Déjà Vu?

Today, as once again we witness ordinary people in London bear the brunt of yet another terrorist atrocity, there begins to emerge a growing feeling of Déjà Vu.

Like some fantastic story, it goes something like this…

  • Somewhere in Britain is a Group making plans for a terrorist attack. They know already from the reaction of the media, that attacks in Britain, as in France or the United States and such like, produces an inordinate amount of publicity for their cause. The media puts them on the map.
  • MI5 has been aware of this group for some time – in fact they have ‘moles’ or informants feeding them a regular stream of ‘intelligence.’
  • The police on the ground are also somewhat aware of the group, but orders have been handed down to “just keep an eye on them.”
  • Low priority.
  • Meanwhile, the Group, aware that they are being monitored, isn’t particularly worried: their plans are now in effect; targets have been chosen to gain maximum media coverage; volunteers have been vetted.
  • Some Group members are delegated to buy the components and ingredients that will ultimately go to make up a bomb, or “IED” in modern parlance.
  • Others are sent out to ‘scope’ or reconnoitre their potential targets.
  • They report in. The plans are advancing as per expectations.
  • Meanwhile over at the UK security services it’s business as usual. Police are busy with the daily mundane. Routine. MI5 are getting inundated with a welter of daily information, reports, suspicions – so much that they fail to effectively sift out that valuable scrap of information that would bust wide open the terror plot.
  • Things are quiet. GCHQ are listening for that all important cost-effective radio “chatter:” a giveaway that an attack may be imminent. It’s a shortcut.  Like their colleagues over at Spy Central, they have become somewhat ambivalent about terrorism. It’s a job. It’s routine. It’s not James Bond and it’s not all their fault – even so they struggle to succeed despite successive British governments (going back to beyond Thatcher) steadily and effectively reducing their budgets until they could no longer afford to employ enough  ‘assets’ on the ground. They depend upon technology instead, complete with bells and whistles.
  • And they’re not very big bells and whistles either – just the best that they could get with an already-reducing budget.
  • But even so maybe they get lucky – perhaps one clever analyst has uncovers the plot – time; date, even the location.
  • Word is sent up the chain-of-command. ALERT THE POLICE… ALERT THE SAS… ALERT THE AMERICANS… TELL THE WORLD!
  • Word comes back down: no action. Maybe the analyst stares in disbelief – a sickness taking hold as fear grows inside him. He feels like crying.
  • Unknown to the analyst though, are “valuable” assets placed within the terrorist network and they must be protected.
  • At all costs.
  • But… what’s this… the Government has reduced the threat level! Hooray – we can all relax. Manchester Arena is already a distant memory ( except for those directly affected, of course. ) Let’s roll out the barrel!! Have a holiday!! Party on…!! We’ve no worries – no-one’s going to spoil our fun – the Government says so. It’s looking out for us. We’re safe!
  • Aren’t we?
  • The terrorists deploy. Backpacks are on; wires going down inside the coat sleeve to the trigger mechanism in the hand. So simple. So deadly. So selfish: thinking of the glory that will supposedly await them upon their sacrifice.  All those virgins….
  • And today is a holiday. Which means crowds… Civilians… Children… Tourists… Americans…
  • The subway platform is packed.
  • The train arrives. The bomber steps aboard. 
  • The train moves off. Into the tunnel.
  • “Allah Akbar!!” The rest is history.
  • Well-drilled emergency services are filmed as they bravely move into action: firefighters; ambulance; doctors; nurses; police…
  • Victims are efficiently rescued: it’s been done so often now that it’s become routine. 
  • Media sees everything. Pictures and video flash around the world. It’s on Twitter! It’s on YouTube!!!
  • It’s yet more entertainment.
  • Yawn!!
  • But wait… an announcement is about to be made… all eyes are on Downing street. We’re going to hear a story and the storyteller is none other than the Right Honourable Theresa May!
  • “Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…”
  • Hold on though… we’ve heard that same story before, right after the previous attack.
  • And the one before that…
  • And the one before that…
  • And…

Merlin Rees, former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during The Troubles, once told it’s people that “although violence was not eradicated, losses were kept at an “acceptable” level.

An “acceptable level of violence.”

Predictably and rightly there was uproar at his remarks. And yet, as far as the British Government was concerned, he was being totally pragmatic.

A Government politician speaking the truth! Imagine.

And when the present incumbent of 10 Downing Street, Mrs Theresa May, begins her ( wholly predictable ) address with “enough is enough” does it not strike you that what she is really saying is that all the terrorist attacks ( on mainland Britain and in particular London ) so far have been part of that “acceptable level of violence” mantra and the killers have reached their quota, beyond which is now unacceptable.

Makes you wonder…

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