Canada's Almost 9/11?

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Canadians got a taste of the real world this week.

The arrest Friday of 17 suspected terrorists is stark evidence Canadians can no longer expect to escape the private enterprise violence by small groups that we call "terrorism."

Three weeks ago, this writer warned a conference of DND and police officers that the greatest security threat to Canada would come not from the shadowy al-Qaida organization, but from angry young Canadian Muslims opposed to Canada’s presence in Afghanistan and its tacit support of US policy in Iraq and Palestine.

The recent bombing attacks in Madrid and London were not conducted by al-Qaida, but by young British-born Muslims men and Spanish residents opposed to their nation’s intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Is Canada now facing its own home-grown violence? The 17 arrested men were all apparently Muslims, with the possible exception of one Indian. The RCMP suggests the arrested suspects planned to use three tons of fertilizer to build truck bombs for use against targets in southern Ontario.

This scenario is plausible. Canadian Muslims, like their brethren across the Muslim world, see Western intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan as crimes against the Islamic World, and part of a new anti-Muslim crusade directed from Washington

A small number of extremists may have decided to punish Canada for sending troops to fight in Afghanistan. But before we rush to judgment, it’s worth remembering the score of Pakistanis arrested in 2003 allegedly for plotting to blow up the nuclear reactors at Pickering. After a huge media uproar and lurid claims the charges were dropped and the accused deported on minor visa irregularities.

The Bush Administration has been putting enormous pressure on Canada to "get tough" with a wide assortment of Muslim groups and individuals protesting US policy in the Muslim World.

The raid by hundreds of Canadian security officers on a small number of young Muslim suspects in Mississauga and Kingston suggests the high-profile operation was designed as much for public relations and diplomatic reasons as national security. No doubt, Washington will be very pleased with PM Harper.

If RCMP and CSIS have in fact uncovered a major terrorist plot, kudos to them for a job well done. They will have performed far more effectively and professionally than the FBI and CIA.

But caution is advised until all the facts are known. It is also very possible Canadian security organizations have rounded up a bunch of loud-mouthed teenagers who may have been encouraged to sedition by government "agents provocateurs."

We won’t know what really happened until the accused go to court. It seems an FBI investigation last month of a group of American Muslims from Atlanta who went to Toronto and met co-religionists there led to the current arrests. FBI and Canadian authorities believe they have uncovered an important terrorist cell plotting major attacks in Canada and the US.

But the FBI’s evidence so far appears fairly slim and may not amount to much. Recall that of the more than 2,000 Muslims arrested in the US since 2001 for suspicion of terrorism, less than 15 were convicted, and those mostly for minor visa offenses.

Canadian authorities may face the same results. Their track record so far has been unimpressive. That, of course, may be because there are no terrorist cells plotting outrages, but just a lot of angry young men.

By sending combat troops to Afghanistan, Canada has declared itself an active participant in the US-led war against Islamic militancy. As a result, Canadians must now expect what CIA veterans call "blow-back." Once admired by everyone, and hated by no one, Canada has now made itself a target. It’s only a matter of time before a major attack occurs. If not this week, then soon.

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada, is the author of War at the Top of the World. See his website.

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