Would Al Queeda attack Los Angeles and why do terrorists communicate with their hands and feet.?
Who’s surprised? The Bush administration has been scattering the word like ticker tape on a Manhattan parade. Old McDonald left the farm for the NSA, and now it’s here a terrorist, there a terrorist, everywhere a terrorist.
Before the Fourth of July holiday, The Times reported that California’s homeland security office had tracked garden-variety demonstrations. How dare people gather outside the Canadian Consulate and protest the vicious clubbing of baby harp seals? What is Democratic Rep. George Miller thinking, speaking out against the war to all those people in Walnut Creek? Who do those women in Santa Barbara think they are, rallying outside a courthouse to support an antiwar protester?
Personally, I think real, hard-core Al Qaeda-grade terrorists have nothing but contempt for touchy-feely “We Are the World” American do-gooder protesters; after all, didn’t George Bush say terrorists hate our freedoms?
California’s homeland security operation is an office of 53 people, running mostly on federal dollars, and 53 people have to keep finding something to do to justify their paychecks. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office hurried to put a lid on this. The governor believes that any inappropriate information gathering like this is unacceptable; it’s a one-time-only occurrence that won’t happen again; and come look at the 80 or so reports — after we take out the stuff we don’t think you should see.
Which turned out to be a lot. There were hints that the state was keeping an eye on the Minutemen, and something about “suspicious conversations” at a San Diego mosque, but large passages on page after page had been blacked out. A TV cameraman wasn’t allowed to shoot video of the whole lotta nothing. Can’t take a chance that terrorists might have X-ray vision.
Terrorism is real, and it’s virulent. And we are not paranoid — they are out to get us. But don’t go overboard on who “they” are and start seeing terrorists everywhere. To start accusing every “other” of terrorism is a diversion and the best possible cover for the real terrorists. The Los Angeles Police Department went off the rails the same way a couple of decades ago. Its drift-net spying on “subversives” ended up hauling in data on Quakers and people who traded teddy bears for toy guns and an anti-Soviet Jewish group founded by a guy named Zev Yaroslavsky, who’s now an L.A. County supervisor. Two million files in all — some of which a detective passed along to a right-wing group in Virginia.
Throwing around a potent word like “terrorism” only cheapens it. Perfect example: a New York Times report that the federal Homeland Security Department’s list of juicy terrorist targets is so broad and flawed that it includes the Amish Country Popcorn Factory, a petting zoo and a Mule Day parade among the vulnerable sites. Indiana — not California, not New York — was the state with the most terrorist targets (8,591). Keep this kind of stuff coming out of Washington and Jay Leno and Jon Stewart can fire their writers. With the same lavishness, the administration is frenetically classifying documents as “secret,” and even reclassifying information that had been public for years; “top secret” will cease to mean anything at all.
In the same spirit, the administration has been free and easy with the word “eco-terrorism” to describe the property destruction, chiefly arson, wrought by radical environmental groups — who point out, conversely, that the real “eco-terrorism” is what corporate America is doing to the nation’s rivers, forests and wildlife.
Osama bin Laden has said that he fears mockery more than death. If eco-protesters want to do some real damage, they should give up arson and take up ridicule. Don’t torch those SUVs; put a cardboard cutout of Bin Laden in the passenger seat of an H2, and one of Dubya in the driver’s seat beside him, then alert the media.
In a Humor Deficit Disorder world, even tactics like this can backfire. Newsweek reported that a satirical protest outside Halliburton’s offices — about 10 people handing out peanut butter sandwiches to Halliburton employees to mock the company’s alleged overcharging on food contracts in Iraq — got written up as a potential threat to national security. Today, if guys dressed as Mohawk Indians dumped tea in Boston Harbor as a protest, guess which side the administration would be on?
When everything is terrorism, nothing is. A cynical leadership may not be at all reluctant to exploit a gullible and fearful public to cry “terrorist,” but as any reader of Aesop can tell you, pretty soon, everyone realizes what’s going on — even the wolf.
Al Qaida’s networks comprise groups which previously conducted violent campaigns in pursuit of change in their own countries, plus individuals who have broadly embraced Usama bin Laden’s view of the world (see below). This means they are intent on attacking US and other Western interests, as well as replacing regimes that are not deemed pious enough.
The World Trade Center on fire after the 9/11 attacks.
Many of these networks are loose-knit, operating without a conventional structure and with connections across the world, bound by shared extremist views or experiences. Whilst some of these networks are centrally guided by Al Qaida, others are autonomous, but both work to carry out terrorist attacks, and are influenced by radical propaganda shared over the Internet.
The terrorists draw their inspiration from a global message articulated by internationally recognisable figures such as Usama bin Laden. The message is uncompromising and asserts that the West represents a threat to Islam; that loyalty to religion and loyalty to democratic institutions and values are incompatible; and that violence is the only proper response.
The Al Qaida terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001 changed the terrorist landscape. They demonstrated the scale on which Al Qaida was prepared to operate, its desire for “high impact” attacks with a worldwide resonance, its indifference to causing mass civilian casualties of any background or religion and its ability to deploy ambitious, innovative methods of attack – using planes rather than explosives as weapons.
The worldwide campaign against terrorism has resulted in the detention of hundreds of Al Qaida and associated terrorists, including many senior figures. A number of major terrorist attacks have been thwarted across the globe. Coalition action in Afghanistan has deprived Al Qaida of its principal base, where it systematically recruited and trained terrorists, and planned and prepared for operations.
While damaged, however, Al Qaida and associated networks remain capable carrying out major terrorist attacks, such as those on commuter trains in Madrid in March 2004. A number of its senior leaders, including Usama bin Laden himself, and many trained terrorists remain at large. The threat from Al Qaida and associated networks is therefore likely to persist for some time.