Thursday, April 29, 2004

Why is this not more widely reported?

Media Bias? No, couldn't be. This is a huge story that is not being reported on in the main stream press. We wrote about this in previous posts, and the Wall Street Journal does a fantastic job of summarizing the events:

Wall Street Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Al Qaeda's Poison Gas
The foiled attack in Jordan might have killed thousands.

Jordanian authorities say that the death toll from a bomb and poison-gas attack they foiled this month could have reached 80,000. We guess the fact that most major media are barely covering this story means WMD isn't news anymore until there's a body count.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi--the man cited by the Bush Administration as its strongest evidence of prewar links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and the current ringleader of anti-coalition terrorism in Iraq--may be behind the plot, which would be al Qaeda's first ever attempt to use chemical weapons. The targets included the U.S. Embassy in Amman. Yet as of yesterday, most news organizations hadn't probed the story, if at all, beyond the initial wire-service copy.

Perhaps the problem here is that covering this story might mean acknowledging that Tony Blair and George W. Bush have been exactly right to warn of the confluence of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Jordan's King Abdullah called it a "major, major operation" that would have "decapitated" his government. "Anyone who doubts the terrorists' desire to obtain and use these weapons only needs to look at this example," said Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

More details of the plot emerged Monday night with the dramatic broadcast on Jordanian television of confessions from the terror cell's leader and associates. The idea apparently was to crash trucks--fitted with special battering rams and filled with some 20 tons of explosives--through the gates of targets that included the U.S. Embassy, the Jordanian Prime Minister's office and the national intelligence headquarters. The explosions notwithstanding, the real damage was reportedly to come from dispersing a toxic cloud of chemicals, which included nerve and blister agents.

Anonymous U.S. officials have been quoted playing down the WMD wrinkle, suggesting the chemicals may have been meant to merely amplify a conventional explosion. But then much of our "intelligence" bureaucracy is still wedded to the discredited notion that secular tyrants and fundamentalist terrorists don't cooperate (see Hezbollah). They may also be defensive about their earlier, dismissive assessments of Zarqawi's significance.

Plotter Hussein Sharif Hussein was shown on Jordanian television saying the aim was "carrying out the first suicide attack to be launched by al Qaeda using chemicals." A Jordanian scientist described a toxic cloud that could have spread for a mile or more. So was it really a foiled WMD attack? Here's hoping someone is trying to get to the bottom of this.

The provenance of the operation is also of note. The bomb trucks and funds are said to have entered Jordan via Syria. Last fall General James R. Clapper Jr., director of satellite intelligence for the Pentagon, said there had been an unusual amount of traffic--including possibly WMDs--between Iraq and Syria in the lead-up to war.
The terror cell's ringleader, Jordanian Azmi Jayyousi, said he was acting on the orders of Zarqawi, whom he first met at an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan: "I took courses, poisons high level, then I pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." Mr. Jayyousi said this attack had been plotted from Zarqawi's new base of operations in Iraq. A Jordanian court sentenced Zarqawi to death this month for plotting the 2002 murder of U.S diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman.

Prime Minister Blair has said it's simply "a matter of time unless we act and take a stand before terrorism and weapons of mass destruction come together." According to Jordanian authorities, that sometime was intended to be last week. That strikes us as news.


Let's hope that this story is followed and leads to the missing WMD.