Cartoon from the Calvin & Hobbes Treasury
The arrest this week of a bunch of mostly-young Islamic Canadians in Toronto, along with a mosque caretaker who was the nominal leader of the group, has grabbed a lot of international press, and prompted some readers to ask why I haven’t talked about it.
I have. I talked about it a year ago, when I predicted it. I said:
There are conceivably as many as a billion people on this planet who, out of desperation or ignorance, see the West as the cause of their plight (with some justification) and who see attacks on the West as counter-terrorist activity, as necessary to end the terrorism that they perceive they are suffering from. You saw them cheering in the streets of Palestine the day after 9/11. This billion people is neither a ruthless, coordinated and evil group of shrewd schemers, nor are they a billion insane, nihilistic and deranged madmen. No one could organize that broad and intense hatred. And if there’s a billion people all suffering from the same form of madness, we need to think about our definition of insanity.
And, although he showed a deplorable lack of tact, George Galloway also has it exactly right. When you have a billion people who hate you, many of whom live in your midst, and many more of whom hear your Prime Minister with his arm around George Bush making preposterous excuses for attacking Iraq and killing thousands of civilians on top of the hundreds of thousands already killed by Saddam when he was the West’s ally and by the cruel sanctions imposed by the West, on the basis that it posed some kind of imminent threat to the West, some of those billion people are going to do what their Western counterparts, the American conservatives, did: take up arms against the perceived enemy. Any way they can. Why is this so hard to understand?
As many of you know, I live in Canada, a country that refused to send troops to Iraq despite fierce American threats (including some terrorist threats from the US wingnut ambassador), but which did put troops in Afghanistan, a country that outside of its capital city remains anarchic, destitute, and unimaginably brutal. Canada still has troops there. Canada also supported the sanctions against Iraq and has largely supported Western positions on most issues in the Third World including the Middle East. Canada has a large number of immigrants from the Middle East, many of whom are as vocal in their opposition to Canada’s foreign policy as the radicals from whom the London subway bombers came. I believe it is less likely that Canada will be the victim of a major terrorist attack, by anyone, for the simple reason that we are a smaller, less visible and less strident nation in our public policies. I believe, however, that it is absolutely inevitable that Canada will eventually be the victim of an attack of some kind, for precisely the same reason it was inevitable in the UK. After the London bombings the head of the Toronto subway system laughed that it wouldn’t happen here because the terrorists would first have to be able to find Toronto. The idiot should have been fired on the spot for that remark.
I also believe that there is absolutely nothing we can or should do about it. The British have been trying to be vigilant about terrorism for centuries, and are one of the most prepared nations on the planet, but they were unable to prevent either the bombings of two weeks ago or the ‘warning’ repeat occurrences that happened today. Canada is much less prepared than Britain, and we will handle the situation very badly when it occurs. The way we should handle it is not, as a Canadian government minister said after the London bombings, to step up preparedness and work ourselves into a frenzy of higher vigilance, but, when it happens, by showing, as the British did, that terrorism won’t work — by getting on with our lives, and picking up the pieces.
The gang arrested the other day were a motley crew of absurdly inept, alienated schoolkids and unemployed college dropouts. CSIS, the Canadian equivalent of the FBI/CIA, had been watching them for ages, including their war games in a forest North of Toronto, and intercepted and substituted their order for three tons of fertilizer to be used in the planned attacks. There is even speculation that CSIS or the RCMP offered the fertilizer, unsolicited, through an undercover operative as part of a sting operation. Most of the ‘terrorists’ were born in Canada, and they met at a storefront mosque in Mississauga (a suburb West of Toronto) and their schoolyard in Scarborough (a suburb in the East end of Toronto). Their scheme was modeled after another amateur homegrown terrorist attack, the Oklahoma City bombing (it used the same fertilizer as the base for its explosives).
I’m glad CSIS caught it (although the evidence suggests it would have been hard to miss). I shudder to think how much money has been spent for such a modest return (over 400 security people were involved in the investigation), and how much more will now be demanded to look for more amateur would-be terrorists. I shake my head to think how many lives could be saved, spared, or made bearable if some of the billions our moron prime minister has diverted to security in the last two months, were instead spent on health, education, social programs, international humanitarian and infrastructure aid, and environmental regulation and innovation. The arraignment was a media circus, with Fox News sending a special contingent and hundreds of reporters trying to jam the courtroom. Canadian police dutifully provided video fodder, posting snipers on nearby rooftops.
So now we have stepped up security, threats of new border restrictions, and the rest of the usual hysteria when these plots are discovered. It is a virtual certainty that there are more competent and better organized terrorist cells in Canada, some of them Islamic but also Western militia gun-nuts and fanatic separatists and militant nationalists from many countries now living here, like the Air India bombers, believed to be Canadian Sikhs. It is a virtual certainty that some of them will eventually commit acts of terror on Canadian soil, and some people will probably die. The smart ones will choose targets in the US, where they’ll garner more media attention, wreck Canada-US trade and tourism and stir up anti-Canadian hysteria among US conservatives. It wouldn’t take much.
Our warmongering minority prime minister Harper’s inflammatory rhetoric and Bushian ideological pronouncements, and the growing disaster of the botched Afghanistan mission and the government’s pig-headed refusal to get us out of there, have aggravated anti-Canadian sentiment in the Mideast and among sympathizers of their plight. Now we have pictures of Harper and Bush embracing each other, and so the risk that disgruntled social misfits will choose now to garner some publicity through copycat bombings has risen sharply. But even if Harper hadn’t been elected, bombings and other attacks would still, and will still, happen eventually.
And the more publicity they get, the more the politicians and media whip us up into a frenzy about terrorist threats and portray these small groups of losers as larger-than-life, the more these clowns will be provoked to step into the limelight and garner their few minutes, or months, of spectacular, fleeting, grisly fame.
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