Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Yemen and other frustrations

This isnt one of my most thoughtful pieces, but just me venting about some of terrorist related news which has been circling, and my endless frustration with the way the narrative runs on these things.

The UK is now demanding that the US shut down "hate websites" after it emerged that the woman who stabbed a Member of Parliament was radicalised, by Anwar al-Awlaki, a man implicated in the recent plane bomb plot, and is also believed to be responsible in part for the Fort Hood shootings.

First up, Yemen is a real problem, but the idea its suddenly become a problem is ridiculous. Its a country with massive systemic problems where the rule of law is essentially non existant. However, it is only the latest in what seems to be a growing line of countries which we're 'under threat' from, as we play our relentless game of whack-a-mole with terrorists.

The dialogue around Islamic fundamentalism never seems to get beyond the state, which is quite bizzare in a way, since the word used most often is "Islam", a religion which inherently transcends states.

Second, the idea that you can somehow 'shut down' the access people have to these figures is a little bit surreal. Islamic friends of mine used to get mailed cassette and video tapes with diatribes from "radical" preachers by friends on a regular basis. This wasnt being done in an attempt to radicalise them, but just something that well meaning friends did for each other. Even in the impossible hypothetical situation where you can get rid of this material from the internet, there will still be a thousand ways to get this information around.

Third, the plane bombs prove the essential point of terrorism. A small group of guys organise something pretty simple (sticking bombs in cargo planes), and the world responds by freaking out and talking about vastly complex and expensive mechanisms to prevent it happening again. What happens next week when they stick a bomb on a cargo ship? Will every piece of freight entering the UK have to be scanned? Because that is absolutely impossible.

Finally, when are we going to try something new? We're stuck in Afghanistan, we're finally mostly out of Iraq, but we're going into Pakistan steadily, and talking about going into Yemen. Of course Iraq might be getting bad again, according to some sources, so we might have to go back there at some point. And then there's Somalia, which no one wants to talk about, because its pretty awful too and a potential safe haven for bad people.

I have no answers for any of these points, but our collective knees have jerked so many times now that we're at severe risk of getting arthritis. There has to come a point at which the seemingly endless committment of more money, more people, more time, more effort, more draconian laws has to stop, if only because, right now, we're losing. Every time we have to spend one pound more on preventing terrorism than we did the day before is a day we lose.

I dont have any answers, clearly, this is really just a record of my frustrations first thing in the morning on a Wednesday.

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