Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Keeping the terror threat alive

"It will be a world of terror as much as a world of triumph. The more the Party is powerful, the less it will be tolerant: the weaker the opposition, the tighter the despotism. Goldstein and his heresies will live for ever. Every day, at every moment, they will be defeated, discredited, ridiculed, spat upon and yet they will always survive.
But what was strange was that although Goldstein was hated and despised by everybody, although every day and a thousand times a day, on platforms, on the telescreen, in newspapers, in books, his theories were refuted, smashed, ridiculed, held up to the general gaze for the pitiful rubbish that they were in spite of all this, his influence never seemed to grow less. Always there were fresh dupes waiting to be seduced by him. A day never passed when spies and saboteurs acting under his directions were not unmasked by the Thought Police. He was the commander of a vast shadowy army, an underground network of conspirators dedicated to the overthrow of the State."
George Orwell, 1984

The war in Afghanistan isn't going well at all. The economy is near collapse. There is a constant feeling of doom and gloom. Life is a drag for most, more so for international travellers. There is dissatisfaction with bureaucracy, delays, lack of customer service, and the constant harassment of make-belief security. Citizens are weary, staff and officials are bored. A petty airline official or security officer will be ready to call the police the moment you question his or her motives; customer service operatives will chat away on the phone with friends and colleagues whilst passengers needing help are waiting in a queue. The system is at breaking point, tempers rise, the level of complaints goes up, but there is respite on the horizon: mortal danger, another terror threat.

As long as fear can be generated, people fall into place. America, the West, the "free" world, the "international community" are at war, a never-ending, perpetual war, the "Totale Krieg" Hitler only promised, but America delivered. And in the face of the threat even the most intelligent members of society shut up and fall into place. Here is Orwell again: "Even the humblest Party member is expected to be competent, industrious, and even intelligent within narrow limits, but it is also necessary that he should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph. In other words it is necessary that he should have the mentality appropriate to a state of war. It does not matter whether the war is actually happening, and, since no decisive victory is possible, it does not matter whether the war is going well or badly. All that is needed is that a state of war should exist."

As we were treated to another near fatal al-Qaeda attack on an American airliner, the usual pattern emerges slowly: The alleged terrorist perpetrator was "known to the authorities", he was allowed to enter the United States in spite of security warnings, there were even suggestions that he was permitted to board the Amsterdam to Detroit plane without a passport, if fellow travellers Kurt and Lori Haskell are to be believed, and considering that they are both attorneys in a Michigan law firm, maybe their evidence counts for something.
They state that the very same man who burnt his leg on board the plane, was accompanied by a man in an expensive suit who convinced ticket agents to let him on board without a passport. In such matters expensive suits alone don't do the talking, but government credentials do, so we're talking about the poor dupe's handlers who made sure that he was given an opportunity to do the job he was assigned to do.

Like those idiots who drove a van filled with propane canisters into the doors of Glasgow airport, causing damage to nobody but themselves, or the infamous shoe bomber, or the youngsters who believed you could make shampoo or mouthwash explode aboard a plane - they all did a great service to the ever expanding security industry and a great disservice to travellers. Each incident has the same characteristics, minimum damage with maximum drama. As long as such incidents can pop up credibly here and there, there is no need for those who brought us 9/11 to stage another elaborate, expensive and difficult to contain catastrophe, although one shouldn't but it beyond power-hungry cynics to contemplate a repeat performance. Each terror scare opens the doors for endless coverage, new, "even tougher" security measures, high profile raids on innocent people (e.g. the Forest Gate brothers or the Pakistani students in Manchester) and a reinforcement of the "state of war" mentality. Two German novellists argue in their book "Angriff auf die Freiheit" (Attack on Freedom) that the over-reaction to the "terrorist threat" is a much greater danger than terrorism itself and that today's surveillance society makes Orwell's 1984 look harmless. Terrorism, according to them, has become a convenient excuse for governments to spy on their own people.

Foolish executors of new terror threats are easy to find and recruit. A spoof MI6 recruiting website regularly receives applications, complete with CVs, addresses and telephone numbers, of would-be-patriots whose level of intelligence is such that they never realised that they were applying to a make-belief site. Here are some amusing examples, uncorrected for spelling mistakes:

"It with all due respect that i wish to inquire if your Organization has Recruitment offer for Nigerians that are resident in Nigeria? I am a God-fearing & law abiding citizen of my country, i also have a passion for law & order. So i wish to utilize my Intelligence quota in fighting crime both locally & internationally. pls keep me informed. Thank you for your anticipated co-operation."
"I was wondering exactly what qualifications you would need to join a government organisation eg; British intelligance for example if you would need a degree in a foriegn language, as i do not intend on studying a foriegn language at University. I was researching the police force and others in the UK and i could not find anything stating if not having a degree in a foreign languauge would present a problem. If you could reply and clear up this problem for me it would be much appreciated. Thanks."
"Born 1944 - Male - married 34 years - retired - served 1968-1971 army intelligence (analyst)"
"To whom it may consern, i am looking for information obout working for mi6, i am a Australian but i do beleave we are still part of the British commonwealth looking forward to your responce....regards james"
"...US passport 71****710, I have alway tried to do the right thing, now I really need a job. I am a known commodity, I know multiple Governments. Once hired I am completely reliable and discreet."
"I have been a Operational Officer for about four Years now and have been Deep undercover for Four Years in a Organisation called Oversight Committee. I was Recruited back in 2004 by Sir Richard Dearlove Previous Director of the Secret Inteligence Service the agency has forgotten all about me in the past four years. I would like to Continue Mobile: 079******81"
"I would like to know what I have to do to work with SIS M16, I'm working overseas doing Security, for the Army, at this time. I will be going back to the US, I will be ready for work after I get home I'm would like to learn more about Security. I have done Security for 11 years, all kinds of security I will be happy to send you a resume and there is one thing you need to know is I have a Secret Security Clearance, with DOD, if that will help. I hope to here from you soon I'm ready to go to work."
"i'm currently serving in the british army and would like to find out more about a transfer to this line of work! any infomation you could send me would be greatly appreciated."
"I am a iraqi weth brtsh passport .spike & rigt both arbic & farsi . livd in both .born in basra. mor subject to exp."
"Sir, I would like some info regarding the post because i am interested in joining. I have a military backgroung, presently a Lieutenant serving in a specialised unit."
"sir, my name is adeel tahir. age 27 from lahore pakistan. i am very interested to work for ur organization. i hope sir u consider my mail for job in ur organization. sir after 7/7 i feel ur organization need people who understand urdu language i am understand urdu very well because urdu id my mother tongue and national language of pakistan sir i think u organization me i am very interested to work for ur organization. looking forward for ur co-operation. bye sir."
If the CIA and MI6 set up similar fake al-Qaeda recruitment sites, as they most probably have, they will catch the opposite extreme of the spectrum.

Blissfully unaware, that al-Qaeda was an American invention all along, an off-spin of the days the USA was fighting Soviet Russia in Afghanistan, people feel threatened and scared, thank their governments for protecting them, and accept further inconvenience limiting their freedom of movement as a necessary evil. In line with the restrictions on liquid items, maybe, after the discovery that the latest foiled terrorist had sewn explosives into his underpants, all passengers should be made to remove their underwear before boarding a flight; a brisk sale in fresh underwear could develop in duty free shops at the airport. We could introduce the "two minute hate" sessions from 1984 before queuing at the security check-in, to get them into the spirit for the strip search. The actual choice of the security industry is, however, likely going to be expensive body scanners that peep beneath people's clothing as already trialled in Manchester.
The number of perverts applying for security jobs at airports is then probably going to match the number of idiots applying for "spy jobs" with the security agencies.

In the long run, all these reactions to the perceived terror threat are mere hysteric responses by a dying empire. A timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan has not yet been set, but the Pax Americana has long been dead. More Chinese arms might accelerate the process in Afghanistan, and China is the real threat to the USA, with Islamic terrorism a mere diversion. With America and Europe increasingly barricading themselves in, they will become more isolated and less attractive as visiting and business destinations, and thus only hasten their final implosion. It did not save the East German state that the Stasi had a file on every one of its citizens. Tightening control, will not save the American project either, and the de facto handover to China is only a question of time. Sadly, for Muslims, who believed in al-Qaeda as soon as the brand was created for them by the CIA and who are as brainwashed as the rest of Western consumers, it won't make much difference. They will be passed from one ruling world power to another, neither taking them seriously except for propaganda purposes.