Thursday, August 10, 2006

in-flight terror

A plot to destroy airplanes in flight through the use of liquid explosives was foiled in today in the United Kingdom. Concerns about terrorist alarmism, while justified by past terror alerts used for political purposes in the US, don't seem to apply. This was a real plot with the potential to cause devastation greater than the 9/11 attacks.

Speculation: this is the group we know as al-Qaeda, the terror network of Usama bin Laden. It has been five years since 9/11. Motives include jealousy or solidarity with Hezbollah as the leaders of jihad. There were ominous warnings and boasts of disrupting UK travel in the latest terror tape. This could well be a way of switching the focus back to them.

Explosives were disguised as beverages and electronic devices. According to news reports, aircraft from United Airlines, Continental Airlines, and American Airlines departing from Heathrow and Gatwick to New York City, Washington, D.C., and California were among those planned to be blown up. As many as twenty planes were involved and at least 21 suspects arrested, mostly Britains of Pakistani heritage. Two of the arrests were made in the Birmingham area, where firearms officers were not involved, and at least one arrest was made in High Wycombe. Houses in and around Walton Drive in High Wycombe, where one house was raided, have been evacuated. The BBC has reported that the key people involved in the plot are British born.DHS believes that as many as 50 people may be involved.

The UK Telegraph explains how such an explosive could be made:
Dr Clifford Jones, reader in engineering, University of Aberdeen, said a colourless liquid fuel component of an explosive, such as gasoline or kerosene, could be disguised as mineral water and an oxidant such as ammonium nitrate could be passed off as sugar.
Despite Bush's 'stark reminder' that the US is 'at war with Islamic fascists', there is a greater lesson here in the absolute bankruptcy of the Flypaper Theory. As you may remember, this is the theory that can be summed up in the pithy phrase: "fightin' them over there so we don't have to do it here". The entire foreign policy adventure in Iraq is irrevelant to the real dangers faced by Western countries, despite all attempts at making them one and the same.

These were native Brits who were planning to kill thousands of their fellow citizens. Putting 150,000 troops in Mesopotamia will not stop this. In stopping this plot, bombs and bullets took a back seat to a combination of good intelligence, detective work and months of surveillance. Of course, we know now that top US government officials were aware of this plot days before and have already used it to play partisan politics, with the Dark Lord Cheney grumbling ominously about how this proves their point about needing to 'stay the course'. In fact, there is no need to subvert civil liberties, to pervert the law, in order to conduct effective counter-terrorism, as the British have shown us.

Make no mistake: there are evil men planning to commit murder on a massive scale, but this is no justification for the ill-advised strategies of the Bush Administration.

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