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By Jason Michael
Text without context is a pretext. It would appear that the British government is bending its own rules as far as they will go to create a state of emergency that comes as nothing short of a godsend for a desperate Theresa May.
British police and security services have been working around the clock, as is their job, investigating the possibility of a connection between the Manchester bomber, 22 year old Salman Abedi, and a wider terror network linked to the Islamic State. It is ludicrous to suggest this is not at least a possibility, but without any credible evidence of such the Westminster government and its ideologically aligned media have simply run with the ISIS connection narrative.
It has been this assumed connection that has empowered Theresa May to upgrade the state’s terror warning level to “critical” – indicating that another terrorist attack is “imminent” – thus allowing her to activate Operation Temperer. Regardless of the facts, of which there are few, the mobilisation of up to 5,100 soldiers on the streets of the United Kingdom – as was confirmed in an off-camera Downing Street chat, released by Russia Today, between Faisal Islam and a Sky News colleague – is highly politically useful to the Prime Minister.
According to the terms and conditions for the implementation of Temperer the country has to be subject to a coordinated terrorist assault; described in Lord Harris’ October 2016 review as consisting of “multiple attacks on different sites.” Monday night’s attack was at a single location and perpetrated by – as far as the evidence at this time shows – a single, or “lone-wolf,” assailant; well within the remit of the police force. It is this that explains the government and the media’s current preoccupation with establishing a link to a larger network and to the Islamic State.
Pressure to provide the public with proof has been eased by the fact that ISIS has acknowledged responsibility for Abedi’s actions, and Sky News of course is now waving about documents it has “obtained;” containing the names of the tens of thousands of international IS militants – some of whom have been said to have been based in south Manchester.
As long as these facts are presented with the right authoritative tone and hedged in the ominous background music of a slick Sky News report they can be slipped quietly into the canon of truth, but in reality both of these facts are deeply problematic. ISIS routinely claims responsibility for acts of terrorism to which it has the flimsiest of connections. Thomas Joscelyn, senior editor of the Long War Journal – a counterterrorism publication, has said that ISIS will take credit for attacks, even when they are only carried out in the name of the organisation. This can be “somebody who had no direct ties to ISIS whatsoever,” he said, “someone who was inspired by the Islamic State but not actually directed by them at all.” Islamic State claimed the mass shootings at San Bernardino and Orlando, yet no connection has ever been found linking IS to these events.
Sky has gone wild with wall-to-wall coverage of its ISIS documents, which, it claims, draws a direct line between the Islamic State and a network in Manchester of recruiters and volunteers. These “leaked documents” may be legitimate, but they haven’t been shown to name Abedi, and – if we are to believe they constitute proof of a serious threat – it is interesting that the media outlet and MI5 have not acted on them for over a year since obtaining them.
The real problem with the documents is their dubious provenance. In early March last year documents purporting to name IS fighters were being offered for sale to Western journalists all over the Middle East. Süddeutsche Zeitung, a German daily, was first to report on them, but declined to purchase them. What’s the German for “dodgy?” Our very own Sky News did send someone with the money, and so “obtained” them. What everyone else seems to realise, certainly after British PR firm Bell Pottinger was found to be manufacturing fake ISIS execution videos for the US military, is that next to nothing can be trusted as authentic – and certainly not when it is on the counter in local markets all over south Kurdistan.
What’s the bottom line then? It can’t be said for certain that the Manchester bomber was not acting as part of a larger network. That claim certainly isn’t going to be made here. But what can be said is that to-date no evidence has been found supporting this theory, and already the police have started releasing people they have arrested in relation to their enquiries. Yet soldiers have been called onto the streets in the midst of a general election campaign in which the Prime Minister has both been slipping in the polls and waging a vicious smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn.
As Faisal Islam was caught saying, this atrocity has worked well for Mrs May, and the state of emergency she has brought about is the icing on the cake. She wants the soldiers on the street. She needs them on the street, and she is looking as hard as she can for any shred of evidence – no matter how tenuous – that will enable her to keep them there.
How the BBC tells the story