UK “terror” plot: Another absurd publicity stunt?
Yesterday the British intelligence announced that it foiled a major "terror" plot to blow up at least 10 U.S.-bound planes, an attack that UK officials say could have surpassed 9/11.
Britain and the United States immediately raised their nationwide terror alerts to the highest levels, indicating that an attack is "imminent". UK intelligence officials say, without providing any shred of evidence, that the bombers were planning to blow up several planes by using liquid explosives carried in soft-drink bottles, and that the bombs were supposed to be assembled on the aircraft and detonated with electronic equipment.
British police, who said that the alleged attacks could have caused “mass murder on an unimaginable scale”, arrested 24 people suspected of involvement in the "terror" plot. Pakistan also arrested seven Pakistanis, including two British nationals of Pakistani origin, on suspicion that they served as local "facilitators" for the two UK nationals.
U.S. and UK officials quickly said, again without providing any evidence, that some of the suspects belonged to the terror network al-Qaeda. A federal law enforcement official in Washington simply claimed that “the scheme to strike a range of targets at roughly the same time is an earmark of al-Qaeda”, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Many of the 24 suspects arrested in the UK were said to be British Muslims, and neighbors claimed that at least three of them were new converts to Islam. Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson, from London's metropolitan police, claimed yesterday that the alleged bomb plot concerned "people who might masquerade within a community behind certain faiths". The term "community" is often used in Britain to refer to people from the country's minority religions and ethnic groups, particularly the 1.65 million Muslims, who account for 2.8 percent of Britain's 60 million-strong population.
The Muslim council of Britain, the UK’s largest Islamic organization, said that such allegations could lead to a backlash against the Muslim community. "All right-thinking people must support the police in the intelligence-led actions they take to foil plots," said MCB spokesman Inayat Bunglawala. "However, there will also be a sense of unease about how the arrests may be used by some far-right groups and others to portray once again British Muslims as a community as a huge reservoir of potential terrorists…We have seen similar high-profile raids in the past where people have been arrested only to be released without charge."
In the United States, President Bush again angered the Muslim community by using insensitive and inflammatory terms. The American President said yesterday that the alleged terror plot showed that the U.S. was still at war with “Islamic fascists" five years after 9/11.
Edina Lekovic, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, said she was concerned that Bush’s "Islamic fascists" tag would cast suspicion on all Muslims, even the vast majority who wants to live in safety. "The problem with the phrase is it attaches the religion of Islam to tyranny and fascism, rather than isolating the threat to a specific group of individuals," she said.
Meanwhile, some analysts say the revelation of the alleged "terror" plot at this critical time is carefully designed to divert the world’s attention from the ongoing Israeli offensive in Lebanon, which has so far killed more than 1,000 Lebanese civilians.
American and British leaders are facing intense pressure at home and abroad for their handling of the Middle East crisis. President Bush has said from day one that Israel has “the right to defend herself.” And the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s position has mirrored that of the United States since the conflict began. Both leaders have repeatedly refused to condemn Israel’s actions in Lebanon as “disproportionate”, and have been reluctant to call for an immediate ceasefire, allowing Israel to crush Hezbollah and possibly kill more civilians.
At the same time, the U.S. and UK rushed to pin the blame for Israel’s unjustified offensive in Lebanon on Syria and Iran. President Bush said right after Israel launched its assault: “For the first time we've really begun to address with clarity the root causes of the conflict and that is, terrorist activity – namely, Hezbollah that's housed and encouraged by Syria, financed by Iran.” The American President even tried to get the world’s most powerful leaders to sign a document condemning Tehran and Damascus for causing the current Middle East conflict. But Russia, China and other nations said there was no evidence to support such allegations.
Some analysts even say that the alleged "terror" plot in the UK threatens to take the world into World War III if the U.S., Britain and Israel succeeded in diverting the world’s attention from the Middle East crisis and blamed all the chaos on Hezbollah, Syria or Iran.
Not so long ago, the world’s attention was focused on Afghanistan and Iraq, where the U.S.-led occupation forces are being defeated. At the same, the sliding dollar and rising oil prices were pushing the controllers of Dick Cheney and the neocons to rush into World War III, which they think could heal all their wounds.
Given the current set of circumstances, one might wonder: Is it any surprise that the British intelligence chose to launch yet another absurd publicity stunt at such a critical time? And how long would the Western world believe such alleged "terror" plots uncovered by the secret intelligence agencies?