Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Scant weeks before the London bombings, an official British government report said there were no professionals around planning attacks. Meanwhile, the the lefty blogsphere is noting with interest that if we are to believe the official story, the bombers made a number of incredibly stupid amateur mistakes (via King of Zembla). The more conspiracy-minded among us are asking if the whole thing might be a plot by the government itself, on either side of the pond, to spread terror for its own benefit. (That due process stuff was getting so passé). But to me, Occam's razor suggests a simpler explanation. As does Hanlon's ("never attribute to malice what can be reasonably explained by mere incompetence").

So, let's consider the possibility that the London bombers made a bunch of bloody amateur mistakes because they were, in fact, bloody amateurs, with jury-rigged equipment and lousy training despite their known connections to al-Qaeda in Pakistan. It's consistent with all available evidence that I'm aware of --- after a flurry of reports of "military-grade" bomb components, everything they used seems to have been made from components obtained over the counter at drugstores. And as to the noise I've heard about the precise timing of the attacks --- excuse me. But in this day and age, how much training does it take to get five people to each push a button around 9:00 AM, particularly if they all meet up at King's Cross Station half an hour ahead of time, as if to get a group shot on the surveillance cameras?

The basic premise of Dubya's "war on terror", and Blair's, is that the source of terrorist attacks is in quasi-military organizations with definite bases, if not definite territory. That is something which could be killed by cutting off the head (however much the fickleness of Dubya's pursuit of bin Laden --- and in particular the detour into Iraq --- might lead you to believe that wasn't his plan). But if any crew of disaffected amateurs with a few months of prep time can mount an attack, there are no bases. There's nothing to capture. And if the Western "counterattacks" breed more disaffection, that can only breed more attacks. As seems to be the case with the foreign fighters in Iraq itself, most of whom did not feel the need do anything military against the West until we invaded. (via Jim Henley).

Asking "why do they hate us?" is a really crappy way of trying to defend against this sort of thing. But the alternatives may be worse.

Of course, there's also basic police work and intelligence procedures. Like, for instance, protecting your sources. It's of no small import to the current story that Dubya's coup prematurely burned a Pakistani informant that could possibly have led them to the group that bombed London. I can imagine Dubya's defenders saying that with all the pressure from critics to demonstrate success in the wah on terrah, they had to put out a press release when there was genuine news, and that this all wouldn't be a problem if the critics would just shut up. This comes from the same crew that was spreading "Wag the Dog" stories when Clinton tried to bomb bin Laden, but I can imagine them saying it anyway...


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