Saturday, April 28, 2007

Here is Your War on Terror

A war on terror is raging and the battlefield is all around us. That, at least, is what we are asked to believe. Most of us do believe it. Many of those who claim to believe that our government is nothing but a den of thieves and liars even believe them on this point. They might say that the invasion of Iraq was wrong, that we should pull out ASAP, that we should quit our imperialistic ambitions and...concentrate our efforts on the real terrorists.

We all know who the real terrorist are, right? Osama bin Laden, suicide bombers and all fanatical non-Christian and non-Jewish religious adherents. Those are the guys we have to worry about. Of course, you would never be so politically incorrect as to say that all Muslim are terrorists, but you do have to wonder, don't you? Just what is someone who worships a foreign god capable of? The citizens of Israel have a nice familiar god, even if they aren't exactly on speaking terms with his whole family. That's comforting, isn't it? Israel may be in the Middle East, but they don't seem Middle Eastern, if you see what I mean.

But Muslims, we are wise to keep a close eye on them. Take, for instance, the case of Sami al-Hussayen. To the public, he presented the face of a peace-loving father and doctoral candidate at the University of Idaho. The watchful, post-911 eyes of a local bank teller saw something more, however, and promptly alerted the FBI to a suspicious transaction by this Arab student.

The FBI sprang to action, working diligently to rid us of this terrorist threat living right in the heartland. Getting the "goods" on a sly terrorist agent like al-Hussayen takes time, however. The last thing they wanted was to have to take some of that precious time figuring out where he'd disappeared to. Fortunately, al-Hussayen provided them with the perfect excuse for tossing him in the hoosegow while the investigation proceeded. As it turned out, al-Hussayen had violated the terms of his visa.

Living in the U.S. under a student visa, as al-Hussayen was, one is not allowed to work. Yet, al-Hussayen, showing as much disregard for our laws as he did hatred of our freedoms, volunteered his time maintaining a website for a Muslim charity!! Even worse, he allegedly received as much as $300 over the course of five years of such "work," leading an immigration court judge to decree that he should be kept behind bars until the charges could be cleared up. Clink went the cell door for nearly 1 1/2 years.

The FBI scoured every nook and cranny of al-Hussayen's life. Virtually everything that could be known about the man was known by the time they brought their case to court. What did they find? As John Ashcroft put it, al-Hussayen was part of "a terrorist threat to Americans that is fanatical, and it is fierce."

Did the FBI uncover evidence that al-Hussayen was about to blow up the White House or unleash some other form of violent nightmare on the public? Not exactly. He was charged with having provided material support for terrorist activity, which sound like it could be bad until you realize that the material support was his volunteer work maintaining a website for the Islamic Assembly of North America.

Like most Islamic charities after 9/11, this one came under the close scrutiny of the U.S. government. While the website al-Hussayen managed seemed devoted to peaceful religious study, the government found that it did in fact contain articles written by radical sheiks. Some of those articles contained calls to violence against the U.S., including one article that mentioned hijacking planes and flying them into buildings that was written before 9/11. The site also contained a link for making donations to Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the U.S.

Unfortunately, for the prosecution, it turned out that much of the anti-American material posted on the site was also posted on the site of one of their witness, as well as on the website of the BBC. In any case, there was no evidence that al-Hussayen believed any of the rhetoric in those articles and, certainly, he had never written anything like that himself. As for the link for donating to Hamas, it was never on the site during the time al-Hussayen was webmaster.

Evidence of al-Hussayen's other suspicious behavior was also presented. The FBI claimed al-Hussayen attempted to delay his graduation, in order to lengthen his time in the U.S. for terrorist fundraising, by changing doctoral advisors mid-year. They also noted that he moved his campus office from the computer science building to the one that housed the universities defunct nuclear reactor. Obviously, so they claimed, he was hoping to get his hands on some radioactive material he could use to make a dirty bomb. And, he was studying computer security systems. I'm sure I don't have to spell out what horrors he was planning to unleash in that arena.

The truth of the matter was, al-Hussayen was attempting to hasten his graduation by changing advisors. His former advisor was battling cancer. As for finding radioactive material lying around a decommissioned nuclear reactor--I can't even bring myself to comment. And since when can one be accused of suspicious behavior for engaging in a common field of study already offered by the university one is attending?!

That's right, I forgot. Sami al-Hussayen is Muslim.

His trial was notable because he was the first tried under the newly expanded definition of "material support" to include "expert advice and assistance." The government claimed that since he used his expertise in website design for a charity they were investigating as a possible supporter of terrorists (no such links were ever found, by the way), he was a terrorist himself.

In this case, al-Hussayen was lucky. Being a test case of sorts, the government didn't quite have it's act together and the jury hadn't been softened quite enough by Fox News terror alerts. al-Hussayen walked, free to volunteer again. Countless others after him weren't quite so lucky. They simply disappeared into the the bowels of a prison like the one in Guantanamo Bay, "extraordinarily rendered" to a place far away from the prying eyes of the public.

Sami al-Hussayen wasn't quite as lucky as some others, though. Take, for example, the Israelis founding dancing with joy in the shadow of the burning twin towers on 9/11. They even videotaped the event, mocking the burning of the buildings by holding their lighters in front of the camera as if they were lighting the building on fire themselves. I would hazard a guess that their immigration status wasn't exactly to-the-letter kosher, either. But, the lucky stiffs, they were merely shuffled out of the U.S. and onto Israeli TV where they were welcomed as heros. Talk about dodging a bullet!

There there is Luis Posada Carriles. He has also been charged with immigration irregularities. In his case, he just entered the country flat-out illegally and was caught. There isn't a lot of wiggle room in those kinds of cases. It is on the immigration issue that any similarity between Posada and al-Husssayen ends, however. You see, Posada is a known and self-confessed terrorist. Yet, the U.S. government refuses to either bring terrorism charges against him or extradite him to his native Venezuela, a demand made by that government, as is required by both Article 7 of the Montreal Convention and Article 8 of the International Convention for the Repression of Terrorist Acts Committed with Bombs.

Posada's known terrorist activities include blowing up an airplane (the only recovered human remains were those of a young girl whose brains and internal organs were literally blown away) and several bombings of hotels in Havana. Of course, that one sentence brings the entire thing into sharp focus, doesn't it? Not only is he not Muslim, he is OUR terrorist. In the eyes of the U.S. government, a terrorist is always one of "them." A man who blows the guts out of young girls isn't a terrorist if he is fighting our enemies (though I'm still not clear on how Cuba, of all places, qualifies as the enemy of anyone). No, a man like that is...well, in the case of Posada, he is on the CIA payroll. Go figure.

We all know there is no more honor amongst spies than there is amongst thieves. That in mind, one has to wonder just why Posada, a man who has worked for the CIA since the 60's, was trying to enter the U.S. illegally. Also worth pondering is why he was being financed by a man, one Santiago Alvarez, who had been indicted for an illegal cache of weaponry at his Florida home that included machine guns and rocket launchers! You've just got to ask what they were planning to do with all that. Yet, the U.S. has, after years, still refuses to bring terrorism charges against Posada. Rather, they keep him tied up, and away from the Venezuelan government, in immigration court.

It kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it? What if--and I know this is a big "what if"--but what if the war on terror isn't quite what we've been lead to believe? What if the stories about Islamic fundamentalists, crazed with devotion to the wrong god and lining up to splatter their guts all over our freedoms, aren't quite accurate?

I'd have to ask the same question of the U.S. government I asked of Posada and Aolvarez. Just what could they be up to?

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