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Where are you, Hans Blix?

January 30, 2003
By Denis Solomon

To all appearances, Trinidad and Tobago is now under chemical attack from two directions. From the United States, the Black Muslims despatch a medical follower of Louis Farrakhan to unload an untested pharmaceutical on desperate Aids patients. From the heights of Afghanistan, or wherever Osama bin Laden may be holed up for the moment, comes the inspiration for a terrorist chemical ("and biological") weapons laboratory, so secret that the scientists labouring there can't wait to organise a guided tour for the Express.

Nobody seems to have asked Dr Alim Abdul Muhammed why he chose this country as the beneficiary of his proselytism for Alpha-Interferon. His assertion that he is a "recruiter, looking for people of good will" is a partial answer at best. A more convincing explanation is to be found in the "variety of literature and tapes were on sale", i.e. money; and in the size of the crowd that packed the Port of Spain City Hall to hear Muhammed, i.e. the ineradicable gullibility of Trinbagonians.

This gullibility is especially great where foreign con men are concerned. The only advance over the days of the foreign white fraudsters conning the IDC with fake prospects of massive investment is that the con men are now more likely to be black. Witness several hundred Trinidadians paying $1,000 a head to hear Colin Powell pushing outdated Cold-War anticommunism and tagging Cuba as the last threat to Western democracy, unaware, or unconcerned, that this country and the rest of Caricom oppose the US blockade of Cuba. Or witness Professor Kwame Nantambu launching a book which asserts that Everything good in the world came from black Africa (sorry, "Afrika").

Black Africa included Egypt.

Aristotle, Plato, Pythagoras and Hippocrates learned all they knew from black Africa, though they didn't really know much, being dropouts.

Africans will take over the world in 2050, when there will be an alignment of Orion (with what?).

Jesus' missing 33 years were spent in Africa. Nantambu saw the house he stayed in.

"Christ" was really Imhotep, who was also the teacher of Hippocrates.

Chicken and chips and hamburgers are poison.

Apart from his strictures against chicken and chips, the only part of Nantambu's jeremiad that seemed remotely plausible was his belief that whites are trying to annihilate blacks before 2050. Because if anyone is seriously interested in the intellectual murder of the black race, appointing Nantambu to an associate professorship at a university is as good a beginning as any.

It must be assumed that Dr Muhammed's medical qualification is as genuine as Nantambu's associate professorship. So any doubts the layman might have of the efficacy of Alpha Interferon must find support in the judgement of the medical fraternity, which fortunately has not been long in coming. But Muhammed is also as ready as Nantambu to retail patent nonsense. Nantambu maintained that everything good came from Africa. Muhammed deals with the fact that something very bad (the Aids virus) came from Africa by saying that it was the white man who put it there. The whites did so, he says, by using Africans as guinea pigs to test a hepatitis B vaccine in the 1970s.

The propensity to paranoid conspiracy theory that inevitably accompanies ignorance and self-contempt must have ensured that no one in the audience would ask him for the proof of this worn-out old canard. Nobody qualified to do so would have been in the crowd anyway. Which is why the event was sponsored not by the Medical Association or the University, but by that highly accredited scientific outfit, the Trinidad and Tobago chapter of the Nation of Islam.

Raffique Shah has pointed out that the American and British intelligence agencies are not as omniscient as the mischief-making Basdeo Panday cracks them up to be. After all, they failed to suss Shah himself out as a subversive in 1970, and if they knew anything about "Abu Bakr's" intentions in 1990 they kept it to themselves.

So at first blush the existence somewhere in Trinidad of a terrorist chemical weapons laboratory, revealed in a front-page "exposé" by the Sunday Express, ought to strike panic in our hearts. It is true that the Sunday Express says that the terrorist group in question is known to the "FBI, CIA and British SAS" (SAS, by the way, stands for Special Air Service, which has nothing to do with intelligence gathering). But obviously these agencies didn't know about the laboratory, or they would have called in an air strike, or at least a SWAT team, long time. Maybe Hans Blix is in the wrong place.

A slightly closer examination, however, is sufficient to reassure us that we will not be the target of chemical or biological terror for a little while yet. I'm writing this on Sunday the 26th, so the startling revelations from "inside the lab of terror" promised by the Express for Monday night's TV6 news broadcast may prove me wrong. But my first reaction on reading the story was to check if I hadn't fallen asleep and woken up on April Fool's Day. I then looked at the front page logo to make sure I wasn't reading the Mirror by mistake. After all, a minimum of hard fact (even the "terrorist" organisation wasn't named, although said to be known to the authorities) combined with a maximum of illiterate sensationalism is a hallmark of that publication, not (usually) of the Express.

So ludicrous was the cloak-and-dagger account of the trip to the "secret location" and the verbal and pictorial descriptions of the "lab" that one almost forgot to wonder how the contact with the "terrorists" was made (did one of them walk into the newsroom, announce himself, and propose the guided tour?) and why arrangements weren't made for a police trail, either physical or electronic. As for the "chemicals" themselves, their toxicity singly or in combination is as much of a mystery to the layman as the properties of Alpha Interferon. But a collection of bottles that would be rejected by a Beetham dump rag-picker, a couple of retorts that might have been filched from a senior secondary school chemistry lab, and an apparent lack of either running water or any source of heat or refrigeration, hardly justify the name of laboratory. And even if the "chemicals" were there, where were the "weapons"? With a little stretch of the imagination, and a strong throwing arm, a channa bomb might be classifiable as a multiple-warhead guided missile. But that is about the limit. As for the "biological" component, the place looked so unsanitary that it probably consisted of cockroaches.

The stated motive of the "terrorists" for unveiling their "lab" was to warn the Americans, the British and Patrick Manning that they would retaliate if Iraq were attacked. Not very convincing —they cannot imagine that President Bush is biting his nails in frustration at the Sunday Express story. All they have done is make their job more difficult, if they ever were capable of it. Their real motivation is obvious to anyone who knows this country. Trinidadians do not think they exist unless they are playing a role. That is what Carnival is about. If their play-acting can be linked to something in the international news, so much the better. We have added terrorism to our repertoire of mimicry.

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