Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Fabrication of Crisis

The dramatic failure of the Copenhagen Climate Conference Proceedings was succeeded by a significant 'cold air mass'. The Northern hemisphere winter was already looking cold while the conference was taking place, and temperatures rapidly plummeted once the delegates had flown home.  Record snowfall hit locations as far South as Beijing and Seoul, while sunny Florida was struggling to reach positive temperatures.

Once again, the Met Office's predictions were wrong, and not just wrong in the sense of being inaccurate, wrong in the sense of identifying a trend that clearly wasn't really there. This is a common failing of statistical methods. Despite this the pro-AGW scientists are still trying to sell global warming theory. The World Meteorological Organisation have denied that the cold weather in any way questions the AGW theory of climate change. Secretary General Michel Jarraud said:

"We cannot explain any single phenomenon by one single cause." - VOA News

Except, presumably, for explaining climate change by human activity. The Met Office followed suit, finding a way to argue that the cold weather is in fact a result of global warming, demonstrating how the entire investigation of the climate is led by a desired conclusion. Stephen Dorling of the disgraced University of East Anglia gave interviews to two newspapers, both of which came out with astoundingly unscientific nonsense as a result:

But Stephen Dorling, of the scandal-hit University of East Anglia’s school of environmental sciences, remained adamant that the weather should not be used as evidence against climate change. - Daily Express

But he said it was wrong to focus on single events - whether they were cold snaps or heat waves - which were the product of natural variability. - Telegraph

The former betrays the hoax that underpins this sort of science, that empirical evidence is discounted in favour of 'value added' statistics, though the process which produced those statistics is kept secret. The latter is genuinely bizarre because it seems to imply that single events are naturally occurring but longer trends are the result of some 'unnatural' activity, presumably by humans. The global warming in the mind of that article's author is truly anthropogenic or 'man made', in that it an invention of the imagination, not the conclusion of an investigative process.

It should also be noted that single events, in particular heat waves, are often used to advance the vision of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change. When a very hot summer struck Europe in 2003, killing Parisian pensioners, it was consistently used as evidence for global warming. Two years afterwards the Guardian ran an article saying the knock-on effect of this 'single event' could contribute to global warming on a large scale. Continuing their beautifully contradictory coverage the Telegraph published an article suggesting the cold weather might signal a 'pause' to global warming, and that we may see a cooling period. A very similar piece appeared in the BBC's coverage in April 2008 after a particularly cold winter.

For those advancing the global warming theory any argument will do. Weather that might support the desired conclusion is cited as evidence that the theory is correct. Weather that doesn't support the desired conclusion is dismissed as 'single events' that are part of natural fluctuations. These single events aren't significant compared to the long term trend, except when they can find a reason to suggest the single events have helped cause the long term trend that is the desired conclusion. Any concessions to a short term trend is always contrasted with a reference to the long term trend that is the desired conclusion. This is political logic.

These contradictions are typified in this Discover Magazine blog, which predictably features a Greenpeace banner advert at the top of the page with a picture of a polar bear stating 'give £3 a month to stop climate change'. Given that 'single events' can naturally occur which then add up to a short term trend, which can turn into a long term trend, it's probably fair to say that regardless of what humans do there will always be some climate change happening.

Perhaps because of the failure of Copenhagen, and the failure of this mishmash of causality myths and ideology to convince the desired number of people, the crisis-salesmen have resorted to somewhat cruder methods. On the evening of Christmas day Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a passenger on Flight 253 from Schipol to Detroit, set fire to his trousers, allegedly trying to detonate plastic explosives in his underwear. Though the precise nature of the device is unclear, it is variously reported to have involved unmixed PETN powder and some form of Acetone Peroxide, along with a syringe full of acid. This is allegedly the same mixture of explosive compounds used by so-called 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid. In both cases, whether they constituted a viable explosive device is not apparent. Whether young Mutallab could have actually downed the plane over the city, and hence deserve the already appointed titled of the 'Detroit Bomber' or would have just blown off his balls, is yet to be established.

The incident was initially reported as a passenger trying to light fireworks on the plane, but soon after the story evolved to include another passenger, a Dutchman named Japser Schuringa, who subdued Mutallab when he tried to do whatever it was he was trying to do.

Mr Schuringa said Abdulmutallab seemed “out of it” and was “staring into nothing”. - The Telegraph

In the following days and weeks there were a series of other 'security scares' on similar flights. Two days after Christmas the same flight (Northwest Airlines flight 253) was 'involved in an emergency incident' coming into Detroit. The cause was that a Nigerian passenger had apparently become sick and had spent a long time in the plane's bathroom. The day after it was reported that Mutallab had bragged to the FBI that there were more willing plane bombers waiting in the wings. Indeed, the young man was apparently very keen to talk about terrorism until his government-appointed lawyer 'reduced' his 'co-operation'.

Another plane out of Amsterdam, this one going to Aruba, was diverted after an unruly passenger made bomb threats, about two weeks into the New Year. However, the prize goes to Meadows Field Airport in California which was closed after yet another security scare in the wake of the Flight 253 incident. Two baggage handlers were taken to hospital complaining of feeling nauseous after opening bottles they believed contained a suspicious liquid. The bottles tested positive for traces of explosive, both TNT and TATP, so the airport was evacuated and shut down. The only problem was that they contained honey. Not explosives, not acid, not underwear, not misguided Nigerians. Honey. Similarly, Minneapolis St Paul airport was closed after a 'suspicious' bag was identified by a bomb-sniffing dog. It turned out to be the bag the handlers put on the carousel to indicate the end of a batch, that all of the luggage from a particular flight has been unloaded. Likewise the comic Joan Rivers was kept off a flight from Costa Rica to Newark after a gate inspector was concerned about her passport containing both her married and professional names.

Perhaps in response to bottles of honey or the use of stage names, MI5 took the decision to raise the UK threat level from 'substantial' to 'severe'. The non-specific, unconfirmable international terrorist threat strikes again, leading Sky News to begin their piece on the story saying:

It is the threat that won't go away. The chance of an international terrorist attack on the UK has increased again. - Sky News

However, it is the threat level (supposedly an assessment derived from the available intelligence) that has been raised, not the chance of an attack. Heightened security and 'vigilance' on the part of the public as a result of publicly raising the threat level should, if anything, make an attack less likely, not more likely. But Sky News know what they're doing, and know that it butters a lot of bread to keep making out that at any moment a confused young man from Africa might set fire to his underpants. Accompanying the hiking of the threat level came Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who assured us that we still face a 'real and serious' threat from terrorism. 'Real and serious' is the same phrase used by Johnson's half a dozen predecessors in the job of primary domestic propagandist for the War on Terror, which indicates the threat is manufactured and farcical.

Indeed, as far as bombers go, Mutallab was pretty poor, down there with those who set fire to themselves in a jeep and then drove into a bollard at Glasgow airport a couple of years ago. However, these aren't particularly isolated incidents in the history of Islamic terrorism. Ramzi Yousef, the designer of the bomb used to attack the WTC in 1993, was known for a series of accidents. One in particular saw him accidentally drink sulphuric acid from a bottle thinking it was a soft drink he'd poured into the same kind of bottle. Soft drinks were also to blame for the closure of New York's Penn station in 2005 after a 'suspicious' soda can had to be investigated by National Guardsmen and HAZMAT teams.

Another story from 1993 is telling, when Osama Bin Laden purchased an aircraft to help him ship weapons from Afghanistan to Sudan, where he was based at the time. A former mujahid who had fought in Afghanistan against the Soviets, was enlisted to help. Essam al-Ridi lived in Texas and acquired an ageing ex-US military plane from the Tucson 'Boneyard'.

The saga of the T-39 is a rare amusement in the Bin Laden chronicle. Because of a shortage of cash, the Saudi insisted on spending no more than $250,000. What he got was a 1960s vintage aircraft with a range of about 1500 miles. To get the plane from the southwestern US to Khartoum, Al-Ridi had to make a seven-leg journey, beginning in Dallas-Forth Worth and flying via Sault Sainte Marie in Ontario to an airstrip in Frobisher bay, just below the Arctic Circle, then to Iceland, next to a couple of stops in Europe, on to Caire, and finally to its destination. Al-Ridi expected the journey to take a couple of days. When he go to Frobisher Bay, -65 degree weather cracked a window and the plane lost its hydraulic system, forcing a stopover. After a week in Canada's frozen north, Air Mujahid was up and running again, and Al-Ridi delivered the plane...

...About a year and a half after his epic journey, Al-Ridi was summoned to Sudan to fly the plane again. It had been poorly maintained, he arrived at the airport to find that the tires had melted on the runway, the engines were filled with sand and the keys were missing. After repairs by an airport mechanic, Al-Ridi took the plane up for a brief test. He made several circuits around the airport, performed a touch-and-go, and then brought the plane in for a landing. While it was hurtling down the tarmac, all the brake systems failed. Al-Ridi shut off the engines but with the plane still plowing forward at sixty knots, the runway ran out, and the plane slammed into a sand pile. Al-Ridi, an Egyptian who worked for Bin Laden as a business matter, not out of ideological conviction, was fearful of being identified with the Saudi's plane. He sprinted from the runway and caught a flight out of Sudan as fast as he could. - The Age of Sacred Terror

Nonetheless, that the young Nigerian posed a 'real and serious' threat to the security of our way of life doesn't seem to be in question by any officials. Instead the authorities have been having a dispute over 'intelligence failures', in essence the same dispute that took place after 9/11 and 7/7, and after Richard Reid's attempt to set fire to his shoes. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab came from a wealthy family, his father is a banker and former government official. He was educated at an international school in Togo, and studied engineering and business finance in London. He broke off ties with his family and apparently moved around, living in Yemen, Egypt and/or Dubai.

In May 2008 he applied for a student visa to enter the UK putting bogus course details on his application. It was denied, and he was added to the British terrorist watch list. Despite this in June 2008 he applied for and received a US entry visa through the US embassy in London. In August he attended a course held by an Islamic centre in Texas, though his movements between then and the following summer are not known. Umar then turned up in Yemen, and by November 2009 his father was appealing to the US embassy in Abuja telling them to retrieve his son. Mutallab's father also warned the CIA station in Abuja that his son had got involved with Islamic extremists and might do something stupid.

At this point the US added his name to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) list, but not the no-fly list. The entry visa issued in June 2008 was not revoked. Between then and a month later, when Mutallab boarded a plane in Lagos, Nigeria on its way to Holland, no effort was made to track Umar or find out what he was doing. According to this version of events the relevant agencies didn't share information or ensure it was investigated. Even Obama got in on the act, criticising 'intelligence failures' and apparently threatening to fire the chiefs of various agencies. While Downing St. claimed they had shared a file on Mutallab with the CIA in 2008 the Americans reacted furiously to any suggestion that they had intelligence indicating he was a terrorist. The UK government went into reverse gear, giving a wonderfully contradictory press conference:

During a briefing to journalists on Tuesday, Prime Minister's spokesman said: "There is no suggestion that the UK passed intelligence to the US that they did not act on."

Sky's political correspondent Joey Jones said it had been an "awful" briefing.

"He tried to clear things up but only succeeded in muddying the waters still further," Jones said.

"After he read Downing Street's statement, the spokesman said there would be no further comment on intelligence issues.

"However, he continued to answer questions from journalists on the subject even saying: 'Whatever information was passed to the US, they did what they needed to do with it.'

"When I pointed out the contradiction, the spokesman said: 'It's not for me to comment on what the US should do with intelligence.'" - Sky News

Assuming the truth of this interpretation, whereby intelligence agencies failed in their role to act on information given to them to deter threats to the public they supposedly protect, it is an act of truly horrific doublethink for officials to react by insisting on tighter security at airports. In particular the use of full-body scanners, which are in no way a solution to the apparent failure of intelligence bureaucracies.

The images produced by these machines are so lifelike that there is already an outcry over the invasion of privacy, and concerns that they break child pornography laws in making images of nude children. In all likelihood making nude images of anyone without their permission is illegal, child or adult. However, given that the FBI has recently been accused by its parent Department of Justice of 'fabricating terror emergencies' to obtain phone records, it remains a real possibility that such invasive and explicit scanners could become the norm at Western airports.

If this happens, it will be another blow to the already struggling airline industry. Japan Airlines recently filed for bankruptcy despite a state bailout, capping a very bad couple of years for the travel business. In particular, oil prices and the impact on budget airlines of a drop in demand due to the recession have caused greater problems to carriers than 9/11. As discussed by Bilderberg report Daniel Estulin, this may have its origins in the peak oil scenario. This may also explain why the West is so keen to get involved in Haiti, though the US Geological Survey recently stated that Venezuela is now estimated to have the largest recoverable reserves in the world.

Back to the PG-13 terrorism, it is strange that while Mutallab himself is pleading not guilty that a recording allegedly made by Osama Bin Laden takes credit for the operation. For one, Mutallab is opening himself up to cross-examination by entering a not-guilty plea and is contradicting the 'willing martyr' ideology supposedly subscribed to by Islamikaze terrorist. Secondly, why is Bin Laden taking credit for what, if one presumes the whole narrative and mythology behind Osama, was a failed attack? In terms of psychological impact, a key concern of the 'Al Qaeda Manual', Osama taking credit for it only really suits the Americans (etc.) in bolstering the enemy image. It makes Al Qaeda look ridiculous if this is their best attempt against an airliner.

However, were the 'intelligence failures' in fact intelligence successes? The allegation has been made by several publications, most obviously Alex Jones's Infowars but also the Russian Pravda. In particular, Infowars picked up on three issues which indicate that Mutallab is something other than what he's cracked up to be. Firstly, when Mutallab tried to board in Amsterdam he apparently had no passport, but was allowed to board due to a 'well dressed Indian man' getting involved and apparently helping Mutallab to bypass security. This is based on eye-witness testimony from lawyer Kurt Haskell and his wife.

Further allegations of a cameraman filming the entire flight including the attempt by Mutallab to do whatever he was trying to do let infowars to conclude that the event was staged, that Mutallab is a patsy and that there may even have been two different Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab's. The reason given for this is so that the War on Terror can be expanded to include Yemen, itself a potential staging base for forays into East Africa. Either diplomatic pressure or the threat of military force will enable the US to treat the Yemeni territory as their own, and given the Chinese investment in East Africa the aim could be to destabilise the threat of progress for a region of the world that has been starving for a long time.

Running alongside the Mutallab story has been the saga of the delightfully named Islam4UK (phones4U). Anjem Choudary, spokesman for the organisation, is a long term associate of Omar Bakri and helped found Al-Muhajiroun, of which Islam4UK is a splinter group. Shortly after Mutallab's adventure a story hit the national British press that the group were planning a march in honour of the Muslims who have died in Afghanistan. The location chosen for the march was Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire, which has become a centre for British mourning of dead due to its proximity to RAF Lyneham. The British reaction was predictably xenophobic, with facebook pages being set up to demand the group be banned. For the most part the fact that the British were among the invaders and instigators of the war has been conveniently ignored, with the proposed march being dismissed as a 'stunt'.

By January 10th the media coverage led Islam4UK to announce that they were cancelling plans for the march. They also stated that the much-publicised detail that they were intending on carrying 500 coffins to represent the dead Muslims in Afghanistan was a fabrication, a conflation of details about the number intending to join the march and a comment made by Choudary. However, two days later the government decided 'if in doubt, ban al-muhajiroun', which is becoming the default policy for dealing with Muslim-oriented dissent. This ludicrous decision was rightly criticised by Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Chris Huhne:

“There is a real risk they will paint themselves as martyrs while simply changing their name and carrying on, or going underground.” -

There is more than a 'real risk' - if history is anything to go by then the group will reform under a new name while gaining support and credibility. While precisely what Choudary is remains unclear (he may not be a fundamentalist of any kind) the role of such organisations is to exploit the quite justified and reasonable outrage of ordinary Muslims at their treatment both by governments in the West and our military forces in the Middle East. However, just as banning the organisation plays into the hands of the organisation's leader, their exploitation of this outrage plays into the hands of the UK government who are trying to regain the support of the white working class. Oposition to immigration, multiculturalism and the right of religious peoples to believe different things is a frequent theme amongst poorer white British people, with Muslims a convenient scapegoat. By looking like they are 'cracking down on the extremists', the government gets a welcome boost from the conservatives and casual racists.

Crisis is often fabricated, whether it is through the semantic manipulation of the difference between single events, short term trends and overall patterns, or through incompetence dressed up as catastrophe, or through success being reported as failure. In all cases authorities not only fail to hold themselves to account, but seek to gain further power for themselves in the name of 'solving the problem'. The institutions of power not only provide a means for protecting their own, and scapegoating the odd rebel where necessary, but also for turning their own corruption and conspiracy into a reason to enhance, rather than disband, them. The real problems (pollution, postcolonialism and so on) remain because the policies being employed are never designed to tackle the real problems. Whether by accident or by design, they are designed to solve imaginary or misconceived problems, and so create new problems of their own which will in years to come have the public clamouring for a solution.


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