New Yorker Magazine addendum

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu May 15 18:45:57 MDT 2003

Counterpunch, May 15, 2003

The New Fakers
State Department Undercuts the New Yorker's Jeffrey Goldberg

The US Department of State's Counterterrorism Office released its annual
report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism", on April 30th and said that, "The
Triborder area (TBA) -- where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay converge --
has long been characterized as a regional hub for Hizballah and Hamas
fundraising activities, but it is also used for arms and drug trafficking,
contraband smuggling, document and currency fraud, money laundering, and
the manufacture and movement of pirated goods. Although there were numerous
media reports in 2002 of an al-Qaida presence in the TBA, these reports
remained uncorroborated by intelligence and law-enforcement officials."

The triborder area, also known as the Triple Frontier, has been vilified as
an "ungovernable zone" loaded with Arab radicals waiting to pounce.

Reuters covered the release of this report in a short brief for their Latin
America subscribers. The story was translated into Portuguese and Spanish,
but did not run in English, so it makes sense to review it here because
fever over the idea that Islamic terrorists were plotting revenge from a
remote area in the South American tropics originated here in the US.

It started quietly in Paraguay in late October 2000, 11 months before the
terrorist attacks of September 11th, when a Lebanese businessman named Ali
Khalil Mehri was arraigned for selling pirated CDs and not-so-pirated CDs
that had messages espousing Hizballah's ideals. The State Dept ran their
"Patterns" report for that year on April 30th, 2001, where the arrest was
cited along with the incarceration of a Palestinian man named Salah Abdul
Karim Yassine who "allegedly threatened to bomb the US and Israeli
Embassies in Asuncion." (I don't know where the man is now or if the
allegation even turned out to be factual.) It was the only mention of Arabs
in Latin America. It took up exactly three paragraphs.

After that, this tiny region of the world, a blackmarket Wal-Mart where one
can buy pirated Microsoft products and domestic electronics on the cheap,
became a potential second-base to Osama bin Laden (according to an Agence
France Presse report on Sept 19, 2001), a scary hideout for Islamic
extremists (according to UPI on Oct 11, 2001 and El Pais International,
S.A. on Nov 9, 2001) and a report by the BBC on Sept 10, 2002 by Andrea
Machain said that US officials "strongly suspected" Al Qaeda to be
operating in the region.

In the Jan 2002 issue of the Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, run by
US-Israeli front group, the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon (ideological
home to the ususal suspects like Elliot Abrams, Eleana Benador, Douglas
Feith and Richard Perle and now trumpeting the 'fact' that Syria has
weapons of mass destruction aimed at Israel) and the Middle East Forum (run
by Daniel Pipes, a man who sees anti-Semites on every college campus),
there was a long report on Hizballah's activities in the region. This
entire story relies on the arrests of the aforementioned and their
financial ties to the organization.

But the triborder region became truly infamous after Jeffrey Goldberg, a
New Yorker magazine reporter, wrote his series called "In the Party of
God", published last October. After that, it almost became official.
Yup...Hizballah and Osama's mafia are drinking mate and caipirinhas
somewhere outside Foz do Iguacu, Parana, a large, red-earthed state south
of Sao Paulo.

Goldberg wrote in the New Yorker that "intelligence officials in the region
and in Washington said the place is crawling with terrorists, many of them
associated with Hizballah, some with Hamas, and some with Al Qaeda."

Apparently, those same officials are now saying that they are wrong, at
least in part. There are no Al Qaeda cells operating in the region.

In March, Reed Lindsay, an American reporter in Buenos Aires, spoke with a
Security Secretary at the Justice Ministry in Argentina. The Argentinian
official wished to be kept anonymous. He told Lindsay that Argentina had no
knowledge of terrorist groups operating in the Triborder area or that money
from illegal activities such as CD piracy and drug trafficking was going
directly to fund terrorist activities.

"Terrorist cells do not exist in the Triple Frontier," the Security
Secretary said. "When people start talking about terrorist hot spots that
don't exist, it does tremendous damage to our countries. There might have
been activities of financing terrorist organizations, just like any other
community. Just as Argentines in North America send money to Argentina, I
imagine that the Muslim community must help people in places like Lebanon,
and part of that money might be sent to terrorists."

Goldberg had already invested heavily in Al Qaeda "links" with an immense
New Yorker piece in the spring of 2002, purporting to establish an Al
Quaeda-Saddam link. The article was extremely influential. It was also
rubbish, convincingly demolished by a less credulous journalist Goldberg
described the region as, "a community, or perhaps less disingenuous
journalist from the London Observer. Goldberg's excursion to the Three
Frontiers region was a reprise. Unknown officials supposedly told Goldberg
that Hizbollah runs weekend training camps out in the rain forest near Foz
do Iguacu, where young soldiers and even children are "indoctrinated into
Hizballah ideology -- a mixture of anti-American and anti-Jewish views
inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini." None of these officials were ever quoted
in the mainstream press in Brazil and if they were ever quoted in
Argentina, at least one key government official knows nothing about it.


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