London's Terror Thursday establishes three
realities beyond the shadow of a doubt: (1) the West is losing the "war on
terrorism," (2) in our present strategic mode, we are essentially defenseless
against al-Qaeda's offensive I agree with Michael Scheuer, the former chief of
the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit and author of Imperial Hubris, who said on
National Public Radio that this is undoubtedly al-Qaeda's grisly work, and
(3) there are more than two sides in this war.
With the G-8
meeting being held in Scotland, security
measures in the United Kingdom were at an all-time high and yet, despite
that, al-Qaeda pulled off a fairly complex operation, involving four separate bombings, three
underground trains and one bus, which was peeled
away from its chassis like an opened can of beans, as one
witness described it. Indeed, the London attacks have opened up a very big
can of worms for Blair's
government, and in Washington too, where they're realizing that the "fly trap" tactic they've been
employing in Iraq has backfired rather badly.
If the Brits couldn't prevent such a sophisticated and highly coordinated
attack at a time like this when the meeting of the G-8 had British security on
high alert then one can only conclude, along with Scheuer,
that the terrorists held back, and could have caused far more damage and taken
many more lives if they so chose. Perhaps that thought is meant to sink into the
British consciousness. The terrorists' message is clear enough: your government
can't protect you. This much seems beyond dispute.
The second message may be gleaned from the statement of responsibility for
the attacks, which appeared on a jihadist Web site that has been utilized by
al-Qaeda on previous occasions to make announcements. Here is
screenshot of the message posted shortly after the attacks, and here is a
translation, courtesy of Wikipedia:
"In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate, may be upon the
cheerful one and undaunted fighter, Prophet Muhammed, God's peace be upon him.
"Nation of Islam and Arab nation: Rejoice for it is time to take revenge
against the British Zionist crusader government in retaliation for the massacres
Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan. The heroic mujahideen have
carried out a blessed raid in London. Britain is now burning with fear, terror
and panic in its northern, southern, eastern, and western quarters.
"We have repeatedly warned the British government and people. We have
fulfilled our promise and carried out our blessed military raid in Britain after
our mujahideen exerted strenuous efforts over a long period of time to ensure
the success of the raid.
"We continue to warn the governments of Denmaark and all the crusader
governments that they will be punished in the same way if they do not withdraw
their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. He who warns is excused.
"God says: 'You who believe: If ye will aid (the cause of) God, He will
aid you, and plant your feet firmly.'"
Bin Laden's message to Muslims is that the West, far from being invulnerable,
can be defeated. His primary target remains the U.S., not Britain or any of the
other countries mentioned in the claim of responsibility, and his
chief objective is to get us out of the Middle East. The jihadist mindset is
to that of our own leaders, and their neoconservative amen corner,
who continue to advance the proposition that
we must fight "the
terrorists" in the streets of Baghdad so we don't have to do battle in the
streets of London, Rome, and New York City. Bush declares that "we are going on
the offensive," but, as I pointed
out only last week, so are they:
"The President gloats that 'we're on the offense' and explicitly
justifies this on the grounds that we have to go after them before they go after
us. Yet why it is impossible for them to attack the U.S. [Ed: or the UK]
anyway, even while fighting American troops in Iraq, no one seems to
For every action
there is an equal and opposite reaction:
while the Islamists cannot begin to bring the sort of firepower that we wield in
Iraq to bear in the streets of London, they can, over time, create conditions
where a stiff upper lip is not enough. At that point or, hopefully, well
before then the Brits, and indeed all of us in the West, are going to have to
make a cold calculation of the costs and the benefits of invading the Middle
East. Is it worth the high price we
or is it time to come up with a strategy a bit more sophisticated than shaking
the tree in which the hornets' nest sits in the hope that it will eventually
fall to the ground?
If the answer is yes, it is worth it, then we must be prepared to do what the War Party has been urging since 9/11: abolishing for the
many of the freedoms we now enjoy and
signing on to a foreign policy of perpetual
against much of the Muslim world. Aside from taxing ourselves into penury and instituting a military draft, this means
basically shutting down the relatively free society we have been living in and
replacing it with a garrison
state, one in which freedom of movement, of privacy, of the right to not be
tracked by the government 24/7 goes the way of the horse-and-buggy,
spats, and the
music of Tommy Dorsey.
To answer "no,"
however, is to take the path of what the War Party derides as "appeasement" in spite of
the reality that our present policy is an invaluable aid to
bin Laden and his cohorts. Against the tidal
wave of emotion
a good deal of it cheap histrionics
the advocates of a rational foreign policy
will have to fight an uphill battle, at least for the moment. However, when the
dust clears, and common sense sets in, the backlash against the Blair government
is sure to rise up: after all, the Israelis claimed at least at
one point that the Brits warned them of the attack "minutes" in advance.
The British authorities, for their part, deny any such warning as the Israelis are now
doing, at least offically.
The first Associated Press story about a warning received by former Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu said
"British police told the Israeli Embassy in London minutes before
Thursday's explosions that they had received warnings of possible terror attacks
in the city, a senior Israeli official said. Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu had planned to attend an economic conference in a hotel over the
subway stop where one of the blasts occurred, and the warning prompted him to
stay in his hotel room instead, government officials said.
"Just before the blasts, Scotland Yard called the security officer at the
Israeli Embassy to say they had received warnings of possible attacks, the
official said. He did not say whether British police made any link to the
economic conference. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the
nature of his position."
In subsequent versions of the same story, all references to the call from
Scotland Yard have been scrubbed, and we are told that Netanyahu received the
warning after the blasts. This instant revisionism
was duly noted
by the blogosphere. It took them a while to get their story straight and I'm
not talking about the Associated Press.
So when did Netanyahu receive his warning and who warned whom? Stratfor.com circulated an interesting
analysis shortly after the first stories began to come out: Although several
news reports had Netanyahu on
his way to the conference, Stratfor avers that he simply stayed put. Also
noted is Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom's denial that Scotland Yard
informed the Israeli Embassy of the attacks in advance, with the Brits echoing
this "clarification," but Stratfor has the supposed scoop:
"Contrary to original claims that Israel was warned 'minutes before' the
first attack, unconfirmed rumors in intelligence circles indicate that the
Israeli government actually warned London of the attacks 'a couple of days'
previous. Israel has apparently given other warnings about possible attacks that
turned out to be aborted operations. The British government did not want to
disrupt the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, or call off visits by foreign
dignitaries to London, hoping this would be another false alarm.
British government sat on this information for days and failed to respond.
Though the Israeli government is playing along publicly, it may not stay quiet
for long. This is sure to apply pressure on Blair very soon for his failure to
deter this major terrorist attack."
I would also point out that Stratfor, with its passion for reiterating the
obvious, stated in its summary that "there has been massive confusion" over the
warning confusion generated by whom, and to what purpose, is best left to the
fertile imaginations of my readers.
The Stratfor piece puts the best spin on this story, at least from the Israeli
point of view. If word that Netanyahu had a warning got out, then the best way
to salvage it and even score a few brownie points in the process is to float
the story that the warning was received not minutes but days before the attacks,
and that the recipient of those warnings was not Netanyahu but the British government.
Taking the focus off the eternal "war on terrorism,"
and trying to solve the problems of world poverty
and global warming,
the British government deliberately downplayed the threat, even ignored it
in spite of Israel's best efforts.
And if you believe that, there's a bridge in Brooklyn you may be interested
Netanyahu was no doubt a target of the bomb plot why else would the
terrorists bomb an underground station directly
below the hotel where the investment conference was going to take place? If
Israeli intelligence knew about the attacks days in advance, and only
thought to let Netanyahu in on the secret "minutes" before the bombs went off
well, that's a little hard to believe, now isn't it? (Oh, wait
I don't believe that Scotland Yard knew diddly-squat about the terror plot,
either days or minutes before the bombs exploded, although what seems beyond
dispute is that Netanyahu was warned beforehand. The question is, who warned
My longtime readers know that the question of how much the Israelis knew
about 9/11 before those planes ploughed into the World Trade Center, and how
they knew it, has been taken up in this space on many previous occasions. My short
Terror Enigma: 9/11 and the Israeli Connection, shows that Israel wasn't
behind the 9/11 attacks, as many
in the Arab world allege, but that they
did have some knowledge that a terrorist attack was about to take place on
American soil and somehow neglected to tell us about it. A controversial thesis,
to be sure, and one that has caused me no small amount of trouble, perhaps
understandably so. I would submit, however, that in this instance, too, the same
pattern seems to be repeating itself and that this goes a long way toward
vindicating the thesis initially presented by Fox News reporter Carl Cameron in
series broadcast in December 2001, and elaborated on by me in The Terror
When you think about it, the idea that Netanyahu may have had advance warning
of the attacks isn't all that improbable. Israel, after all, depends for its
survival on the ability of its intelligence services to track Osama bin Laden
and his allies worldwide. However, the decision to share that intelligence with
Israel's ostensible allies in the "war on terrorism" cannot be taken for
granted; and surely the choice not to do so, in the case of both New York and
London, can be easily understood in terms of Israeli interests.
Who benefits from the London attacks, aside from the obvious candidate, which
is bin Laden? With the "coalition of the
willing" showing signs of going wobbly, and the recent announcement
that Britain was withdrawing a good portion of its forces from Iraq, the
political momentum in Britain (and the United
States), which was going against the Iraq
war, is suddenly reversed. Politicians are doing their best Churchill imitations,
and the questions arising in the U.S. Congress and the media are swamped by an
emotional tidal wave of pro-war sentiment. The scandals that plague the War
Party both in Britain
and the U.S. are
eclipsed, and suddenly, with the prospect of suicide bombers in the streets of
London and perhaps New York Martin Peretz's battle-cry uttered in the
immediate aftermath of 9/11 is taken up once again: "We are
all Israelis now." (Although, for good tactical reasons, Ariel Sharon is
telling his diplomats not to say this too
Who benefits? Who loses? And who knew? Surely Netanyahu knew, either "days"
or "minutes" before the blasts shattered all hope that the War Party might yet
be defeated and it wasn't Scotland Yard that tipped him off. In any case,
the key question that must be asked, and answered, before the lesson of London's
Terror Thursday can be fully assimilated and learned, is this: What did Bibi
know, and when did he know it?