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Purser: It’s a Long, Long War

After U.S. authorities arrested five suspected terrorist plotters, there was considerable skepticism about the seriousness of their plot, which allegedly included an intention to bring down the Sears Tower in Chicago.


September 27, 2007
By Richard Purser

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After U.S. authorities arrested five suspected terrorist plotters in
Miami on June 22, there was considerable skepticism about the
seriousness of their plot, which allegedly included an intention to
bring down the Sears Tower in Chicago. The accused (including two other
men arrested separately) appeared not to have advanced very far with
their plot – “more aspirational than operational,” said the FBI’s
deputy director – and to have been amateurish in their activities to
date. But action had to be taken when it looked like they were
cottoning on to a government informant posing as an al-Qaeda
representative.

Only as the case wends its way through the courts will we learn just how dangerous these men really were.

There
had already been some skepticism expressed after the sensational arrest
by Canadian authorities of 17 terrorist suspects in and around Toronto
on June 2. At least some of the suspects appeared less than up to
attaining their lurid list of alleged goals, which included the prime
minister’s head. But action had to be taken; explosives had already
been purchased, which is more than can be said of the Miami case.

Again,
we won’t really know until the details come out in the courts. But
there was little skepticism voiced after the events of August 10, when
British authorities arrested a couple of dozen men who were allegedly
on the verge of blowing up as many as 10 airliners bound from the UK to
the U.S. Within less than two weeks, about half of those arrested had
been formally charged, eight of them accused of conspiring to commit
murder by smuggling bomb components onto aircraft to assemble and
detonate.

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Simultaneous with the arrests came a crackdown on
airport security, since the police could not be certain they had
captured all the plotters. The ramifications of this have been
worldwide and will be long-felt. Large-scale plots aside, we can never
be certain that individual freelance bombers will not be inspired to
die spectacularly in the service of whatever loathsome cause they
represent.

The particular loathsome cause in all of the above
cases is radical Islam, although the pioneer of modern suicide bombing
– pardon me, “martyrdom operations” – appears to be a Hindu gang of
murderers, Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers. The term given by President Bush
to the present form of Muslim extremism is “Islamo-facism.” Kashif
Ahmed of Regina, communications director of Muslims for Peace and
Justice, recently complained that this was ”highly prejudicial as it
characterizes as fascist the faith of more than 1.2 billion Muslims.”
Of course, it does nothing of the kind. It characterizes as fascist the
faith only of those Muslims who are extremists, not all 1.2 billion
Muslims! But “fascist” is perhaps not an ideal label; it derives from
European political movements of the 1930s. I would prefer
“Islamo-fanaticism.”

But enough of semantics. Let’s go back to
the British plot. What’s really scary is to think about what would have
been the result if 10 planes had vanished over the North Atlantic in a
single afternoon – or crashed in populated areas on their approach to
their destinations – followed by release of the “martyrdom videos” that
the police say they have captured. It might have been the end of the
age of aviation as we know it.

Even as it is, it will be
difficult for some time – perhaps permanently – to board a U.S.-bound
intercontinental flight without feeling some qualm. And one does not
want to think about the stress that must be felt by the U.S. airline
crews who regularly fly these heavily travelled routes. Of course, you
don’t have to be Muslim to be a fanatic or a terrorist. But today,
Islamic terrorism poses a worldwide threat to civilization, and it is
futile to be in denial about this. It’s tough for ordinary Muslims
living in the West and trying only to make their way in the world, yet
feeling that they are being looked at askance every time they walk down
the street. But the gloves have to come off in the “war on terror,” and
if individual sensibilities sometimes have to suffer in the process –
well, as Walter Cronkite used to put it, “that’s the way it is.”


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