May 8, 2009
If there is one thing worse than terrorists, its terrorist experts. Ever since Bush’s ‘War on Terror’ began, every half-baked academic/analyst has fashioned himself into a media whore ‘terrorist expert’. It’s a highly rewarding job in this post September 11 world. Governments are jittery, people are panicky and all you need to do is go ‘Boo! Terrorists!’ and you’ll get more media attention than Thio Su Mien walking naked down Holland Village. (That may actually qualify as an act of terrorism).
‘Terrorism experts’ today remind me of snake oil sales men of yore. They talk about ailments they know absolutely nothing about, holler in thunderous tones, warn that the itch in your inner thigh marks the return of SARS, and then recommend cheap cooking oil to rub over your body. All for $10 bucks a vial. Fear is what keeps ‘terrorist experts’ in business. Without the fear of IMMINENT ATTACK, where are they going to get their funding?
And it’s all so simple. Everyone can be a ‘terrorist expert’. All you need to do is to speak vaguely and be as ambiguous as possible. Here, let me give it a go.
“Mas Selamat is a terrorist with a high level of skills, a man with deep resolve. Only a small number of such terrorists have the ability and know-how, and it shows that Singapore and the rest of Southeast Asia is under persistent danger. JI is a group that’s always expanding,… always working and he’s been able to connect with some JI members.”
There, how hard was that? I said absolutely nothing that cannot be lifted of any newspaper. I must be a ‘terrorist expert’. So how did I fare in the Basic Terrorist Expert Test? Check with the model answer below.
“Mas Selamat is a terrorist with a very high degree of experience, and a man with tremendous determination. There are very few terrorists of that competence and capability, and it demonstrates that Singapore and the region faces a continuous threat. JI is a group that’s constantly growing,… constantly active and he’s been able to link up with a number of JI members”
Dr Rohan Gunaratna [http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/427853/1/.html]
Not bad eh? I’m getting my Anti-terrorism Proficiency Badge in the mail tomorrow. Will sew it next to my crotch. You kids can play this game at home too. Just circle the appropriate word: Mas Selamat/Osama bin Laden/Derek Hong is a very dangerous man. He has bombed an airport/twin towers/gay spas to spread fear and to establish a caliphate/KFC empire/24 hour chapel over the region. He is very skilled and hardened, and is a high ranking member of the very insidious/happy-go-lucky/self-help group called the Jema’ah Islamiyah/al Qaeda/Chingay Parade. He is currently building a network of terror/call girls/terror call girls in order to infiltrate Singapore/Southeast Asia/the universe and beyond. He must be closely watched.
If these office-dwelling air-con loving pot-belly ‘experts’ are so knowledgeable, how come they could not even pin-point the country Mas Selamat was in? He’s in Java, no he’s in Pattaya; he’s in Surabaya, perhaps Batam. There was more confusion amongst these experts than MOE and the sex education programme!
Intelligence work is boring. It’s about following leads that 90 per cent of the time lead nowhere. It’s about undercover work and monotonous stakeouts, missing your family and wishing you didn’t sign up with the Ministry of Home Affairs as you bake in the hot sun watching innocuous-looking people. The real experts are ISD intelligence officers and grunts who will not be named because they cannot be named, not some well-paid blowhard talking a lot but saying absolutely nothing.
January 16, 2009
Sometimes I wished I was a PAP minister. Getting paid millions for pulling rabbits out of my arse seems to be a pretty good deal. The Straits Times Insight section did an in-depth interview with Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng today (16 Jan 09). Watching him try to defend the Home Team from criticisms over a series of bungles in 2008 that included Mas Selamat’s escape, the attempted escape of two detainees awaiting bail and the immigration lapse in Changi Airport that allowed a man to travel to Vietnam with his son’s passport, was like watching a third rate magician in a cheap cape perform parlor tricks at a children’s party.
The Great Magical Maestro Wong was in great form today. For his first trick, he made accountability and responsibility disappear.
The Great Magical Maestro Wong told the reporter that the cases of the court detainees and passport lapse were very different. He was quoted as saying that the detainees were just awaiting bail and would have walked out of their cells if someone posted their bail; only they chose to make a break for it. No big deal. As for the passport lapse, well, it was the troublemaking son who called the media to publicise the incident! No one would have known about it if not for that little son of a breach.
For his second trick the Great Magical Maestro Wong created a new word with a wave of his wand to describe the passport lapse – “misclearance”. Try it, it’s a fun word. The planes that hit the World Trade Centre Towers were on a “misflight”; Mas Selamat’s escape was a “misdetainment”; the Singapore Flyer did a “misrotation”. Hey boss, remember that million dollar account I was supposed to handle? Well, there’s been a ”miswhoops”.
Anyway, The Great Magical Maestro Wong’s point was that by comparing all these incidents to Mas Selamat’s escape was grossly unfair to the Home Team. They are all very different. Accountability; now you see it, now you don’t.
And in a final sleight of hand, The Great Magical Maestro Wong managed to make Mdm Voot Choon Yin re-appear in Singapore. Mdm Voot, a 73 year old Singaporean suffering from mild dementia, had visited Malaysia and lost her passport and bag. However, thanks to the dark arts of the Home Team at the Causeway she still managed to pass through the Singapore and Malaysian customs without identification. This trick was reported in the Straits Times the same day the interview with Wong was published. The magic just doesn’t stop.
But of course, The Great Magical Maestro Wong had already performed his greatest trick last year. Confronted with Mas Selamat’s breakout, the most dangerous terrorist in Singapore, The Great Magical Maestro Wong managed to hang on to his job. I don’t think Houdini’s the world’s greatest escape artist anymore. And it ain’t Mas Selamat either.