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Iain Hunter: No closer to al-Qaida than Al Capone

Politicians have a knack of rising to occasions without bothering too much about what the occasions are. Premier Christy Clark is no exception.

Politicians have a knack of rising to occasions without bothering too much about what the occasions are. Premier Christy Clark is no exception.

When three pressure cookers full of rusty nails were laid in the legislative precinct on Canada Day, our premier seemed to think that “the heart of the democratic process” was the target and not an event that provided the largest number of prospective victims available.

She seemed certain the perpetrators were among “those who would resort to terror.”

“We will not let them [alleged terrorists] win. We will not let them strike fear into our hearts. We will not change.

“We will remain Canadian, bound together by open hearts and optimism for the future of our country, our towns, our cities, our province, our families and all of those we love.”

She forgot, in her excitement, to mention liquefied natural gas.

Clark is not the only person to assume that John Nuttall and Amanda Korody are Islamic terrorists. The RCMP has said they were “inspired by the al-Qaida ideology,” which may mean no more than they learned how to make pressure-cooker bombs by reading an al-Qaida magazine titled Inspire.

The Mounties say they were “self-radicalized” and “took steps to educate themselves,” posted their own anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and made threats in defence of Islam on the Internet.

The Mounties don’t seem to think they had any contact with groups affiliated with al-Qaida, even over the Internet.

And that organization isn’t known for using women.

They may be no closer to al-Qaida than they are to Al Capone. Or Ali Baba.

Some newspapers can’t resist playing up the danger all those partygoers on Canada Day could have been in if the bombs could have gone off, which, the Mounties assure us, they couldn’t.

“Near disaster,” proclaimed the caption below a picture of a pot of rusty nails.

Neither can they resist reporting such clues to readers such as their living in a “messy and foul-smelling basement apartment” in Surrey where “a methadone pill bottle lies empty on a kitchen counter beside a pamphlet entitled ‘Islamic Laws Regarding Purity for Women.’ ”

Clearly, these two are not of us, even though they may have been born here.

Lorne Dawson of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society is one who finds it unlikely that Nuttall and Korody became jihadist terrorists all on their own, without the face-to-face contact usually necessary for “a real conversion or commitment.”

He suggests that their imaginations may have run away with them, perhaps with the assistance of a police informant posing as a collaborator.

I find it interesting that they have been charged under the Criminal Code and not the Anti-Terrorism Act that is supposed to keep us all safe from this kind of thing.

One of the counts against them is that they acted “for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association with a terrorist group,” which seems to contradict a lot of what the Mounties have been saying about these “self-radicalized” individuals.

They’re also accused of facilitating a terrorist activity and making or being in possession of an explosive device.

When Nuttall and Korody get their day in court — they’re to appear again on Tuesday — hopefully we’ll learn more about them, whether they’re living in an imaginary world and how they moved from brave talk to cowardly action.

But they were under surveillance for some time. And RCMP Assistant Commissioner Wayne Rideout has said the pressure-cooker bombs “were completely under our control.”

“They were inert and at no time represented a threat to public safety,” he said.

If that’s so, it looks as if the would-be bombers could have been arrested at the planning stage and before their useless devices were planted at the legislature.

That, of course, wouldn’t have made as big a story for Canada Day, or given the premier a chance to jump, triumphantly, to conclusions.

But I can’t end with a sneer. The Mounties deserve credit for detecting and disarming what could have been a horrible occasion.

A lot of people on the legislature lawn needed to hear Clark rise to it.

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