The investigation into the Burgas terror attack barely got underway when Prime Minister Netanyahu already announced that it was carried out by Iran through its proxy Hezbollah. Whether or not it in fact was, it is the public’s duty to refuse to accept the government’s claims, until they are backed up with solid evidence.
Returning to his halcyon days as the national inciter, standing near the blood pools of suicide attack victims, the Prime Minister was quick to announce – before the sooty bus in Burgas was even removed – that the responsibility for the attack lies with Iran or its proxies. Given the fact that Israel has been carrying out a series of terror attacks there, and was connected to the Jundallah terrorist organization, a reprisal by Iran is a reasonable assumption, though it is far from certain. This lack of certainty did not prevent Netanyahu from proclaiming Iran’s guilt.
It’s not at all certain those allegations are based on fact. The Bulgarian media claimed, almost certainly because of leaks from their intelligence services, that the suicide bomber is Mehdi Muhammad Ghazali, a Swedish national who was involved in the global Jihad movement and was incarcerated in Gunatanamo Bay. Sweden denies it, as did Bulgarian officials (Hebrew); Sweden, though, says it has no idea where Ghazali is. But Bulgarian intelligence says that while Hezbollah is its main suspect (Hezbollah denies any connection to the attack, for what it’s worth) they are also considering two other possibilities: An Al Qaeda/Global Jihad attack, or an attack by Turkish terrorists, as a reprisal for the Marmara killings. In the meantime, we also learned that the Israeli embassy in Washington had to admit, several hours after Netanyahu’s comments, that “it had no proof that Iran was the instigator of the attack.” Apparently Netanyahu did not share his secret information with his embassy in a major hasbara front. Yesterday we learned (Hebrew) that the Bulgarian police is looking for a second terrorist, an American citizen. Do you know of many U.S. citizens who are Hezbollah members? And yet, the Israeli media, as a rule, did not refer to those other possibilities.
Why? Because Netanyahu framed the story within an hour: Iran, Hezbollah. The point is we don’t know anything certain yet. A “senior Israeli official” told ynet (Hebrew) on Thursday that “according to the indications” the Burgas attack was carried out by Hezbollah but “the investigation is still going on and isn’t finished yet.” So, the investigation is not yet concluded, but the Prime Minister declared its results 24 hours prior to this comment.
Again, it’s perfectly possible that the attack was carried out by Hezbollah or Iranian agents. But Netanyahu pulled an intelligence manipulation. Even were we to learn that the attack was carried out by another organization, Israeli intelligence would not be able to inform the public of this without making a liar out of the Prime Minister – or, given that we are speaking of Netanyahu, more of a liar than he already is.
By the very nature of secret intelligence, and given that governments have a monopoly on it, their ability to manipulate it in order to mislead the public is enormous. Therefore, it is the public’s duty to be skeptical and suspicious of any government argument which claims to be based on intelligence – since, by its very nature, such an argument is impossible to debunk. It’s a “trust us, we know better than you” argument, which no government – particularly Netanyahu’s government – should be allowed to get away with.
Abraham Lincoln, protesting the sham arguments which led to the Mexican War, warned against the idea of granting the president extensive powers that rely on secret intelligence: “Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose — and you allow him to make war at pleasure. . . . If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, ‘I see no probability of the British invading us’; but he will say to you, ‘Be silent; I see it, if you don’t.'” This is what Netanyahu is trying to tell us: Be silent, I see what you don’t.
The greatest intelligence manipulation of the last decade is the one which tied Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks. According to the testimony of George W. Bush’s czar of counter-terrorism, Richard Clarke, Bush basically ordered him to find such a connection even though Clarke told him the main suspect is Al Qaeda. Thus began the great lie which led the U.S. to war in Iraq. This intelligence manipulation was manifested by disseminating false information to the public, such as the claim that Muhammad Atta met a representative of Iraqi intelligence in Prague – a claim what was later, much too late for Iraqis and Americans, debunked.
Naturally, this won’t be the first intelligence manipulation by an Israeli government. The Ben-Gurion government faked terrorist attacks prior to the Sinai War. The Begin government went to the First Lebanon War knowing full well the PLO was not responsible for the assassination attempt on Ambassador Argov. And Netanyahu’s government claimed the attack near Eilat was carried out by Gazans – which legitimized, it said, its own attacks on Gaza – while it was actually carried out by terrorists from Sinai.
This manipulation is purposeful: It promotes Netanyahu’s vision of war with Iran. Should Israeli intelligence find that Netanyahu lied, and that the Burgas attack was carried out by someone else, it is the duty of its chiefs to announce it to the public – which would necessarily require their resignation. I am doubtful that the civic sense of our intelligence chiefs is high enough, given they will have to leave their jobs and be dubbed traitors by Netanyahu’s smear machine – see what it did to Meir Dagan and Yuval Diskin for much, much less. It is, therefore, our duty to be extra vigilant, and refuse to accept the government’s claims, until they are backed up with solid evidence.