Reporters on the Job
CONSPIRACY THEORIES ABOUND: From the first whiff that a group linked to Al Qaeda was suspected of being behind the Bali bombings (this page), Indonesian militants have been peddling their own version of the tragedy: That the CIA planted the bombs to create evidence for its claims that terrorists were at work in the country. Reporter Dan Murphy says the most interesting thing about this claim is how many Indonesians either believe it or say it's possible. The claim has been repeated in newspapers, on television, and in dozens of Dan's conversations with Indonesians about the blast.
"I was sitting at a warung a streetside thatched-roof restaurant two days ago having lunch and talking to a couple of construction workers. They asked me if I thought the CIA was behind the Bali bombing.
"Their logic: The Americans were issuing warnings that a terrorist attack was coming. They said: 'Doesn't that seem suspicious to you?' "
Dan says that it reflects not only a rising distrust of America because of anger over its policies in the Middle East but also a legacy of the dictatorship that ended here in 1998. "After so many years of dictatorship where information was tightly controlled and propaganda was liberally doled out to the nation there's almost a national obsession with conspiracy theories. Apparently, the truth seems too simple and too obvious."
CLARIFICATION: Yesterday's story "The shifting shape of the terror war" (page 1) described two people who had died a British traveler in Bali and a suspected Al Qaeda leader in Yemen as "victims" in the war. We did not intend to imply that there's a moral equivalence to those two deaths. A better word would have been "casualties," and our Web edition reflects that change.
David Clark Scott