Monday, August 14, 2006

We are losing this 'war on terror'

The terror threat has, today, been reduced from ‘critical’ to severe. We are however to remember, says John Reid that the ‘change in the threat level does not mean that the threat has gone away’. Over these last few days of high alert the strength of the language used to describe the threat has increased faster than the threat itself. ‘Critical’ was replaced by ‘unprecedented’. This rapidly escalated to ‘unimaginable’. When still the public still failed to panic they threw in ‘apocalyptic’ for good measure.

I have been strangely unaffected by this scaremongering rhetoric. I thought, perhaps, that it was due to coming so close to the carnage caused on 7th July last year. I have experience the so called ‘apocalypse’ and have lived through months of terror in the aftermath. I KNOW that the threat has not gone away, and I know that it was there long before the raids on Wednesday night. What I was not clear about, last week, was whether others felt the same. It seems, to my relief, that they do. Friends have questioned the scale of the reaction. ‘Why’ asked one last week ‘haven’t they evacuated the airport?’ ‘Thousands of people’, she said ‘stranded at Heathrow. If I was a terrorist who knew they couldn’t get their bomb through security, I would just go and detonate it in the check-in hall’ She had a point. My brother’s first question to me when I saw him this week end was ‘do you think it’s real then?’. And all my mother was busy fretting about was the thought of her laptop getting damaged in the hold next time she traveled to the States.

I am desperately disappointed by the willingness of the mainstream media to pick up and run with this political over reaction. I am even more disappointed by the lack of caution in condemning the suspects. For that is what they are, at this stage, mere suspects. From a country who prides themselves on the right to a fair trial, the release of these men’s names, addresses, and even photographs, into the public realm is utterly unjustifiable. None have yet been charged. I am not arguing their innocence, and I hope, for the future of community relations in this country, and for the nations safety, that they have got the right men. But as yet we do not know and some members of the press should know better than to jump upon this conveniently placed bandwagon.

We are playing into the terrorists hand with this overblown scaremongering. They are seeking to divide and conquer and we are doing their job for them. The leaders of the Muslim community have written an open letter urging the Government to reassess their foreign policy. In response they are told that they are encouraging us to ‘give in’ to the terrorists. Not at all, I say. The Government, with their mantra of fear and panic, are dealing the trump card to Osama and his cronies. We are dividing ourselves, and it is going to be an endless rift to heal.

The thinking is sensible, but only if the circumstances are right. Of course we shouldn’t be cowered into changing our policies abroad by the threat of terror and murder. But this argument will only hold onto the slippery ground beneath if our foreign policy is right. If we were bringing freedom, democracy and a better way of life to the people of Iraq, if we were extinguishing the power of the Taliban and giving the citizens of Afghanistan control of their own land, if we were helping the fledgling Lebanese government to control its insurgency whilst negotiating with the Israelis to help them to do the same peacefully, then and only then could we stand our ground. But what we are doing, and supporting, is wrong. We are using the threat of terrorism as an excuse to carry on with this senseless destruction. The government are right, we should not change our foreign policy because of the threat of terrorism on our doorstep. We should change it because it is wrong. We are, in fact, sticking to our crazy guns because of the terrorists, and that is how they are winning this fight which is not a war.

When will Blair and Bush wake up to the reality that their might cannot win a phony war? You cannot fight an idea (credit to Rachel for that one, but I can’t put it better than her). Surely we should have learnt that by now. Iraq has become a monster which we cannot control, Afghanistan is going the same way, and the Israelis have failed in every possible stated mission in Lebanon. The Palestinians seem almost forgotten as they are slaughtered by their neighbours and their plight is at the very core of this catastrophe which has escalated beyond anyone’s control.

The only people winning at the moment are the terrorists and that makes me sick to the core.