Guest blogged by Winter Patriot
Unless you've been under a rock for most of the past week, you already know that people have been arrested in Britain and Pakistan recently, in connection with an alleged plot to bomb flights from Britain to the USA. According to reports of the arrests, the alleged terrorists were allegedly planning to take down 10 or 12 airplanes at the same time, and this grand-scale planning allegedly points to al-Qaeda. You may know quite a bit more than this, of course. Or at least you may think you do. But in point of fact, most of us probably know quite a bit less.
This post attempts to dig beneath the surface, to look at various (mainstream and other) accounts of the events and to try to determine the nature, the scope and the scale of the manipulation that has been going on. It may not point us in the direction of greater truth, but perhaps it can help us to find a direction of fewer lies.
Let's start with a point of order: Chris Floyd, writer of the excellent blog Empire Burlesque, points out one of the most sickening aspects of the coverage these arrests have received:
Everywhere, you read that a "bomb plot was thwarted" --- not an alleged bomb plot. Everywhere, you read that the plotters (or most of them) have been captured --- not the "alleged" plotters. Everywhere, whatever line is being laid down by "intelligence officials" and government poo-bahs is accepted uncritically and megaphoned out to the public. Everywhere the presumption of innocence --- one of the bedrock liberties of the "way of life" that we are supposed to be defending --- is gleefully tossed aside.
The presumption of innocence --- like the Geneva Conventions --- is just another "quaint" relic of a bygone era.
I give Chris a lot of credit for saying this; I think it shows that he and I have been reading somewhat different sources. If we can judge by the presence of the magic word "alleged", I have found a few --- a very few --- "honest" mainstream news reports. Most of them have come from our Canadian friends.
Here's an example from the CBC (with my emphasis):
The items join the list of things banned from carry-on luggage on airplanes under tighter regulations put in place on Aug. 10 after British police announced that they had foiled an alleged plot to bomb commercial aircraft with explosives smuggled onto planes in hand luggage.
At least 40 people have been arrested in the alleged bomb plot, including 24 detained in overnight raids on Aug. 9 and 10 in Britain and others in Pakistan.
As Chris Floyd almost said: the stories containing phrases like "alleged bomb plot" are few and far between. But even before I read his post, I had been looking for the exceptions. And that's probably why I found them. I even found a New York Times article with the word "alleged" in it. And we'll look at that article in more depth, later.
But at this point I want to emphasize how prominently these reports stand out --- because of their honest use of the language, because they imply that the presumption of innocence is not entirely lost, and because they are so few in number.
I must say this highlights the pathetic condition of the majority our so-called "news" services. And I can't say I'm surprised.
I was also not surprised to see a wide variety of articles questioning the timing of the arrests; some of which appeared more or less immediately after the first arrests were announced.
In a post I wrote last Thursday, I pointed out how convenient the timing was for the Republicans --- who were so busy bashing the Democrats because their favorite faux-Democrat Senator, Joe Lieberman, had lost Tuesday's Connecticut primary to Ned Lamont.
As usual, and possibly because I am almost always nearly frozen, my piece, An Avalanche of Bullshit, may have been too subtle about it (other than the title, perhaps). Some other writers were mincing their words a lot less than I was that day.
But what kept nagging at me was the sense that the White House was far too eager to exploit this, that despite having only learned of the details a few days back, they appeared to be aggressively using insider intelligence of forthcoming events to their own political advantage.
The one issue, the key issue for everyone I spoke with, mirrored my own concerns. The timing seemed terribly odd.
The arrests appeared sloppy. Scotland Yard was still involved in raiding and arresting suspects at the time the story broke, and the raids and arrests continued throughout the day and evening. The mastermind was still in Pakistan, when one would have hoped that authorities would have ensured his capture prior to the raids, as such a person could provide information about higher ups and financial backers. Why did the Brits suddenly move? This was the question that had experts completely confused.
Were the experts really "completely confused"? Or were they keeping something hidden?
If they were trying to keep it hidden, it didn't work. Larisa is a very good chess player.
Right. Exactly. Yes?
Larisa goes on to lay out a series of quotes and links that I find most convincing. I've been reading Larisa for a long time and it seems to me that she does not like to stick her neck out. She's usually entirely convinced of something before she even begins to write about it.
So when she writes stuff like this I tend to pay attention:
In my opinion it was despite the Bush administration that the Brits managed to still secure the alleged plotters, not as a result of White House help in the matter.
The confusion around and skepticism of the alleged London bombings plot is understandable given the context of this week's events and the well documented past naked abuse of power by this administration in peddling fear for political points.
The mainstream media, however, cannot seem to separate two very specific issues: the actual London plot and the White House abuse of classified information to achieve political goals.
After an extended discussion, tracing the flow of information, Larisa writes:
While all of this chatter is going on in the States, the Brits must have watched with horror. In my opinion, their move to arrest the suspects on Thursday was more about a sleazy White House political machine and the possibility that loose lips from the White House could jeopardize the investigation, which was nearing its end.
This again, is my own opinion. Is this cynical? Yes. But look who we are talking about after all.
Good point. I, like Chris Floyd, value the presumption of innocence very highly. But I don't see how it can apply to people who have long track records of breaking every law that cuts across their plans, and lying about virtually everything.
Yes, Larisa! That's exactly the point, isn't it? No effort toward national security, which is supposedly the Republicans' best issue. How could this possibly make any sense, in the absence of a great propaganda machine?
Larisa then draws what seems like an obvious conclusion:
How is this allowed?
That's another good question, is it not? Larisa and I might not have much in common --- and I'm sure she's a much better chess player than I am (which is probably why she won't play me!) --- but we do ask a lot of questions, don't we?
Watch how she asks and answers a question that is usually spun the other way:
No. We were not safe to begin with because this administration failed to do its job in preventing the attacks of that tragedy.
We are by far even less safe after the White House created torture camps all over the world
We have become even more unsafe because this administration spent all of our national security funding, that is, funding earmarked for securing our nation, on Halliburton and Blackwater contracts, and on building a big, palace like base in Iraq.
We have been at near zero safety since Bush and Cheney were appointed to their positions in 2000 and we will continue to have our safety downgraded with every passing second that this cabal has control over our precious, soon to be extinguished democracy. They are not strong on national security. They are strong on propaganda.
Bam! That's it, isn't it? Their one strong suit is propaganda! And Larisa nails them on it with a certain panache, don't you think?
What an essay! I urge you to read the whole thing. But then I always say that, especially when I'm talking about Larisa.
Earlier in the day, without doing the same research, Buzzflash had come to the same kinds of questions from a slightly different angle:
While the exact nature of today's arrests is still unclear, none of the plans seemed to have been immediate or imminent threats. The decision of when to intervene has been arbitrary, making the coincidental timings pretty convenient.
Imagine a conversation late Tuesday night between Bush and his British Prime Minister lapdog, just as Ned Lamont declares victory. "Yo, Blair," Bush says while scarfing down a dinner role. "I gotta to do something about this sh*t. Can you finally arrest those suspected terrorists you told me about? This election business is ruining my vacation! I know you're chillin' in the Caribbean yourself right now, but it sure would be great if you could make a few calls for me ASAP."
Don't buy it? Consider this quote from a Reuters article on the story: "President George W. Bush had known about the investigation for several days, was briefed about it regularly and knew the arrests were coming, a senior administration official said." Both countries are surely monitoring several terrorist leads that could lead to arrests at any time. The British group would have been stopped eventually, but there has been absolutely no indication why it had to be today.
The Buzzflash editorial winds its way through some thorny ground before coming to the following conclusion:
We will never know, as long as one-party dictatorship prevails and incompetence and unending war are the means of maintaining power.
But timing is something you can document. And this timing of the latest act of terrorism announcement appears more political than operational.
A senatorial candidate who questions the strategic value of the Iraq War is denounced by the top level of the Bush Administration as an appeaser of terrorists --- and then once again there is an arrest of people we are told intended to commit grievous acts of terrorism.
There appears to be a pattern here, and it's one employed by masters of tyranny, not democracy, to cover up for a failed war and a failed foreign policy.
I think you should read this whole piece too.
When I need a different --- calmer, clearer --- view of things, I try to consult Gwynne Dyer, who can be hard to find. Serious truth-tellers sometimes have difficulty getting published, and their readers sometimes have to make an effort. This time I found Gwynne Dyer in an Australian paper.
It wasn't clear what they were supposed to do — crush the terrorists under their treads? — and no actual terrorists ever showed up, but it helped to shape public opinion. So how different is it this time?
Well, that's the thing, isn't it?
How is this different?
What should we do about it?
Should we do anything different?
Strangely --- tragically --- these sorts of questions have been virtually off-limits, for almost five years.
Isn't it time we started talking about them? Apparently Gwynne Dyer thinks so.
Maybe it's cynical, but there are strong grounds for suspecting that this is all a charade. If they infiltrated these terrorist cells many months ago and have now have arrested most of the members, then why would they institute drastic new security measures on flights at this point? And did they really only realise in the past few days that explosives come in liquid form as well?
One of the reasons I like Dyer so much is because he can always make me laugh, even in the middle of a very serious piece like this. But I also like him because he gets right to the point.
Fair enough, although this is the same organisation that took "urgent action" to kill an innocent Brazilian called Jean Charles de Menezes in July 2005 "in order to disrupt what we believe was being planned", and earlier this year shot and wounded another innocent person in London in the course of a raid on a Muslim family in east London based on manifestly unreliable information.
So maybe 24 terrorist plotters have been arrested in Britain, or maybe 24 innocent British Muslims with full beards, or more likely some combination of the two. But whatever the truth of that, why the panic?
Exactly. We got 'em, right? So why were we acting like we didn't?
Well done, lads — but if you have them all locked up, why are you closing the airports and bringing in all these draconian security measures now? A couple of months ago, when you first uncovered this plot but didn't know all the "main players", I could understand such drastic precautions, but why now?
Very interesting twist here, no? Dyer asks "why now?" in a completely different way than Larisa did, for example. And the questions reinforce each other. Why now? Why now? Why now?
It's a great sytle, isn't it? Another joke and then --- kablam --- straight to the heart of the matter:
This is all hype, designed to frighten the British and American publics into supporting the wars of their deeply unpopular governments (and the war of their Israeli ally as well).
What a wonderful phrase: "Even if the alleged British terrorist ring were still on the loose."
As I've been saying, Dyer's a compulsive truth-teller, and he's been studying the various war machines for decades.
So his take on the events of last Thursday isn't very surprising. Worth reading? Sure. Always. Worth sharing? Yes, in my opinion. But not very surprising.
There was a big surprise, however, on Monday morning, and it came from NBC!
British officials knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.
In contrast to previous reports, one senior British official suggested an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports.
Wow! That's a good one! I may be nearly frozen, but even I understand how tough it is to get aboard an international flight without a passport. Imminent danger, indeed!
Of course he did. He always does. But apparently not everyone got the memo:
Can you believe it's NBC saying this? Perhaps there's some hope for American TV journalism after all.
If you can call it that.
Or maybe I'm just hopeful. Frozen and hopeful, that must be it!
Are you with me so far? Good.
Now let's take a ride inside the Republican Spin-And-Noise Machine, courtesy of Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times:
Their party was splintered over Mr. Bush’s proposed immigration overhaul and uncertain about the political effect of violence in Iraq. Even with the White House working to bring Republicans together behind the president’s agenda, several candidates were making public shows of establishing their distance from him and his sagging approval ratings.
That picture of Republican disunity eased dramatically this week with the defeat on Tuesday of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman in the Democratic primary in Connecticut and the news on Thursday that Britain had foiled a potentially large-scale terrorist plot.
The White House and Congressional Republicans used those events to unleash a one-two punch, first portraying the Democrats as vacillating when it came to national security, and then using the alleged terror plot to hammer home the continuing threat faced by the United States.
Did you catch that? NYT said "alleged terror plot". Does that tell us something important? Is this article going to give us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
Well, not exactly. But watch this: If you read between the lines, you can see the whole gory plan laid bare --- from one end to the other. Strong on propaganda? Larisa sure had that one right!
Rallying around the signature issue. Imagine that.
None of it was accidental, was it? They try to spin it like it was just one of those fortunate coincidences that come along every now and then, just another "trifecta" ... But was it really? With all you've read so far, is there any question?
That word originated in a White House memorandum by Mr. Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow, suggesting ways to frame the debate, that was shared with officials, including Ken Mehlman, the Republican chairman, and Karl Rove, the president’s top strategist.
The effort continued with the news of the British intelligence breakthrough, with the message that the plot had highlighted the stakes of a fight that the Democrats, according to Republicans, were not equipped to face.
If the Democrats are supposedly not equipped to face this fight, does it make sense to ask: Why not? Is it because the administration has been confining all the top-level intelligence to a very small circle of "insiders", while giving everyone else, especially Democrats and the media, lie after lie after lie?
Maybe even despite all that, some Democrats are starting to wake up. Maybe they've been emboldened by the result from Connecticut. One can only hope...
“If the Republican Party thinks this is a good political issue for them, they are mistaken,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
We don't hear lines like this often enough.
I think every prominent Democrat should memorize it --- and five or six variations on the same theme.
But at the very least, news of the plot helped the White House and the Republican Party achieve something they have struggled to do all year: bring the party forcefully together with the president.
Wow! Think of that! Here were two events that should have fractured the party even further. Watching their favorite faux-Democrat lap-dog defeated, by a candidate they had done their best to smear ... and then this terror-plot spin-game, so blatantly obvious that even a frozen blogger couldn't help but notice it?
How sick can you get? This was helpful to the party? And what does that tell you?
It wasn't only Democrats making that charge, of course. Lots of other people noticed, too. The White House wasn't the only player actively using the plot to its political advantage, either. And I doubt Gwynne Dyer is a Democrat.
Well... that's what they always say. Whenever an accusation is just too spot-on to refute, they call it "absurd".
Brian Jones is a spokesman for the Republican Party for a reason. He knows what to say when he's cornered.
The so-called president knows it too but he doesn't always get it quite right.
Remember when he was confronted about his alleged foreknowledge of 9/11? What did he say then?
"That's an absurd assinuation."
But I digress.
What do you expect them to say? That those who were briefed on the plot demanded arrests as soon as they needed another smoke-screen to hide behind?
And why would they say that? Why would they start telling the truth now? They probably don't even know how to do it anymore, if indeed they ever did.
But every time they deny something, without really refuting it, the non-refutation denial goes halfway to confirming the assertion. And then there's the between-the-lines thing. Read very carefully, my friends.
Officials said they had identified a Lieberman loss as a potential watershed moment that could reinforce the Democrats’ antiwar message — and scare Republicans out of taking White House advice to embrace the war in Iraq and national security in general. That advice was wearing thin as the death toll in Iraq continued to climb.
No kidding. Not to mention the fact that the country is starting to wake up to certain other inconvenient truths.
Still, last weekend, Republican officials said, as the Lieberman loss seemed a certainty, the Republican National Committee and the White House began working to bring the party together on a message that the Democratic Party was taking a hard turn toward the antiwar left.
As I oh-so-subtly pointed out last week, they could hardly admit that the Democratic voters of Connecticut had made a choice, could they? Oh no, this single electoral result had to be painted as a change of direction for the entire Democratic Party. And why? Because they can get away with any lie they choose to tell? Or because they think we're all so stupid we can't tell the difference between Connecticut and the USA?
Right. And we believe this. Even though it makes no sense at all, and even though we know they despise all the great historical Democrats --- especially FDR and JFK --- whenever they’re not trying to use their names to dupe current Democrats. Sure thing, Mr. Rove. We believe you this time!
And Joe Lieberman is a distinguished public servant. Right. Gotcha, Karl.
It may not be within the NYT's jurisdiction to point out how little sense these statements make. Maybe the Times is content --- or compelled --- to simply lay Republican talking points on the table without comment, and allow you to draw your own conclusions. But in this case the conclusion is not too difficult to draw, is it?
A key swing state? Is this 2004 again?
And really, "Defeatocrats"? Are we reduced to name-calling as a debating tactic now?
They might as well just shout "Your mother wears Army boots" and be done with it.
They might as well start throwing their shoes.
Of course this is more manure than you can lift with a single pitchfork. There are more than two ways to fight terrorism. Only one of them has been tried in the last five years and it clearly isn't working very well. But then again they have changed the definition of terrorism so many times, it's hard to know what they mean when they say "terrorism" nowadays. A partially frozen and fully cynical mind might suggest that this was part of the plan.
Furthermore, we still have no idea what led to Sept. 11. We don't even know what happened on the day, much less what led up to it. Maybe if they ran a decent, open investigation --- dropped all the state secrets claims and rescinded all the gag orders --- maybe then we might find out some of the history behind it. But at the moment, we simply don't know. To pretend we do --- and to use this pretense to smear political opponents --- strikes me as the height of dishonesty. But then again what else is new?
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader in the Senate, said in a statement to supporters that it was “disgraceful” that Mr. Cheney’s comments had come after he had been briefed on the British investigation.
Cheney's comments were disgraceful, regardless of when he learned about the British investigation. But let's not dwell on that; there's plenty of spin still to come.
Yet by Thursday afternoon Congressional Republicans had already issued a flood of e-mail messages hailing the breakup of the plot, and crediting the administration’s anti-terror effort.
Oh what a tangled web they weave ... and in my view, Jim Rutenberg has done a good job of bringing us through the tangled skein, so far.
The standard denials are printed verbatim, without comment, whether they make sense or not, whether they reflect known realities or not. So it's not as honest as it seems. But it's better than nothing. And it did say "alleged".
Oh yeah, Sure. Right. Spin me another one. We've just been reading about how the talking points were disseminated. Why do they keep lying about this? Are we really supposed to believe it?
And why does the New York Times print every lie that comes along? Are we supposed to laugh?
Some of these questions are rhetorical, of course, but others are serious. How do they decide how many lies to include? Do they count the paragraphs? Or do they count the lies? Do we need X lies for every X true assertions? Or is it X false-paragraphs for every X true-paragraphs?
Whatever they count, somebody (Rutenberg?) clearly decided they needed another lie at this point, so now he gives us this one:
Yeah, sure you did, Ron. We believe everything that Dennis Hastert says, and we believe everything that he tells you to go out and say too, Ron. Really. You're fooling all of us over here. You believe me, Ron, don't you?
Finally! Here it is: the Republican strategy in a nutshell: Wait until the Democrats criticize the way you've been bungling national security, then deliberately bungle yet another national security threat, then turn around and claim that your opponents are soft on national security, weak on defense, friends of al-Qaeda, yada yada yada.
Do you see that? Do you understand how it works?
Spin it counterclockwise for a change and it all makes sense. Finally. Doesn't it?
We will never again be fooled by manipulations such as this one --- Never again, right?
If we shake ourselves out of our artificially-induced terror-stupor, we might just surprise a few Republican talking-point generators.
They're counting on this one working for quite a while.
It looks to me as if they've got it all figured out: As long as we can keep worrying about the "alleged bomb plot" for the next few weeks, we won't have to worry about anything else until early next month, when we'll be able to start worrying about Osama bin Laden again for a while. And eventually we won't know anything about anything, but we'll all be worried sick. Or standing in long lines at airports. Or not!
The final paragraph shows a master spinner at work, for sure, for sure:
First of all, who is this "senior Republican official"? Could it be the master weaver himself, the spider in the middle of the tangled web? The one Larisa calls a "morally bankrupt, soulless, intellectually perverted campaign manager with the highest security clearances, working out of the seat of power, using government agencies and resources at his disposal"? Well, why not? It sure sounds like him, doesn't it?
And what does Rutenberg mean when he says "even Republicans acknowledged that the climate was unpredictable"???
To me, that final paragraph should say:
"Republicans, of course, claim the climate is unpredictable. They don't want us to notice how they manipulate everything, even risking our national security in favor of their own agenda. They don't want us to see arrests in "alleged terror plots" as being under their "typical political control."
But they admit these things in other contexts, as you can see --- if you pay attention to the true-paragraphs of this article, and if you ignore the false-paragraphs."
The New York Times would never say that, would they?
I say things like that all the time.
What's the difference?
Is it because my brain is nearly frozen?
Or is it just because the traitors have never threatened me with treason?
For more on the thwarted alleged British-Pakistani simultaneous airplane bombing plot, see:
An Avalanche Of Bullshit: Republican Attack Dogs Hit Democrats Nationwide Over Lieberman's Loss In CT Primary
NYT Beats The Terror Drums Again, But Exposes A Vital Fact!
British News Full Of Terror Revelations; World Opinion Appears Skeptical