Friday, August 18, 2006

It's all in the timing

The UK is under threat from terrorists.

They want to blow us up, because they hate our way of life.

Excuse me?

The illegal occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip by Israel (with massive US support going back years) has nothing to do with it. The occupation of Afghanistan has nothing to do with it. The occupation of Iraq has nothing to do with it. The threats, thrown so casually at Iran, have nothing to do with it. These people hate our way of life.

Here’s a time-saver for you - you don’t need to carefully check the foreign policy of the UK government (perish the thought) to assess whether there is a terror threat. The UK has an official threat level, which will tell you exactly how much these terrorists are hating our way of life at any particular moment.

When the threat level is low, you should only be vaguely frightened. When the threat level is high, you should presumably be in a state of constant panic.

Weren’t we the country who scoffed at the US threat level? Even the Onion parodied the ridiculous manipulation of fear provided by the oscillating threat warnings from the US administration.

We have all seen the magic trick where the magician, sleeves rolled up, has a coin in his hand. He passes his hands over each other a couple of times, and the coin vanishes. Just like it was never there.

As with most magic tricks, it's all in the timing.

The last time Blair was in serious domestic political trouble, there was a threat to the UK which was so immediate, it required a major deployment of the UK army to Heathrow airport in London. Camping outside the terminals in a mass show of force, and tramping up and down the lanes around Heathrow to guard against surface to air missiles, the mass mobilisation completely obliterated the front-page headlines swirling around the government and its policies.

Last week, as parliament was in absolute uproar over Blair’s capitulation to the US in not calling for an immediate ceasefire in Israel’s blood-curdling slaughter of Lebanese civilians, Blair looked like he might be in serious - potentially politically terminal - trouble. At that exact point, a threat emerged to the UK which was so immediate and serious, it required Heathrow to be shut down, hundreds of flights to be cancelled, and awkward new security measures to be put in place. You can hardly watch UK news at the moment without endless discussion of exactly what you can and can not take on your plane as hand luggage.

Of the arrested men and women in these recent ‘terror’ raids – how many exactly will be charged with terrorist offences?

Where did that coin go?