John Stevens says there are up to 200 trained "bin laden" terrorists on the streets of Britain. It is news that will strike fear into the hearts of the Daily Mail reading populace.
Meanwhile the Liberal anti-anti-terror law (sorry) people, like myself, have been labelled as utopian idealists for not seeing the real dangers in the world today. Funny, I thought I and many of my friends were quite clear in our view of the dangerous, bloody and self-destructive world we inhabit. Oh but wait, I'm forgetting, it's not nasty and violent when it's the Brits and Americans committing the atrocities, is it?
But I digress.
There are 100, possibly 200, al qaeda terrorists with the potential of committing crimes in the UK. OK, am I the only one who finds this number alarmingly low? I mean, after everything we've heard from Tony and his (lack of) intelligence agencies in recent years I was sure that we actually faced an army of radical extremists determined to destroy our very democracy. But enough about New Labour and their Neo-Con allies from across the pond ;-)
Possibly 200 potential terrorists in the UK. Out of 60 million inhabitants. 200. How many IRA terrorists were operating in the 1970s? I think you'll find it was many thousands, with tens of thousands of sympathisers happy to offer safe houses and escape routes. Did we have special laws in mainland Britain then?
No I'm not deluded. Yes I realise the damage terrorists did in New York, Washington and Madrid. Yes I realise that only one planned attack has to be successful to kill hundreds. However, this nation has come through decades of terrorism. These were not threats but real terrorist acts. Birmingham, Manchester and London have all suffered. Which of course brings me to Northern Ireland. For decades this small stretch of land was 'secured' under a near martial law. Did this prevent the attacks? How about we ask the families of the 3000 people killed in the conflict?
Only recently have we seen the very people who provided the support base for organisations like the IRA turning on them. This is not because of having troops patrolling the streets and shooting people at checkpoints, but because the people themselves have realised that the killings have become senseless, and the only way out is to sit down and talk.
Similarly, from Egypt to Central Africa, the people turned on the idea of Islamic Jihad long ago. What is seen as brutal action by the west both at home and abroad will only serve to drive people back into the hands of the extremists. Will draconian laws prevent terror attacks, or just make them more likely to happen?
Thankfully, at least the House of Lords has seen some sense for once.
Anyway, here's a nice antedote to all the "run for the hills" stupidity in the country right now.