The cells are already here, while
more are coming
By Walid Phares
The current media rush to interpret what
the US Government is releasing in terms of potential infiltration by an al Qaeda
cell (or cells) to strike this summer is warranted but still unfocused. ABC News
and AP have reported new official "concerns" of an attack on the US homeland
this summer. ABC specified that (according to its sources) the Terrorists intend
to attack a Government facility. Furthermore, as reported widely in the press,
"new intelligence suggests a small al Qaeda cell is on its way to the US, or may
already be here." The report added that the White House has convened an urgent
multi-agency meeting for Thursday afternoon to address ways to minimize or
counter the threat, and steps to harden and protect Government facilities."
The report quoted a former FBI agent (and ABC Terrorism expert) analyzing the potential threat by stating that the target is a Government building. ABC told its viewers that the tactics by the London attackers provided clues that are being used to decode other emails, etc. Even further AP reported that US Counter Terrorism officials have warned that al Qaeda has "interest in attacking in the summer time." Added to this salad of analysis, was the news about a previous video showing a "graduation" by the Taliban in Pakistan. And to season it, two more leads were added: One was the Daily Telegraph story about the 45 doctors who were planning on attacking a US military target in Florida and a Sky News report about British Pastor Canon Andrew White who has said of an April discussion with al Qaeda "representative" who told him "the killing will start in the UK and the US."
So in short, based on these "reports," US media are telling their audiences (from their Government sources) the following:
1. A Graduation has occurred in Pakistan (they showed the footage) and Jihadists are on their way to the West.
2. A Pastor has met an al Qaeda representative who told him operations are underway.
3. American analysts looked at the British Jihadists tactics over the past few weeks and "learned" something new. Something that taught them how to better read information they already had.
5. A media report said 45 doctors were to prepare an attack against a US base.
4. Hence, the conclusion is that a cell, or more, is on their way to the US. And according to a general mood, it was concluded that summers are better for Jihadists to attack.
But if the reader would re-read those five points he/she may ask many troubling questions. I have the following ones:
a. What if the footage of "Taliban graduation" aired by a TV network wasn't obtained and thus wasn't shown to the American public? Would it mean that the Taliban aren't graduating, or haven't been graduating since 2001 or even before? Will that mean that there were no Jihadist graduates already heading to the West? Does it mean that this is the "only" graduation by the Taliban, other Jihadists around the world? Did we have to "see" that particular footage to "learn" that a Jihadi machine is producing "graduates" as we speak, even if they are not featured on ABC or al Jazeera?
b. What if the Pastor hasn't met with the al Qaeda representative? Would that meant that the Jihadists weren't marching and aren't willing to strike deep inside the West? With great sympathies to the cleric, who should be thanked for reporting, but was that a "new" revelation? We have the leaders of al Qaeda informing us every few months on al Jazeera and online, and a daily wave of chat rooms statements enlightening us on the "blessed strike to come." Why aren't we taking that seriously until a "personal story" occurs somewhere? Don't we know that there is a standing order by al Qaeda to strike when and where possible?
c. Did we have to wait for the British Jihadis to load two Mercedes and one Jeep and target a nightclub and an airport to "learn" that this is a possible tactic? Is this scenario that impossible to imagine and project? What did we learn from these tactics that we've already seen in the Sunni triangle in Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria and Afghanistan? That it could happen in England too? So are there advisors in the West who are telling Governments and the public on both sides of the Atlantic that there is no such thing as "Jihad;" that there is no "war on terror;" that "it is about socio-economics?" So what have we learned tactically from the UK failed "raids?" What is it that our imagination has failed to predict, since the 9/11 Commission has told us that we have a "failed imagination."
d. Then we learn about the discovery of 45 doctors who planned for a Jihad in Jacksonville against a US base. What did we really discover here? That doctors "can be" Jihadists? Weren't we listening to "Doctor" Ayman Zawahiri for years and many other "doctors" in the region threatening with Terror? Haven't we seen in the 20th century’s darkest moments "Nazi doctors" involved in one of the most horrific genocides of all times? Or were we surprised by the fact that Jihadists were planning on attacking a US base in the US homeland? Didn't we analyze enough the Fort Dix guys who were planning a similar attack on American soil against an Army base few weeks ago? Weren't the two Georgia young Jihadis, arrested last year, planning on striking at US military installations across the nation? In short, is that shocking to "learn" that the Jihadis are targeting our national defense?
e. Last but not least, we are supposing that "al Qaeda likes to attack in the summer." So, should we discount attacks in the fall, winter and spring?
I am not being sarcastic here but there is something strange about how we proceed in analyzing the Jihadi war against democracies and America, and how we break news to the public. On the one hand, the overwhelming majority of the academic elite, many in the political establishment and most of the mainstream media are desperately trying to demobilize their audiences by claiming that all what we see "is just a mirage." And on the other hand, the same media tells us that al Qaeda could be "attacking us this summer" because of a graduation, a Pastor's report, tactics we learned from London, doctors-turned-Jihadis, and summer times. With all these ingredients, the debate on Terrorism seems to be swinging between total denials on the one hand and blurry vision on the other hand.
This summer and any other summer, and all other seasons by the way, are Jihadi times. We need to adapt to this reality for as long as this conflict is on. For al Qaeda and its allies, as well as the Khomeinists are on the path of war. And when they are in that mode, nothing should surprise us.
* Al Qaeda has already established cells in the UK, the US and the West. If there is an "additional" cell coming this way, we would certainly be happier if the Government would have detected it, and will stop it. But it would be misleading the public to state that al Qaeda's second cell ever to infiltrate the country (after Mohammed Atta's in 2001) is "now" heading to our shores.
* The intention to penetrate our systems and to strike is as old as the Jihadi war against the West (that would be at least since the early 1990s). An al Qaeda representative in Iraq is not serving us with news if he "reveals" that the group will be spilling blood soon.
* Arresting the Terror-doctors is a positive development, but we shouldn't be in shock and awe about it. Our analysts and public educators should have (and some have) informed the public of the deep penetration that has been taken place within liberal democracies. We should learn form the infiltration of this particular segment of the medical field to preempt the penetration of other sectors, and of other fields as well. We should project that the Jihadists have infiltrated the engineering, computer, banking, security and other fields.
* Zawahiri's orders to strike inside the West and within the realm of moderate Arabs and Muslims are al Qaeda standing orders at least since 2001. His additional statements are reminders of what has already been a war waged at will and is taking place as its perpetrators are acquiring means and targets.
* Yes, it may be true that, statistically, most al Qaeda known attacks have taken place in the West between July and September, with the exception of Madrid's March 11, but there is no "Jihadi summer time." If and when these "forces" would acquire targets and circumstances, they will most likely wait for warmer months to strike.
So, if indeed evidence is gathering that al Qaeda is preparing for a series of attacks in the US in the next weeks and months, then it is important to inform and ready the public for it. But the media -and their sources- must help their audiences put the information in context. There is a Jihadi war on liberal democracies including America, and a US-led campaign on Terror. The learning and educational processes must be set in this general direction not in terms of an out-of-context sensationalism. For it would have been out of line if in 1942, spokespersons and reporters in Allied nations would have been announcing that "unidentified planes with Swastikas on their wings were dropping what we think could be bombs on European cities."
Dr Walid Phares is the Director of Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author of The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy.
July 11, 2007