Posing? (The NYTimes Displays its Ignorance about…9/11)

Posted by John Rosenthal

In its Tuesday edition, the NYTimes published a characteristically uninformative article on the alleged plot to set off bombs on two regional trains in Germany. The piece amounts to little more than a brief summary of the spin being offered by the relevant German authorities. American anti-terror and police authorities would undoubtedly be most pleased to have their words and opinions reproduced with equal docility by the NYTimes.

Nonetheless, the piece is at least notable for the last sentence in the following passage: 

“People thought for the longest time that Germany would be safe because we didn’t send troops to Iraq,” said Johannes Schmalz, the president of the agency for the protection of the constitution — a rough equivalent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg.

“This presumption is wrong,” he said. “The enemy of violent Islamists is the Western world as a whole.”

That blunt reality is influencing the debate over how strongly to respond — a debate that goes back to 2001, when the Sept. 11 hijackers hatched their plot while posing as students in Hamburg.

“Posing?” Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah – who piloted three of the four planes hijacked on 9/11 – did not “pose” as students in Hamburg. They were students in Hamburg. Atta, for example, began studying urban planning at Hamburg’s Technische Universität in 1992 and he would complete a Diplomarbeit – roughly the equivalent of a masters thesis – in the subject. Like Atta, the other two had also lived for several years in Germany prior to “hatching” their plot with the aid of fellow Hamburg resident Ramzi Binalshibh. By all accounts, it was during their time in Germany that Atta, al-Shehhi and Jarrah became radicalized.

As for the observation of Mr. Schmalz, approvingly stylized into a “blunt reality” by the NYTimes, more skeptical observers will have noted that on those occasions when the bombs planted by “violent Islamists” have actually gone off since 9/11, the targets have as a rule been Jews, the US or indeed the active allies of the latter in Iraq — as well, of course, as Russia and those Arab regimes judged either insufficently “Islamic” or likewise too friendly to the US. In any case, certain parts of the “Western world as a whole” have conspicuously been spared.

The NYTimes follows up today with another uninquisitive puff piece reproducing the latest official German spin on the alleged train plot. It cites, for example, August Hanning of the German Interior Ministry saying “The bombs were professionally made. It was just good fortune that the detonators didn’t work.” It should be recalled that Hanning is here talking about two bombs, neither of which detonated. Hanning, by the way, was until recently the head of the German foreign intelligence service, the BND. It was under Hanning’s leadership that, as noted in my previous article “Dumb Bombs”, the BND used its excellent relations with Hezbollah to broker the 2004 Hezbollah-Israel prisoner exchange.

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