Schultheis:Amateur Night in London | Dispatches
by Rob Schultheis
Jul 08, 2007 | 410 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In bullfighting lingo, there’s a word, espantaneo. It denotes a fan who, overcome with enthusiasm, leaps into the bull ring and attempts to fight the bull, with equivocal results. That’s what we were up against last weekend, in London: Not al-Qaeda’s “A” Team, sent by Osama bin Laden and with technical advice from his coterie of scientists and military experts.

We haven’t seen them for a long, long time – maybe as far back as 9/12/00, with one or two possible exceptions. Even the Madrid train bombings, as destructive and effective as they were (Spain pulled its troops from Iraq shortly thereafter), were most likely carried out by al-Qaeda’s self-schooled Internet devotees.

The narrowly-averted attack on Jordan’s intelligence headquarters may or may not have been the “real deal,” planned by al-Qaeda Central; no one really knows. And I suspect the English-speaking men in U.S. Army uniforms who took out that five-man Special Ops team in Najaf a few months ago – they were after the team’s laptop, which contained highly classified intelligence on Iran’s ties to Iraqi Shi’ite militias – were hard core al-Qaeda, opconned to hardliners in Iran’s Republican Guard.

Perhaps the worst “blowback” from Bush/Cheney’s surreally inept “War on Terror” has been to drive the worst Bad Guys in Teheran into the arms of Osama and company. And there’s been one more probable “A” Team op: the toppling of that big Iraqi bridge into the Euphrates by expertly spaced suicide truck bombs.

In-the-know folks I know have expressed fears this may have been a rehearsal for a similar attack on a target here in the U.S., and the technological expertise it took to collapse a major modern highway bridge with truck bombs was mind-boggling. But the London bombers? No, definitely not.

I suspected we were dealing with left-footed non-professionals as soon as I read the first descriptions of the bombs in the two cars. Propane and nails minus a conventional explosive charge just isn’t an optimum weapon. Skilled nasties use gas cylinders and shrapnel, but they combine it with something like TNT. Leaving out certain key details, the propane spreads a gas cloud, the TNT explodes the cloud and the amplified blast throws deadly metal over a huge area. Our military used a vastly more sophisticated version of the technology to bomb al-Qaeda/Taliban cave complexes in Afghanistan.

Details then appeared on television about why the London car bombers failed. One weaponized Mercedes crashed into trash bins in front of a nightclub, and the driver ran away, abandoning the vehicle. The second car leaked so much gas as it was being towed away that the truck driver smelled the fumes, became suspicious and called the cops. 

Concept:  A+. Execution: F-.

No one is likely to get the Golden Order of al-Wahhab with Oak Cluster for this one. This was more like Beetle Bailey than Sergeant Rock or the late Barry Sadler: terrorism as tragifarce.

No, I’m afraid that the al-Qaeda “A” Team will prove to be a far more serious menace. The “when you see them it’s already too late” guys (and gals – don’t bet against future attackers being blonde European converts to extreme Islam) plan patiently, painstakingly. Separate teams recon the targets, sleeper cells are activated, technical experts hone technique, and attacks only happen when success is virtually certain.

Me, I’m hoping against hope we never hear from the “A” Team again; but it’s probably a hope in vain.

When I was in Iraq, we used to classify some Iraqi insurgents as “POI”s – just plain “Pissed-Off Iraqis.” Well, we live in a target-rich nation, in a world jammed full of Pissed-Off Everybodys and worse, and every time the Bush Administration turns around or opens its pie-hole it seems to create more. Every gallon Americans pour into those obscene Pullman-sized mobile homes lumbering down the highway at 75 mph, goes in an invisible pipeline to smiling Saudis who tithe ten cents on the dollar to madrassas that teach their own arcane theory of evolution. To wit, that Jews and Christians are descended from apes and pigs (maybe they met my Uncle Ralph). Mad mullahs pound this lunacy into their students’ skulls until a certain percentage decide to strap explosives and shrapnel to themselves upon graduation, or study how to land commercial jets on the upper stories of large buildings. It’s a hell of a deal.

Sunday morning: Yet another doofless car bombing attempt, this one outside Glasgow Airport, almost as pathetic as the ones in London. I guess if you really, truly believe the pigs/apes = Christians/Jews theory of evolution, that Shi’a Islam is a Jewish plot to destroy true Islam, and that talking trees will help apprehend Jewish fugitives on Judgement Day, building a working bomb is going to be just a little beyond the scope of your teeny-tiny brains. One of the two Glasgow bombers accidentally set himself on fire when the car went up in flames and had to be hauled away to the hospital after he was arrested.

Question: Do Jihadi uniforms come with clown sandals, turbans that honk when you squeeze them and big baggy kameezes with “KICK ME” signs on the butt?

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