Manipulating the terror threat?
By Peter Ewart
Using the threat of terrorism to manipulate public opinion and bolster the power of the state has a long and sordid history. Unfortunately, at least in the short term, it can be a very effective tool of anti-democratic and dictatorial state authorities.
Hitler used these techniques to justify the invasion of Poland and other countries, as well as the crushing of rights within Germany. But there have been abundant examples in recent years, especially since 9/11, from politicians of various stripes.
For example, the Bush administration made false claims about Saddam Hussein’s supposed attempts to obtain nuclear material for dirty bombs, as well as other weapons of mass destruction. These claims were used to justify the bombing and invasion of Iraq which subsequently plunged the country and region into chaos and civil war.
Leading up to and after the Iraq invasion, the terror threat was repeatedly used for political purposes by White House officials. Former U.S. Homeland Security head Tom Ridge has admitted that he “was pressured by other members of President George W. Bush’s Cabinet to raise the nation’s terror alert level just before the 2004 presidential election” (1) (2).
In addition, it has been revealed that state authorities have been involved in various entrapment plots and other schemes to ramp up the terror threat (3). As constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley says, U.S. government officials “were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power” (4).
Canada has its own history going back to the 1960s and before of security police engaging in dirty tricks and false flag events, even going so far as to burn down buildings and plant bombs in order to discredit opponents of the government. Much of this, of course, came up in the subsequent MacDonald Commission investigation.
More recently, many people feel that, in the wake of the “lone wolf” attacks on the Canadian soldier and reservist in Ottawa last Fall, the Conservative government has misused its power to push “anti-terror” legislation (Bill C-51) through Parliament which is anti-democratic, threatens the rights of all Canadians, and authorizes CSIS to break the law and commit dirty tricks.
On July 23, the CBC revealed the curious bit of information that Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson instructed bureaucrats in his ministry this Spring to produce a quota of three terrorism-related statements each week for him and his team to speak to. The news report goes on to say that this instruction comes “ahead of a fall election in which security and Canada’s response to terrorism are expected to be key issues” (5).
While one former bureaucrat said that “it is normal for the government of the day to ask civil servants for the information and materials it needs to promote and communicate its policies,” other former officials thought Nicholson’s request was quite unusual and downright odd.
Will the threat of terrorism be used to manipulate the upcoming Fall election campaign in Canada? Hopefully not. Hopefully, a clear-headed and rational discussion will be fostered. But, as past experience shows, we should be prepared for any eventuality.
Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- NBC News. “Ridge: I was pushed to raise terror alert.” August 20, 2009.
- Chossudovsky, Michel. “Tom Ridge’s Mea Culpa: the Code Orange Terror Alerts were based on fake intelligence.” Global Research. May 12, 2005.
- Greenwald, Jeff. “Why does the FBI have to manufacture its own plots if terrorism and ISIS are such grave threats?” The Intercept. February 26, 2015.
- Washington’s Blog. “The Secret Visualization.” July 28, 2009.
- Chevalier, Jennifer. “Bureaucrats told to provide Rob Nicholson 3 terrorism-related statements a week.” CBC News. July 22, 2015.