When Terror Strikes, Hysteria is the Greatest ‘Clear and Present Danger’

June 11th, 2006 - by admin

Jack Todd / The Gazette – 2006-06-11 23:16:52


Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep.
It starts when you’re always afraid …

โ€” Buffalo Springfield

MONTREAL (June 10, 2006) โ€” It was the kind of week when you wanted to sell your collection of Buffalo Springfield vinyl, pack everything in the rusty Westphalia, drive to Nunavut and find a remote corner where you can grow turnips.

You know the general idea. Lay in a 10-year supply of Froot Loops, surround the place with razor wire and M18 Claymore directional-fragmentation mines, threaten to hamstring anyone who comes near with a cellphone, a television set or a 13-month-old copy of the National Post and spend the next decade poring over Finnegan’s Wake: riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. …

It all started when the security apparatus of this nation claimed to have stumbled on a nefarious plot to storm parliament, behead the prime minister and bring down the CN Tower.

Then the army of the nation to the south killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi with a bomb, which arguably was not a bad thing, except that they couldn’t resist trotting out a giant blow-up photo of the dead terrorist. Memories around the Pentagon are short: They forget that Che Guevara was just another guerrilla until that photo of Dead Che became an icon of the ’60s and launched a million romantics down the revolutionary path. Want martyrs? We got martyrs.

Then the Americans began weighing in on the Canadian arrests. Good job, Canada, said Condoleezza Rice โ€” and when Ms. Rice says we are doing something right, we should all tremble.

Finally, from the hallowed halls of the U.S. Congress in the capital where Franklin Delano Roosevelt once declared “we have nothing to fear but fear itself” came the voice of one John Hostettler, an Indiana Republican with the brains of an earthworm. He declared south Toronto is a hotbed of radical Muslim activity.

Hostettler is chairman of the House of Representatives subcommittee on immigration and border security. That means he has a lot to do with deciding what documents you need on your person when you cross the border to buy Milk Duds.

“South Toronto, like those parts of London that are host to the radical imams who influenced the 9/11 terrorists and the shoe bomber, has people who adhere to a militant understanding of Islam,” Hostettler said.

Huh? South Toronto? Is that anything like the South Bronx, Mr. Hostettler? “South Toronto is a location which I understand is the type of enclave that allows for this radical type of discussion to go on.”

Hostettler, you should know, is a militant, right-wing Christian who was arrested in 2004 when he was caught carrying a loaded Glock 9-mm semiautomatic handgun at a Louisville, Ky., airport. He later pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon and received a 60-day sentence, which he won’t have to serve if he stays out of trouble. And this guy is telling us we should worry about Muslims.

All this because our government trotted out enough firepower to stage another invasion of Iraq in order to arrest 17 boys and young men who, we are assured, represent a clear and present danger to such great Canadian institutions as [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper’s hair and our tallest phallic symbol [Toronto’s CN Tower].

How do we know this is so? Because they tell us it is so. Because they have decided the evidence is so compelling (although they won’t tell us what it is) that it warrants holding 15-year-old boys in leg-irons and solitary confinement and denying them visits from their families.

But if even half the information the government is leaking is true (and that’s probably giving CSIS [the Canadian spy agency] and the RCMP way too much credit), then the people they arrested couldn’t stage a bubble-gum raid on a Couche-Tarde [convenience store].

Who was drawing up the plans for all this nefarious activity? Homer Simpson? [Federal Minister of Security] Stockwell Day? Congressman Hostettler?

Who could possibly be this stupid? Here we have a couple of dozen young men who are a racial profiler’s dream running around rural Ontario wearing camouflage gear and blasting away with automatic weapons in the middle of the night. Gosh, that won’t attract attention.

CSIS is watching? Hey, let’s order up three or four tonnes of ammonium nitrate. They won’t notice a little thing like that.

Faced with the clear and present danger of the Homer Simpson Gang, the security types stage this massive arrest operation. Then they make sure the defence lawyers have just enough information to leak the most lurid details. The jury of public opinion has already brought in the verdict, ladies and gentlemen. Guilty as charged. Clap ’em away in leg irons. Who needs a trial when it comes to terrorists?

Remember this: Every time there is a terror attack or the threat of an attack, the only beneficiaries of the general hysteria are the party in power and the state security apparatus.

Under George W. Bush and former U.S. attorney-general John Ashcroft in the wake of 9/11, the U.S. government launched an all-out assault on the very freedoms it pretends to defend. Every protection for the individual under the law was scuttled: the right to a speedy trial, the right to face one’s accuser in open court, the right to legal representation or the fact that every suspect is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law .

Five hundred years of the slow, difficult march to individual human rights thrown away in a single season of paranoia.

The question with the Ontario suspects is whether their treatment will reflect the way such suspects are treated in the U.S. and at Guantanamo – or will Canadians insist that we are a nation of law first and foremost and that it is precisely when we feel the threat is greatest that we must be the most scrupulous in observing the procedures that protect us all from illegal searches, unfounded arrests and unwarranted detentions?

Let me know how it all turns out. I’ll be in Nunavut growing turnips.


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