Last night after first hearing of the attack in London I had to record something. I had been working outdoors for most of the day and had just settled in with some tea and switched on the television in the vain hope that there might actually be something worth watching. The moment the screen came to life I saw flashing lights, heard English voices and read the banner posted at the bottom of the screen: three terror incidents in London. The very first thought that sprung into my head was ” Son-of-a-bitch! Those fuckers are at it again!” As I felt my blood pressure and body temperature rise I changed channels to BBC World to learn more.
As with most of these incidents the first hours are spent by reporters and commentators tripping over themselves to find how many ways they can say the same thing for 120 minutes or more without saying it the same way twice. As usual they failed in the attempt. Dismally. In the course of this I did happen to hear the release of the Prime Minister’s prompt response and that just sent me over the edge. She obviously saw the need to issue some statement to address the event and quickly. Yet even in the haste to do so she saw fit to temper her response by qualifying it as a potential terrorist incident. God forbid that we should somehow offend any of our muslim neighbors. From this I managed to choke out a brief post in response. At the time I was already thinking that I would be writing a “part II” of my posting from two weeks prior, After Manchester:Have you had enough now?
To avoid falling into the same trap as the journalists on scene last night I will not attempt to find new ways to say what has already been said. When one is angry, and indeed I was last night, it is always better to sleep on it and then sort out what you want to say. Words uttered in anger, like decisions made in haste, are usually regrettable. After having taken sufficient rest and waking at my normal hour, 4:30, I spent some time in the cool silence of that precious pre-dawn hour, sipping coffee and listening to the birds. Self administered therapy. Only after this did I check the television to find what new revelations we might have. I did not have long to wait before the cameras panned to 10 Downing and the crawl at the bottom of the screen announced ” awaiting Prime Minister May’s statement at 10:30″. I sat attentively through this brief address and will work from there.
To begin I’d like to make one overall observation. I stated above that words uttered in anger often prove regrettable. When one is in a position of leadership it is often necessary to speak in response to a crisis. When leaders are human they will no doubt feel anger, or fear, anxiety, whichever emotion is typically evoked by the form of the crisis. While it is important that their address does not speak solely from that emotion it is still warranted to allow at least some of it bleed into the tone of the address. In what was unmistakably an Islamic terror attack it would have been fine to simply call it what it was, not qualify it as being a potential terror incident. After a night to formulate a more thorough response the Prime Minister issued a statement this morning that says all the right things, but I can tell you this is not what the jihadists are hearing. All they are hearing is weakness.
The jihadists spent last night watching and listening to the aftermath and are reveling in yet another successful blow struck against the infidel. The have managed to kill and maim some dozens of westerners in a public place with a very high profile. Their actions have attracted scores of television cameras from networks across the globe to broadcast the turmoil left in their wake, showing the shocked and confused expressions on our faces and the images of their blessed martyrs dead on the pavement. And the icing on this cake was to hear the leader of the nation acknowledging the attack while still cautious to state only that it was a potential terror incident. To the jihadi’s way of thinking this translates something like Gary Cooper as the Sheriff in a classic western arriving at the scene of a shootout after it has happened. Even without having witnessed it happening it is painfully obvious what has occurred. Then the Sheriff doesn’t draw, just places his hand at his holster and says to the gunmen ” It’s possible that you fellas may be responsible for these killings, but I’m not certain of it, so even though I possess the means to shoot you all full of holes I’m going to give you a warning first. Then I’ll go back to the jail, sleep on it, and when I come back here in the morning I will give you one very stern talking to!” These jackals are laughing at us.
The Prime Minister stated that Britain is experiencing a new trend of brutal terror. I beg your pardon, Madame Prime Minister, can you explain to all of us what is new about it? Are these attacks in some way more brutal than previous attacks? We’d just like to be very clear on exactly what you are saying.
The Prime Minister said the suspects wore fake suicide vests to spread panic and fear. So you’re telling us that you understand what this enemy means to do, you are apparently clear on this, yet you still seem reluctant to simply and without any hesitation call it what it is. Madame Prime Minister I would submit that if you are sending mixed signals to your own public perhaps you should be giving a bit more thought to how you are being perceived by the enemy.
She also said ” We can not and must not pretend that things can continue as they are.” Well I must say I agree. This statement demonstrates nothing more than a profound grasp of the obvious. Please correct me if I should have this wrong, but didn’t you say essentially the same thing two weeks ago after the Manchester bombing? The threat level was elevated to critical following that incident, which in view of this latest attack coming so close on the heels of the last gives one cause to wonder. Exactly what additional measures are triggered when that threat level is designated critical? Apparently these were sorely inadequate.
Madame Prime Minister when you tell us that things need to change and “in four important ways” you are inspiring…. well, wait. Perhaps that’s a poor choice of words. You are laying out the basic framework for your plan of action. So for a new trend in brutal terror we will respond with? It’s a bit unclear. It would seem that there is really nothing new in your plan. I’m not fool enough to expect that you would provide operational specifics. Nor would I want you to. But to speak frankly what you have said this morning smacks of nothing more than a subtle repackaging of the last plan.
I understand that the security and intelligence community do not have the luxury of trumpeting their successes. Orwell, as he did on so many other matters, summed this up quite succinctly: “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”. This morning the Prime Minister informed us that these services have succeeded in thwarting 5 organized attacks this year. Thank you to the men and women of these services for the ugly and thankless tasks that you perform on our behalf. The Prime Minister also stated ” Our country has made significant progress in disrupting plots and protecting the public.” Really? Can you look into the eyes of the parents of those girls slain in Manchester and say this without blinking? I’d love to see you try.
There was another disturbing reference in the Prime Minister’s address. In speaking to combatting terrorism at home she used the term ” …having, frankly, embarrassing conversations”. Embarrassing for who exactly? The implication here is equal to the use of the term “potential” terror incident. It suggests that we should feel embarrassment when we do what the government clearly has not, which is to confront the threat head on. If you are a muslim living in a western nation you are the ones who should be feeling embarrassment (and shame) when the subject is raised. We have nothing to be embarrassed for. They are attacking us, not the other way around. I have to give the old gal her chops, she is trying to move things in the right direction, at least by what she says. Yet still it is remarks such as these that show she is still unwilling to entirely abandon the politically correct script.
So let me see if I have this correct, then. We have stiffer penalties for terror offenses. Okay, that’s good. Its still only a reaction, but it cant hurt. Might I suggest public execution? Just a thought….
Then we have less tolerance of extremism. Wasn’t that a part of the last plan? And here is something else to weigh when we consider this. How can you say that significant progress has been made in disrupting plots and protecting the public while at the same time seem to suggest that we’ve been too tolerant of extremism. These two ideas do not seem compatible. I don’t believe that it is we, the people, who have been too tolerant of extremism. I believe it is you, the government, who have been too tolerant of extremism. The first duty of any republic should be to provide for the defense and security of its’s people. Instead you have busied yourselves with transgender rights, speech codes and climate accords. I am fairly certain that none of these were included in the contract.
Now this next one I think may be the most disturbing: holding the internet companies to account. This can be a slippery slope. It would be one thing if the government were to act in a manner which would compel these providers to be self policing with content and to provide open access to security agencies to those accounts with the type of content that we are concerned with. That plan has some inherent trap doors in it, but with a very clear set of guidelines and stringent monitoring it could be a valuable tool . Now as I understand it British intelligence services already operate in ways that have less restriction than their American counterparts, but this vague and generalized bullet point from a ten minute address has a ring of unsettling familiarity. It brings to mind two creations resulting from the 9/11 attacks, each of which were intended to demonstrate publicly that the government was taking proactive steps, but which are both insidious and intrusive measures that do more to inconvenience a free people. These are the patriot act and the TSA. Both of these are wide nets. They may lend the appearance of security, but that is all they are. Window dressing. It’s the use of a shotgun where the sniper rifle is warranted instead. To paraphrase the President: surveil the shit out of ’em! Just leave the rest of us alone.
The final point of this plan is a shifting, amorphous ectoplasm of winning hearts and minds, defeating ideology and reinforcing British values. A bit squishy, that one, but I’ll try to pin it down. The best place to begin reinforcing British values is in immigration and refugee policy. Don’t shut the door gently on people from the Islamic world. Slam it in their faces. Second, still related to immigration policy, don’t make the mistake that the French have made and continue to make. Instead of no tolerance for extremism what about no tolerance for non-assimilation? You either want to be a part of this society or you don’t. This is our home, you come here as a guest. If you will not respect and observe our customs then right over there is the door. Don’t let it hit you in the ass on your way out. And to all of those who will stand on the sidelines and shout “Racist!” here is a suggestion for you. If you don’t have any more respect for your fellow citizens than this perhaps you should consider catching the next plane, train or ship heading out. I’m confident you will find your tolerant, enlightened and welcoming utopia on some other shores. Of course if that were true we are left to wonder this: Why does everyone want to come to our country?
So! Now that the jihadis have been placed on notice that there is going to be a new set of rules this must be the beginning of the end for them, right? I’m feeling more confident now. Aren’t you?