New at Reason

Steve Chapman explodes some of the most pernicious myths about the war on terror.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • tom_sizemore||

    Amen.

  • ||

    "The 9/11 attack was a crisis that has largely passed, but no one in Washington wants to admit it. It's politically safer to depict the danger as undiminished no matter how long we go without an attack. But someday, we will look back and ask if we were acting out of sensible caution or unfounded panic."

    But what if Paul Williams is correct? In his recent book "The Day of Islam" he points out according to an al Qaeda defector, al Qaeda cells here in the US have nukes and have a plan for an American Hiroshima in which they will bomb 7 cities in a single day. The cities are New York, Washington, Boston, Miami, Houston, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.

  • Edward||

    Thanks, Jake. Christ, what a way to start the day. I really wish I hadn't read that.

  • rho||

    Uh oh, Al Queda is back!

    Which is not to diminish Chapman's point. It only demonstrates that we've taken the wrong course of action.

  • ||

    according to an al Qaeda defector, al Qaeda cells here in the US have nukes and have a plan for an American Hiroshima in which they will bomb 7 cities in a single day. The cities are New York, Washington, Boston, Miami, Houston, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.

    Err, leaving aside for the moment the barrel of salt I would take that statement with, if there are already 7 nukes inside the US, it's almost certainly too late to do anything about them. It's not like you have to transport a nuke to a high-profile target to cause destruction -- anywhere in a large city will do.

  • ||

    And, furthermore, I find it highly unlikely that anyone but the top dogs in al-Qaeda would know that many details about that stuff. That's simply not the way they operate. Or, that an author would be the only person who knows about this.

  • Scooby||

    Lemmee get this straight. This AQ defector (who would have to be a super-top-dog in the orgainization to know details that would be spread between at least 21 different cells), having a crisis of conscience, decides to spill the beans on the plot. Instead of telling the G-Men (that might be able to prevent the bombs from going off), he tells a hack author (that seems to specialize in scary terrorist "non-fiction" aimed at the Coast to Coast AM/ WorldNetDaily crowd). Mmmmkay.

    Excuse me if I don't hurry down to Houston to pack up my folks' stuff just yet.

  • ohmygodeverybodypanic||

    A quick look at Paul Williams' background will lead the reader to conclude that the man isn't much more than a nut trying to sell nutty books to other nuts. Anyone who appears on "WorldNet Daily" as often as this guy has the approximate intellectual capacity of, say, a Cuisinart. Sample exchange from a 2005 "interview" with Mr. Williams:

    "Ryan Mauro: Much has been written about the 'American Hiroshima' report. How did you first learn about the plot?

    Paul Williams: I have a unique background. I hold a Ph.D. in philosophy from Drew University and I am a seasoned and award-winning journalist."

    What a douche.

  • BobDobalina||

    Agree with Crimethink; although, I was happy that cities that I really enjoy like Chicago, Phoenix, Malibu and Virginia Beach were left off the Bin Laden guest list (*whew!*).

    I could see many smaller cities using their non-targeted status as a marketing tagline:

    "Akron, Ohio: Come for the Safety, Stay for the Fallout ... "

  • ||

    Is that al Qaeda defector called "Slider," "Change-up" or "Gyro Ball?"

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    But if we don't imagine the very worst at all times, like Paul Williams, then

  • ||

    joe,

    I believe his name was Mohammed Mohahahahaha. He is better known by his alias, Biggah al-Dicki.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    But if we don't imagine the very worst at all times, like Paul Williams, then Farmer Jones will come back.

    (I forgot my HTML for a minute.)

  • bill||

    i might be worried if Al Qaeda actually existed and wasn't some organization made up by the US government.

  • GILMORE||

    Foreign Affairs had an analysis of domestic terror threats a few months back that was pretty spot on...

    here tis

    http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20060901facomment85501/john-mueller/is-there-still-a-terrorist-threat-the-myth-of-the-omnipresent-enemy.html

    re: "made up by the US govt"

    pppt.

    Why did we "make them up" back in the 80s and help fund their fight against the soviets?

    And did we "make up" people like Mir Aimal Kansi, who later assassinated some of our CIA guys for leaving them out in the cold?

    Conspiracists can only operate in an environment of willful ignorance

  • LarryA||

    But what if Paul Williams is correct? In his recent book "The Day of Islam" he points out according to an al Qaeda defector, al Qaeda cells here in the US have nukes and have a plan for an American Hiroshima in which they will bomb 7 cities in a single day. The cities are New York, Washington, Boston, Miami, Houston, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.

    Even given the unlikely possibility that Williams has the inside track to such information, and it's all true, how will giving up my civil rights help the Homeland Security folks foil the badguys?

    The gaping hole in the "give up rights to gain security" idea is that giving up civil rights doesn't increase security. Allowing agencies to operate in secrecy simply adds the government to the list of folks to worry about.

  • bill||

    Uh, I believe you're confusing AQ with the Mujahadeen.

  • GILMORE||

    for real

    The false exchange of "rights" for "security".

    It's not "less of 1 = more of the other" More often than not, the giving up of rights is just a replacement for actual security -

    e.g. the "TSA Watch List" which features 30,000 American citizens, none of whom are terrorists, and requires a vast system of checks and rechecks and wastes 1000s of peoples time daily, but does NOTHING at all to protect anyone.

    It's a show. It's taking your shoes off. 1 freaking unsuccessful shoe bomber, and now millions must take off pumps and wingtips and prove they are not wearing exploding feet.

    The joke being (as other post above noted), any terrorist with motivation and a little savvy could easily mould C4 into some shape and stick it into virtually anything. Nothing the TSA does at airports significantly deters terrorists.

    The truth is, racial/ethnic/national profiling is probably the most effective practice. Emigrated to Britian from Yemen? Step over here sir.

    It's unfair to peace loving yemenis, sure, but the peace loving ones should be taking their DEATH TO CRUSADERS! breatheren to task. For fucks sake, Yemen didnt even let Christians into their country AT ALL until like the 70s i think. Tough tittles if we start treating them all as threats. beats treating ME as one.

  • GILMORE||

    bill | July 12, 2007, 1:13pm | #

    Uh, I believe you're confusing AQ with the Mujahadeen.



    ugh.

    in the words of British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who wrote a book about Al Q in the 80s:
    (from Wikipedia on Al Q)
    "Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental miscalculation by Western security agencies. Throughout the 80s, he was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally "the database", was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians. Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it never appears to have occurred to Washington that once Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden's organization would turn its attention to the west.[34]"

    @#$&@#*$ ignoramus. *Wikipedia*, for freaks sake. You dont even need to read a book. Although it wouldnt hurt.

  • GILMORE||

    Let me add that the only slightly-less-ignorant than you, bill, often use the fact that the US and other (saudis) funneled money through Al-Q in the 80s as an argument that we *still* support them... which is an opinion that is only possible if you take just that one fact, and refuse to learn more about the hows and whys of the story.

    Again, people with these reductionist, conspiracist views can only exist if they adamantly refuse to learn anything about the topic.

  • ||

    Scooby, the al Qaeda defector did tell his information to the G-men and Paul Williams, the author, is a former FBI advisor. The publisher of the book is Prometheus, not a right wing hack publisher but a publisher that usually specializes in secular humanist books. I suggest that you look up the book "The Day of Islam" at amazon.com if you're more interested in more details.

  • ||

    "Tough tittles if we start treating them all as threats. beats treating ME as one."

    I get your point Gilmore, but what about "lily whites"? Al Qaeda plans to use more people who aren't Middle Easterners. Also, not all terrorist are Middle Easterners. What about Timothy McVeigh?

  • Scooby||

    I did look up "Day of Islam" at amazon. That's what gave me the impression of his work. It came up in a Google search, along with a bunch of WND and NewsMax crap.

    From what I can tell, 4 of the 5 books Williams has wrote for Prometheus have been scare books telling that all seem to say the same thing (AQ has nukes in our cities):
    - "Osama's Revenge: The Next 9/11" (2004)
    - "The Al Qaeda Connection: International Terrorism, Organized Crime and the Coming Apocalypse" (2005)
    - "Dunces of Doomsday: 10 Blunders That Gave Rise to Radical Islam, Terrorist Regimes, And the Threat of an American Hiroshima" (2006)
    - "The Day of Islam: The Annihilation of America and the Western World" (2007)
    All of these are peddled by Prometheus in the "Islamic Studies" portion of their catalog. Before Mr. Williams got into the terror porn business, he started at Prometheus with his anti-papist tome "The Vatican Exposed: Money, Murder, and the Mafia" (2003) I don't know what took him so long to get a new book contract after his first book "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Catholic Church but Were Afraid to Ask for Fear of Excommunication" (1989) for Doubleday. Maybe cranky religious studies books don't sell as well as cranky "religious studies" books that are spiced up with organized crime and terrorists hiding around every street corner. Now that he's discovered terror porn, he cranks out a new spank book for the AQ fetishists every year (while recycling the same old plot- AQ has nukes planted in every major city, but for some reason, they haven't set any of them off).

    Mr. Williams is being sued by a Canadian university, for supposedly making shit up about missing nuclear materials (180lbs of something stolen from a research reactor). Viewing the website for his defense fund (http://www.paulwilliamsdefensefund.com) just reinforces my "gut feeling" that this guy is a fucking crank of the first order.

    As for Prometheus Books, most of their catalog looks reasonable, but they do have a fair share of woo-woo crap. Like any publisher, they aren't around to spread the truth; they exist to sell books. This stuff is like Stephen King books, only it's scarier 'cause it's "true".

    Can someone who's read one of these spank novels, I mean non-fiction exposés, explain why AQ hasn't already popped off one or more of these nukes in waiting? Is there any good reason for them to not just do it?

  • Scooby||

    Oh, and his bio says he's a "former FBI consultant for organized crime." That might be true, or not, but I'd bet he was there on a short term contract and it had nothing to do with ObL, AQ, nukes, or terror.

  • GILMORE||

    Rattlesnake Jake | July 12, 2007, 2:02pm | #

    I get your point Gilmore, but what about "lily whites"?


    All the better. The number of "white terrorists" willing to blow themselves up for Allah is so much smaller than the population of levant jihadists that it actually would make our 'watch list' much more effective. These jihadist white dudes are probably all already NSA high-scutiny, tracked cases to begin with, because living in modern society means you leave a digital trail wherever you go/do. The few US-based people who've been 'linked' to actual Al-Q connections have all invariably been semi-retards like Padilla. The lilly white jihadists, if they emerge, will likely be NSA'd up the ass the moment they make up their minds to actually do something. All of the US 'plots' unconvered since 2001 have invariably been incompentant 'big-talkers' (see Miami 7, or Lackawanna 6, the Brooklyn guy who was baited by undercover cops, etc), but not anyone capable of doing very much harm.

    The Foreign Affairs piece i linked to above address this issue, if i recall. Give it a read.

  • bill||

    Gilmore you ignorant slut. "Al Qaeda" wasn't even used until the early 90's.

    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/video1040.htm

  • ||

    I think Chertoff's "gut" feeling was based on the Bush administration's approval rating and desire with war in Iran.

  • ||

    "Can someone who's read one of these spank novels, I mean non-fiction exposés, explain why AQ hasn't already popped off one or more of these nukes in waiting? Is there any good reason for them to not just do it?"

    They're in no hurry. They want to make sure they get it right. 9/11 was years in planning before they finally did it.

    Scooby, I hope you're right, maybe I won't have to move from Houston.

  • Scooby||

    If I wasn't right, you'd be dead or dying already (assuming you aren't a good distance from Pasadena, which should be about the right place for ground zero). My parents live in Houston- inside the loop- so they'd most likely be killed (if not vaporized) if the nuke was located anywhere between the Galleria and Pasadena.

    If the nukes are in place, then the only thing to "get right" is coordinating the timing. Every bit of delay increases the chances that something will go wrong- from discovery (whether by random chance or due to a conscience-stricken co-conspirator dropping the dime) to malfunction (unless it is the most primitive of devices, there is a shitload of stuff to decay).

    Assuming Mr. Williams isn't concocting his scary stories purely from his own imagination, did you consider that this "AQ defector" isn't really ratting out his buddies, but is conveying a fantastic threat to prompt a reaction that would harm the people of the US and/or the credibility of the government of the US? It wouldn't be an unprecedented tactic.

  • Matt||

    Perhaps the actions we've taken since 9/11 are the very reason we have not sustained another attack since. This article neglects to mention this possibility. But, I agree wholeheartedly that "dramaticizing" the threat of global terrorism for political gain i.e. fear politics certainly doesn't hurt the terrorists.

  • GILMORE||

    Bill

    You are using as your only souce of information a WorldNetDaily agitprop site. Congrats on the deep research.

    Try reading a history of Afghanistan in the 80s-90s. Good ones include

    George Crile's "Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History"
    Milt Bearden/James Risen "The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA's Final Showdown with the KGB."
    Steve Coll's Ghost Wars:" The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001"

    The fact you miss (for lack of knowledge of context) is that "Al qaeda" was a fundraising and logistics organization for mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 80s; the name was not a formal connection to a 'group' - it was "the list" of jihadists. Thats sort of what the word means. They (OBL & Zaw) "announced their transition to a 'international jihadist' organizion, in union with the Islamic brotherhood et al (the zawahiri connection), in the 90s.

    Also, eat a dick.

  • ||

    "If I wasn't right, you'd be dead or dying already (assuming you aren't a good distance from Pasadena, which should be about the right place for ground zero)."

    Because of the refineries? I live close by in Channelview.

  • ||

    Scooby, even if you don't think al Qaeda currently doesn't have this capability, do you think they never will?

  • GILMORE||

    http://www.infoplease.com/spot/osamabinladen.html

    "By the mid-1980s, bin Laden had moved to Afghanistan, where he established an organization, Maktab al-Khidimat (MAK), to recruit Islamic soldiers from around the world who later form the basis of an international network"

    The term "al qaeda" at that time was used interchangably to refer to their training/deployment base in Afghanistan, as well as the 'network' of people around the world contributing funds or arms or fighters.

  • GILMORE||

    Also interestin -

    comparison of strategic errors of US in Iraq vs. Soviets in Afghanistan: lessons unlearned

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1120/p06s01-woiq.html

  • ||

    I bought it on 9/11. Shit, it sure felt like we were at war or something. But, now that time and sense have set in I realize that we made these stone age retards' fantasies reality. Chapman has a point, if we treated them like criminals instead of soldiers in a holy war maybe they would have less credibility. But, Dillinger was a crook and a folk hero so maybe not.

    If you call them soldiers or combatants you give them some form of legitimacy. If you call them criminals it makes it harder to use soldiers to kill them.

    I don't what to think.

    Fuck it dude. Let's go bowling.

  • Scooby||

    snake,

    I say Pasadena because it's close to a bunch of refineries, but also close enough to the Port of Houston for a decent sized bomb to destroy enough facilities to render it useless. It's also close enough to the city to get a bunch of folks directly. Exploded in early morning, the strong south winds would carry radioactive goodness right up through town to smack those Kingwood yuppies.

    Do I think AQ will ever have the capability? No, because I think that the AQ that pulled off 9/11 is little more than a bogeyman, now. They did create wonderful trademark that every clown out there has been infringing on.

    Do I think non-state actors (whether calling themselves "AQ" or some other name) will ever successfully simultaneously nuke 7 cities in the US? Nope. It's overkill for the purpose of terrorism. I can only guess that Williams picked 7 cities to nuke because it was his 4th novel with the same AQ nuclear terror storyline. I'm sure the 2008 book he'll crank the number of nuked cities up into the double digits.

    Do I think there is the potential that some enemy will ever try to nuke a US city? Yeah, there is. It might even work, but the odds are against it. There are several natural cataclysmic events that I think are greater threats than nuclear terrorism (either more likely to occur, causing more damage or both). I might as well fret about the comet that will eventually cause a mass extinction event, or the Yellowstone supervolcano, or an invasion by space aliens after they tire of just probing our anuses and mutilating our cattle, or whatever other mortal threat Coast to Coast AM is discussing tonight.

    If I lived in Channelview, I'd be more worried about a Homer Simpson at one of those chemical plants causing an American Bhopal than AQ causing an American Hiroshima. DOH!!!

  • bill||

    The video is from the BBC. I just googled to find a posting. Douche.

  • GILMORE||

    Bill,

    name calling aside (fun at times), how did the bbc video bolster your assertion that Al Qaeda is a US-created 'fiction'?

  • heads in the sand||

    "The cities are New York, Washington, Boston, Miami, Houston, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles."


    I'd miss Vegas.: )

    Anyone who thinks any enemy of the US needs a nuke to wreak havoc needs to think again. The Achilles heal of a modern urban society is evident to a people who live fine without running water and electricity. Both systems are highly vulnerable to simple attacks. The third target is the financial market.

    A nuclear attack (dirty or conventional) with Bush in the White House would get the same falling on Syria and Iran. So, if either country could discourage a nuclear attack they would, for now. Once Iran has nukes, there will be no more massed US army in the middle east.

  • Doctor Gulag||

    >>> I'd miss Vegas.: )

    I wouldn't. The soulless hotel corporations have ruined it.

    Used to be a place for Joe Average to fell like a champ. They comped you *something* if you so much as peeked into the casino.

    Now it's million dollar condo towers and Ferarri dealers at the Wynn. Fuck that.

    6-5 payout on a blackjack? Fuck that, too. That one change makes single deck WORSE than an 8 deck shoe.

    Put the mob back in charge, I say.

  • ||

    """Uh, I believe you're confusing AQ with the Mujahadeen.""""

    Mujahadeen was the 1980s term, AQ, is the 1990s term, but it's the same group. Maybe some different staff, but the CEO is the same.

    Call it what you want. I accept either term.

  • ||

    Amen, intelligently written. well done sir.

    I hope more journalistic outlets choose logic and sensible analysis over sensationalism as this article.

    Keep up the good work Reason.

  • ||

    Since 1968, fewer than 20,000 people have been killed worldwide by terrorism (excluding terrorism associated with war). Terrorism is like acne. It is always with us. It does not strike everyone, or everywhere. It is not an existential threat. It rarely kills anyone (though everyone eventually dies of acne/terrorism if they don't die of something else first). To control it, one must take all of the known precautions (keep your face clean & moisturized, manage your diet; secure your borders, harden your targets) and be mindful of its potential attack (if you're susceptible: visit the dermatologist regularly; have smart & knowledgeable undercover agents & prosecutors). From time to time there's an outbreak, when stronger action is required (antibiotics; war).

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement