20th December 2003 | Draft
Politicization of Evidence in the Plastic
al-Qaida, Saddam, Assassination and the Hijab
- / -
I. "al-Qaida" as a "Plastic Turkey"?
II. Looks like Saddam, then Saddam it is -- a "Plastic Turkey?!
III. Assassinating "Plastic Turkeys"
IV. Religious "Plastic Turkeys" -- Hermes vs. the Hijab
I. "al-Qaida" as a "Plastic Turkey"?
Since 9/11, the international community has been traumatized by "al-Qaida"
and the "war against terrorism".
Human rights have been set aside in the interests of "national
security" and the opportunity has been taken to push through legislation
which would have been considered totally unacceptable under other circumstances
- notably highly invasive levels of surveillance as with the total information
At every stage, any questions have been turned aside by pointing to the threat
of "al-Qaida". Requests for harder evidence concerning "al-Qaida"
have been resisted with arguments that publicizing such information could further
endanger "national security".
At this point it may therefore be legitimately asked whether
there is any hard evidence for the existence of "al-Qaida" as the
origin of the vast majority of "terrorist threats". The response
is liable to be 9/11 itself and the intelligence information on the basis
of which numerous suspects have been arrested under anti-terrorist legislation.
Unfortunately, none of this evidence has been successfully tested under due
legal process. In fact, those accused of links to "al-Qaida" tend
to be confined incommunicado under extra-judicial provisions in places
like Guantanamo Bay.
The world is asked to trust in the leaders of the Coalition of the Willing,
and specifically George Bush and Tony Blair. Unfortunately, it is precisely
these two who called for similar trust in relation to their confirmed knowledge
of the existence of the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq - having disparaged
the ability of the UN inspectors to locate such weapons.
How probable is it that "al-Qaida" is a "plastic turkey"?
George Bush established his style for all time by seeking photo opportunities
worldwide for his daring under-cover trip to Baghdad airport to share Thanksgiving
dinner with his troops. A turkey figured prominently as evidence of his caring
and sharing. Not only did the troops get none of it, it was in fact made of
plastic - a studio prop to make a political point. As noted by Michael
on the Moon): "The fake honey glaze on that bird wasn't much different
from the fake honey glaze that covers this war. And the fake stuffing in the
fake bird was just the right symbol for our country during these times".
(see also Bush's
turkey in Iraq images was for show, not for eating; Bush's
turkey raises questions, Bush's
turkey was only for show, Scandal!!
Bush's Turkey A Scam!!, Stuffed
by a plastic turkey) [more]
Given this approach to news management, is it not highly probable that "al-Qaida"
is being used in a similar manner? "Facts" as disseminated by the
powerful are now "plastic" -- and only for "consumption"
by the unwise. Hyperbole has become the conceptual fast food of the 21st century.
It is useful to distinguish the varieties of "al-Qaida" that may
have been deliberately confused for the political purposes of George Bush and
- As early training camps: it appears to be the case that there have
been training camps with which the name of "al-Qaida" has been associated.
But training camps for "freedom fighters" and "terrorists"
have existed for decades in many countries - some have been funded and
staffed by the USA, notably in Central America.
- As fund recipients: It appears that Osama bin Laden received funds
from the USA in the 1990s as part of the geopolitical struggle in the area
of Afghanistan. Such funds may have been channeled into training camps and
other activities associated in some way with the term "al-Qaida".
- As a movement: It appears that the term "al-Qaida" has
been associated with a movement of opinion and ideas - even a set of
principles and a strategy - in opposition to certain forces in the Middle
East. It is however unclear how precisely this movement of opinion informed
an operating group as opposed to standing as an ideal for one or more such
- As a network: It appears that a network of individuals, acting secretly,
has developed to undertake actions inspired by those of the aforementioned
movement of opinion. The name "al-Qaida" has been given to this
network by various parties - although it is not clear to what degree
the label corresponds to the underlying reality of that network. Indeed that
network may well be very loosely connected -- to the point of lacking significant
coherence warranting a common label of "al-Qaida". Different parts
may have different levels of engagement of respect for guiding principles
that may be shared and interpreted in a variety of ways - as with any
belief system, including many religions.
- As "freedom fighters": Many in the Arab world would no
doubt choose to perceive "al-Qaida" as "freedom fighters",
perhaps engaged in a holy war. Although "freedom fighters" have
been at the origin of many independence movements -- including that of the
USA -- exactly what constitutes a "freedom fighter", and how this
is distinct from a "terrorist", has not been clearly and unambiguously
- As "terrorists": It appears that some groups do make use
of arms, explosives and other means to attack people and property - as
in the case of the World Trade Center -- with the prime purpose of maximizing
terror. However, whilst it is clear that such groups may be inspired by belief
in "al-Qaida", it remains unclear to what extent they are actually
following a strategy directed and conducted by "al-Qaida". As individuals
those involved may indeed have attended training camps associated by others
with "al-Qaida". They may indeed have been able to obtain arms
and assistance from sympathizers claiming association with "al-Qaida".
But it is unclear to what degree it is meaningful to attach the term "al-Qaida"
- As surrogates: Given the climate of the times, it is also possible
that other groups-unassociated with any of the above-may choose
to conduct terrorist acts for their own purposes and claim to be doing so
in the name of "al-Qaida" as a convenient cover. This is a common
feature of many belief systems and religions.
- As "black flag" operations: A particular form of surrogate
activity would be the case of if a (rogue) agency of some interested government
undertook terrorist acts (or organized others to do so) so as to benefit from
the destabilization. It would be only natural for such an agency to ensure
that such activity were labeled as the work of "al-Qaida".
- As a continuing media story: The diversity of possibilities indicated
above does not make for a good news story in comparison with the excitement
of a "good guy, bad guy" scenario. Impatient media could quickly
be tempted to label any violent act as the work of "terrorists"
- assuming readily that all such terrorists were operating within an
"al-Qaida" network". Increasing the media is free to make
such judgments prior to any trial or evaluation of such evidence. The word
"allegedly" no longer precedes such associations.
- As a premature legal judgement: Given the manner in which due process
has been usurped by anti-terrorist measures, even the highest legal authorities
are drawn into attaching the label "al-Qaida" to those detained
under suspicion of terrorist activity or intent -- as a means of justifying
their actions. Even the UK Home Secretary has been criticized for contempt
of court in passing judgment prematurely regarding "al-Qaida" suspects
in anticipation of the due process for which he is responsible [more].
- As a video communicator: The most obvious manifestation of "al-Qaida"
- as distinct from horrendous destruction of undetermined origin -
is that of the succession of videotapes purported made by Osama bin Laden
as the leader of "al-Qaida". Many questions have been asked regarding
the authenticity of such tapes, whose contents could be readily faked by a
variety of interested parties. Whether or not they derive from Osama bin Laden, the question remains as to what connection they have with the coherent
strategy of a coherent network that can be meaningfully labeled "al-Qaida".
"Plastic Turkey": All the
above suggest the possibility that whilst there may be a variety of beliefs,
initiatives and people that may be termed "al-Qaida" by some for whatever
reason, there is some probability that what is so neatly presented as justification
for the "war against terrorism" might be better described as a "plastic
turkey" presented as a kind of photo opportunity by the world's superpower
- as a means of advancing its own agenda.
II. Looks like Saddam, then Saddam it is -- a "Plastic
It has been amazing to follow the many news reports of "Saddam Hussein".
Initially not one appeared to have reported on the verification of the identity
of the individual arrested as "Saddam Hussein" and removed for lengthy
interrogation -- and such information has not been widely disseminated in continuing
to assume that the former dictator has indeed been arrested. And yet some are
already arguing that the "Saddam Hussein" that was "found"
had long been a prisoner [more].
Cheryl Seal (The
Capture of Saddam: The Questions the Media Are (as Usual) Failing to Ask,
15 dec 2003) writes: "When the 'Saddam Capture' story broke, a survey of several
mainstream news outlets makes it clear: The corporate media in the US and UK,
were conveniently supplied with a package similar to a press kit that included
video footage, still shots, press releases worded in such a way they could be
cut and pasted in the news section or read on air...."
It may be reasonably probable that the individual is Saddam Hussein. But it
is also quite possible that he is not. Is there no concern that there has been
an immediate assumption worldwide that it is the former dictator that had been
arrested - with no reference whatsoever to any verifying evidence? Was
it not reasonable to assume that George Bush's Thanksgiving turkey was a genuine
turkey - given the moral authority of the leader of the Coalition of the
Willing? Why would he lie?
Under other circumstances, such an immediate assumption would have the flavour
of "lynch mob" psychology. The dynamics of the arrest could be seen
as playing to the crowd - as with the recent arrest of Michael Jackson,
where that term has been applied.
At a time when every major crime leads to numerous fake claims of responsibility
by individuals seeking notoriety, is there no case for expressing caution or
presenting the evidence for correct identification? Or is such evidence now
only presented at a formal trial?
Given a credible context, is it sufficient for a soldier to state "We
have someone who fits the description" and for the person to state
"I am Saddam Hussein. I am the President of Iraq and I am willing to
negotiate". On this basis do the intelligence services then believe
it to be so -- and so report to their superiors and to the media? Could anyone
get a loan from a bank with such a declaration, hire a motor vehicle -- or perform
a surgical operation? Is there no concern that the pressures on the American
military to make such an arrest may have encouraged them to ignore any adequate
process of verification? Would this not be a classic example of group think.?
It was widely reported that "Saddam Hussein's" paranoia had resulted
in the identification and training of at least three doubles or look-alikes
- to stand in for him in a variety of circumstances, especially where there
was some vulnerability to assassination (see The
Many Faces of Saddam Hussein [more
What happened to these doubles? Is there not the faintest possibility that
it was one of the doubles that was caught? [more]
What happened to the DNA tests that were envisaged to guard against any such
Who can confirm that any such tests were not themselves faked in some way? Why
are questions being raised concerning the unusual rapidity of obtaining test
results (7 hours) when such testing normally requires 3-5 days? [more
| more]. And as
Cheryl Seal queries: "If the man in custody is not Saddam, but a double,
then who is to say that the Pentagon didn't just take two blood samples from
the same man the same day? The results would, of course, show that this was
the same man. But that the man is Saddam would be a question that remains unanswered,
esp. as this very paranoid man was known to have a stable full of convincing
Given the manner in which the Coalition of the Willing so willingly affirmed
for so long that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- finally
to be embarrassed to the highest degree -- is it not possible that they may
end up being embarrassed that they have caught the wrong "turkey"?
Whether the probability is low, surely precaution is appropriate in all such
But then in the Plastic Turkey Era, is it not possible that matters
have been "arranged" to arrest "Saddam Hussein"? Certainly
the USA would have every motivation for doing so - with enthusiasm that
could only be matched by "finding" the much-sought "weapons of
mass destruction", especially if "Saddam Hussein" can now point
them to a stash of WMD (possibly carefully prepared over months for that "revelation").
But then would not the real Saddam Hussein have every reason to want a "Saddam
Hussein" to be arrested - with or without the complicity of the USA
- so that he could enjoy a secure retirement? And then there are the relatives
and colleagues of the dictator. Given the $25 million reward offered by the
USA, would not any of them be prepared to swear that "Saddam Hussein"
was indeed the person that has been found? How is the veracity of any such statement
to be confirmed.
Again, according to Cheryl Seal: "Never in its existence has the Bush
administration given itself a better opportunity to fabricate evidence - and
it has given itself PLENTY of such opportunities. Every interrogation session
made of 'Saddam' should be videotaped. Not only that, but conducted with independent
observers present - as in people NOT part of the Bush machine.... Transcripts
of the sessions should be reviewed by these independent observers. Any "statements"‚ [more]
Unfortunately in the current Plastic Turkey Era, it will be extremely
difficult for the USA to present evidence that would be independently considered
as the confirmation of the identity of the former dictator. When the activities
of the intelligence community have been politicized to the degree demonstrated
by the search for WMD, how can those responsible prove that they are not simply
engaging in a frame-up? The decades of speculation concerning the Kennedy assassination
point towards the challenges of assessing the realities underlying the arrest,
trial and execution of "Saddam Hussein".
Of course, it might be claimed that "Saddam Hussein" himself will
be happy to sign documents confirming his identity. The problem is that anyone
would be happy to sign in that way after the months of beatings, drugs and electrical
persuasion to be provided by the US interrogation forces - until he is
"ready to talk cooperatively". Indeed with the new techniques of
false memory implantation, anyone so
treated would be more than convinced that he was "Saddam Hussein"
- even George Bush himself!
III. Assassinating "Plastic Turkeys"
Much has been made of the rapid legitimization of assassination and "targeted
killings" in response to the threat of terrorism.
This is especially significant in a country like the USA where the issue of
human rights and due process has long set a legal and moral standard precluding
such actions [more].
However, it is also clear that presidential executive orders have long permitted
such actions as cover operations by the security forces, despite being specifically
renounced under the Reagan administration [more
| more |
The new situation is the manner in which assassination is now considered acceptable
and even necessary -- under the euphemism "targeted killings" as developed
by Israel [more].
It is somewhat reassuring regarding the possible past use of assassination that
US special forces and SWAT teams were deemed so ill-trained for such a mission
that Israeli assassins were brought in to train them [more
| more]. Assassination
is no longer considered as a covert operation [more
| more]. Both the Clinton
and Bush administration have backed targeted killings. In a classified 1998
intelligence finding, President Clinton authorized the CIA to use covert lethal
force against Osama bin Laden and his deputies. President Bush issued another
intelligence finding, this one giving the CIA permission to use lethal force
against a wider class of al-Qaida personnel [more].
The question is how the target is selected and "acquired", notably
by an occupying force.
The "rules of engagement" with which occupying forces encounter people
in Iraq offer many degrees of freedom [more
| more]. Individuals
may be freely shot in Iraq. Any questions regarding this process are simply
met with the response that the person was "acting suspiciously" or
"resisted arrest". No proof is required. What proof could be given
-- and to whom? Judgement on these matters is left to the person killing people
on the ground in this way. There is no appeal -- as is evident in cases where
wedding parties and children have been bombed and killed in fire fights. The
action is provided with justifications even in such extreme cases.
Such assassination, whether deliberate or mistaken, offers further insights
into the characteristics of the Plastic Turkey Era. Essentially
a person of a different culture can be arbitrarily defined as "suspicious"
in the eyes of a foreign military unit unfamiliar with that culture -- and present
there as an occupying force. Once defined as suspicious to their own satisfaction,
they may be freely killed by making further assumptions concerning the degree
of threat represented by their activity. Once shot this action can be readily
justified by assertion of the "fact" that the person was a "terrorist"
-- without any challenge to that assumption.
The question of what relation the dead person had to "terrorism"
or "al-Qaida" or to "Saddam Hussein" is essentially irrelevant.
In the Plastic Turkey Era the assassin embodies the complete cycle
of the judicial process. The assassin acts as detective, judge and jury -- and
executioner -- framing the evidence to suit his case, and then applying the
death penalty. There is necessarily no court of appeal and the soldier's action
is subsequently fully covered by the military hierarchy.
IV. Religious "Plastic Turkeys" -- Hermes vs the
France is in the throes of a heated debate regarding the wearing of headscarves
(the Hijab) by Muslim girls in educational institutions. President Chirac
is calling for legislation banning the Islamic headscarf and other conspicuous
religious signs (including Christian crosses and Jewish skullcaps) from state
schools -- although "discreet signs" are to be permitted (see Secularism
Gone Mad, 18 Dec 2003). This concern is evident to a lesser degree
in other countries with an increasing proportion of Muslims. Chirac's announcement
was accompanied by a call for a strong reinforcement of secularism throughout
the public service. Chirac indicated that his conscience had persuaded him that
"clothing and signs which conspicuously show membership of a religion must
be forbidden in schools" [more
In the case of head covering, no questions are raised about the acceptability
of scarves such as those of HermesTM
The irony is that whilst the Hijab is a modern religious symbol, "Hermes"
is the name of a god in the ancient Greek pantheon -- he is the "messenger
of the gods", also the "god
of the road" and the "god
of commerce". The scarf benefits from the association with the "spiritual"
qualities of the deity in that pantheon. Why else would the name have been selected
and trade marked for marketing purposes?
It is claimed that the move by the French authorities is against the wearing
of the Hijab in "secular" institutions. This raises the question
as to the significance and boundaries of "secular". It may be convenient
to recognize certain belief systems as "religions" and to prohibit
the wearing of their symbols. However it is possible that there are other belief
systems that are functionally equivalent to religions but are not so recognized,
for example the belief systems of the Druids or Wiccans - or even that
of some secret society or animist cult. Who would recognize the symbols of
a secret cult and the clothing they prescribe?
Much more relevant to the framing of the focus on the Hijab is the extent
to which corporations -- like Hermes -- seek to market clothing products through
the use of symbols that carry spiritual and religious significance, whether
or not they would claim to be doing this intentionally. Nothing would be more
pleasing to such a company if it could transform "customers" into
"believers" in a system of values intimately associated with its products
-- as with an old advertisement "Buy a Buick -- Something to Believe in".
To what extent is the pattern of belief in their products -- cultivated by
corporations in young people -- to be considered as distinct in practice from
a cult or a religion? In a "secular" society, would young people attach
greater "spiritual" significance to a conventional religious symbol
or to one which had been skillfully cultivated by marketing agencies -- to position
a scarf or a brand of footwear? Few in the design world would challenge that
fashion can be understood and lived as a religion -- or as a substitute for
a religion. Much has been made of the obsession of school children with wearing
designer clothes in ways which might readily be understood as substituting for
religious beliefs -- clothes, defining a "look", may indeed become
a religion [more
Much has been reported on the importance of designer labels in establishing
the status of the wearer -- through "the look" -- within the context
of a belief system. People have been mugged and killed for designer label shoes.
To what degree should the Hijab be seen as a designer label scarf --
which the designers of competing scarves perceive as encroaching dangerously
on the marketing of their belief system?
To what extent does wearing a Hermes scarf signal a curious form of revival
of the religion of ancient Greece -- or an appropriation of that religion, as
with Christianity's appropriation of pagan deities and rites in other contexts?
[more | more]
It would be instructive to explore what other deities have been coopted and
cultivated as a focus for belief in corporate products. For example: Poseidon
(baseball cap), Erebus
(down jacket), Nyx
(clothing), etc..... Have any deities not been used in this way? Even
Nike derives from the ancient Greek cult of Athena
|European Implication of Worship of
There is a resurgence of interest in Greece,
and elsewhere, in the classical Hellenic religions as part of the Ellinon
Epistrofi, or "Return
to Hellenes Movement."
In June 2004, the World Council of Ethnic Religions (WCER) had its seventh
congress in Greece. It was hosted by the Greek pagan umbrella group Ypato
Symboulio Hellinon Ethnikon (YSEE). This includes the Committee
for the Hellenic Religion. (J. S. Parker, Ongoing
Persecution of Pagans in Modern Greece, 2006). There are twelve
gods (and goddesses) in the Hellenic
Olympian Religion of the Dodekatheon:
Zeus, Hera, Poseidon,
Ares, Hermes, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Athena, Apollo, and Artemis are always
considered Olympians. Hebe, Helios, Hestia, Demeter, Dionysus, Hades, and
Persephone are the variable gods among the Twelve.
As members of the European
Union and subject to European human rights legislation, France and Greece
are called upon to recognize the worship of religions of either country.
Formal recognition for worship of the Dodekatheon is being sought [more].
Presumably the restrictions on wearing religious symbols in France should
therefore apply to the symbols associated with worship of the Olympians --
and to the misappropriation of such symbols. To what extent should the French
be concerned at the imminenent possibility of restrictions of the wearing
of Hermes scarves or the shoes of Nike (as an aspect of Athena)? To what
extent are the names of such deities to be considered as having been misappropriated
-- especially in the light of recent Europe-wide demonstrations against blasphemous
This points to a curious twist in the corporate strategy of globalization --
and its possible dependence on values articulated by deities that apparently
still constitute a psychically active residue in the modern consciousness (perhaps
mnemonically through the sound values of the names of such deities). Is there
some unconscious need to reactivate symbolic dimensions articulated in ancient
civilizations by their deities -- but to transform and lock that expression
into the context of the universal rule of commerce as a universal religion?
Whereas deities of the past were worshipped in temples, are they now to be worshipped
in "secular" shopping malls as temples of commerce? A universal religion
with franchise shops as the agents of God as the ultimate manufacturer? Are
consumers dressed in the Hermes "look" or in the Christian Dior "look",
for example, to be understood as uniformed celebrants of a resurgent religion?
This would help explain the US enthusiasm for implanting their franchise outlets
in countries they occupy -- the "clash of civilizations" is indeed
then a clash of religions.
More generally is it the case that young people are in the process of choosing
and cultivating -- with the complicity of the media world and governments --
the entities in a vast new pantheon that is being used to articulate their values?
The "divinities" in this pantheon include the media stars, celebrities
and singers in which many young people -- especially in a "secular"
society -- believe to a far greater degree than in the spiritual leaders of
any religion. Compare the role and visibility of ancient deities in their societies
with that in contemporary society of Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Michael Jackson,
Arnold Schwarzenegger, etc -- as A-List
Celebrities -- the new Gods of Olympus?
|Veils, Hijabs and Niqabs vs Sunglasses, Hoods and
Former UK Foreign Secretary, Jack
Straw, has provoked controversy by advocating
that Muslim women should remove their veils, especially the niqab (full
veil). He argues that the increasing trend towards covering facial
features was 'bound
make better, positive relations between the two communities
more difficult' because face-to-face conversations were of 'greater
value' [more more].
No comparison was made with an earlier European fashion favouring veils,
or any future fashion trend in favour of veils or face-covering scarves.
Should sunglasses be condemned for the same reasons -- with hoods and balaclavas?
Do they too constitute a dangerous "symbol of separation"? What
then is to be said about communications with authorities and services that
are only possible by telephone? Do they make relations "more difficult?
Would removing more items of clothing make for better communication --
beyond showing a deep cleavage? Would this be consistent with the philosophy
of nudists? Should politicians meet their constituencies in the nude to
reduce the democratic deficit? Would nudity improve the quality of parliamentary
Curiously there is no requirement in the Qur'an that women
be veiled, rather it is in the Bible that Christian women
are enjoined to be "covered". Should Jack Straw's preferences
apply to devout Christians if they choose fully to respect the word of
For if a woman is not veiled, let her also be
The most fruitful review of the complexity of the veiling issue, from a
historical perspective, is provided by a former Catholic nun, Karen Armstrong
years in a habit taught me the paradox of veiling, Guardian,
26 October 2006)
but if it is a shame to a woman to be shorn or shaven,
be veiled. (Corinthians
In the Plastic Turkey Era it is clear that the focus on prohibiting
the Hijab may well be a subterfuge in favour of other emergent "religions"
-- or their spiritual surrogates. As with "al-Qaida" and "Saddam
Hussein", the significance of the Hijab is in process of being
manipulated for political ends -- whatever the fundamental truths with which
it may be associated. As with the case of "assassination" (discussed above), it here takes
the form of cultural assassination -- with the emphasis on "cult".
The prohibitive focus of a French society -- so identified with other "looks"
-- on the Hijab is a form of "targeted killing" within a complex
cult-ural ecosystem. The symbolism of the Hijab can be fruitfully considered
as subject to manipulation in a highly competitive symbolic environment -- as
part of a process of memetic
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