09 July 2006

Tunnel Vision

The news this week, that alleged terrorists - none of whom were in the U.S. - were arrested for conspiring to blow up New York's Holland Tunnel and flood lower Manhattan (despite the fact that lower Manhattan is above the river level, so no New Orlean-style flooding here, folks), gives me pause. It's not that would-be terrorists exist - the policies of the current Bush administration are the fuel for a veritable terrorist manufacturing engine. It's not that plots worthy of a Hollywood disaster flick dance before the eyes of newly fledged jihadists like so many sugar plums... wait... bad metaphor mixing... like so many virgins in paradise.

What gives me pause are two things: first, the "pre-crime" aspect of this event, as well as that of the earlier Miami arrests, is beginning to emerge as a disturbing pattern. I have no doubt that international law enforcement agencies could, at any arbitrary time, swoop in on various and sundry cells that they are monitoring via infiltrators, received tips (perhaps from rival factions), and intercepted Internet traffic. That the timing can be deliberately chosen turns these events, by definition, from law enforcement and crime prevention activities into political theatre and spectacle. Such spectacle, of course, is what is deliberately used to frighten the public into passivity, and acceptance of whatever government authorities choose to do, be it illegal, immoral, anti-democratic, or combinations thereof.

Second, as a political act, such arrests - and the media circus that surrounds them - tends to polarize policy debates along partisan lines, rather than encouraging a critical examination of the ground issues. Historically (for those who, unlike the current U.S. President, have actually read history), it is the lack of ground perception - perceiving the true, indirect effects of policies and actions that most people ignore - that enables countries to slip into dangerous, totalitarian territory.

Here is what is particularly telling about the political nature of this most recent event: the "Canadian connection." Apparently, one of the arrested suspects took some business courses at Montreal's Concordia University ten years ago. Long after this trivial detail is forgotten, the impression of a memory of a Canadian connection to an alleged terrorist plot in the U.S. will fuel calls for a tightening of our own domestic, anti-terrorist surveillance activities. And one more thing: the arrests made the news on the anniversary of the bombings in London perpetrated by "home-grown" terrorists. Coincidenza?

And speaking of home-grown terrorists, did you hear that military enlistment in the U.S. is up, at least among a certain demographic? "The reasons are obvious: soldiers are trained to be proficient with weapons, combat tactics, and explosives, to train others in their use, and to operate in a highly disciplined culture that is focused on the organized violence of war."

Why yes, as a matter of fact, I am becoming afraid of "home-grown" terrorists, especially those that are grown using good ol' U.S. of A. know-how, equipment and provisions, regardless of colour of their skin, or how (and to whom) they pray.

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