How to understand the attempted but largely failed terrorist plots uncovered since last Friday? Police officers on June 29 dismantled two car bombs made from gas canisters, gasoline and nails, parked in central London’s major theatre and shopping districts. A day later, two men rammed a Jeep Cherokee, filled with flammable material, into a terminal entrance at Glasgow airport. The series of attempted attacks follows hot on the heels of an attempted al-Qaeda attack in the United States earlier in June.
The chronology requires further probing, and indeed, preliminary analysis raises some unresolved questions.
Their Terror… And Ours
We will start with the UK. First off, we need to consider the way government, police and security services dealt with events. On Friday, official sources immediately told mainstream media that they had successfully defused highly dangerous explosive devices in the cars. The general picture disseminated by government spokesmen was that the bombs could well have killed hundreds of civilians generating a huge and lethal fireball engulfing the surrounding area.
“Although the two London car bombs were rudimentary, depending on a lethal mixture of petrol, gas canisters and nails, they could still have killed hundreds”, wrote Nigel Morris in the Independent:
“They were intended to be triggered by calls to mobile phones left in the cars. Although the bombers rang the phones several times, the bombs failed to go off. Did the calls fail to create the necessary detonation? The Glasgow attack appears to have been a failed suicide bombing. The Jeep Cherokee that smashed into the city’s airport was set alight but the gas canisters inside failed to ignite.”
Fortunately, there were no casualties. Unfortunately, elsewhere in the world, British and American troops were complicit in acts of terrorism which did result in Afghan and Iraqi civilian casualties far outweighing in scale and horror what was going on in the UK. Some of these were flagged up by American journalist Chris Floyd, but largely ignored in the mainstream media.
More than 100 Afghan civilians were killed in a three-hour NATO bombing raid on a village in the British-run district Helmand on Saturday, so reported the Observer citing local officials of the US-backed Afgan government, capping off a month of bloodshed in which over 200 Afghan civilians were killed, “a kill ratio far outstripping that of the violent sectarians of the Taliban”, observes Floyd. Hapless British commanders involved in the operations aren’t happy, noting that new NATO commander, US Gen Dan McNeill’s penchant for massive airpower could be “counterproductive.” “Every civilian dead means five new Taliban” said one British Army officer, noting the direct connection between their radicalization and our terrorism. But while UK commanders may have concerns, they have little choice given the decisions made for them by Bush and now Brown.
Yet the mainstream media has shown no interest whatsoever in our terrorism. “Why do these people hate us, why do they want to attack us?” I was asked repeatedly over the weekend by various media pundits wanting to know the secret of how angry Muslims become so radicalized they want to blow themselves and others up. The usual demands for Muslims the world over to buck up and confront the bin Laden-esque “enemy within” were trumpeted. Yet there was little soul-searching about a phenomenon of equal concern – the creeping radicalization of Western societies, where the slaughter of hundreds of Afghan or Iraqi civilians by Anglo-American military forces is justifiable as a form of “collateral damage”, regrettable, but an inevitable corollary of trying to “smoke ‘em out”. Sounds disturbingly similar to al-Qaeda’s own rhetoric of justification for targeting our civilians.
But of course, we’re the free, civilized world. They’re wrong, and we’re right.
So let’s get quickly back on track to look at the terror attempts in the UK. Whatever those attacks “appeared” to be, they were clearly planned and conducted by people with absolutely no real idea of what they were doing. Despite official attempts to ratchet up the fear-level by insisting that the police had pre-empted a spectacular bombing plot that could have slaughtered hundreds, a number of experts have pointed out the obvious.
Improvised Un-explosive Devices?
Larry C. Johnson, a former senior US counterterrorist official for the CIA and State Department who works as a consultant to governments on terrorism issues, described the Friday episode as a “crock of crap”:
“… gasoline is not a high explosive. If we were talking 50 pounds of Semtex or the Al Qaeda standby, TATP, I would be impressed. Those are real high explosives with a detonation rate in excess of 20,000 feet per second. Gasoline can explode (just ask former owners of a Ford Pinto) but it is first and foremost an incediary. If the initial reports are true, the clown driving the Mercedes was a rank amateur when it comes to constructing an Improvised Explosive Device aka IED. Unlike a Hollywood flick the 50 gallons of gas would not have shredded the Mercedes into lethal chunks of flying shrapnel.”
His observations on the next day’s Glasgow incident are even more cutting:“Preliminary, unconfirmed reports indicate a nuclear blast has occurred at Glasgow’s international airport. No one has seen the mushroom cloud or heard the blast, but something by God is happening and it must be terrible. There is smoke and fire. In fact, a car is on fire. It must be Al Qaeda. Only Al Qaeda knows how to set themselves on fire inside a car. Please. Flee to the hills (leave your doors unlocked). Oh the humanity!...
… we need to stop equating their [religious fanatics’] hatred with actual capability. If today's events at Glasgow prove to be linked to the two non-events yesterday in London, then we should heave a sigh of relief. We may be witnessing the implosion of takfiri jihadists — religious fanatics who are incredibly inept… Propane tanks and petrol (gas for us Americans) can produce a dandy flame and a mighty boom but these are not the tools for making a car bomb along the lines of what we see detonating on a daily basis in Iraq.”