March 29, 2002
What do we need an "Office of Strategic Influence" for when we have the Wall Street Journal? Not to mention the rest of the American media, which just can't be as gullible as they seem to be. The latest anthrax stories – Al Qaeda was mixing huge vats of the stuff in the Afghan hinterlands, the hijackers sent it just before they clocked out, it's all an Iraqi plot – are such a compilation of cow-dung and other varieties of excrement that one imagines them writing this junk while holding their noses. Naturally, the War Street Journal is the absolute worst, building an editorial out of all these dubious elements and then standing, unsteadily, on the pinnacle of the rickety mess to proclaim:
"The evidence of Saddam's repeated efforts to acquire biological and chemical weapons is overwhelming, so it's hardly a leap to imagine that he might have shared that expertise with his like-minded friends in al Qaeda. The famous meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi agent is unlikely to be the sole connection between al Qaeda and Saddam."
LYING AS A SPORT
That's a leap of Olympic athleticism, one likely to set a world record. There is not a scintilla of evidence that the "famous" meeting in Prague ever happened, as Bob Novak points out. Yet this urban myth – which seems restricted to certain pundits, who repeat it endlessly and then quote each other – persists, in spite of the flimsiness of the evidence. And of course an "effort to acquire biological and chemical weapons" is not the same as a successful effort to do so.
TEARS FOR ANDALUSIA
As for the alleged like-mindedness of Saddam and Osama: the savagery of the former is secular, while the latter's is almost purely theo-pathological. Their actions are equally monstrous, but like-minded is precisely what these two monsters are not. Failure to understand this is to confess complete ignorance of the war bin Laden is waging. 9/11 was a declaration of religious war, or jihad, against the West. To the bin Ladenite – still smarting over the loss of Andalusia the enemy is modernity.
Seen from bin Laden's theological perspective, the Ba'athist form of secular socialism espoused by Saddam and his clan – that owes more to Marxism than Mohammedanism is as much to be despised by the radical Islamist as anything produced in the West. Indeed, by these lights, Saddam could be configured as even more of a threat, since Ba'athism and fundamentalism are competing for the same constituency: the Arab "street."
AN ALTERNATE HISTORY
As Peter Bergen points out in his excellent book, Holy War, Inc., the catalyst of bin Laden's jihad against the US was the profanation of the holy territory of Saudi Arabia by the presence of American "infidels," unbelievers whose physical proximity to the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina was impermissible. To forestall that, bin Laden offered to defend the Kingdom against Saddam after the invasion of Kuwait – on the condition that the Americans were to stay out.
The offer was not accepted – a bad move on Riyadh's part. For just imagine if the Saudis had set their mad dog renegades on Saddam: instead of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, all 30 or so of Saddam's palaces might have been reduced to rubble in very short order and we would not now be awaiting the first shots of Gulf War II.
A SLOPPY CONSPIRACY THEORY
The meandering conspiracy theory proffered by the Journal is pure fiction, from beginning to end. There is no evidence of anthrax production in Afghanistan. USA Today reports that some components of a production system were found, but essential elements were missing:
"The laboratory was apparently under construction and did not have all the equipment necessary to produce anthrax. Also, no trace of any biological agent was found, nor did troops find chemicals necessary to 'weaponize' anthrax.
"In five other locations in Afghanistan, tests have discovered traces of anthrax and another biotoxin, ricin, Myers said. But the anthrax traces were so small that they could have been residue of naturally occurring anthrax carried by diseased animals. The faint traces of ricin could have been residue from stores of castor beans, from which the toxin is extracted."
The [UK] Observer quotes a Pentagon official denying the whole thing:
"A Pentagon official told The Observer there was no intelligence to support claims from London that al-Qaeda was developing biological weapons in the Shah-e-Kot area. 'I don't know what they're saying in London but we have received no specific intelligence on that kind of development or capability in the Shah-e-Kot valley region I mean a chemical or biological weapons facility,' said an official in the Army department in Washington."
Since the purported discovery of a bioterrorist facility was used to justify – after the fact the recent dispatch of some 1700 more British troops to Afghanistan, this has caused quite a stir in the House of Commons, which is up in arms over an obvious ploy. Lies, lies, and more lies – that is the method they're utilizing to sell a policy of perpetual war, and it isn't a smart one. For the backlash is already upon them, first in Europe, and eventually, as war in the Middle East draws closer, on the home front as well.
SINS OF OMISSION
The alleged connection between the hijackers and the anthrax letters is equally bogus. To begin with, the anthrax strain sent in letters to Daschle, Brokaw, and the others originated not in Iraq, but in Ft. Detrick, Maryland, at the US government's own bio-terror research facility – a fact omitted from the WSJ's editorial. Furthermore, as the editorial points out, at this stage law enforcement's "work is aimed at ensuring that any evidence they bring forth will survive challenge in a courtroom." The FBI isn't buying the alleged hijacker connection because they already know who did it.
CAUGHT ON VIDEO
Lax security at Ft. Detrick had been a problem, and when it was discovered that a number of specimens – including anthrax – had gone missing, an investigation was conducted, in 1992, by the then chief officer in charge of the lab, Lt. Col. Michael Langford. As the Hartford Courant reports:
"Documents from the inquiry show that one unauthorized person who was observed entering the lab building at night was Langford's predecessor, Lt. Col. Philip Zack, who at the time no longer worked at Fort Detrick. A surveillance camera recorded Zack being let in at 8:40 p.m. on Jan. 23, 1992, apparently by Dr. Marian Rippy, a lab pathologist and close friend of Zack's, according to a report filed by a security guard."
THE SECRET HISTORY OF FT. DETRICK
Zack no longer worked at the lab because he had been involved in a campaign of harassment directed at one of the other scientists, Dr. Ayaad Assaad, an Egyptian, by a vicious clique at Ft. Detrick. Obscene poems were dropped in Assaad's office mailbox, and, from the content of these, the motivation of the group appears to have been ethnic hatred. Assaad left Ft. Detrick, but, in the wake of 9/11, was visited by FBI agents who brandished an anonymous letter accusing him of being a "bio-terrorist." It was soon determined that he was nothing of the kind, but the letter – mailed before the anthrax letters became public knowledge – was clearly an attempt to frame him for the crime.
Strangely, none of this is mentioned by the Wall Street Journal. Which raises the question: just how stupid do they think their readers are? It would be hard enough to swallow their amalgam of lies on its own terms: but, in view of the widely-reported story of Dr. Assaad's victimization, one has to ask: whom do they think they're fooling?
WE'RE BETTER THAN THAT – AREN'T WE?
The War Party is getting sloppy. They don't even care if their story hangs together. They think they can coast along on the anger generated by 9/11, confident that the public will go along with any excuse to lash out – and the anger, they hope, can be manipulated by crude propaganda and pointed in any direction. But the American people are better, and smarter, than that. The price, in troops and treasure, of conquering Iraq is going to be very high. Is it worth it?
The answer, from an American perspective, has got to be an emphatic no. When the US electorate wakes up and realizes that the War Party is not arguing from an American perspective, there is going to be hell to pay at the polls. I just hope and pray that we don't have to wade through rivers of blood before getting to that point.
BAROMETER OF JUSTICE
How the authorities deal with the anthrax case can be taken as a barometer of just how corrupted is our system of justice. It is clear that the identity of at least one guilty party is known: if this person is not arrested, then we have to ask why he or she merits special immunity. The feds, we are told, are busy building a case that will stand up in a court of law. But how long will we have to wait before another incident involving anthrax – or something far worse?
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