Toyota trucks to ISIS: America’s wrongest reporter strikes again. Cui bono?


Today, you will read in every car blog, and hear on every news channel that Toyota is supplying pick-ups and SUVs to ISIS. Once again, Toyota finds itself in the crosshairs of an organized smear campaign. Here is the backstory you won’t read everywhere.

The story did not start with U.S. counter-terror officials asking Toyota how a large number of Toyota’s trucks got in the hands of ISIS, as ABC News wants you to believe. The story started months ago with ABC’s intrepid investigative reporter Brian Ross checking up on his sources, namely Google and YouTube. With a few clicks, anyone will see that Toyota’s Hilux is en vogue with ISIS, just like it has been with terrorists, freedom fighters and insurgents for many decades, simply because the truck cannot be killed.

A highly placed executive at Toyota told the Daily Kanban that Ross and his team at ABC have been digging for “Toyota supplies ISIS terrorists” dirt for  most of the year. The news team did not find a story, because there was none. If you can’t find a story, make it up yourself. The authorities were tipped off. Now, ABC could report about the authorities following up. Toyota received requests for information first from the State Department, says the source. Now, Treasury wants to know more. Toyota answered each time that it does not sell trucks to terrorists, and that it has procedures “to help ensure our products are not diverted for unauthorized military use,” as Toyota spokesfolk tell everyone who calls.

The Toyotas to terrorists story is decades old. After Top Gear (under the former regime) did a three-part series trying to destroy a Hilux, even the last RPG-wielding fanatic knew that on the jihad, you only want to be seen in a bullet-proof Toyota. Like many other facts, this one escaped Brian Ross.

I am sure the U.S. Army has even more robust procedures in place to make sure that ISIS won’t get Abrams tanks. As the video shows, even those procedures sometimes fail. Don’t hold your breath for Brian Ross reporting that the American Army supplies ISIS with tanks. Which it does, unwittingly as it may be.

Some of the Hiluxes may have been supplied by America in a less circuitous way. Two years ago, the State Department shipped 43 Toyota trucks to the Free Syrian Army, NPR reported. Shortly thereafter, the FSA made headlines by handing-over weapons and equipment to jihadists. Some 800 Hiluxes may have been supplied by Australians, albeit non on their own volition. The trucks were stolen in Sidney and shipped to Syria, the Daily News reported.

Put a tripod-mounted machine gun in the bed of a pickup, and you have a technical. In 1987, France shipped 400 Hiluxes equipped with Milan anti-tank rockets to Chad, where they helped expulse Gadhafi’s army from the country. The conflict went into the annals as the “Toyota War.” Ever since, the technical has been a fixture in nearly every low-level conflict.

Brian Ross at ABC has a similarly long history with Toyota. “America’s wrongest reporter” (Gawker) became infamous for “staging his Toyota death ride” (also Gawker.) The test was rigged. Ross also withheld that the test was financed by a group of “trial lawyers involved in litigation against Toyota,” as Toyota stated in a complaint. It probably would be worth finding out who really is behind a smear campaign that meshes far too nicely with the Volkswagen scandal. Ed Niedermeyer raised the specter of a “Car Cold War” between the U,S. and the rest of the world. Detroit’s automakers are on the defense against foreign giants. Toyota and Volkswagen are the world’s biggest carmakers, and they make an inviting target for a propaganda war.

“Cui bono” is the key question for a true investigator. If you don’t know Latin, use “follow the money” in plain English.

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