Friday, August 11, 2006


The story of the British Muslim extremists who plotted to bring down American airliners with home-made explosives is still unfolding. Even as the information develops some skepticism is called for.

Were the plans of the extremists really feasible? In principle they could succeed, or some of them could, in getting the chemicals on board disguised as soft drinks and other liquids. Once the planes were in flight they would have to mix them properly (unobserved?) and then detonate them by connecting them with wires to an electrical device. How could the wires get past security screening? Ostensibly for security reasons (to avoid copycat efforts) we are not told which chemicals were actually found. Were they sufficiently potent to achieve the effect the extremists sought?

The technique of using liquid explosives for this purpose has been known since 1995, when a Muslim extremist, experimenting with the chemicals, blew himself up in a lab in Manila. Why did it take eleven years to ban liquids from carry-on luggage?

Moreover, it is admitted that there were no terrorists of this kind in the US. Why then the turmoil in our airports?

We do not yet know if this matter has been overblown. But if it is, the question to ask is Cui bono? Who benefits? In the first instance it is Blair and Bush, whose "global war on terror" has made them deeply unpopular. What better tool to use against critics than a megascare of this kind. We know that Republicans are in trouble in the November election. Maybe, just maybe, they can retrieve their fortunes by playing the scare card one more time. Who knows? Maybe they'll get to bomb Iran and attack Syria after all. It is true that the extremists had Pakistani connections, but such discrepancies have not disturbed Bush and Blair before.

Ned Lamont's defeat of Lieberman in the Connecticutt primary was a wakeup call for the war party. On Wednesday Vice-President Cheney alleged that Lamont's victory would embolden Al Qaeda. At that time he already knew about the plotters in Britain.

In short their is much in this matter that requires careful scrutiny.


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