Friday, June 09, 2006

Overselling Terror

Overselling Terror
By Robert Parry
June 9, 2006

The killing of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq and the arrest of 17 suspects in an alleged terror plot in Canada have buoyed George W. Bush’s political prospects by refocusing America’s attention again on the terror threat, much as the orange color-coded warnings did from 2002 until Election 2004.

But the recent developments in Iraq and Canada have obscured other new evidence that points toward a very different reality: that the Islamic terror threat was never as severe as Bush made it out to be after the 9/11 attacks and that it has been fading ever since.

While Bush has sought to frighten the American people with apocalyptic visions of Islamic terrorists establishing an empire that “spans from Spain to Indonesia,” the new intelligence data actually reveals al-Qaeda as a largely dissipated force that now exists more as an inspiration to violence than as an organized movement.

Indeed, since 9/11, with Osama bin-Laden on the run and many other al-Qaeda leaders captured or killed, leading theoreticians of Islamic terror have jettisoned the idea of a tightly organized movement that could take territory or even mount coordinated attacks.

Instead, these strategists have been reduced to encouraging scattered acts of crude violence by home-grown terror cells that can manage to scrape together their own resources, make their own plans and launch attacks far less sophisticated than those on 9/11.

While still capable of some horrific acts of violence, like the Madrid train bombings in 2004 or the London subway bombings in 2005, these self-motivated cells would seem to represent more of a police challenge than a justification for putting the U.S. government onto a perpetual war footing with a President exercising total – or “plenary” – authority.

In fact, it could be argued that the excesses of Bush’s “war on terror” – the invasion of Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison abuses, alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay and secret CIA prisons – have become the central organizing tool and the chief motivating force for the emerging shape of Islamic terrorism...