October 11, 2007
TOPOFF 4 and Vigilant Shield 08: a view from the "feverish fringe"
By Warren Pease
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so
are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our
people, and neither do we."
George W. Bush, Aug. 5, 2004, in a rare moment of unscripted candor.
Mass media is fond of creating labels and lumping people of certain philosophical or political persuasions into groups of designated societal misfits, all carrying some pejorative nickname intended to clearly define the borders between "them" and "us."
This helps the citizenry distinguish between the members of certain marginalized – and therefore untrustworthy – groups who take a somewhat jaundiced view of the actions and motivations of authoritarian institutions, and the great American mainstream that can always be counted upon to internalize and recite the most preposterous nonsense as long as it carries the official stamp of institutional authority and mass media approval.
A recent case in point: a group based in Portland called the Oregon Truth Alliance aired their concerns and objections regarding a series of upcoming anti-terrorism/national security drills scheduled to take place in their city this month. They were rewarded for their efforts in an October 2nd editorial in The Oregonian, the local daily, that snickered:
It's hard to know what's scarier: the idea of responding to a terrorist attack in Portland or the idea that the government is using a drill as a pretext to seize power, declare martial law and, possibly, attack Iran. The average Portlander doesn't give much thought to either notion, but a feverish fringe sees a disaster drill as evidence of a future police state...
At issue is a series of simulations scheduled to begin October 15th in Portland (as well as in Phoenix and Guam) that has caused much concern among locals, ranging far beyond the "feverish fringe" of activists, a convenient "them" to which The Oregonian would prefer to attribute exclusive ownership of such imbecilic notions.
But surprise, surprise. The mainstream is waking up and it's not particularly fond of what it's seeing. Thanks to occasional peeks behind the curtain that reveal unprecedented levels of corruption, insatiable lust for oil and power and disdain for the Constitution, the lines are blurring between "us" and "them" on many issues involving the conduct of the Bush administration.
These days, particularly in this bluest of blue cities, many people of varying political viewpoints are united in their concerns over possibly nefarious government-sponsored exercises and maneuvers, particularly when they're taking place in their own backyards.
Fears and objections notwithstanding, though, Portlanders are being asked to welcome thousands of armed strangers – from the DHS, FBI, DoD and other federal security agencies, FEMA, NGOs, National Guard, along with local law enforcement – as they gather to enact a week's worth of anti-terrorism drills called TOPOFF 4 and Operation Vigilant Shield 08.
TOPOFF 4 (short for "top officials") is an exercise that simulates (we hope) the detonation of a "dirty bomb" near Portland's Steel Bridge. Vigilant Shield 08 simulates (we hope) imposition of martial law to control the civilian population in the aftermath of the radiological event.
Well, why not? Somebody's got to be the target. Putting random chance aside, there are several good reasons why Portland was chosen to host this year's main anti-terrorist event. We're told Portland's mayor and Oregon's governor actually requested that Portland be included in the exercises. I'm assuming those requests were made with one arm pinned behind their backs by an ex-pro wrestler turned spook who keeps raising the wrist just a tiny bit more until they caved.
In any case, the feds graciously honored the request and here they come, the honchos of the national security apparatus.
So why is Portland on the short list for a simulated nuclear terrorist attack on a major American city that may just "go live?" First, it's reachable by water, which squares with the old "suitcase nuke delivered by boat to a harbor near you" scenario we've all heard for years. Second, it's among the bluest of American coastal cities and, while San Francisco must present a tempting target, it's home to several major banks, insurance companies and other GOP infrastructure favorites. Third, LA and Seattle, a couple more anti-GOP cities with bull's-eyes on their civic centers, are too strategic to what's left of the economy. And fourth, Portland's kind of… disposable.
It's particularly anti-Bush/Cheney. It's politically left of just about any other major US city. Portland detests the Bush administration (and there's a near-riot to prove it every time one of these hacks tries to sneak into town for a fundraiser). There are no really serious corporations headquartered here (Intel has a large facility, but it's mostly engineers who could eventually be replaced by a new wave of H-1B visa holders). Shipping is vital to this part of the northwest all the way down the Columbia towards Idaho, so a hit in or around the port – like the one depicted in the map just below – would truly punish the city commercially.
And to top it off, people in Portland don't seem to respond with the appropriate levels of hysteria to things like Islamic radicals, phony wars on terror, color-coded alerts or the oracular rumblings of Chertoff's gut. They're more inclined to be concerned about the US shift from democratic republic to national security state, environmental abuse sanctioned and exacerbated by the Bush administration, the vanishing Constitution, massive corruption and profiteering both within the administration and among their favorite cronies – and other stuff nobody's supposed to notice.
So, is Portland the scene of the "next 9/11?" This map depicts ground zero, the immediate kill zone, the less lethal surrounding areas and the projected path of the radiation plume. This is from a report called "The Day After: Action Following a Nuclear Blast in a U.S. City" authored by a think tank at Harvard called the Belfer Center and released in May of this year. Interestingly, Portland is only identifiable by street names and knowledge of local geography. Two similar blast area maps from the same source are clearly labeled "Washington, D.C."
Don’t worry, be happy
Compounding the ambient nervousness is the pattern of government-sponsored drills "going live," meaning that real events occur simultaneously with the scripted scenarios and mirror them to such a precise degree that coincidence theory is rendered laughable. As a result, complicity at the highest decision-making levels of government becomes a viable, and sometimes inevitable, conclusion. For these reasons, TOPOFF 4 and Vigilant Shield 08 have set the alarm bells ringing in the Portland metro area, and not just among the feverish fringe. Recent history teaches us that, despite the protestations of those who believe in artificial synchronicity, there are reasons to question the purity of the US government's motives.
On the morning of 9/11/01, US northeastern air defenses were crippled by a Cheney-Rumsfeld production that combined at least four exercise scenarios -- Vigilant Warrior, Vigilant Guardian, Northern Guardian and Northern Vigilance – and which, per script, diverted to northern Canada or Alaska many of the NORAD fighter jets that would have been scrambled per standard operating procedure in the event of a suspected hijacking. And the few planes left out of the exercise were not air-borne until 80 minutes after the first hijacking alert – about 70 minutes longer than normal.
As part of the exercises, false radar blips showed up on air traffic controllers' screens that masked the flight patterns of the four hijacked jets and led controllers to believe that as many as 21 planes had been hijacked. Per standard procedure, various regional air traffic control centers notified the FAA, which passed on the alerts to NORAD, which couldn't respond because they hadn't enough fighters available to handle that many hijackings. Because of the ongoing drills, they didn't even know which blips represented actual threats.
Also noteworthy is a fifth exercise taking place at the same time, this one conceived by the National Reconnaissance Office (the NRO operates the US network of spy satellites) and carried out by CIA operatives. This exercise was designed to test emergency response capabilities in the event that an off-course plane crashed into one of the NRO's four office towers.
According to an Associated Press wire service story:
Agency chiefs came up with the scenario to test employees' ability to respond to a disaster, said spokesman Art Haubold. To simulate the damage from the plane, some stairwells and exits were to be closed off, forcing employees to find other ways to evacuate the building.
"It was just an incredible coincidence that this happened to involve an aircraft crashing into our facility," Haubold said. "As soon as the real world events began, we canceled the exercise."
Believers in cosmic synchronicity apparently see no reason why these events should call into question the official conspiracy theory. Nor do they see why this series of unlikely coincidences should invalidate repeated official denials of 9/11 foreknowledge from the administration.
Here's one delivered to the 9/11 Commission on May 16, 2002 by then National Security Advisor Condi Rice, who actually said, "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." There are no reports that she was immediately struck by lightening, nor that the esteemed commissioners collapsed in an amorphous heap of manic hilarity.
Of course not; only feverish fringe types would view such denials with suspicion, considering that intelligence services from at least a dozen countries warned US officials of an impending attack involving the use of hijacked airliners as missiles. The FBI was on top of the story, too. At least, several field agents were. But their warnings got spiked by higher-level administrators and disappeared into the thin air of a glorious blue sky in early September.
A little C-4 with your morning tea?
In addition to the ties between simulations and real events on 9/11/01, a similarly eerie set of "coincidences" occurred in London on 7/7/05. A British firm called Visor Consultants that calls itself a crisis management advisory organization was running a series of exercises on behalf of an unnamed client testing London's capacity to respond to a terrorist attack on its transportation system. The scenario involved detonating bombs at three pre-selected underground tube stations, as well as on a double-decker London bus.
At about 8:50 that morning, just as the exercise was beginning, three bombs went off within 50 seconds of each other at those same three stations, duplicating the specifics of the drill to an inexplicable level of accuracy. For added excitement, the bus that was blown up in the scenario was, in fact, blown up in London at 9:57 that morning. Fifty-six people, including the four alleged bombers, died in the blasts. About 800 others were injured.
This is a tough one to hang on the patsies because those very same suspects couldn't have been where they had to be to commit these atrocities. It seems they were caught by a security camera at Luton Station at 7:22 that morning. London police claim the bombers then rode the 7:40 train to King's Cross, where they were photographed again. But according to the actual train timetable, the 7:40 train was cancelled that day and even had it not been cancelled, it would not have arrived in time for the men to be photographed at King's Cross at 8:26.
There are other inexplicable "coincidences" the official story either ignores or brushes aside. Surveillance cameras in nearly all the bombed subways and the bus were conveniently turned off or out of order. Witnesses and physical evidence indicate that the bombs were not placed in backpacks by "terrorists" but actually attached underneath the trains, indicating a level of access to the train cars unavailable to outsiders. Bruce Lait, an injured witness said, “The metal was pushed upwards as if the bomb was underneath the train.”
Following the 9/11 scenario of removing first responders from the area, 1,500 officers from London’s Metropolitan Police, including many anti-terrorist specialists, were away in Gleneagles, Scotland as part of a force of 12,000 created to police the 2005 G-8 Summit.
These events left even the predictable cadre of coincidence acolytes scrambling for comforting rationales in support of the official story – which centered on those four Muslim suspects carrying bombs in backpacks and identified as al Qaeda members – that Downing Street peddled to UK and international media.
The blogosphere tells us that one anonymous statistician calculated the likelihood of the litany of 7/7/05 variables lining up to create this marvelous bit of synchronicity at one in 3,715,592,613,265,750,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 – a figure repeated uncritically as fact on any number of websites and blogs, although a source is never identified.
Other statisticians, perhaps a bit more phobic about commas and zeroes, have set the figure as low as one in 3.8 million. Obviously all such figures are open to conjecture and can be manipulated to raise or lower odds against by adding or subtracting variables. But even the lowest odds against coincidence, one in 3.8 million, are far beyond anything reasonable people would bet a nickel on. They suggest a magnitude of improbability that the coincidence crowd must struggle against in making their case for what is, at last analysis, statistically impossible.
A few minor details and outcomes that 9/11/01 and 7/7/05 share: Both events helped rescue failing administrations from irrelevance and political oblivion. Both created rationales to attack a sovereign nation (or, in the case of the UK, excuse its continued presence there) later proven to be neither complicit in these "terrorist" events nor a threat to the region, much less to the US or UK.
Both provided excuses for the right wing government of the United States and its allies in Great Britain to curtail or eliminate centuries of legal protections against all forms of governmental intrusion into the private lives of citizens. In the US, everything became fair game -- from domestic surveillance to warrantless searches and seizures to imprisonment without charges or right to legal counsel to the establishment of "free speech zones" to keep the rabble away from the targets of their protests. In the UK, similar surveillance measures were adopted under the tired mantra of "fighting the war on terror."
And both events spawned a wave of unprecedented military spending that kept armaments manufacturers and petrochemical concerns – as well as their benefactors in government – rolling in multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts and nearly drowning in a sea of windfall profits.
Anti-terrorism exercises, the Iran problem and marketing 101
Which brings us back to the events scheduled to begin in a little over a week here in Portland. There's a wealth of information available from mainstream sources that warn us of innocent-sounding government simulations and their occasional tendencies to morph into the exact events the exercises are supposed to help prevent.
As noted above, when these simulations "go live," the distinction between the exercise and real events blurs, confusing first responders and local authorities and undermining their ability to make quick decisions or mount an appropriate response. "Going live" also makes it easy to identify and blame the "patsies," those unlucky souls and their alleged backers who have been selected to bear the brunt of national outrage.
It's just classic marketing: identify the problem and sell the solution. In this case, the problem is said to stem from Iran's emerging threat as a nuclear power, and the solution reverberating through official Washington is another preemptive strike by the US, this time including the criminal and arguably insane use of "tactical" nukes against the allegedly hardened targets that house the sinister facilities that comprise Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.
But that's not the administration's actual problem. Their real problem is how to sell that attack to a war-weary nation. Advocating attacks against Bush's "axis of evil" bogey men has become an increasingly unpopular position with the public but remains a vital element in the neo-con vision of "full-spectrum dominance" by the US in the Middle East, as articulated in the infamous PNAC report called "Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century." Their secondary problem is how to deal with anticipated acts of civil disobedience and possible mass violence that may erupt upon news of such an attack.
The solution? An exercise that "goes live" involving actual detonation of a dirty bomb in a major American city, instantly blamed on Iranian radical Islamists, resulting in a "counter-strike" on Iran and imposition of martial law at home. All this is done, of course, for the sole purpose of protecting the citizenry from evil dissenters who will poison their minds by opposing war against Iran, no matter the volume of manufactured evidence against some previously unknown group of Iranian fanatics. And yet, there's that pesky paper trail.
Imposing martial law for dummies
The rationales and blueprints for implementation of martial law are already on the books. Reasoning that the Patriot Act(s) and the Military Commissions Act weren't quite repressive enough, on May 9, 2007, Bush issued a document entitled "National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51" and "Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20." This directive outlines the federal government's plan for maintaining continuity in the face of a "catastrophic emergency."
The document defines a “catastrophic emergency” as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government function.” Well, that certainly narrows things down.
If any of these events occurs, Bush grants himself the power to lead the entire federal government, not merely the executive branch. And, recognizing his veneration of Constitutional law, he graciously gives himself sole responsibility “for ensuring constitutional government.”
Translated into our native tongue, NSPD 51/HSPD-20 would impose martial law under the authority of the White House and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It would suspend Constitutional government under the provisions of Continuity in Government (COG).
Since 2003, following the invasion of Iraq, DHS has contemplated time and again the possibility of a so-called code red alert "scenario" – using a potential or possible al Qaeda terrorist attack on American soil – as a pretext for implementing martial law.
And why would such extreme crowd control measures be necessary? Simply put, people have just about had it with the Bush administration. The outrages keep on coming. Impeachable offenses keep piling up. The economy's nearly ruined, joblessness has hit the middle class and the dollar is worth about a third less than it was just seven years ago.
The latest figures report that our liberating presence in Iraq has murdered more than a million civilians and created about five million refugees. US troop fatalities in Iraq stand at 3,813 as of this writing, with tens of thousands more severely maimed and thrown into a new battlefield in the underfunded, overextended VA health care system.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Iran is the next jewel in PNAC's crown, while Syria is in line for an oratorical upgrade in Bush's demonization campaign. Domestic repression is edging its way toward the golden age of Stalinism.
Given current levels of discontent among the populace and the potential to further inflame that discontent in a variety of ways, it would be weird indeed if the administration didn't have a plan to deal with the millions of malcontents who would view a bombing campaign against Iran – possibly involving first-strike use of nuclear weapons – as the absolute last straw.
Cheney goes nuk-u-lur?
All this and we recently learned that Caporegime Cheney may have just become the world's newest nuclear power as the result of a bizarre episode involving the unprecedented removal and transfer of six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from Minot AB in North Dakota to Barksdale AB in Louisiana – the main staging base for B-52s bound for the Middle East.
These aren't just normal nukes either, if such a thing as a normal nuke exists. The AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile only accepts a W80-3 variable-yield nuclear warhead that can be set to deliver blasts ranging from 5 kilotons to 150 kilotons. Just the ticket for turning an anti-terrorism drill involving detonation of a low-yield "suitcase nuke" into a real-life event.
Dial it down to minimum blast yield, explode it somewhere away from the main commercial areas, annihilate a few blocks of rustbelt-like industrial property, let local winds confine the radiation plume to a few areas where property values are low and the inhabitants aren't predominantly white and let the games begin.
Just to make things even more entertaining, one of these missiles seems to be missing. Reports from several sources say either five or six of them left Minot on August 30 on pylons attached to the B-52's wing hard-points – or, to put it simply, in firing position (which is in itself an extremely grave violation of protocols regarding shipment of nuclear warheads).
Some reports say six arrived at Barksdale, other sources say only five. This guy says six left and five arrived. But whether it's five or six, it's acknowledged by Air Force personnel that the nukes remained unsecured on the B-52 for at least 10 hours, parked in a relatively isolated area at Barksdale. If somebody in a position of serious authority wanted to steal a nuclear warhead, this is one way to go about it. And that still leaves a few "bunker-busters" for use against Iran.
Be sure to read these comments from current and ex-Air Force personnel regarding the sheer impossibility of any of these events occurring by mistake, much less the gross violations of nuclear custody, security and handling protocols by at least a dozen highly trained Airmen who are constantly evaluated for the mental toughness and physical strength required to perform their duties. And yet, as ridiculous as the "multiple simultaneous mistakes" scenario seems, that's exactly what the Air Force and the US government so desperately want you to believe.
False flags over Portland?
At its most basic, a false flag op means pretending to be the enemy and carrying out strikes against one's own country, then blaming them on designated individuals or groups officially despised by the government. These "patsies" then become the embodiments of a state or sub-state group (such as al Qaeda) against which the US wants to manufacture a case for military aggression. At its most obvious, a false flag op looks just like 9/11/01 or 7/7/05 – and possibly 10/15/07.
Given a passing familiarity with even a few of the elements outlined above, many Portlanders are taking this one very seriously indeed – members of the feverish fringe and the solid center alike. It doesn't take much imagination to ascribe malevolent motives to activities this administration claims are good for us.
All the pieces will be in place. The top officials in town. The Iranian problem presumably still unresolved. The usual alphabet soup of security agencies represented. A good percentage of the citizenry rendered fully docile by the reporting and editorial pablum of mass media narcotics purveyors like The Oregonian.
Then there's this interesting viewpoint from one who should know: "The greatest threat now is 'a 9/11' occurring with a group of terrorists armed not with airline tickets and box cutters, but with a nuclear weapon in the middle of one of our own cities… it’s a very real threat." Dick Cheney, April 15, 2007.
Coincidentally, as some would say, rumor has it that Cheney will be in Portland on October 16. To survey the damage? To push the button? To dine at Jakes? We don't know, and he's not talking.
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Additional information sources
Comments? Email the author at email@example.com and have a virtual conversation with an actual member of the feverish fringe.Note: This article first appeared on October 8, 2007 in Online Journal.
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