So, as tomorrow’s 9/11 by the UK version of the calendar, and we’ve just had the celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ attempts to blow up the Houses of Parliament, I think the time is right to talk about terrorism (that’s right, terrorISM. Not ‘terror’, as that’s an emotion). If nothing else, it gives me an opportunity to upload the attached image, which is from a stamp series by Jimmy Cauty, former member of the popular beat combo the KLF. I can’t decide whether the ‘5-11 anniversary stamp’ is in appallingly bad taste, or an astute piece of satire. The truth, as ever, probably lies somewhere between those two extremes.
Anyway, terrorism. There’s a lot of stuff to talk about here, and I’ll get to other bits of it in other entries, I’m sure, but I’ll start by asking a question which I don’t think has been satisfactorily answered – if, indeed, it’s been asked. And the question is this : where did all the terrorists suddenly come from ?
I ask this because to listen to government spokespeople (on both sides of the Atlantic), you’d get the idea that every third person you pass in the street is a member of a sleeper cell or in some way affiliated to Al-Qaeda. And you’d also get the impression that these terrorists, and the groups they’re members of, simply materialised, fully-formed and fully-armed, at about 11:59pm on September 10th, 2001. Which surely can’t be the case, can it ? I say ‘surely’ because the US government announced who they suspected had orchestrated the World Trade Centre attacks within a matter of hours, which is an incredible feat of detection given they were apparently starting with no leads and an entire planetful of suspects.
However, it’s only since then that the US or UK governments have appeared to take any kind of measures in relation to terrorism. And what measures they are – detaining people without charge for undetermined periods of time (remember that old principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty? Well, it no longer applies to you, apparently), shooting innocent people in London tube carriages because they were ‘suspected bombers’ (actually getting a positive identification would have been a start there, I think, though I’m no expert on these things; oh, and he was a ‘suspected’ bomber? I refer you to my previous parenthesis, unless of course we’re now allowing extrajudicial executions in the UK. Maybe I missed that announcement), and now there’s a bill before parliament in the UK to introduce ID cards for the general public (if you know me, you’ll probably already know how I feel about that idea).
So, the governments really are doing – and being seen to be doing – an awful lot of stuff to combat terrorism… now. But what were they doing prior to September 2001 ? Well, if the situation is as dire as they’re currently making it out to be, it seems that they weren’t doing very much at all. It seems the government and the security services were pretty much letting terrorist cells form and grow, though of course the government was happy to take the money from the public, in the form of taxation, to fund… well, to fund doing nothing, which you might have thought wouldn’t actually cost much at all, but apparently not if you look at the security services’ budget records – or even your old payslips.
Then again, I’m probably being unkind there, by assuming that they were doing nothing – let’s say they were doing something. In fact, let’s assume they were doing all they possibly could, that the UK and US governments and security services were doing everything humanly possible to prevent the spread of terrorist elements prior to September 2001. Okay, let’s be nice and assume that’s the case. That’s much nicer and far less cynical, isn’t it ? Yes, it is… but if they were doing everything possible to stem the rise of terrorism at that time, then … er, wouldn’t that mean they didn’t do a very good job? A downright poor job, given the number of people who died in 2001. So, they were either doing nothing, or were grossly incompetent. Neither of those possibilities is a reassuring one, of course, and do bear in mind that you were paying for it.
And that thousands ended up paying for it with their lives.
So where did the terrorists come from ? Well, if we deduce the facts from government statements and actions, it seems there were no violent agitators massing their forces to attack at the very heart of the UK and US prior to September 2001. None at all. Since then, however, we’ve faced an evil the likes of which has never been seen before. Apparently, it’s an evil which simply appeared in the world just over four years ago, without any kind of precedent or warning, and though our governments have been doing all they can to combat this unforeseeable threat since the attacks on the World Trade Centre, before that time there was no reason to believe that anyone, anywhere, had the motive, means or opportunity to carry out terrorist attacks on Britain or the USA.
Actually, now I’ve thought it all through like that, it does seem pretty plausible. Really, I guess our government’s doing a pretty decent job, given that they had to start from nothing to fight against a foe more dangerous, and more prevalent, than anything the world has ever known. I mean, unless the whole terrorist threat is one which they almost ignored and allowed to increase, and now they’re overcompensating to the point of trying to instil unnecessary fear in the populace, but why would they want to do that ?
After all, in what way is it beneficial to a government to be able to keep tabs on members of the public, and arrest them or shoot them at will ? Okay, sure, it’ll cut down on the number of people who might think or say or do things which are inconvenient or don’t toe the party line, but let’s face it, those people are pretty much terrorists anyway, aren’t they ? Ideological terrorists, you might say, determined to think and say things which are just contrary and awkward, and which could well undermine our way of life.
These people who insist on having any old thought they fancy and saying anything they want are clearly the sort of people who are pretty much intent on destroying the freedom and liberty which we enjoy in the UK, and I think we have to applaud the government in taking a stand against them, by whatever means they judge to be necessary.