Friday, August 18, 2006

The Terrorist Threat. The boys from Birmingham.

This is part two of a two part post. Remember this?

Part 2 will be intended to make people squirm, and you may never view your dentist the same again.
In the mid-1980s three special forces operators attended a briefing for something of a strange mission. The job involved observing, taking in details and reporting back to their superior authority. While they were well-trained in reconnaissance, this task was different. They would be seen by the objects of their mission, and they were to behave as though they had never served in the military.

* * * *

Suburbia is full of males all wishing to do something more than live vicariously through the public exploits of others. With nothing on which to base their beliefs they see combat, physical endurance and deprivation as gloriously manly - something to be admired. To them it is a simple truth.

If only it weren't for their highly-paid jobs, where wearing a Samuelsohn suit through the heat of the day is considered an act of heroism. If only they could trade in the office-chair dreams for the action of a commando - without actually having to give up the highly-paid job.

Lawyers, dentists, businessmen, accountants and even doctors seek out extreme challenges, however contrived they may be, to prove to others that they too are heroic. It's a form of penile enhancement. It feeds their egos. It gives them bragging rights back in the office, where other males are expected to defer to the hero and women would presumably melt in adoration.

In the 1980s several of these otherwise unassuming but self-absorbed individuals sought out and found their military adventure through an advertisement in Soldier Of Fortune magazine. Without having to actually commit to military service, and for a very large fee, they would train at a mercenary school. They packed their oversized egos and their dreams of glory and manliness off to Dolomite, Alabama - for two weeks.

They would be joined by members of an organization known as Babbar Khalsa, a militant Sikh group bent on creating an independent state of Khalistan out of the Punjab. Two of them would later be positively identified as having been involved in a conspiracy to assassinate Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Ghandi, the bombing of Air India Flight 182 and the Narita, Japan airport bombing.

* * * *

Frank Camper served in Viet Nam in a long range reconnaissance patrol organization. He left the US Army after a so-called "administrative error" and then eventually rejoined as a Ranger before leaving the army permanently to engage in other pursuits. He was an FBI informant which is often translated into "working for" the FBI. Whether this association came about out of a sense of duty or rather because of a convenient piece of diplomatic timing resulting in self-preservation is not clearly known. What is clear is that he was viewed as suspicious and dangerous by more than one arm of the US government and by other western governments. Camper was a southern right-wing redneck with a known association with both the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups in the US.

In 1980 Frank Camper started the Mercenary Association. From the small town of Dolomite, Alabama, near Birmingham, he operated the association's training course known as the Merc School. The para-military school was portrayed as a survival course. In fact, Camper was in the business of training anyone who wanted two weeks of playing at commando - or more.

On April 27th, 1981, 10 men, (8 Americans and 2 Canadians), were arrested in New Orleans as they were attempting to board a boat to the Caribbean island nation of Dominica. Their goal was to overthrow the legal government of Eugenia Charles and establish an international fraud center. The venture was sponsored by none other than David Duke, leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Those arrested were KKK members and neo-Nazis. They called their little venture Operation Red Dog and they had taken their training under the guidance of Frank Camper at the Merc School.

There are some who credit Camper with having turned the would-be mercenaries over to the FBI. The truth is the group was turned in by Mike Howell, the captain of the vessel they had hired. Another source of police information came from one of the conspirators. James McQuirter, who was also behind the operation, was attempting to garner some publicity for his Canadian KKK activity and contacted a reporter at CFTR to tell him about the impending coup. The reporter called the Ontario Provincial Police with the details - and they shared it with the FBI. Camper did not turn in the conspirators, but he did draw attention to himself and his operation.

Camper claimed that he would train anyone except someone intending to overthrow the US government or communists. Supposedly there was a background check done on every applicant to the school to prevent being implicated in some communist plot. He would accept male applicants aged 22 to 45 for two weeks of so-called intense mercenary training.

That would have made real mercenaries like Bob Denard howl with laughter. Mercenaries don't go to "mercenary school" - they come from extensive military backgrounds where the training is long, hard and real.

Camper's operation was more akin to an extended paintball game with the odd bit of useful personal tactics thrown in and heaped up with ridiculous levels of cruelty. It sold well to the mercenary wannabe's attempting to establish their manhood through some foolish rite of mock combat and torture at the hands of a bunch of semi-literate rednecks.

But, another issue surrounded the Merc School. Those who found the credo appealing stayed for the whole two weeks. Those who didn't, left early. And the credo was militant, uber-right-wing, shoot anything you don't agree with. Overthrowing governments by force is fine and if you have a liberal government, find a way to get rid of it. Oh yes, you've now passed our very difficult course, with honors, so you are tougher than all others of your ilk. You are a real man - they are mere males of the species. You can be a mercenary (or a terrorist) - they can't.

It was to this environment that more than a few lawyers, dentists, businessmen, accountants and even doctors travelled to take Frank Camper's course. The customers, (and that's what Camper is all about - selling, his course and himself), came from several different countries, including Canada.

After the Air India flight 182 and Narita airport bombings Camper became somewhat public. He had provided the FBI information on four Sikhs attending his school. Whether this was voluntary or as a result of the FBI's infiltration of the Sikh group is not ascertainable. Ammand Singh and Lal Singh would be directly linked with an attempt to assassinate the Indian prime minister during a visit to the US and were suspected of involvement in the Air India bombing. Camper provided interviews to anyone who wanted to ask about the terrorists; hardly the behaviour of a high-level US government agent, as he claimed to be. It also gave Ammand and Lal Singh a public "heads up" and they disappeared completely.

Before the bombings three western governments agreed to cooperate on a fact finding mission. With that, three special forces operators, with years of training and experience, not from the US, infiltrated Camper's school.

The first thing exposed was the background check. It was non-existent. One operator's cover was purposely made very loose. Any background check would have shown communist leanings and an anti-American background. He was accepted at the Merc School without hesitation.

The operators completed the two week program and reported back to their operating authority. What they found was a group of closed-minded, militant individuals who truly thought they were receiving first-class mercenary training from a world-class operation. This despite the fact that most attendees were badly out of shape, believed themselves to be related to Rambo and had learned little to help them survive in a similar real-world environment.

What did shock the operators is that all attending had bought into Camper's worldview and left praising him and his legend with an unnatural adoration and hero worship.

The operators also had a list with the names and nationalities of everyone who had attended Camper's school to that date. And where a name came from one of the three cooperating nations, that person was put on a security "watch list". Because one of the items which the operators made clear is that Camper's Merc School was custom-made to train terrorists.

Camper was arrested in 1986 and charged with conspiracy to blow up the cars of three women in California. He was found guilty and sentenced to nine years in prison. On appeal, one of the charges was overturned. That isn't the telling part of that tale though. During the trial and again during the appeal he claimed to be a high-level US government intelligence agent. He was invited to prove it. He could produce no evidence nor a credible witness to verify his claim and the assertion was dismissed.

When Camper was being served a warrant by the Dolomite, Alabama sheriff, Camper heard of the approaching lawman and fled into the woods. The sheriff organized a posse of locals and went after him. Frank Camper, who was supposedly a world-class expert in escape and evasion was easily captured - by a posse of civilian turkey hunters.

Whether Camper's legend is genuine or not is irrelevant. He has trained terrorists and the Merc School was a terrorist training locale. That should make everyone who took his training a terror suspect.

Given that one of the most substantial pieces of evidence in this case is that the accused received or provided training at a camp north of Toronto, it seems only a matter of public safety that everyone who engaged in such training outside the legitimate establishment be taken into custody - regardless of when it happened.

It's time we rounded up the lawyers, dentists, businessmen, accountants and even doctors who attended the Merc School, and lock them away.

Or is that just for brown people?

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