Well, it’s not like I didn’t suspect this would happen: I spend too much time working on a long, blustery post about the purported terror plot against the Mackinac bridge, and today it’s pretty much blown out of the water — the purported terror plot, that is, not the bridge. Which was my point. It’s not the Amish Popcorn Factory, but sorry, it wasn’t very convincing from the get-go.
This story, from yesterday’s DetNews, lays out the gist: Three Texas men with Arab names (U.S. citizens of Palestinian descent) were apprehended with a) 1,000 prepaid disposable cell phones, and; 2) pictures and video of the Mackinac Bridge. For this they were charged with “providing material support for terrorist acts and terrorism surveillance of a vulnerable target,” and held on $750,000 bond.
Their families said the men were buying the phones up here because they’re scarce in Texas, and they intended to bring them back down south and sell them at a profit. The police were tipped by a Wal-Mart employee after they scored 80 phones in one store. This all happened in the Thumb area, Tuscola County. Terry Nichols country. I guess they know their mad bombers there.
The police and prosecutor pointed out that cell phones can be used as remote detonators for explosives. Then you have your Arab names and your bridge photos. The conclusion was obvious.
For perhaps the first time in my life, I found the defendants’ explanation entirely plausible. I really do. Maybe it’s because I recently snapped several photos of the Mackinac Bridge myself. (See self-incriminating evidence, above.) More to the point, though, the Amish Popcorn factor is rearing its inconvenient head. That is, the Mackinac Bridge? WTF?
A few points to ponder:
** Palestinian terror is a fact, but one thing we know about it is, it’s usually directed against Jews. The northern lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan may be America’s most Jew-free region. I know the Jews had a diaspora, but I don’t think any made it this far. Not even Jane and Michael Stern — the area has some of the most disappointing native cuisine in this or any land.
** While the Mackinac Bridge is a great big feat of American engineering and infrastructure, the fact is, it links two areas of enormous, um, non-consequence to the world at large. At least not flashy, media-ready consequence. Timber moves through here, and raw materials for steel plants and stuff like that, but the closest Wall Street gets to this area are the lovely vacation homes on the lovely lakes. The most severely affected would be the local residents of the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula, deer hunters and other tourists.
** Also, 1,000 phones? Would that be for, what? One thousand IEDs placed along the bridge? Installation could be problematic; even in coveralls and hardhats, I’d think three swarthy Arabs would be spotted by the real work crews. When would they be detonated? Perhaps during the Bridge Walk, the annual Labor Day end-of-summer celebration, in which 50,000 locals and others take one lane of the bridge and hoof it across.
In the second-day story, this was the part that pierced me: “They were in Wisconsin and they drove to the U.P. and then down here,” (their lawyer) said. “The Mackinac Bridge was an amusement to them. On the camera there’s 50 pictures, 20 of the bridge. The rest are a deer, ducks, flowers and trees.”
Deer, ducks, flowers and trees. Three Texas guys enjoying a little break from the heat up north like millions of other tourists, snappin’ pictures. They weren’t model citizens — one was a registered sex offender — but I think it’s safe to say they weren’t al-Qaeda, either.
So you figure, they’re free now, right? I mean, once the prosecutor realized his paranoia, he let them go, correct?
Um, no. Their attorney is pushing for release today, but so far the prosecutor hasn’t said sorry-’bout-that or my-bad or anything. I’ll be looking forward to the day’s events. Maybe they can charge them with something. I suspect they will.
UPDATE: Re: Our conversation in the comments about Michigan cuisine:
It was a severe understatement to call Michigan a culinary wasteland the further north you traveled. Once on a fishing trip with Clete, Warlock had been served a bright yellow chicken gravy on a slab of gray roast beef. With the advent of the microwave ovens he suspected that many of the mom and pop operations rarely cooked, only reheated. He revered the words of an old Jewish literature professor who said the downfall of a nation could be detected in the misuse of language by its public officials, and the disintegration of its eating habits.
— from “Warlock,” Jim Harrison.