The attempted NY terrorist attack

10 05 2010

I would just like to take this brief opportunity to point out some neglected facts regarding the terrorist plot in NY.

As time goes on, the foiled terrorist attack is being billed as a victory for the authorities and a sobering warning to the people of the West that the threat is not over.

Sure, the fact that there was an attempt is shocking.

Sure, it was lucky that it was stopped in time.

But let’s put things into context;  America has been involved in two open wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last decade and proxy wars in Somalia and Pakistan.  The ‘Pakistani Taliban’ who are now, reportedly, credited with ordering the attack — except the “Taliban” don’t exist, but are made up of an ethnic minority called the ‘Pashtun’ whose tribal groups are split by the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  US drone attacks that have been continued and increased under Obama’s presidency has frequently resulted in the deaths of many civilians living around areas where the US military claims “terrorists” and the “Taliban” are operating.  The people who sought to carry out this attack are a bunch of poor, angry villagers and tribesmen living near the Afghani-Pakistan border.  Let’s not forget that and dehumanise who these people are, instead of referring to them as ‘The Pakistani Taliban with connections to Al Qaeda’.

The next question that is being raised is, how can this American citizen, with his life of luxury and extended education do such a thing against a country that gave him so much?  Well, above is your answer.  America’s war on terror that Obama has been continuing, albeit with more moderate rhetoric, acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The whole concept rests on an unknown threat.  The authorities know that it exists somewhere, but do not know when it is going to strike (thank you, Donald Rumsfield).  Therefore the only solution is to prepare to counteract that threat.  Domestic legislation  aimed at increasing security through stripping away civil liberties and marginalising particular nationalities or ethnic minorities in day-to-day tasks, is combined with the external strategy of bombing anyone who you feel may remotely appear to be a terrorist.  The obvious problem is that those people who appear to be terrorists are usually poor villagers, while others view themselves as reacting to some kind of structural or social injustice in their own countries government, usually left over from colonisation.  By bombing them, you generate anger and anger generates “terrorists”.

People with educations tend to be more critical of what is going on and will notice this.  People who feel they belong to the same marginalised and mistreated minority will certainly understand this.  Of course, not all of them take up the rifle to rectify the situation, (disclaimer: I am not attempting to justify this action, either) but inevitably, some will.  They are angry and there will be reprisals against the people who elected that government — the very same people democratic rhetoric has declared the government’s “boss” for so long now.  This presents an ethical dilemma, should people really be surprised when there is a terrorist attack on domestic soil when a nation has declared a “war” on a group, person, thing or idea?  Have people really become so desensitised to war, that they believe their government can engage in all sorts of military action without domestic populations ever having to experience reprisals?

Then there is another neglected fact; for all the fear-mongering and rapid expansion of US security by conservatives, neo-liberals, progressives and every other authoritarian ideology, not one government official noticed anything throughout the process of planning, preparation, production and placement of the bomb.  Who did notice?  Some guy on the street who saw smoke coming from a car — a guy without a badge — in a moment of pure dumb-luck.  So for all the money spent, the queues at the airports, the background checks and re-checks, the pat downs, the dogs, the cameras, the guys with guns and tasers, the bag searches at airports, the increase of police power, the expansion of overseas conflicts, not one of these measures picked up on the terrorist plot.

Why?  We come back to the idea of the threat being unknown and unknowable.  You don’t know where it will happen or when, but the powers that be urge us to prepare, which in turn creates a threat that no amount of preparation is going to prevent and then, game over.

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2 responses

17 05 2010
Don Emmerich

Very well put.

I don’t know if you saw it, but a Saturday NY Times article confirmed what both you and suspected, that the Times Square bomber, the Pasthun-Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, was indeed acting in response to US foreign policy:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/16/nyregion/16suspect.html?adxnnl=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1274083239-xJxS3f013XJRxgkhCgYdWg

So much for all those theories we’ve heard over the past two weeks. Shahzad didn’t go crazy because he had financial troubles and lost his house; he didn’t turn to terrorism because Islam made him do it; no, this is another — yet another — case of blowback.

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