From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)
JOHN F. SUGG | Weekly Planet | 26 February 2003
Here's what you're supposed to know: Sami Al-Arian was indicted as a terrorist leader on Feb. 20.Here's what you're not supposed to think about: Sami Al-Arian never, even according to the indictment, committed violent acts. His nemesis Israel, on the other hand, will conduct "targeted killings in the United States and other friendly countries." (UPI, Jan. 15, 2003). An FBI official told the wire service that the agency regards the planned murder campaign as a "policy matter," not an issue for criminal investigation. The St. Petersburg Times and The Tampa Tribune didn't note the story.
Here's what you're supposed to know: Sami Al-Arian raised thousands of dollars for Palestinian causes, much of it allegedly funneled from fundraising events.
Here's what you're not supposed to know: Bob O'Neill, the federal prosecutor who for years led the Al-Arian probe, raised hard cash for the political front group for one of the most deadly terrorist organizations in the world, the Irish Republican Army. O'Neill was part owner of Tampa's Four Green Fields, whose walls are crowded with inflammatory anti-British hate rhetoric similar in tone to vitriolic statements by Al-Arian. This bar hosted numerous fundraisers for Sinn Fein and, by reasonable extension, the often-outlawed IRA. Twice since 1995, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, at the time regarded as terrorist by the British, has been the star guest at the fundraisers. The local dailies ran articles promoting Adams' visits; no one suggested "ties to terrorists."
Here's what you're supposed to know: Palestinians have terrorist groups that kill civilians. Two young American women, who were slain in a bombing claimed by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, figure into Al-Arian's indictment.
Here's what you're not supposed to consider: Palestinians have no nation and no army. They have been under military occupation for 35 years. International law supports the right of occupied people to resist -- although the civilized world has recoiled at the suicide bombings of civilians. However, Israel, with one of the most powerful armies in the world, has killed far more civilians than the Arab terrorist groups.
Here's what you're supposed to know: Al-Arian supposedly used financial schemes to conceal fundraising for Palestinian causes. Keep in mind, the total amount at stake is, at most, several hundred thousand dollars, and all money that flows to Palestinians from the U.S. is a trickle.
Here's what you're not supposed to consider: Tens of millions are collected annually by American pro-Israeli groups and funneled through tax-exempt organizations. Some of the money goes to support military support operations, freeing Israeli money for weapons and lethal operations against Palestinians. Other money goes to underwrite "settlements," the colonial taking of Arab lands. One American businessman, Irving Moskowitz, has raised as much as $80-million for settlements.
Here's what you're supposed to believe: Al-Arian posed the most serious terrorist threat in Florida's recent history. Clearly, all the news reports (310 nationwide in the three days after his arrest) prove that.
Here's what you're not supposed to recall: While the feds were targeting Tampa Muslims, there was a real terrorist plot in Jacksonville in 1997 to bomb and kill former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. The perp was an Orthodox Jew, Harry Shapiro, who intended to blame the murder on (who else but?) Muslims. (That received one tiny brief in the Tampa Bay area dailies; 119 reports nationwide.) And, just last year, St. Petersburg podiatrist Robert J. Goldstein was collared with a stash of guns and bombs, and a plan to blow up mosques (91 reports across the nation). The press accepts the standard "mentally ill" explanation in these cases -- and neither the media nor authorities show interest in pursuing the possibility of broader conspiracies.
Here's what you're supposed to know: Al-Arian and friends associated with terrorists.
Here's what you're not supposed to know: A lot of people have associated with terrorists, including George W. Bush, who posed in 2000 for a touching photo with the Al-Arian family. George's brother, Jeb, has long been chummy with one of the Western Hemisphere's most notorious terrorists, Orlando Bosch, mastermind of a jetliner bombing that killed 73 people in 1976. And, of course, President Bush is offering Israeli strongman Ariel Sharon an Iraq war gift of more than $10-billion, maybe as much as $16-billion. Sharon is regarded as a war criminal by much of the world, stemming from his complicity in the slaughter of as many as 800 people, mostly women and children, at the Chatilla and Sabra refugee camps. Sharon began his military career as part of the brutal "Unit 101" that massacred Palestinian villagers.
Here's what you're supposed to know: Attorney General John Ashcroft said of the indictment: "We make no distinction between those who carry out terrorist attacks and those who knowingly finance, manage or supervise terrorist organizations."
Here's what you're not supposed to ponder: There are many interesting terror and money connections in Washington -- Dick Cheney's Halliburton eagerly did business with Saddam Hussein, and Donald Rumsfeld was a director of a company that, last week, was revealed as having provided nuclear technology to North Korea (oops). Iran this month sued the United States in an international court for giving weapons of mass destruction to Saddam Hussein (almost no U.S. media coverage). The Bush and bin Laden families have long, friendly business associations, and there is considerable documentary evidence that Bush the First in 1991 ordered federal agents to back off from probing his bin Laden partners. W's grandfather was an executive of a bank that "traded with the enemy" -- Nazi Germany. In short, "evil," according to federal government, is relative -- it isn't the act, but who is doing it.
Here's what you're supposed to embrace: Al-Arian's critics -- notably Tribune reporter Michael Fechter and Fechter's mentor, Steven Emerson -- have been right all along.
Here's what you're not supposed to know: The reporting that led to the federal probe was incredibly fault-ridden, whether Al-Arian is convicted or wins acquittal. Fechter's first reporting on Al-Arian attempted to link him to the Oklahoma City bombing -- a colossal mendacity that the Trib refuses to recant. Emerson, after being ousted from much of the legitimate news media, rehabilitated himself as an "expert," but has made such wild claims as calling the Washington Post "pro-Hamas," and most infamously trying to pin the Oklahoma City bombing on Arabs. He claimed seven years ago he had proof that Tampa Muslims were part of the plot to bomb the World Trade Center in 1993; Emerson never delivered. The Weekly Planet last year gave Emerson's lawyers a list of apparent mistakes contained in the Tampa passages of his book American Jihad -- errors, such as wrong titles and dates as well as mischaracterizations of events and major judicial decisions. He has never responded. In short, the Trib and Emerson declared Al-Arian guilty, and then tried to find proof. Their reporting, now as always, seeks to blur distinctions between the nationalist based Palestinian movement -- which generally has avoided conflict with America and has been dismayed at our lack of balance -- and the ideologically twisted followers of Osama bin Laden.
Here's what you're supposed to know: The indictment, all 121 pages, is so detailed, it must prove the guilt of Al-Arian and his associates.
Here's what you're not supposed to know: There have been an estimated 1,500 people, mostly Muslims and Arabs, detained by the federal government since 9-11. There has been one conviction. The federal government has a long list of "airtight" cases that have blown apart (the infamous Aisenberg baby case in Tampa should give pause to those who are sure wiretaps are proof of guilt). And the government has an equally long list of political prosecutions. One of the most famous in Florida was the 1970s trial of seven veterans and a friend who opposed the Vietnam War. The government claimed they plotted terrorist actions to disrupt the 1972 GOP convention in Miami. The "Gainesville 8" were completely exonerated; the only ones advocating violence were government agents provocateur. In the Al-Arian indictment, there are scores of actions, many if not most of them innocent in appearance, strung together into a "conspiracy." "It takes a tremendous leap of logic to get where the government wants you to go," says Al-Arian's lawyer, Nick Mattasini.
Here's what I conclude: Short of wholesale fabrication of evidence -- which I don't believe -- the indictment shows that Sami Al-Arian was far more involved in, at best, a political movement or, at worst, a terrorist group, than he has acknowledged to his supporters and the press. If true, he is reprehensible. That said, there's a terrible disparity of justice at work in how America treats two sides in the Middle East conflict.
Here's what I suspect: Much of the indictment stems from new information released after the passage of the deceptively named U.S. Patriot Act. Now Ashcroft wants even broader powers, including Orwellian authority to make secret arrests and strip Americans of their citizenship -- all without trial. Meanwhile, George Bush is beleaguered in his obsessive drive to go to war. We may have wrecked the northern alliance, and the world increasingly sees America (or Bush) as the problem. The economy is in shambles. So, it's time to crank up another headline-grabbing jihad against an Arab terrorist.
Here's what I fear: The U.S. Attorney's office won't estimate how much time and money has been spent since 1995 chasing Al-Arian, who, as noted, never planned any violence in America. But the feds, pushed by Israel (as reported by Ha'aretz) and its polemicists such as Emerson, used an army of agents and millions of dollars. Meanwhile, only a short distance from Tampa, in Hollywood, Mohammed Atta and his pals had a headquarters -- and our intelligence services didn't have a clue.
Should Americans wonder at the priorities signaled by Al-Arian's arrest?