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The Witchhunt For The "Terrorists" Begins

by Rick Giombetti Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2001 at 11:24 PM
rickjgio@speakeasy.org Seattle

Are you or have you ever been a member of an organization affiliated with Osama bin Laden's terror network?

If there are any lingering doubts about the witchhunt nature of the recently christened "War On Terrorism," then an October 1 U.S. News & World Report special report on the "bin Laden Terror Network" is one example that should put them to rest. A brief article and graphic appearing on pgs. 20 and 21 further elaborates the official U.S. government position in more detail. Published immediately following President Bush's speech to Congress on September 20, in which he repeated the line that Saudi millionaire in exile in Afghanistan Osama bin Laden is the ring leader of a terrorist network with members in more than 60 nations, this is but one example of the McCarthyesque nature of the crusade against terrorism.

The article is titled, "How a terror network funds attacks - and hides its tracks." Although the article by line is attributed to David E. Kaplan and Joshua Kurlantzick, it is can be seen as little more than a U.S. State Department press release. Said article uses only unnamed sources, except for a quote by a former State Department official named Jonathan Winer. The graphic is of a map of the world showing where "al-Qaeda cells" and "terrorist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda" are located "in more than 60 nations" (I counted about 65 nations on the graphic). The graphic describes the "al-Qaeda cells" as "Cells from hell." The sources for the graphic are attributed to Jane's Intelligence Review, Congressional Research Service and the U.S. State Department.

So what nations are counted among the "more than 60 nations" harboring "al-Qaeda cells"? The usual suspects, of course, including Palestinian Authority areas in the Occupied Territories, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Israel and every other country in the Middle East except for Oman. The list also includes the names of some countries that are eye opening to say the least. Countries like South Africa, Ecuador, Brazil, Paraguay,Uruguay, Argentina and Ecuador.

I would like to know what connections the above named six countries could have to the "bin Laden Network." Most likely none but that doesn't matter in the new "War On Terrorism." This should be cause for concern given that all of the above named countries have vibrant social movements opposed to U.S. policies in the Third World. Could the State Department name political parties like the Worker's Party of Brazil, or groups of individuals opposed to IMF backed austerity measures, like recently laid off workers in Argentina known as "piqueros," as member cells of the "bin Laden Network"? Why not? I couldn't think of a better way for the Argentine government to silence the current groundswell of protest over the latest fleecing of the country by Argentine elites and New York bankers than to finger protesters as members of the "bin Laden Network."

Could the reason why South Africa is on this shit list of more than 60 nations harboring "al-Qaeda cells" be because of its hosting of the recent U.N. sponsored conference on racism? It could be given the well merited criticisms of Israeli and U.S. government policies that came out of that conference. Implicit in this de facto blacklisting of South Africa as a harbor for bin Laden backed terrorists is a warning from the U.S. to other nations that might want to host future U.N. conferences on racism: Don't you dare discuss issues of racism in both Israel and the U.S. or we'll blacklist your nation as a harbor for bin Laden backed terrorists as well.

Two Latin American countries not on the current terrorist shit list include Colombia and Mexico, both of which have strong guerilla movements. This should not be surprising since Washington can send counter-insurgency military aid to these countries under the guise of the "War On Drugs." What better way to increase the military aid to other Latin American countries than under the guise of fighting the "War On Terrorism."

Another incendiary claim made in the article is how bin Laden's associates purportedly help raise money. One sentence states that "Bin Laden's followers also bring in extra money doing everything from fishing to driving taxis." Given that this sentence is located in a section of the article titled "Drug Money," it comes across as an implicit suggestion for local, state and national law enforcement agencies to target Arabs and/or Muslims or people who "look" Arab and/or Muslim for surveillance and harassment. The ugly stereotypes in the sentence invokes images of brown men with beards wearing turbans, driving taxi cabs or working behind the counter at gas stations. This is incredibly irresponsible since hundreds of attacks against people, whether or not they are Arab and/or Muslim, have happened nationwide since S11. It is precisely these kinds of racist media stereotypes that lynch mobs of Patriot Pinheads attacking mosques, cab drivers, gas station attendants and anybody who "looks" like they are Arab

and/or Muslim, including non-Arab and non-Muslim Sikhs, are responding to.

Perhaps the most chilling claim is made in a side bar to the article titled, "Sources of financing for al Qaeda." Under "Islamic Charities" the side bar states "Al Qaeda siphons off money from selected charities, mosques and relief agencies." This should be seen as an implicit green light for law enforcement agencies to start seizing the assets of mosques and/or charitable organizations with any link to the Middle East or the "bin Laden Network," no matter how real or imagined. There is no reason to believe that the new "War On Terrorism" won't inspire unconstitutional asset forfeitures without due process, similar to those justified in the name of fighting the "War On Drugs."

Nobody with a rudimentary knowledge of world affairs can take an "article" and graphic like the one cited above seriously. Unfortunately, a majority of the public consumes this kind of nonsense without ever hearing or seeing anybody correctly debunking it as little more than government propaganda. It all gives the impression of a global army headed by bin Laden that simply doesn't exist. There is no doubt that bin Laden and his organization has some wealth and support in the Arab and greater Muslim worlds but this nonsense about "a network of terrorists in more than 60 nations" being bandied about by government officials and terrorism pundits should be getting mercilessly ridiculed in the media. It's reminiscent of past exaggerations of the military capabilities of official U.S. enemies. The exaggerated claims of Soviet military might during the Cold War by the CIA come to mind. The joke that was the Iraqi Army being made out as a formidable military force 11 years ago during the build up that lead up to the Gulf War is another example.

In less than two weeks the S11 terror attacks have been seized upon by the U.S. government to further its global objectives. The U.S. government now has a potent new weapon to use in trying to silence activists for social justice world wide, whether they engage in armed struggle or not. The potential for serious violations of basic human rights on the grounds that it is being done in the name of fighting the "War On Terrorism" should be obvious enough. Yes, Canada and the U.S. are among the nations harboring "al-Qaeda cells." How much easier it will be in the future to discredit protesters as "terrorists" in the media. Want to hold a Reclaim The Streets block party in your neighborhood or a protest against an upcoming industry gathering coming to your city? What better way to justify a police crack down in the media than by smearing all of the protesters as "terrorists with connections to Osama bin Laden."

The "War On Terrorism" has only just begun but its potential for fomenting reaction and being used as an excuse for massive human rights violations worldwide are becoming more obvious with each passing day. The comparison of the "War On Terrorism" here in the U.S. to the McCarthy inspired purges of the left in government and the film and television industries during the '50s is an apt one. It could become a very effective tool for attacking dissent and left activists should brace themselves for the accusations of being "terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden" that could be thrown their way in the future.

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