Thursday, August 17, 2006

I'm anti-conspiracy-theory

A person at work with no strong political interests asked me a few days ago if I thought that the recent arrests in the UK over an alleged terrorist plot was some kind of put up job by the US government.

It surprised me to see that what might once have been the domain solely of hardcore conspiracy buffs appears to have gained traction in mainstream society, but I suppose it's not that unexpected. The US government has been using the spectre of terrorism to justify a number of unpalatable actions that it's performed in recent years, and it's not that much of a leap to consider that a government that's shown a willingness to compromise its own morality - at Abu Ghraib for example - might be willing to scare its citizens into compliance with government goals.

In spite of severe disagreements with much of the Bush Administration's policies, I don't think this is a frame-up. Yes, it's a possibility, and a plausible one if you believe that the US governmnent's entire concern with "international terrorism" is nothing more than a covenient excuse to increase its global power, but I don't believe that the US governments action in recent years are insincere; they're only terribly, terribly misguided.

Just to make thing interesting, this story from MSNBC alleges that America pressured British authorities to make the arrest a week earlier than the British wanted. The number of people who see that, see the coincidental timing with the current situation in Lebanon, and go "ahah!" is, I suspect, very large.

Here is an alternative hypothesis, based on the maxim "never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by incompetence": the existence of international terrorism is genuine, and this plot was genuine. The British authorities did get tipped off by a Muslim as to the existence of a group in the UK planning terrorist actions, which surveillance showed to have a well-formed, concrete plan to carry out. As the MSNBC article said, the UK was patiently acquiring evidence in order to mount a successful prosecution against the alleged perpetrators.

The US learned of all of this courtesy of their longstanding intelligence-sharing agreement with the UK. Unlike the UK, US authorities panicked. As the article says, "American security officials have become edgier than the British in such cases because of missed opportunities leading up to 9/11". Perhaps they were terrified that the proposed "dry run" that was allegedly going to take place would turn out to be an actual run. And so, they asked, or rather, demanded, that the arrests occur before any of the alleged perpetrators ever so much as set foot on a plane. Of course, no-one can turn down a US demand in today's world even if they wanted to.

It's plausible if you accept that the US government's approach is not motivated by imperialism. That may be one reason many people would dismiss it out of hand of course. But I don't believe that the US is motivated by imperialist philosophy. Rather, I believe that the US is currently motivated by unreasoning fear.

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