In journalism and in life, it is best to admit it when you’re wrong, and I was wrong last week. In my haste to write something timely about the triumphant return of Occupy Wall Street to the front lines of protest on May 1, I assumed that Fox Five New York and the NYPD were uniquely stupid as they colluded on a story about the possibility of Arab terrorists secreting bombs in their “cavities,” as the reporter referred to certain familiar orifices that are usually unmentioned on television. Fox Five led their 10:00 pm newscast with the story and I, in my cynicism, thought that only the minions of Rupert Murdoch could lead the news with an imaginary explosion of fecal matter and viscera on a day when Occupy Wall Street had tied up traffic all over Manhattan.
Boy, was I naive.
ABC, CBS, CNN, BBC, MSNBC, NPR, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Guardian, Christian Science Monitor, Daily Mail, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post and hordes of other corporate media also played up the imaginary explosions of fecal matter and viscera. My mistake was googling only “cavity bomb,” which was the intense focus of Fox Five. What I should have done was google “body bomb,” “implanted bomb,” “breast implant bomb” and “belly bomb.” Those kind of bombs were everywhere.
In a typical report on April 30, Diane Sawyer, solemn and furrowed, announced on ABC World News that as a nation we had reached the eve of the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s assassination. “US authorities,” she said, were “studying a new terror threat tonight” and chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross would tell us of “heightened concern in the air and on the ground.”
Ross then reiterated that unnamed authorities were afraid of body bombs that would “target Americans.” The idea was “not far fetched” because “medical experts” said there was plenty of room in the gut for “surgically implanted explosives.”
“The surgeon would open the abdominal cavity and literally implant the explosive device in and amongst the internal organs,” said medical expert Dr. Mark Melrose, standing in front of a dark, ominous anatomical painting of the human gut.
“Right in there?” Ross asked incisively.
“Right in between the intestines, the liver, and the stomach,” said Melrose.
Then Ross showed a picture of a sullen, swarthy Arab terrorist-looking guy, Ibrahim al-Asiri, who was al Qaeda’s “master bomb maker” in Yemen. He was thought to be “designing body bombs with no metal parts to get past airport security.” John Brennan, “White House counter terrorism expert,” had that very day announced in a speech that al Qaeda in Yemen was “the greatest threat” to the US. In the same speech, Brennan revealed that Osama bin Laden had died in despair because al Qaeda plots had resulted in “disaster after disaster.” Ross concluded that US authorities had “made adjustments in security screening to make it easier to spot a body bomb.”
In an accompanying article on the ABC News website, Ross got down and dirty with Fox, saying that Asiri had implanted a bomb in the “rectal cavity of his own brother for a suicide mission.”
All the articles and television reports were like that. They claimed there was “no imminent threat” and then claimed there was an imminent threat. They all claimed that al Qaeda was decimated, discredited, demoralized and decapitated, and thus was even more dangerous to the United States. Some articles claimed that “three doctors” were busy implanting, or were planning to implant, or were dead but had considered implanting Asiri’s nefarious masterworks in suicide bombers. Almost all reports urged “greater vigilance” without actually specifying how one should keep vigil for ass bombs. I mean, if some Islamofascist-looking guy at the airport asks me to put a bomb in my rectal cavity before I get on the plane, what should I do?
Okay, I’m not a chief investigative correspondent like Brian Ross. I don’t hang out in national security circles. I can, however, read the website of the Department of Homeland Security, which published an essay titled “Body Bombs: Is The Threat Commensurate with the Hype?” by Kerry Patton on July 12, 2011. Patton has been a “contractor” for various government agencies and is a contributor on security issues at Fox News and other rightwing entities. He teaches “terrorism, intelligence, and protection management courses” at Henley Putnam, an online university. His other writings indicate that he is an enthusiast for war with Iran.
So this guy, Kerry Patton, is a bona fide neocon. He has no reason to discount the threat of body bombs unless he really thinks they aren’t a threat. And that is what he thinks.
“If this threat truly exists, it is extremely scary and would be almost impossible to detect,” says Kerry. “The media, though, has said next to nothing about why such a method of attack is nearly impossible to carry out in the context of the sort of explosion that terrorists presumably are hoping body bombs will cause.”
Patton, who has consulted with actual bomb disposal technicians and Special Forces medics, says that most bombs have five parts: trigger, fuse, charge, power source for the trigger, and container.
Somehow Brian Ross, Dr. Melrose and the rest of the corporate media missed that information. It turns out that stuffing a trigger, fuse, charge, power source and container up somebody’s ass is a formidable job. Surgically implanting all those items in the midst of somebody’s intestines would be even more formidable. In both cases, you would have an extremely uncomfortable suicide bomber who be lucky if he could walk. And the implanter would need some rare containment material that would be inert both to the human body and the explosive. If the container leaked, the suicide bomber would: a) explode before his time; b) not explode at all, c) die of blood poisoning from the chemicals in the charge, or d) die from air pressure changes in the plane.
Patton further states that if you place a bomb in a swimming pool, even a very shallow pool for children, most of the explosive force is absorbed by the water, and human bodies are much tougher and denser than water. So if you stick a bomb up your ass, get past airport security, and are able to ignite a device deep inside your body, how likely is it that you will knock the plane out of the air? The bomb will be limited in size, and it will be surrounded by your pelvis, internal organs, fat and skin. Any explosive force unabsorbed by your body is going to leave by the same route it arrived, in which case you will demolish your seat cushion and be an unpleasant surprise to your neighbors. But your chances of downing an airliner? Zip.
Do any of these White House counter terrorism experts so favored in the corporate media know anyone at the Department of Homeland Security?
Let us now consider the entire history of human beings on the planet Earth. In all that time, if my computer research is to be trusted, two people have had bombs implanted on their person for the purpose of killing somebody else. According to Wikipedia, one of the two implantees was a dead child in the 2008 movie “The Hurt Locker,” which concerned a bomb squad in Iraq. I tried to watch the movie twice on cable and gave up after five minutes, so I don’t know the exact circumstances, but I have to wonder why anyone would bother “surgically implanting” a bomb in a corpse in the middle of a war, when the only reason to use surgical implantation would be to get plastic explosives into a secured area like an airport. In a battle situation, you would just throw a grenade or leave a booby trap under the dead body. In any case, “The Hurt Locker” was fictional for a reason. It didn’t actually happen.
The only other example of bomb implanting is the aforementioned brother of Al Qaeda‘s “master bomb maker” Ibrahim al-Asiri. The brother, Abdullah al-Asiri, is not fictional, but nobody knows quite what happened to him. The Western media have gleefully reported that the bomb was implanted in his ass by his own brother, while the Saudi media are not clear on the matter. As the Saudis reported the incident, Abdullah ended up as a puddle of protoplasm when he attempted to assassinate Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, head of Saudi security, in August 2009. The bomb might have been: a) in Abdullah’s colon; b) surgically implanted in his abdomen; c) in his underwear; or d) in the usual belt of explosives used by suicide bombers. Forensics is an inexact science when it comes to puddles of protoplasm.
The circumstantial evidence for implantation is a little thin. Abdullah had been offered a cup of coffee before meeting Nayef. He turned down the coffee, and the theory is apparently that he didn’t want to consume anything with even a slight laxative effect for fear of premature bomb drop.
In the actual meeting with Nayef, Abdullah reportedly offered him his cell phone on the pretext that Nayef would discuss the Saudi amnesty plan with other Al Qaeda terrorists back in Yemen. This, the Saudi press theorized, was the signal for said terrorists in Yemen that Abdullah was close enough to Nayef and they should dial the number of the cell phone trigger for the bomb in Abdullah’s colon. The resulting explosion nicked two of Nayef’s fingers, which required some bandaging, and that was it for injuries to the target.
The wounded fingers are a little odd. I’m speculating that Abdullah must have read the Department of Homeland Security website about the severe limitations of ass bombs and was trying to maximize the lethality of his weapon by dropping his pants, turning around and aiming his sphincter at Nayef. Nayef then raised his hand as if to shield himself, exclaiming, “No! Don’t shoot!”, and at that moment the terrorists in Yemen speed dialed the ass bomb. The explosion, now having directionality, ejected the cell phone trigger and other bomb parts with sufficient force to injure the royal hand.
That’s just what I’m guessing. The most interesting part of the story is that Saudi Arabia had an amnesty program for terrorists. Al Qaeda reportedly wanted to assassinate Nayef because so many members had left the group for Nayef’s amnesty deal. Imagine that. You’re a young terrorist and you have a choice between staying in a group that wants to put a bomb up your ass for no practical purpose whatever, or you could join a government that promises you a house, a job, a chance to watch your children grow up, and all you have to do is swear on the Koran that you’ll refrain from terrorism in the future.
Do any of these White House counter terrorism experts so favored in the corporate media know anyone in Saudi Arabia?
Yeah, it’s completely impractical. We could never tell our soldiers in Afghanistan to put down their guns and start building homes and schools and hospitals for the Taliban. If we offered the Taliban jobs and a chance to watch their children grow up, we’d be creating a nanny state. The Russians tried that in Afghanistan, and look what happened to them.
As it is, the United States has had a week of stories in the corporate media about Islamic ass bombing. In all of human history, there is one guy who may or may not have put a bomb in his own ass in hopes in killing someone, and it didn’t work. Even if the few dozen remaining members of Al Qaeda all decided to put a bomb in their ass, they would be a threat only to themselves.
What purpose, then, could all these stories about Islamic ass bombers possibly have? Well, the Transportation Security Administration wants to put some fear back in airline passengers, who are on the verge of rebellion about airport pat-downs and radioactive scanning machines. And the two major parties want to put some fear back in the voters, who are on the verge of rebellion about having a choice–again–between two empty suits who lie for Wall Street.
Finally, compare all the stories in the corporate media on the imminent threat of Islamic ass bombing with all the stories about the recently released report by the AFL-CI0 on workplace deaths. According the Department of Labor, 13 Americans die every day on the job, which came to 4690 in 2010. Another 50,000 die from occupational diseases. Tens of thousands of other Americans die from water pollution, air pollution, dangerous products and job-induced despair.
There were almost no stories on all those deaths.
Hypothetically, what if all those work-related deaths were caused by a tiny terrorist group that was motivated by criminal indifference, active malice and overwhelming greed? Hypothetically, lets call this terrorist group the “1%.” Suppose further that the corporate media gave an enormous amount of time and space to the non-existent imminent threat of Islamic ass bombing and no time or space to the 1% killing tens of thousands of Americans every year. Who would you say, hypothetically, the corporate media was working for?
Let’s get Brian Ross on that story right away.