Category Archives: terrorism

Sultana

(The title derives from here).

I was as surprised as anyone when our prime minister called a surprise election.  OK, with Libdems knocked out in 2015 and Labour tearing themselves apart, she has no opposition in most of the country: she’ll walk it, right?  But just after setting the clock ticking on brexit???   Good grief, how can we afford the time for this nonsense?  Her policy platform looked like the progeny of an unlikely match of Farage and Miliband, with a touch more of Blairite authoritarianism that either of the main parents would seem likely to favour.

To state my own prior position, I was a strong supporter of Mrs Thatcher in my youth, but have become much-disillusioned with her successors, as browsing this blog (e.g. here) will reveal.  I had hoped that the Libdems might come to the election with a positive programme I could support despite inevitable elements of gratuitous Political Correctness and the Loony Left, but they were quick to disappoint.  Once again, I say None of the Above.

The justification seemed dodgy from the start, raising a strawman argument about being frustrated by … well, in fact, an exceptionally supine parliament.   A couple of outright lies put my back up somewhat.  But anyway, the Chattering Classes soon came up with some ideas: she wanted a personal mandate; she needed a big majority to stand up to the loony fringe of her own party.  Really?

I live in a very marginal constituency, so I expected to be on the receiving end of some campaigning.  The first I received on the doormat some weeks ago was a large glossy from which a mugshot of Jeremy Corbyn stared up at me.  Interesting: Labour have got into gear commendably fast?  Nope, this was Tory literature, featuring a bogeyman as its most important message.

When the (less-glossy) actual Labour leaflet followed, the only mugshot in it was the candidate himself.  And a set of policies that read like a checklist of opposing everything the Tories are trying to do right.  Ugh.  No mention of Corbyn: is this candidate trying to dissociate himself from his own leader?

A second Tory letter – this time in an envelope – calls for a mandate not for my candidate, nor for the Party, but for Mrs May herself.  Well, sorry, I can’t vote for that.  Even if I wanted to live in Maidenhead (her constituency), I’ll never be able to afford it, so I don’t get the chance to vote either for or against her.  But the message is becoming clearer than ever: we are to dispense with Parliament, relegate them to something more like a US-style electoral college, and crown our Supreme Leader.  This cult of personality is not entirely new: perhaps we should be glad that she’s being more open about it than in the past?  But coupled with her authoritarian leanings and secrecy over her agenda beyond the coronation, it scares me.

No more leaflets until last Friday, when a sudden flurry brought one each from the Libdems, UKIP, and an Independent, plus three more from the Tories for a total of five from them (good grief)!  Only the Greens missing (perhaps they practice what they preach?), and sadly our Green party is solidly Loony Left.  The Independent candidate actually has an anti-party platform I could strongly support (it’s distantly related to my own), but sadly falls down on other issues.  And neither the Libdem nor UKIP feature their respective party leaders, so maybe I was being unduly cynical about Labour doing likewise.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.   Surprisingly, her bogeyman doesn’t seem to be doing the job of annihilating himself.  Indeed, Corbyn is looking the most statesmanlike of a dreadful bunch, and his own party have suppressed their hatred for him and moved from attacking him to ‘clarifying’ what he says.  The “strong and stable” and “coalition of chaos” slogans have come back to bite her as it becomes painfully clear she herself is more chaos than strength, and the latest image of Corbyn “naked and alone“(!!!) with all those Eurocrats sounds almost like panic.  It’s obviously nonsense: brexit negotiations will be conducted by Sir Humphrey’s civil servants regardless of who wins the election.  In the still-inconceivable event of Labour beating the tories, I expect their political master would be Sir Kier Starmer, KCB, QC, not Corbyn himself.

So Corbyn has momentum.  How far can it take him?  Not into government, but perhaps far enough to upset the master plan.  We need a bigger rallying point than that mugshot.  What do people respond to, fast?  Not any new promises: messing with the manifesto is just more egg on the face.  It’s got to be a real threat.  Big enough to grab the headlines and the national conversation.  And preferably focus attention on matters where We Beat Them in public trust.

Where can we find such a threat?  Given the tight timescale, we’re never going to make it with a foreign power.  But there are a fair few alienated idiots in Blighty, susceptible to being inspired by heroes like the biblical Samson.  We’re told our security forces have thwarted no fewer than five terrorist attacks in two months between the Westminster Bridge attack (March 22nd) and the Manchester one (May 25th – being more than a month into the election campaign).  That’s more than one a fortnight, so it’s unlikely to be long before a next attempt.  If one of those gets through, we have our threat and out enemy to rally against, and of course security is precisely where both the parties and their leaders individually are very clearly differentiated!

With that in mind, it seems an extraordinarily convenient coincidence that Manchester happened when it did: surely the security theatre of raising the threat level and deploying troops on the streets would kill that momentum and distract the media from the manifesto fiasco?  Against all expectations, it didn’t!  Then we had London Bridge, and this time a firm No Nonsense message: playing directly to traditional strengths.

Of course suggesting a connection is deep into conspiracy theory.  But for the security forces – who routinely prevent terrorist attacks – to have failed twice in such quick succession – is extremely unlikely to be purely random.  Did someone quietly send 007 on a wild goose chase – like for instance looking for Russian influence in the election – and leave Clouseau in charge back home?  No, that’s a bit far-fetched.  A botched information system update disrupting communication among anti-terrorist forces would make far more sense.  And since all the people concerned work on a need-to-know basis and only see small parts of the overall systems, no individual would actually know what was going on!

And just to add icing to the conspiracy, what if the botch messed with third-party systems that must access the anti-terrorist information system, like an airline’s passenger information?  What unlikely account might the airline be able to give of it if they were unable to operate?  No, ignore that, it’s too far-fetched: BA is much more likely to have been hit by their own botch, perhaps with the aid of the big thunderstorms we had on the Friday night.

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The right weapon

Today’s terrorist attack in London seems to have been in the worst tradition of slaughtering the innocent, but pretty feeble in its token attempt on the more noble target of Parliament.  This won’t become a Grand Tradition like Catesby’s papists’ attack.

But if we accept that the goal was slaughter of the innocent, then today’s perpetrator made a better job of it than most have done, at least since the days of the IRA, with their deep-pocketed US backers and organised paramilitary structure.  His weapon of choice was the obvious one for the purpose, having far more destructive power than many that are subject to heavy security theatre and sometimes utterly ridiculous restrictions.  Even some of those labelled “weapons of mass destruction”.

The car.  The weapon that is available freely to everyone, no questions asked.  The weapon no government dare restrict.  The weapon that kills more than all others, yet where it’s so rare as to be newsworthy for any perpetrator to be meaningfully punished.  Would the 5/11 plotters have gone to such lengths with explosives if they’d had such effective weapons to hand?

With this weapon, the only limit on terrorist attacks is the number of terrorists.  No need for preparation and planning – the kind of thing that might attract the attention of police or spooks – just go ahead.

And next time we get a display of security theatre – like banning laptops on flights – we can point to the massive double-standards.

Death to Traitors, freedom for Britain

It’s not exactly catchy, is it?  But then, the Breivik-wannabe[1] who murdered an MP and wounded a bystander had already shouted “Britain First”, only to be disowned and his act unreservedly condemned by the fringe political group of that name.  He seems to be politically-motivated yet to have (thankfully) no hint of political support.

I hadn’t heard of the victim Jo Cox before her death.  But I have to confess, I find the tributes to her unexpectedly convincing, and the sister’s speech today was lovely.  My inner cynic has nothing to say.

What a shame that’s the background to someone who appears to be doing a fine job of highlighting some of the absurdities of our judicial system with the full attention of the media.  There’s plenty of scope to disappoint, but to have stood up in court today and given his name as “Death to Traitors, Freedom for Britain” is a good start.  Strangely everyone concerned refers to him by a less-unlikely name, which kind-of highlights the absurdity of the court’s question.  After all, a defendant on a charge involving identity theft might easily tell a convincing lie.

Apart from giving us a welcome respite from referendum nonsense, this has raised the question of shielding MPs from the people.  The odious Luciana Berger, from the totalitarian wing of the Labour party, wants to make it an excuse to hide behind red tape and screen out unwanted members if the public.  I hope that level of contempt for her electorate puts her in a minority as small as the assassin’s: I certainly can’t see those who (like Jo Cox) actually care about people going down that kind of route.

I shall also be mildly interested to see how the courts treat this case in comparison to another recent politically-motivated killing.  If the killers of a military target, having gone to some lengths to make it clear that civilian bystanders had nothing to fear, could be given an (exceptional) absolute maximum punishment, there is no scope left to punish proportionally the murder of a civilian and serious wounding of a third party.  Will we see a shameful double standard of any lesser punishment for the greater crime?

[1] Or does he see himself as Gavrilo Princip or Yigal Amir, the assassins whose deeds unleashed war on the world?

I won’t be going to FOSDEM

Belgian cities full of trigger-happy armed troops, with orders to shoot to kill, and a recent track record of doing so.

In reality, probably a lower risk than regular vehicular traffic, even for those of us with an ample beard and a big backpack.  Though surely a far higher risk than the supposed terrorist threat.  But that level of security theatre is hardly welcoming to visitors.  Since I have the choice, I’m staying away, and withholding the support that might be inferred from my travelling to Brussels for a weekend in the near future.

It’s a bit of a shame: I missed last year’s FOSDEM too due to family commitments.  Maybe next year?

[edit] That last sentence is a bit disingenuous, insofar as it suggests this is a big change of plan.  In reality I hadn’t decided one way or the other.  I’ve been doing that of late: I only got around to signing up for ApacheCon in Budapest the day before it started!

Book burning

A nasty nutcase is convicted of terrorist offences.  His teenage son is convicted of possessing a book called the Anarchists Cookbook, available openly from Amazon.  And the judge says all copies of the book in the UK should be destroyed (link).

OK, if a man has been manufacturing ricin and intends using it to kill, then he needs to be locked up.  But the son is another story: he may have been complicit in a crime, but if so he should be put on trial for that.  Not for mere possession of a book!  His conviction is a grim reminder of how far we’ve slid into totalitarianism.

Perhaps someone should remind the powers-that-be that within living memory we were at total war with Nazi Germany, yet there were no restrictions on owning or reading Mein Kampf.  Once upon a time, Britain stood for freedom!

A sense of proportion

A week of ‘terrorist’ incidents: two cars in London (not exactly car bombs) that didn’t go off, and one driven into Glasgow airport. Now we’re on “critical” terrorist alert.

Three incidents. Not ‘professional’ terrorist incidents, but bumbling, ineffectual homebrew attacks: more Inspector Clouseau than anything else. Incidents on a level of sophistication (and danger) more akin to teenage ‘joyriders’ than to a serious terrorist organisation like the IRA or Al Qaeda[1].

Contrast the “nothing to worry about” attitude to equally (if not more) serious incidents such as this, which I find altogether more scary. And contrast the attitude to killer drivers, who are commonly given no more than a slap on the wrist, no matter how dangerous they are (and in this country, drivers kill more people in a week than terrorists have in total since the IRA stopped).

If there are serious terrorists out there, how likely are they to announce their intention to attack with a round of buffoonery like this?

Much more worrying: these were apparently completely off the police’s radar. At a guess, they really are just saddo kids, and have no affiliation at all to anyone the security forces are watching. Smells like the seeds of fear and distrust that The Liar has so abundantly scattered in recent years, coming home to roost.

[1] That is to say, the Al Qaeda of “9/11”. Nowadays the term seems to have become a general-purpose bogeyman for anything islamic and bad. Or indeed anyone we happen to kill in the occupied countries.