Sunday, 06 April 2008


Ken Berwitz

Do you happen to remember that in August of 2006, the USA and the UK stopped a plot to blow up 10 USA-bound airliners simultaneously?  Had it been "successful", thousands of innocent people in the planes and on the ground would have been killed, with countless others injured.

It is understandable that you may have forgotten about this, because the US media sure as hell have. 

The intended "shahids" (martyrs) are on trial in the UK right now.  And you'd be lucky to so much as hear about the trial taking place, let alone what is happening in it. 

Since USA media have decided this is not important enough for you to know I am posting the utterly chilling description of the trial below, courtesy of the London Daily Mail:

British Muslims in airliner terror plot 'talked of taking families on suicide missions'

By CHARLOTTE GILL - More by this author Last updated at 01:18am on 5th April 2008 Members of a British Muslim terrorist cell discussed taking their wives and children on suicide missions to blow up transatlantic jets, a jury heard yesterday.

The ringleader, Abdulla Ahmed Ali, was bugged by police talking about whether to bring his baby son but said his wife "would not agree to it".

Umar Islam, however, said his wife might join the plot if it were a "significant operation".

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Assad Sarwar, left, and Abdulla Ahmed Ali 'wanted to cause Chernobyl-style disaster'

Six of the eight-strong gang each made "chilling" suicide videos expressing the desire to wreak "death and destruction" against the West and "Kuffar", or non-believers.

They were intended to serve as taunts from beyond the grave if their horrifying plot had succeeded, it was claimed.

The men wore western suits and blank expressions in the dock of Woolwich Crown Court, South-East London, as they watched their videos in which they were dressed in Islamic garb.

Their "fanatical" shrieks echoed around the courtroom as they listed Britain's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as alleged justification for mass murder.

In his recording, 29-year-old Islam accused fellow Britons of being "too busy watching EastEnders" to care about the problems in the Middle East while Ali, 27, warned that their "body parts" would be "decorating the streets".

Mr Wright said the men's video messages left "very little room for any degree of ambiguity" as to their intentions.

While some, including Islam, seemed to be reading from prepared notes, others were "speaking from the heart".

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The defendants are all accused of plotting to blow up at least seven planes flying from Heathrow to cities in the U.S. and Canada by detonating bombs made from softdrink bottles.

If they had been successful, almost 2,000 passengers and crew would have been killed with countless more casualties if the airliners had come down over land.

The plotters allegedly bought a top-floor flat in a terrace house in Walthamstow, East London for 138,000 cash in the weeks before their arrest in August 2006.

They used the empty property as a bomb factory.

A film was shown to the jury of a device constructed by scientists in a 500ml Oasis bottle to resemble the bomb which the conspirators were allegedly trying to make.

The force of the blast cracked the protective strengthened glass covering the camera and sent plastic sheets lining the test chamber tumbling to the ground.

canary wharf

Target: Canary Wharf

The jury heard that police recorded a conversation between Islam and Ali at the bomb factory, where the two discussed taking their children on their suicide mission.

Referring to a train bombing where a man wanted to take his child, Ali said: "That's why he wanted to take his kid on the train with him. Shake them up.

"Should I take my lot on? I know my wife would not agree to it."

Mr Wright told the jury: "Such a sacrifice is beyond contemplation for those who are the targets but not those who participate in activities such as these."

In a bugged conversation in July 2006, Ali said the attack was a "couple of weeks" away.

He was married with a nine-month-old son at the time of his arrest in August 2006, the court heard.

Police found a piece of paper at his home on which he wrote a quotation.

It read: "If I was to be given the news that I will be meeting the most beautiful wife and the news of having a baby boy just born, it is more dear to my heart that I will be waiting in a tent in the cold dark chilly weather waiting for dawn so that I may attack the enemy."

Islam told Ali that his wife found his own "martyrdom" script in his house after it fell out his pocket.

"I was hoping she didn't read it and then she goes, 'I read that thing'. She goes, 'Is that what I think it is?'

"And I goes, 'Don't ask no questions', and then she just left it."

One tape containing some of the suicide messages was found along with a camcorder in the boot of Sarwar's car when he was arrested with Ali on the night of August 9, 2006 in a car park in Walthamstow.

The other tape was found hidden in his garage at his home 30 miles away in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

The court heard that Sarwar spent the months before his arrest "stockpiling" the necessary ingredients to make the bombs.

In the days before their arrests, the bombers applied for new passports falsely claiming theirs had been lost so they could discard their old ones containing stamps for travel to Pakistan and so "appear Western and look less conspicuous" to airport security staff.

The prosecution said the bombers planned to take a pornographic magazine and condoms in their hand luggage.

Mr Wright said: "We say that that amounts to, in military terms, what one may describe as fieldcraft.

"Within one's hand luggage, items that would lead the security guard either to be distracted or to conclude that the owner of it was unlikely to be a radicalised Islamist who was engaged in a violent and deadly agenda.

"Similarly, the presence of condoms in the hand luggage, we say, is designed to suggest that the traveller has in mind a journey, and the subsequent pursuit of mutual pleasure, rather than to be the harbinger of death."

He said the bombers planned to take a drink similar to the bomb so if staff became suspicious, they could drink the real one and diffuse concerns.

But the drink should be a different flavour, so the bombers did not become confused and drink the bomb liquid.

The accused are Abdulla Ahmed Ali, 27, Waheed Zaman, 23, and Arafat Waheed Khan, 26, all from Walthamstow, East London; Ibrahim Savant, 27, from Stoke Newington, North London, Mohammed Gulzar, 26, from Barking, East London, Assad Sarwar, 27, from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Tanvir Hussain, 27, from Leyton, East London and Umar Islam, 29, from Plaistow, East London.

All deny conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to commit an act of violence likely to endanger the safety of an aircraft.

The trial continues.

Never forget that this attempt was almost at the point of implementation.

Never forget how many innocents would have died.

Never forget that, without OUR intelligence and OUR surveillance, this and other plots would not only be contemplated, but would have been carried out.

And never forget that the people who fight our intelligence and surveillance activities are making it easier for future plots to succeed.


Ken Berwitz

Charlton Heston died yesterday at the age of 84.  The cause of death has not yet been disclosed, but it was well known that he suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

In film career that spanned over 60 years, Mr. Heston was renowned for playing larger-than-life heroes, such as Moses, John The Baptist, Michelangelo, and Ben-Hur, which won him an oscar.

Mr. Heston served as President of the Screen Actor's Guild and chairman of the American Film Institute. 

Then, later in life, Heston became arguably the most visible defender of the second amendment.  For five years, until leaving due to the Alzheimer's affliction, Heston served as President of the National Rifle Association - for which he was despised and ridiculed by much of the Hollywood and media elite.

Heston also was one of the first major stars to publicly commit to the civil rights movement.  He participated in march after march during the 1950's, when it literally could have killed his career. 

Charlton Heston was a man among men.  I'm sorry to see him go.

May he rest in peace.



Ken Berwitz

How well is the troop surge working?  How important are US troops to Iraq? 

Here are excerpts from a feature article in Time magazine - a publication which is hardly noted for providing good news about Iraq .  See for yourself. (you can read the entire Time article by clicking here).  The article is written by Bobby Ghosh, a Times correspondent who spent time in Iraq prior to the troop surge and has now come back to assess its effect.

Thursday, Apr. 03, 2008

Looking for the New Baghdad

Andalus Abdel-Rahim Hammadi, a Baghdad school-bus driver, has this much in common with John McCain: both men gambled on the U.S. military's "surge" in Iraq long before it looked like a sure thing. If the Arizona Senator risked his presidential ambitions on it, the stakes for Hammadi were higher: his life and the lives of his wife and two young children. Last summer, as the final batch of 30,000 additional American troops requisitioned by General David Petraeus was arriving in Iraq, the bus driver and his family left their refuge in Syria to return home. It had been nearly two years since they fled their neighborhood, al-Dora, after al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists killed the wife and son of Hammadi's brother. His friends and fellow refugees in Damascus warned him that Baghdad was still too dangerous, with dozens being killed daily in sectarian tit-for-tat attacks. But Hammadi, 46, was counting on the increased U.S. troop presence to calm things down. "Nobody can stand against the power of the American military," he says. "I thought that once they increased their forces, the [terrorists] would not stand a chance."

Going back to al-Dora was out of the question: it would be six months before al-Qaeda in Iraq would be driven from the neighborhood. But in nearby Saydiyah, Hammadi found a family heading in the opposite direction--to Syria--and offered to live in their house as an unpaid caretaker. He borrowed some money to buy a dilapidated minibus. Ferrying kids to and from school brought him a meager $10 a day, but it was better than living off handouts from cousins in Damascus. His wife Shada, 30, supplemented the family income by baking bread and selling it in the neighborhood. The couple were happy their children Ibrahim, 5, and Sajda, 4, would be able to grow up "as Iraqis, not as refugees," Shada says.

The Hammadis were settling into their new life when I left Baghdad last fall after spending the best part of five years covering Iraq. Unlike the bus driver, I was far from sanguine about the surge; I had seen too many military plans promise much and deliver little. But by the end of the year, Hammadi's optimism was looking prescient. Sunni insurgents I had known for years--men who had sworn blood oaths to fight the "occupier" until their dying breath--were joining forces with the Americans to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq. The vehemently anti-American Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had agreed to a cease-fire with the U.S. military, and his ill-disciplined militia, the Mahdi Army, seemed to be keeping its end of the bargain.

All these factors contributed to a steep drop in the frequency of insurgent attacks and suicide bombings, along with the rates of U.S. and Iraqi casualties. But remarkable as they are, the statistics don't tell you about the lives of ordinary Iraqis like the Hammadis. So in mid-March, I returned for a two-week visit to get a firsthand feel for the changes. It seemed the perfect time to take soundings: the fifth anniversary of the start of the war and a little more than a year since the start of the surge.

The New Baghdad

The first sign of change comes when I board the Royal Jordanian Airlines flight from Amman. It's an Airbus A320, and that is good news. It means the flight will not end with the heart-stopping corkscrew landing that characterized all my previous arrivals in smaller, more nimble aircraft. If Royal Jordanian is willing to use a large jetliner, it can only mean that the likelihood of a missile attack has greatly diminished.

Driving into Baghdad from the airport, I see other changes. In commercial districts, more shops and businesses are open than there were a year ago. Shoppers are taking the time to haggle with vegetable vendors--a contrast to the furtive, hurried transactions I remember. There are no queues at the gas stations. Baghdad even sounds different. In my first two days, I hear no explosions or gunfire. At the TIME bureau in the Jadriyah district, we get four to six hours of electricity a day, up from just two hours. This means there are long spells when you can hear the sounds of the city--traffic, the calls to prayer--instead of the constant roar of generators.

And the city looks different too. In our neighborhood, there are several new restaurants and kebab stands. Here and there, apartment buildings have received a fresh coat of paint. Even the concrete walls that crisscross much of Baghdad, erected by the U.S. military to protect neighborhoods from sectarian militias, have been prettified. The government has paid artists to paint huge, brightly colored murals on the walls, so a drive now takes you past bucolic scenes of farmers planting rice, fishermen in the marshes, peasants dancing in verdant valleys. The walls give Baghdad a somewhat disjointed feel, making it less a city than a series of contiguous fortresses.

Still, they have served their purpose.

Within the walls, many Sunni neighborhoods that were once the focal points of sectarian violence are now policed by armed locals organized by the U.S. into Awakening Councils--or Sahwa, in Arabic. Many are former insurgents who are happy to accept salaries ($300 per month, paid by the U.S., not the Iraqi government) from the men they once hoped to kill. They are nominally under American supervision but increasingly operate with a high degree of autonomy. The Sahwa are one part vigilante and two parts mafiosi, but like the walls, they too serve a purpose. In Sahwa-protected neighborhoods like al-Dora, Adhamiyah and Amariyah, sectarian killings are way down.

Pax Americana

But perhaps the most remarkable change of all is in how Baghdadis view the U.S. military presence. A year ago, Hammadi was in a minority: most Iraqis living outside the Green Zone saw the Americans as the main cause of their country's problems. Now, says Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, all the credit for the decline in violence is going to the U.S. military: "People think the Americans are like Superman, who can do anything."

I had been skeptical about the military's claim that its troops were being treated as friends and confidants in once hostile neighborhoods--it sounded too much like the promises of Iraqis' greeting coalition forces with sweets and songs after the fall of Saddam Hussein. But colleagues recently embedded with U.S. troops in Baghdad tell stories of soldiers being received with smiles and waves, even cups of tea. Driving through the city, I watch Iraqis react when an American convoy rumbles past: not many smiles and waves, but there's certainly much less scowling and cursing. Inevitably, though, the success of the surge is creating a culture of dependence on American troops. Madeeha Hasan Odhaib, a neighborhood councilor who works with displaced and homeless Iraqis, tells me about the aftermath of a recent suicide bombing. When the Iraqi security forces arrived on the scene, the families of the victims snubbed them. "They said, 'We'll wait to talk to the Americans, because they are the ones really in charge here,'" says Odhaib. The families figured they'd have a better chance of getting compensation from the U.S. than from the Iraqi bureaucracy.

The article goes on to say that Iraqis are terrified that the USA will withdraw too many forces too soon, and it will enable the "insurgents" to make a comeback.  It also talks about the dangers that still very definitely exist in Baghdad.

But its central point is unmistakable.  Our troop surge has made a huge difference.  And Iraqis know it - and appreciate it - and hope it continues.

That's something to think about the next time Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton tell you how quickly they will remove those troops.

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