The tragic consulate killings in Libya and America’s hierarchy of human life

 

(h/t: Saladin aka Big Boss)

The tragic consulate killings in Libya and America’s hierarchy of human life

by Glenn Greenwald (Guardian UK)

Protesters attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Tuesday night and killed four Americans, including the US ambassador, Chris Stevens. The attacks were triggered by rage over an amateurish and deeply hateful film about Islam that depicted the Prophet Muhammad as, among other things, a child molester advocate, a bloodthirsty goon, a bumbling idiot, and a promiscuous, philandering leech. A 13-minute trailer was uploaded to YouTube and then quickly circulated in the Muslim world, sparking widespread anger (the US embassy in Cairo was also attacked).

The anti-Islam film was written, directed and produced by an Israeli real estate developer living in California, Sam Bacile. He claimed, in an interview with Haaretz, that the film “cost $5m to make and was financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors”. Its purpose, as described by the Israeli newspaper, was to show that “Islam is a cancer” and to provide a “provocative political statement condemning the religion”. It’s hard to believe that the film – which is barely at the level of a poorly rehearsed high-school play – required $5m to make, but the intent seems clear: to provoke Muslims into exactly the sort of violent rage that we are now witnessing.

Events like this one are difficult to write about when they first happen because the raw emotion they produce often makes rational discussion impossible. A script quickly emerges from which All Decent People must recite, and any deviations are quickly detected and denounced. But given the magnitude of this event and the important points it raises, it is nonetheless worthwhile to examine it:

1) The deaths of Ambassador Stevens, a former Peace Corps volunteer and a dedicated Arabic-speaking career diplomat, and the other three American staff, are both a tragedy and a senseless outrage. Indiscriminately murdering people over a film, no matter how offensive it is, is an unmitigated wrong. The blame lies fully and completely with those who committed these murders.

2) Sam Bacile and his cowardly anonymous donors are repellent cretins for producing this bottom-feeding, bigoted, hateful “film” that has no apparent purpose but to spread anti-Islamic hatred and provoke violent reactions. But just as was true of the Qur’an burnings by Pastor Terry Jones (who, unsurprisingly, has a prominent role in promoting this film), or the Danish Muhammad cartoons before that, it is – and it should be – an absolute, unfettered free speech right to produce films no matter how offensive their content might be.

The US has steadily eroded free speech rights in the name of fighting terrorism by criminalizing pure political speech it deems dangerous and prosecuting Muslims who express those prohibited ideas. Attempts to constrain the rights of individuals to produce anti-Muslim films like the trash produced by Bacile and friends are just as dangerous and wrong as all other efforts to constrain free speech. Free speech is a vital liberty – arguably, the central one – and what it means, at its core, is that the right to express even the most repellent and inflammatory ideas is just as inviolable as the right to express inoffensive or conventional ones.

3) It is hard not to notice, and be disturbed by, the vastly different reactions whenever innocent Americans are killed, as opposed to when Americans are doing the killing of innocents. All the rage and denunciations of these murders in Benghazi are fully justified, but one wishes that even a fraction of that rage would be expressed when the US kills innocent men, women and children in the Muslim world, as it frequently does. Typically, though, those deaths are ignored, or at best justified with amoral bureaucratic phrases (“collateral damage”) or self-justifying cliches (“war is hell”), which Americans have been trained to recite.

It is understandable that the senseless killing of an ambassador is bigger news than the senseless killing of an unknown, obscure Yemeni or Pakistani child. But it’s anything but understandable to regard the former as more tragic than the latter. Yet there’s no denying that the same people today most vocally condemning the Benghazi killings are quick and eager to find justification when the killing of innocents is done by their government, rather than aimed at it.

It’s as though there are two types of crimes: killing, and then the killing of Americans. The way in which that latter phrase is so often invoked, with such intensity, emotion and scorn, reveals that it is viewed as the supreme crime: this is not just the tragic deaths of individuals, but a blow against the Empire; it therefore sparks particular offense. It is redolent of those in conquered lands being told they will be severely punished because they have raised their hand against a citizen of Rome.

Just compare the way in which the deaths of Americans on 9/11, even more than a decade later, are commemorated with borderline religious solemnity, as opposed to the deaths of the hundreds of thousands of foreign Muslims caused by the US, which are barely ever acknowledged. There is a clear hierarchy of human life being constantly reinforced by this mentality, and it is deeply consequential.

This is a vital process for enabling and justifying endless aggression. It is a way of dehumanizing those who are killed by the US while venerating American lives above all others. As the media watchdog group Media Lens put it today:

“A crucial task is to perceive how our compassion is channeled towards some and away from others. It’s the foundation of all mass violence.”

The death of Ambassador Stevens and the three Americans who died with him is as tragic as the constant killing of innocent people by the US, but not more so.

4) The two political parties in the US wasted no time in displaying their vulgar attributes by rushing to squeeze these events for political gain. Democratic partisans immediately announced that “exploiting US deaths” – by which they mean criticizing President Obama – “is ugly, unwise”.

That standard is as ludicrous as it is hypocritical. Democrats routinely “exploited US deaths” – in Iraq, Afghanistan, and from 9/11 – in order to attack President Bush and the Republican party, and they were perfectly within their rights to do so. When bad things happen involving US foreign policy, it is perfectly legitimate to speak out against the president and to identify his actions or inaction that one believes are to blame for those outcomes. These are political events, and they are inherently and necessarily “politicized”.

It’s one thing to object to specific criticisms of Obama here as illegitimate and ugly, as some of those criticisms undoubtedly were (see below). But trying to impose some sort of general prohibition on criticizing Obama – on the ground that Americans have died and this is a crisis – smacks of the worst debate-suppressing tactics of the GOP circa 2003. (To his credit, one of the Democrats making those claims today subsequently acknowledged his error and wrote: “Obviously there’s nothing wrong with criticizing the president, even during a crisis.”)

But in this case, what the GOP and Mitt Romney did is substantially worse. As the attacks unfolded, Romney quickly issued a statement, based on the response of the US embassy in Egypt, accusing Obama of “sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks” (the Obama White House repudiated the statement from the embassy in Cairo). The chairman of the GOP, Reince Preibus, unloaded on the world this disgusting tweet: “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic”.

These accusations were all pure fiction and self-evidently ugly; they prompted incredulous condemnations even from media figures who pride themselves on their own neutrality.

But this is the story of the GOP. Faced with a president whose record is inept and horrible in many key respects, they somehow find a way to be even more inept and horrible themselves. Here, they had a real political opportunity to attack Obama – if US diplomats are killed and embassies stormed, it makes the president appear weak and ineffectual – but they are so drowning in their own blinding extremism and hate-driven bile, so wedded to their tired and moronic political attacks (unpatriotic Democrats love America’s Muslim enemies!), that they cannot avoid instantly self-destructing. Within a matter of hours, they managed to turn a politically dangerous situation for Obama into yet more evidence of their unhinged, undisciplined radicalism.

5) Drawing conclusions about Libya, and the US intervention there, from this situation would be unfair and far too premature. This does, however, highlight the rampant violence, lawlessness, militia thuggery, and general instability that has plagued that country since Gadaffi’s removal from power. Moreover, given all the questions, largely ignored, about who it was exactly whom the US was arming and empowering in that country during the intervention, and what the unexpected consequences of doing that might be, it is vital to know how the attackers came into possession of rocket-propelled grenades and other heavy weaponry.

This event also serves as a crucial reminder, yet again, that merely removing a heinous dictator is not proof that the intervention was successful, just or worthwhile. To assess that question, one must know what will follow in that country, for its people, once the intervening powers have removed the government. Declarations of victory and vindication over the intervention in Libya have always been premature, self-serving and baseless – precisely because that crucial fact is yet unknown. We can only hope that Tuesday’s events do not presage a depressing answer to that question.

In sum, one should by all means condemn and mourn the tragic deaths of these Americans in Benghazi. But the deaths would not be in vain if they caused us to pause and reflect much more than we normally do on the impact of the deaths of innocents which America itself routinely causes.

UPDATE: There are two developments in this story which, though they do not affect any of the observations I made, should be noted as they are at odds with some of the earlier reports: (1) although the Haaretz report was (and remains) quite definitive that the filmmaker is an Israeli named Sam Bacile, doubts have now been raised about the identity of the actual filmmaker, and (2) an anonymous US official claims that the attack was preplanned to coincide with 9/11, and the attackers exploited the protests over the film as a diversion. Neither of those claims is proven.

The Sham “Terrorism Expert” Industry

Glenn Greenwald

Terrorism: “It is a telling paradox indeed that this central, all-justifying word is simultaneously the most meaningless and therefore the most manipulated. It is, as I have noted before, a word that simultaneously means nothing yet justifies everything.  Indeed, that’s the point: it is such a useful concept precisely because it’s so malleable, because it means whatever those with power to shape discourse want it to mean. ” ~ Glenn Greenwald

Wednesday was Glenn Greenwald’s last day at Salon. He is moving on to grace the pages of the Guardian. Greenwald is a Loonwatch favorite, and we wish him luck and continued success at his new venue.

His last article published at Salon appears below. It is a powerful expose of the “terrorism expert” industry, and it generated an interesting rebuttal at Foreign Policy entitled,”What’s Glenn Greenwald’s Problem?” I personally found Greenwald’s article far more compelling, but have included a link to the rebuttal so readers can judge for themselves.

The sham “terrorism expert” industry

by Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Shortly prior to the start of the London Olympics, there was an outburst of hysteria over the failure to provide sufficient security against Terrorism, but as Harvard Professor Stephen Walt noted yesterday in Foreign Policy, this was all driven, as usual, by severe exaggerations of the threat: “Well, surprise, surprise. Not only was there no terrorist attack, the Games themselves came off rather well.” Walt then urges this lesson be learned:

[W]e continue to over-react to the “terrorist threat.” Here I recommend you read John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart’s The Terrorism Delusion: America’s Overwrought Response to September 11, in the latest issue of International Security. Mueller and Stewart analyze 50 cases of supposed “Islamic terrorist plots” against the United States, and show how virtually all of the perpetrators were (in their words) “incompetent, ineffective, unintelligent, idiotic, ignorant, unorganized, misguided, muddled, amateurish, dopey, unrealistic, moronic, irrational and foolish.” They quote former Glenn Carle, former deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats saying “we must see jihadists for the small, lethal, disjointed and miserable opponents that they are,” noting further that al Qaeda’s “capabilities are far inferior to its desires.”

In the next paragraph, Walt essentially makes clear why this lesson will not be learned: namely, because there are too many American interests vested in the perpetuation of this irrational fear:

Mueller and Stewart estimate that expenditures on domestic homeland security (i.e., not counting the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan) have increased by more than $1 trillion since 9/11, even though the annual risk of dying in a domestic terrorist attack is about 1 in 3.5 million. Using conservative assumptions and conventional risk-assessment methodology, they estimate that for these expenditures to be cost-effective “they would have had to deter, prevent, foil or protect against 333 very large attacks that would otherwise have been successful every year.” Finally, they worry that this exaggerated sense of danger has now been “internalized”: even when politicians and “terrorism experts” aren’t hyping the danger, the public still sees the threat as large and imminent.  As they conclude:

… Americans seems to have internalized their anxiety about terrorism, and politicians and policymakers have come to believe that they can defy it only at their own peril.  Concern about appearing to be soft on terrorism has replaced concern about seeming to be soft on communism, a phenomenon that lasted far longer than the dramatic that generated it … This extraordinarily exaggerated and essentially delusional response may prove to be perpetual.”

Which is another way of saying that you should be prepared to keep standing in those pleasant and efficient TSA lines for the rest of your life, and to keep paying for far-flung foreign interventions designed to “root out” those nasty jihadis.

Many of the benefits from keeping Terrorism fear levels high are obvious. Private corporations suck up massive amounts of Homeland Security cash as long as that fear persists, while government officials in the National Security and Surveillance State can claim unlimited powers, and operate with unlimited secrecy and no accountability. In sum, the private and public entities that shape government policy and drive political discourse profit far too much in numerous ways to allow rational considerations of the Terror threat.

* * * * *

But there’s a very similar and at least equally important (though far less discussed) constituency deeply vested in the perpetuation of this fear. It’s the sham industry Walt refers to, with appropriate scare quotes, as “terrorism experts,” who have built their careers on fear-mongering over Islamic Terrorism and can stay relevant only if that threat does.

These “terrorism experts” form an incredibly incestuous, mutually admiring little clique in and around Washington. They’re employed at think tanks, academic institutions, and media outlets. They can and do have mildly different political ideologies — some are more Republican, some are more Democratic — but, as usual for D.C. cliques, ostensible differences in political views are totally inconsequential when placed next to their common group identity and career interest: namely, sustaining the myth of the Grave Threat of Islamic Terror in order to justify their fear-based careers, the relevance of their circle, and their alleged “expertise.” Like all adolescent, insular cliques, they defend one another reflexively whenever a fellow member is attacked, closing ranks with astonishing speed and loyalty; they take substantive criticisms very personally as attacks on their “friends,” because a criticism of the genre and any member in good standing of this fiefdom is a threat to their collective interests.

On a more substantive level, any argument (such as Walt’s) that puts the Menace of Islamic Terror into its proper rational perspective — namely, that it pales in comparison to countless other threats (including Terrorism from non-Muslim individuals and states); that it is wildly exaggerated considering what is done in its name; and that it is sustained by ugly sentiments of Islamophobic bigotry — is one that must be harshly denounced. Such an argument not only threatens their relevance but also their central ideology: that Terror is an objective term that just happens almost always to mean Islamic Terror, but never American Terror.

Thus, Walt’s seemingly uncontroversial article was published for not even 24 hours when it was bitterly attacked for hours on Twitter this morning by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, and it’s not hard to see why. Looking at Gartenstein-Ross’s reaction and what drives it sheds considerable light onto this sham “terrorism expert” industry.

Gartenstein-Ross’ entire lucrative career as a “terrorism expert” desperately depends on the perpetuation of the Islamic Terror threat. He markets himself as an expert in Islamic Terror by highlighting that he was born Jewish, converted to Islam while in college, and then Saw the Light and converted to Christianity. During his short stint as a Muslim, he worked at the al-Haramain charity foundation in Oregon — the same one that was found to have been illegally spied upon by the Bush NSA — but became an FBI informant against the group because — as he claimed in a book,”My Year Inside Radical Islam”, which he subsequently wrote to profit off of his conduct — he was horrified by “the group hatreds and anti-intellectualism of radical Islam.”

He is now listed as an “expert” at the neocon Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (the group’s list of “experts” is basically a Who’s Who of every unhinged neocon extremist in the country). Gartenstein-Ross is specifically employed by the Foundation as something called “Director of the Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization.” According to his own bio, he also “consults for clients who need to be at the forefront of understanding violent non-state actors and twenty-first century conflict” including for “major media companies, and strategic consultations for defense contractors” and “also regularly designs and leads training for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Leader Development and Education for Sustained Peace (LDESP) courses, the U.S. State Department’s Office of Anti-Terrorism Assistance, and domestic law enforcement.”

Unsurprisingly, Gartenstein-Ross — like so many “terrorism experts” in similar positions — is eager to depict Islamic Terror as a serious threat: he knows where his bread his buttered and does not want the personal cash train known as the War on Terror ever to arrive at a final destination. If you were him, would you?

In 2009, he wrote a study entitled “Homegrown Terrorists in the U.S. and U.K.” which, needless to say, was only about Muslims: an “examination of 117 ‘jihadist’ terrorists in the United States and the United Kingdom” which “concludes that religious beliefs” — namely, Islam –”play a role in radicalization.” In 2011, he wrote a book entitled Bin Laden’s Legacy: Why We’re Still Losing the War on Terror, which argues that “despite the death of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda remains a significant threat.” He has hyped the ludicrous alleged Iranian Quds Forces plot against the Saudi Ambassador (explaining that ”Holder weighing in on the plot’s connection to Iran means the administration is deadly serious about it”), and recently touted Nigeria as the “next front in the war on terror.”

To be sure, Gartenstein-Ross is more nuanced and sophisticated than the standard neocon “terror expert” cartoon — his 2011 bin Laden book argues against wasteful counter-terrorism programs that are out of proportion to the actual threat, and he has, to his credit, publicly opposed some of the more crass Islamophobic attacks — but if the War on Islamic Terror disappears, so, too, does his lucrative career as a “terrorism expert.” In that regard, he’s a highly representative figure for this industry.

Walt’s clearly expressed and uncontroversial argument about the exaggerated Terror threat prompted hours of angry derision and personal mockery today from Gartenstein-Ross (who ironically often holds himself out as the Beacon of Civil Discourse). It began this way:

Tweet

 

Gartenstein-Ross then demanded that Muslim Terror be taken more seriously than Walt suggests: “terrorists actually put 3 bombs on passenger planes since 2009.” He was then joined by fellow “natsec” clique members for hours of swarming group mockery aimed at Walt (that’s how they typically behave). Gartenstein-Ross continuedForeign Policy ”should rename Walt’s blog ‘An Ideologue in an Ideological Age.’ The idea he transcends ideological blinders is laughable.” Professor Walt, he then said, is “far less rigorous than his reputation suggests” and “the gap between perception & reality is rather astounding.” Then: “when an academic starts blogging it’s often easy to tell if that ‘authority’ is undeserved.”

All this public impugning of Walt’s reputation, scholarship and character over the crime of pointing out that the threat of Islamic Terror is wildly overstated by people who have an interest in perpetuating the threat. It’s as though Gartenstein-Ross and his friends were eager to jump up, wave their arms, and prove Walt’s argument by identifying themselves as precisely the fear-mongering culprits he was criticizing.

Exactly the same thing happened this week in response to Juan Cole’ssuperb post entitled “Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others,” pointing out all the revealing differences in how white perpetrators of violence are talked about versus non-white (especially Muslim) ones. Cole’s argument was every bit as threatening to the vested interests of the “terror expert” industry as Walt’s was, as it reveals the ugly truth that the hysteria over the Muslim Threat is motivated far more by Islamophobic bigotry and subservience to U.S. Government militarism than any rational policy assessments or high-minded scholarship.
This was too much to bear for J.M. Berger, a self-described “specialist on homegrown extremism” and author of “Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam,” which, in his words, “uncovers the secret history of American jihadists” — meaning Muslims, of course. “American Muslims have traveled abroad to fight in wars because of their religious beliefs,” says the book’s summary. (Symbolizing how relentlessly incestuous this clique is, Gartenstein-Ross randomly took a moment out of his attack on Walt today to pimp what he called Berger’s “valuable book”). Like Gartenstein-Ross, Berger avoids the more overt forms of anti-Muslim rhetoric, often stressing the need to distinguish between Good Muslims and the Terrorist kind, but he spends his time doing things like shrieking about the Towering Menace of Anwar al-Awlaki and generally hopping on whatever Muslim-Terrorism-is-a-Grave-Danger train that comes along.

Berger denounced Cole’s piece as “80 percent BS, 20 percent fair points” and said it was composed of “lazy generalizations.” Specifically, Berger complained that when a Muslim launches a violent attack, there are “whole stories dedicated to AQ being fringe and Islam being peaceful,” but when there’s a violent attack by a white shooter, “no one does stories about how white people are mostly peaceful and non-racist” (apparently, the true victims of unfair media coverage of Terror attacks are white people, not Muslims). He insisted, needless to say, that white perpetrators of violence are depicted as lone nuts while attacks by Muslims are depicted as part of a broader Terror threat only because it’s so true. It’s vital to Berger that Islamic Terror continue to be perceived as a vital, coordinated national security threat or else J.W. Berger and his “expertise” will cease to matter.

The key role played by this “terrorism expert” industry in sustaining highly damaging hysteria was highlighted in an excellent and still-relevant 2007 Washington Post Op-Ed by Zbigniew Brzezinski. In it, he described how the War on Terror has created an all-consuming Climate of Fear in the U.S. along with a systematic, multi-headed policy of discrimination against Muslim Americans based on these severely exaggerated threats…

Continue Reading…

Salon.com: Likely victory for MeK shills

MEK fighters in Iraq. (Credit: AP/Brennan Linsley) MEK fighters in Iraq. (Credit: AP/Brennan Linsley)

We’ve reported on the MeK terrorist organization and the powerful politicians who have lobbied on their behalf to have them de-listed as a terror group. All these politicians are guilty of “material support” but because they come from the privileged and powerful class the rule of law does not apply to them.

Now it seems likely that due to the lobbying efforts of the said politicians, the MeK will be removed from the list. (h/t: JD)

Likely victory for MeK shills

BY 

Former U.S. officials, paid to advocate for a designated Terror group, are now on the verge of succeeding.

(updated below)

bipartisan band of former Washington officials and politicians has spent the last two years aggressively advocating on behalf of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK), an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the U.S. State Department as a “foreign Terrorist organization.” Most of those former officials have been paid large sums of money to speak at MeK events and meet with its leaders, thus developing far more extensive relations with this Terror group than many marginalized Muslims who have been prosecuted and punished with lengthy prison terms for “materially supporting a Terrorist organization.” These bipartisan MeK advocates have been demanding the group’s removal from the Terror list, advocacy that has continued unabated despite (or, more accurately, because of ) reports that MeK is trained and funded by the Israelis and has been perpetrating acts of violence on Iranian soil aimed at that country’s civilian nuclear scientists and facilities (also known as: Terrorism).

Now, needless to say, the State Department appears likely to accede to the demands of these paid bipartisan shills:

The Obama administration is moving to remove an Iranian opposition group from the State Department’s terrorism list, say officials briefed on the talks, in an action that could further poison Washington’s relations with Tehran at a time of renewed diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

The exile organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MeK, was originally named as a terrorist entity 15 years ago for its alleged role in assassinating U.S. citizens in the years before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and for allying with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein against Tehran.

The MeK has engaged in an aggressive legal and lobbying campaign in Washington over the past two years to win its removal from the State Department’s list. . . . Senior U.S. officials said on Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to make any final decision on the MeK’s status. But they said the State Department was looking favorably at delisting MeK if it continued cooperating by vacating a former paramilitary base inside Iraq, called Camp Ashraf, which the group had used to stage cross-border strikes into Iran.

This highlights almost every salient fact about how Washington functions with regard to such matters. First, if you pay a sufficiently large and bipartisan group of officials to lobby on your behalf, you will get your way, even when it comes to vaunted National Security and Terrorism decisions; if you pay the likes of Howard Dean, Fran Townsend, Wesley Clark, Ed Rendell, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge and others like them to peddle their political influence for you, you will be able to bend Washington policy and law to your will. As Andrew Exum put it this morning: “I guess Hizballah and LeT just need to buy off more former administration officials.”

Second, the application of the term “Terrorist” by the U.S. Government has nothing to do with how that term is commonly understood, but is instead exploited solely as a means to punish those who defy U.S. dictates and reward those who advance American interests and those of its allies (especially Israel). Thus, this Terror group is complying with U.S. demands, has been previously trained by the U.S. itself, and is perpetrating its violence on behalf of a key American client state and against a key American enemy, and — presto — it is no longer a “foreign Terrorist organization.”

Third, this yet again underscores who the actual aggressors are in the tensions with Iran. Imagine if multiple, high-level former Iranian officials received large sums of money from a group of Americans dedicated to violently overthrowing the U.S. government and committing acts of violence on American soil, and the Iranian Government then removed it from its list of Terror groups, thus allowing funding and other means of support to flow freely to that group.

Fourth, the rule of law is not even a purported constraint on the conduct of Washington political elites. Here, the behavior of these paid MeK shills is so blatantly illegal that even the Obama administration felt compelled to commence investigations to determine who was paying them and for what. As a strictly legal matter, removing MeK from the Terror list should have no effect on the criminality of their acts: it’s a felony to provide material support to a designated Terror group — which the Obama DOJ, backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, has argued, in a full frontal assault on free speech rights, even includes coordinating advocacy with such a group (ironically, some of this Terror group’s paid advocates, such as former Bush Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend, cheered that Supreme Court ruling when they thought it would only restrict the political advocacy of Muslims, not themselves).

The fact that the Terror group is subsequently removed from the list does not render that material support non-criminal. But as a practical matter, it is virtually impossible to envision the Obama DOJ prosecuting any of these elite officials for supporting a group which the Obama administration itself concedes does not belong on the list. The removal of this group — if, as appears highly likely, it happens — will basically have the same effect, by design, as corrupt acts such as retroactive telecom immunity and the shielding of Bush war crimes and Wall Street fraud from any form of investigation: it will once again bolster the prime Washington dictate that D.C. political elites reside above the rule of law even when committing violations of the criminal law for which ordinary citizens are harshly punished.

* * * * *

Speaking of the assault on the free speech rights of Muslim critics of the U.S. under the guise of “material support” prosecutions (an assault which also erodes free speech rights for everyone), Michael May hasa great long article in The American Prospect on the horrendous, free-speech-threatening prosecution of Tarek Mehanna, whose extraordinary sentencing statement I published here.

UPDATE: In 2003, when the Bush adminstration was advocating an attack on Iraq, one of the prime reasons it cited was “Saddam Hussein’s Support for International Terrorism.” It circulated a document purporting to prove that claim (h/t Hernlem), and one of the first specific accusations listed was this:

Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians.

So the group that was pointed to less than a decade ago as proof of Saddam’s Terrorist Evil is now glorified by both political parties in Washington and — now that it’s fighting for the U.S. and Israel rather than for Saddam — is no longer a Terror group.

Robert Spencer Hates the U.S. Constitution

Robert Spencer hates the U.S. Constitution

Robert Spencer, director of the hate site Jihad Watch, has been steamed by the arguments of certain individuals and groups who have protested against the killing of Anwar Awlaki, such as the ACLU, Rep. Ron Paul, and writer Glenn Greenwald.

He says the following:

Perhaps the ACLU, CAIR, Greenwald and Paul would have been satisfied if we had airlifted an elite corps of defense attorneys into Yemen, along with a couple of cops to read al-Awlaki his Miranda rights and give him a chance to lawyer up.  Along with them, CNN could have sent all the equipment necessary to set up a satellite feed, so that al-Awlaki could have been given an international platform to spread his message of anti-Americanism, hatred and Islamic jihad.

Then everyone would have been satisfied that the rights of this stalwart American citizen had been respected, and al-Awlaki himself could have had time to ensure that his efforts to murder innocent Americans in the name of Islam would go on unimpeded if he were convicted and imprisoned for a long stretch.

What all these statements fail to take into account is that we are at war, and that this war is different from all wars that have gone before it. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen, yes.  He was also a traitor. He was waging war against his native country.  He was an enemy combatant. If an American citizen had gone to Germany and joined the Wehrmacht in 1942, and was killed in battle against American forces, would anyone have been raising “constitutional issues” over the killing?

Al-Awlaki was on the battlefield of this war when he was sitting at his computer exchanging e-mails with the Fort Hood jihad mass murderer, Nidal Hasan​ , or working out the details of the plot to blow up American cargo planes last year.  Thus American forces were perfectly justified, legally and morally, to take him out in such a setting, without sending him a lawyer or reading him his rights or spending a few million dollars to give him a global forum to air his views.

As the nature of warfare has changed, so must also our response to it.  Al-Awlaki was not a cat burglar assassinated by rogue cops.  His killing is not a violation of anyone’s civil rights.  That this question has even been raised is indicative of just how thick the fog of ignorance still remains about the nature of the conflict we’re in, who it is exactly that we’re fighting, and what precisely we should do about it.

The short answers:  This is an Islamic jihad.  Al-Awlaki was a jihadist, dedicated to killing Americans.  He got what was coming to him.

Well then, it’s very simple, you see. President Obama, or anyone in government, can say so-and-so is a terrorist and voila! That person should be deemed an existential threat to the United States and be killed without any due process of law.

First, Spencer says that Awlaki was a traitor. He may very well have been a traitor, but we have constitutional provisions that handle this issue in Article III, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution. But if it were up to Spencer then the President or someone else in government could simply declare someone a traitor and have that person’s life taken away.

I find this logic by Spencer very illustrating not because of how mainstream this type of warped thinking is in the U.S. amongst the political punditry, but because of the hypocrisy he shows when it’s a Muslim country that does the same thing.

Recently Iran declared one of its citizens, Yusef Nadarkhani, an apostate and, as Spencer’s hate site reports it, has now dropped that charge and replaced it with a charge of treason. The same charge Spencer throws at Awlaki. Iran declares one of its citizens to be a traitor without any evidence and Spencer is there to protest against this. But the United States declares one its citizens to be a terrorist without a shred of proof offered and Spencer is smiling at the prospect at the death of the accused.

Don’t expect Spencer to catch the contradiction there.

Second, Spencer said that Awlaki was waging war. How does he know that? Because the U.S. government says so.

But didn’t the Iranian government say that Yusef Nadarkhani was a traitor? Why not believe them, too? I’m sure they have secret evidence as well.

In all seriousness, the situation with Nadarkhani should make Spencer pause and think about the implications of what he is saying about Awlaki and how it can affect civil rights in America. Instead of lusting for blood, if Spencer cared at all about civil rights he would be concerned about the abuse or potential abuse that Obama’s decision to kill Awlaki could have in the future.

But evidence doesn’t matter to Spencer – except when it’s an evil Muslim country that is attempting to punish its citizens without due process. Spencer just eats up whatever proof the U.S. government gives him – even when that proof is admittedly weak.

The Obama administration has not made public an accounting of the classified evidence that Awlaki was operationally involved in planning terrorist attacks.

But officials acknowledged that some of the intelligence purporting to show Awlaki’s hands-on role in plotting attacks was patchy.

And:

Officials said at the time the United States had voice intercepts involving a phone known to have been used by Awlaki and someone who they believed, but were not positive, was Abdulmutallab.

The proof the U.S. is offering is not even of the “full proof” variety. It’s “patchy” and they’re admittedly not even “positive” it was Awlaki who was allegedly giving instructions to another person to commit a terrorist operation.

But for Spencer, and other fake patriots like him, whatever accusations the government hurls at someone are holy, while any attempts to examine the accusations of the government are met by hostile resistance from such fake patriots. Spencer and the fake patriots care little about the Constitution, but are more concerned with killing people who haven’t been proven guilty of any crime.

Look at Spencer jumping out of his seat to show this “proof” to his readers that Awlaki was a criminal:

Spencer says:

Here is more evidence that al-Awlaki was an enemy combatant — a commander in a new kind of war.

And then Spencer offers this damning evidence:

The Homeland Security/FBI bulletin, obtained by Fox News, specifically says Awlaki, an influential new-generation figure in Al Qeada, showed the suspected Christmas Day bomber how to detonate the bomb he is accused of hiding in his underwear….

See! Homeland Security said that Awlaki taught the underwear bomber how to detonate the bomb he hid in his underwear! Never mind that this “evidence” offered by Homeland Security and Spencer is simply an accusation. Also never mind that the accused underwear bomber himself, who is not even a U.S. citizen, is getting his day in court, while Awlaki – who was a U.S. citizen and had no opportunity to defend himself against the accusations made against him – had a missile fired at him from a drone that ultimately killed him.

This is how constitutional freedoms die. They die at the hands of fools who wrap themselves in the flag, while they simultaneously smash the essence of the country they claim to be fighting for because they are cowards.

Ten Years After 9/11 Attacks, Exploitation of “Patriot Day” Continues

(Update I below)

Disclaimer: I would like to point out that the views expressed below are mine alone and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official views of LoonWatch or any of its writers aside from myself (Danios).

Salon’s indefatigable Glenn Greenwald recently wrote (emphasis added):

Worship of the American military and all that it does — and a corresponding taboo on speaking ill of it except for tactical critiques (it would be better if they purchased this other weapon system or fought this war a bit differently) is the closest thing America has to a national religion.

If worship of the military is America’s national religion, then the U.S. soldier is this religion’s holy warrior.  Greenwald noted that the Navy Seals are “a member of the most sacred and revered religious order.”  Those who die in “the line of duty” are martyrs who must be remembered for all “they have done for this country.”  Any criticism against the rank-and-file holy warrior is considered blasphemous.

There can be no possible profession that is more highly praiseworthy to the American than soldier in the military.  Many U.S. airlines will let soldiers board the plane even before women with children and the disabled.  Being part of the war machine is more respectable than being a doctor, a social worker, a teacher for the disabled, or a volunteer at the local orphanage.  Saving people (what a physician does) can in no way, shape, or form be considered better than killing people (what a soldier does).

A person foolish enough to say that “a soldier kills people” will be beaten into submission and subservience by jingoist mantras such as “you should be thankful that you are able to express such views, because it is only due to the sacrifices of those in uniform–who protect your freedoms–that you are free to say what you want.”  This, even though no rational mind could possibly believe this: how does bombing, invading, and occupying Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, or Yemen “protect my freedoms?”  That is, unless one is naive enough to think that any of these Evil, Foreign Brown People were about to conquer the United States, topple its government, and take away my freedoms.

In any case, I have my own government to do that for me.  Far from “fighting for my freedoms,” the military-industrial complex and those in authority who wage these wars are responsible for clamping down on my civil liberties.  With the rise of the Orwellian-named Patriot Act and its like, there has been a sustained war waged not just against Al-Qaeda but against civil liberties, with dedicated assaults on the First and Fourth Amendments.

Worship of the military and the holy warrior runs so deep that even the most ardent critic of the war must never utter a single word against those who wage it.  Such a common sense thing to do is completely off-limits and beyond the scope of decency and propriety.  To do so would be to open oneself up to the criticisms of being “unpatriotic” and “disloyal.”  Criticism of the war must be couched in “patriotic language:” war critics must ceremoniously acknowledge their support for U.S. troops, arguing that I support the troops which is why I want to bring them home.  It is simply unacceptable to just clearly say: I don’t support the troops because they are shooting at, bombing, and killing people.  To do such a thing would be to commit the highest of sins in the American national religion.

The fact that even war critics would hush you up for saying something against America’s cherished holy warriors says something of how deeply ingrained militarism is in our society.  How can it be that opponents of America’s wars will criticize the war as unjust on the one hand but not be anything but absolutely reverent towards those who wage it?  The United States, after all, uses an all-volunteer military; by joining the military is not one making an active choice to take part in these unjust wars?  And certainly, one can choose not to fight, as many brave soldiers and ex-soldiers have done.

Noting with what absolute reverence Americans speak of their soldiers of war, one wonders how it is that they are simultaneously amazed at how unbelievably warlike those Foreign, Other People are for revering their own men of war.  We are taken aback by how “primitive” the North Koreans are when they mindlessly revere their soldiers, yet somehow mystified when we do the same with our troops.  The North Korean soldiers have certainly killed far fewer and waged far fewer wars than our own military.  But alas, those North Koreans are so primitive, whereas we are so advanced, civilized, and peaceful.

I don’t malign or vilify soldiers in the military (as I partially do accept the idea that “they are just doing their job”), but must we continue to speak of our holy warriors with such absolute reverence, awe, and worship? Our mindless idolization of the military profession is what is to blame for so many of our impressionable youth choosing to join the military to kill people abroad instead of spending those years going to college to expand their minds.  Placing the military and its soldiers on a pedestal is the only way a society can convince its young boys to risk their lives to go to war for the country–something so illogical, so contrary to the biological drive to save oneself from harm or death, that absent the most compelling of reasons one can hardly find it worthwhile to do so.

Interestingly, even that religious and ethnic minority that is the target of America’s wars is itself affected by this national religion.  Muslim-Americans will often bend over backwards to point out that they too “proudly serve this country” by being a part of the military.  (Even the phrase “serve this country” can only mean one thing: soldiering.)  In order to be accepted as Full Citizens, Muslim-Americans must prove their dedication to America’s war machine.

And so, Muslim-Americans–many of them immigrants or children of immigrants–beg to be included in the same institution that wages endless wars in their ancestral homelands.  It is that same institution that is rife with racism and bigotry against Arabs and Muslims, yet so desperately do Muslim-Americans want to be included in it.

*  *  *  *  *

In this national religion, 9/11 is America’s Karbala.  The Battle of Karbala involved the slaughter of the Prophet Muhammad’s descendants by a tyrannical government–an event that is religiously commemorated each year by Shia Muslims, who will often make a religious pilgrimage (ziyarat) to the site of the battle or to the graves of the victims.  With vigor just short of this, Americans commemorate Patriot Day, the holy day of the American national religion.

Ground Zero, meanwhile, is the “hallowed ground”–a trip here is the ziyarat (religious pilgrimage) of the American religion.  The American flag becomes a symbol not to be disrespected, our nation’s holy book, waved high by people chanting “USA! USA! USA!”, which can only mean one thing: war! The flag has become a raised symbol of war.

The military is our national religion, its soldiers are our holy warriors, the Navy Seals are our highest religious order, those soldiers who died in war are our martyrs, 9/11 was our Karbala, Patriot Day is our annual holy day, the flag is our holy book and symbol, Osama bin Laden is Lucifer, Terrorism is the greatest Evil, supporting the troops is our greatest religious obligation, and failure to do so is the greatest blasphemy and the highest of sins.

*  *  *  *  *

The problem I have with the cult-like remembrance of 9/11 is that it was the devotion to this day that was used to launch wars of vengeance that killed ten times as many people.  This date, 9/11, has been militarized.  It is a memory we are told that we must never forget lest we slacken in our resolve to wage war against the Forces of Evil, the Satan of our religion: radical Islam and Terrorism.  It is a memory that is invoked to remind the American people why they need to spend more of their taxpayer money to sustain their country’s illegal occupations and immoral wars.

Furthermore, the singling out of this day above all others (including days on which worse acts of violence were perpetrated by the United States), exudes the tribalistic mentality that infects people with strong feelings of national or religious identity–wherein only blood shed against one’s own national or religious group is remembered (and in fact, it is obsessed over), whereas that shed by one’s own national or religious group against others is ignored, denied, or justified.

Lastly, one cannot help but feel that 9/11 would hardly have been considered as important to the national religion had it not been Muslims who were implicated in the attack.  They attacked us.  The deaths of the victims of 9/11 are less relevant than the fact that they–those Foreign, Dark-Complexioned Moozlums–are the ones who caused these deaths.  The horrendous attacks of 9/11 have special significance due to the fact that the perpetrators were radical Muslims, an Existential Threat to our Safety and Freedoms.

The victims of 9/11 certainly ought to be remembered, as should all the victims of war and terrorism (whether the culprit be our enemies or our own country and whether the victims be American or not), but should their memory really be exploited to feed the national religion of warmongering?  Is it not deeply disturbing that an act of violence and the deaths of three-thousand innocents are being used to justify even greater acts of violence and even more civilian deaths?

Disclaimer: I would like to point out that the views expressed above are mine alone and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official views of LoonWatch or any of its writers aside from myself (Danios).

Update I: An interesting Facebook status that is making the rounds:

On 9/11, I’ll mourn the nearly 3,000 lives lost, over 6,000 injuries, the infrastructural carnage and devastation in NYC, and the humiliation of my country, all perpetrated ignorantly in the name of my religion

On 9/12, I’ll mourn the nearly 1,000,000 lives, the 10′s of millions of injuries, the infrastructural decimation in 3 countries, and the humiliation of my religion, all perpetrated ignorantly in the name of my country.

Update II: Many readers and fellow LoonWatch writers have pointed out that many young people join the military due to financial reasons.  Additionally, many of them are “trying to serve their country” and “are just following orders.”  I do not completely disagree with these statements.  As I said, I do not malign or vilify soldiers, nor encourage that.  What I am opposed to is the glorification of what they do.

The Rush to Blame Muslims and the Meaningless Term “Terrorism”

Glenn Greenwald on point as always:

Via Loonwatch:

The omnipotence of Al Qaeda and meaninglessness of “Terrorism”

(updated below – Update II)

For much of the day yesterday, the featured headline on The New York Times online front page strongly suggested that Muslims were responsible for the attacks on Oslo; that led to definitive statements on the BBC and elsewhere that Muslims were the culprits.  The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin wrote a whole column based on the assertion that Muslims were responsible, one that, as James Fallows notes, remains at the Post with no corrections or updates.  The morning statement issued by President Obama — “It’s a reminder that the entire international community holds a stake in preventing this kind of terror from occurring” and “we have to work cooperatively together both on intelligence and in terms of prevention of these kinds of horrible attacks” — appeared to assume, though (to its credit) did not overtly state, that the perpetrator was an international terrorist group.

But now it turns out that the alleged perpetrator wasn’t from an international Muslim extremist group at all, but was rather a right-wing Norwegian nationalist with a history of anti-Muslim commentary and an affection for Muslim-hating blogs such as Pam Geller’s Atlas Shrugged, Daniel Pipes, and Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch.  Despite that,The New York Times is still working hard to pin some form of blame, even ultimate blame, on Muslim radicals (h/t sysprog):

So if this is somehow not considered “terrorism”, are we admitting that whether something is “terrorism” is solely a function of who did it?

That Terrorism means nothing more than violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes has been proven repeatedly.  When an airplane was flown into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, it was immediately proclaimed to be Terrorism, until it was revealed that the attacker was a white, non-Muslim, American anti-tax advocate with a series of domestic political grievances.  The U.S. and its allies can, by definition, never commit Terrorism even when it is beyond question that the purpose of their violence is to terrorize civilian populations into submission.  Conversely, Muslims who attack purely military targets — even if the target is an invading army in their own countries — are, by definition, Terrorists.  That is why, as NYU’s Remi Brulin has extensively documented, Terrorism is the most meaningless, and therefore the most manipulated, word in the English language.  Yesterday provided yet another sterling example.

One last question: if, as preliminary evidence suggests, it turns out that Breivik was “inspired” by the extremist hatemongering rantings of Geller, Pipes and friends, will their groups be deemed Terrorist organizations such that any involvement with them could constitute the criminal offense of material support to Terrorism?  Will those extremist polemicists inspiring Terrorist violence receive the Anwar Awlaki treatment of being put on an assassination hit list without due process?  Will tall, blond, Nordic-looking males now receive extra scrutiny at airports and other locales, and will those having any involvement with those right-wing, Muslim-hating groups be secretly placed on no-fly lists?  Or are those oppressive, extremist, lawless measures — like the word Terrorism — also reserved exclusively for Muslims?

UPDATE:  The original version of the NYT article was even worse in this regard.  As several people noted, here is what the article originally said (papers that carry NYT articles still have the original version):

Terrorism specialists said that even if the authorities ultimately ruled out terrorism as the cause of Friday’s assaults, other kinds of groups or individuals were mimicking al-Qaida’s signature brutality and multiple attacks.

“If it does turn out to be someone with more political motivations, it shows these groups are learning from what they see from al-Qaida,” said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New America Foundation in Washington.

Thus: if it turns out that the perpetrators weren’t Muslim (but rather “someone with more political motivations” — whatever that means: it presumably rests on the inane notion that Islamic radicals are motivated by religion, not political grievances), then it means that Terrorism, by definition, would be “ruled out” (one might think that the more politically-motivated an act of violence is, the more deserving it is of the Terrorism label, but this just proves that the defining feature of the word Terrorism is Muslim violence).  The final version of the NYTarticle inserted the word “Islamic” before “terrorism” (“even if the authorities ultimately ruled out Islamic terrorism as the cause”), but — as demonstrated above — still preserved the necessary inference that only Muslims can be Terrorists.  Meanwhile, in the world of reality, of 294 Terrorist attacks attempted or executed on European soil in 2009 as counted by the EU, a grand total of one — 1 out of 294 — was perpetrated by “Islamists.”

UPDATE II:  This article expertly traces and sets forth exactly how the “Muslims-did-it” myth was manufactured and then disseminated yesterday to the worldwide media, which predictably repeated it with little skepticism.  What makes the article so valuable is that it names names: it points to the incestuous, self-regarding network of self-proclaimed U.S. Terrorism and foreign policy “experts” — what the article accurately describes as “almost always white men and very often with military or government backgrounds,” in this instance driven by “a case of an elite fanboy wanting to be the first to pass on leaked gadget specs” — who so often shape these media stories and are uncritically presented as experts, even though they’re drowning in bias, nationalism, ignorance, and shallow credentialism.

Greenwald: FBI Thwarts its Own Terrorist Plot

Recently a case regarding a 19 year old Somali-American accused of attempting to blow up a Christmas event in Oregon has garnered national attention. The arrest fits a familiar pattern in which individuals are encouraged, supported and financed by the FBI to detonate bombs. Did the FBI stay within their limits when pursuing the Somali-American, or did they cross over the boundary into entrapment?

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent piece that questions this arrest and highlights for the umpteenth time the motive behind these “attacks,” a motive that is obfuscated quite often by politicians, the media and anti-Muslim activists.

These individuals aren’t, (as the Robert Spencer’s of the world proclaim) randomly convinced to blow up things because of some religious prescription/motivation, they are motivated by “occupations” and aggression against Muslims and Muslim countries! (Note to the FBI: Spencer is not going to tell you that when he is training your gumshoe detectives)

Time and time again the statements of these misguided individuals speak towards the reality that “It’s the occupation stupid!” but the Cassandra cries of Glenn Greenwald and those like him are willfully ignored and marginalized and so the fear-mongering, exploitation and violence against innocents continues unabated.

The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot

(Salon.com)

by Glenn Greenwald

The FBI is obviously quite pleased with itself over its arrest of a 19-year-old Somali-American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who — with months of encouragement, support and money from the FBI’s own undercover agents — allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon.  Media accounts are almost uniformly trumpeting this event exactly as the FBI describes it.  Loyalists of both parties are doing the same, with Democratic Party commentators proclaiming that this proves how great and effective Democrats are at stopping The Evil Terrorists, while right-wing polemicists point to this arrest as yet more proof that those menacing Muslims sure are violent and dangerous.

What’s missing from all of these celebrations is an iota of questioning or skepticism.  All of the information about this episode — all of it — comes exclusively from an FBI affidavit filed in connection with a Criminal Complaint against Mohamud.  As shocking and upsetting as this may be to some, FBI claims are sometimes one-sided, unreliable and even untrue, especially when such claims — as here — are uncorroborated and unexamined.  That’s why we have what we call “trials” before assuming guilt or even before believing that we know what happened:  because the government doesn’t always tell the complete truth, because they often skew reality, because things often look much different once the accused is permitted to present his own facts and subject the government’s claims to scrutiny.  The FBI affidavit — as well as whatever its agents are whispering into the ears of reporters — contains only those facts the FBI chose to include, but omits the ones it chose to exclude.  And even the “facts” that are included are merely assertions at this point and thus may not be facts at all.

It may very well be that the FBI successfully and within legal limits arrested a dangerous criminal intent on carrying out a serious Terrorist plot that would have killed many innocent people, in which case they deserve praise.  Court-approved surveillance and use of undercover agents to infiltrate terrorist plots are legitimate tactics when used in accordance with the law.

But it may also just as easily be the case that the FBI — as they’ve done many times in the past — found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a “Terrorist plot” which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI’s own concoction.  Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts — and an uncritical media amplifies — its “success” to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government’s vast surveillance powers — current and future new ones — are necessary.

There are numerous claims here that merit further scrutiny and questioning. First, the FBI was monitoring the email communications of this American citizen on U.S. soil for months (at least) with what appears to be the flimsiest basis: namely, that he was in email communication with someone in Northwest Pakistan, “an area known to harbor terrorists” (para. 5 of the FBI Affidavit).  Is that enough to obtain court approval to eavesdrop on someone’s calls and emails?  I’m glad the FBI is only eavesdropping with court approval, if that’s true, but certainly more should be required for judicial authorization than that.  Communicating with someone in Northwest Pakistan is hardly reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Second, in order not to be found to have entrapped someone into committing a crime, law enforcement agents want to be able to prove that, in the 1992 words of the Supreme Court, the accused was “was independently predisposed to commit the crime for which he was arrested.”  To prove that, undercover agents are often careful to stress that the accused has multiple choices, and they then induce him into choosing with his own volition to commit the crime.  In this case, that was achieved by the undercover FBI agent’s allegedly advising Mohamud that there were at least five ways he could serve the cause of Islam (including by praying, studying engineering, raising funds to send overseas, or becoming “operational”), and Mohamud replied he wanted to “be operational” by using exploding a bomb (para. 35-37).

But strangely, while all other conversations with Mohamud which the FBI summarizes were (according to the affidavit) recorded by numerous recording devices, this conversation — the crucial one for negating Mohamud’s entrapment defense — was not.  That’s because, according to the FBI, the undercover agent “was equipped with audio equipment to record the meeting.  However, due to technical problems, the meeting was not recorded” (para. 37).

Thus, we have only the FBI’s word, and only its version, for what was said during this crucial — potentially dispositive — conversation.  Also strangely: the original New York Times article on this story described this conversation at some length and reported the fact that “that meeting was not recorded due to a technical difficulty,” but the final version omitted that, instead simply repeating the FBI’s story as though it were fact:  “undercover agents in Mr. Mohamud’s case offered him several nonfatal ways to serve his cause, including mere prayer. But he told the agents he wanted to be ‘operational,’ and perhaps execute a car bombing.”

Third, there are ample facts that call into question whether Mohamud’s actions were driven by the FBI’s manipulation and pressure rather than his own predisposition to commit a crime.  In June, he attempted to fly to Alaska in order to work on a fishing job he obtained through a friend, but he was on the Government’s no-fly list.  That caused the FBI to question him at the airport and then bar him from flying to Alaska, and thus prevented him from earning income with this job (para. 25).  Having prevented him from working, the money the FBI then pumped him with — including almost $3,000 in cash for him to rent his own apartment (para. 61) — surely helped make him receptive to their suggestions and influence.  And every other step taken to perpetrate this plot — from planning its placement to assembling the materials to constructing the bomb — was all done at the FBI’s behest and with its indispensable support and direction.

It’s impossible to conceive of Mohamud having achieved anything on his own.  Before being ensnared by the FBI, the only tangible action he had taken was to write three articles on “fitness and jihad” for the online magazine Jihad Recollections.  At least based on what is known, he had no history of violence, no apparent criminal record, had never been to a training camp in Afghanistan, Pakistan or anywhere else, and — before meeting the FBI — had never taken a single step toward harming anyone.  Does that sound like some menacing sleeper Terrorist to you?

Finally, there is, as usual, no discussion whatsoever in media accounts of motive.  There are several statements attributed to Mohamud by the Affidavit that should be repellent to any decent person, including complete apathy — even delight — at the prospect that this bomb would kill innocent people, including children.  What would drive a 19-year-old American citizen — living in the U.S. since the age of 3 — to that level of sociopathic indifference?   He explained it himself in several passages quoted by the FBI, and — if it weren’t for the virtual media blackout of this issue — this line of reasoning would be extremely familiar to Americans by now (para. 45):

Undercover FBI Agent:  You know there’s gonna be a lot of children there?

Mohamud:  Yeah, I know, that’s what I’m looking for.

Undercover FBI Agent:  For kids?

Mohamud:  No, just for, in general a huge mass that will, like for them you know to be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.  And then for later to be saying, this was them for you to refrain from killing our children, women . . . . so when they hear all these families were killed in such a city, they’ll say you know what your actions, you know they will stop, you know.  And it’s not fair that they should do that to people and not feeling it.

And here’s what he allegedly said in a video he made shortly before he thought he would be detonating the bomb (para. 80):

We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused Terrorists — that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts.  Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture:  that the U.S. Government dispatches its military all over the world — invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries — torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death  — and Americans are then baffled when some Muslims — an amazingly small percentage — harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence.   And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse:  that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and combating Terrorism — rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.

UPDATE:  A very similar thing happened last month when the FBI announced that it had arrested someone who was planning to bomb the DC Metro system when, in reality, “the only plotting he did was in response to instructions from federal agents he thought were accomplices.”  That concocted FBI plot then led to the Metro Police announcing a new policy of random searches of passengers’ bags.

Meanwhile, in Oregon, the mosque sometimes attended by Mohamud was victimized today by arson.  So the FBI did not stop any actual Terrorist plots, but they may have helped inspire one.