuses mostly on the mismanagement by ill-informed US officials overseeing the post-combat occupation, rather than delving too deeply into the lies fed to the American people in the run-up to war.' Those same lies were covered by this website before, during and after the war officially began.
The Netherlands in Afghanistan
Coverage of terrorism in The Netherlands could influence decisions made as to whether or not that country will continue to take part in the war in Afghanistan. Last week I spoke to an intelligence officer who among other things debriefs Dutch servicemen coming back from Afghanistan. Halfway into the conversation a confusing situation arose in which it seemed as if two actors had exchanged scripts - he asked me if I could tell him why it was that The Netherlands was in Afghanistan. It was a sincere question for which he had no answer, despite his background and all the information that he was getting back from the battlefield in Afghanistan. I didn't have an answer for him either. The journalist H.J.A. Hofland wrote in yesterday's NRC Handelsblad: 'Our mission in Afghanistan is a part of the overall foreign policy of the West, which is being led by the American government'. According to someone else I spoke to this week, that was also the view of the soldiers in The Netherlands currently being prepped for this mission. The person I spoke to is involved in this and understood from these soldiers that, aside from assisting the U.S., they have no idea why they have to fight in that far-off land, nor what the reason is behind the U.S. presence there. Hofland: 'It's all going to come to a head very soon. The cabinet will make a decision as to the extension of the military mission in Afghanistan beyond 2008. In the meantime it's well understood by everyone to be a 'combat mission' [...]'.
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