November 13, 2006

Confronting Bin Laden's fan club

Here's an article from Peter Preston in the Guardian in which he derides the British secret service chief for describing specific terrorist threats, suspiciously specific in numerical terms, as lasting for "a generation." Here:
You have to work a little to crack the Da Eliza code. Most headline writers, last week, stopped at the MI5 chief's flurry of oddly precise figures: 30 petrifying plots pending, 200 terrorist groupings identified, 1,600 dodgy individuals under surveillance. And even when you got beyond such chill statistics, there were still red herrings swimming around. "It's difficult to argue that there are not worse problems facing us, for example climate change," she suddenly announced halfway through her timber-shivering lecture. Espionage boss demands more loft insulation? Where's the blood-stained brick road to Jerusalem there?

But then she began talking about "the roots of terrorism" and the coding grew more transparent. The threat posed by Bin Laden and followers, she said, "is serious, is growing and will, I believe, be with us for a generation".

There's the crucial word: generation. When you talk about a "generation" you're broadly defining a set of people born around the same time, men and women who share the same broad tastes and influences. Their generation games can last for 10 years or 20. The term can embrace baby boomers and MTV addicts, see generation X turn to generation Y. But it is as long - and as useless - as a piece of string at telling us when a taste for nightmares will end, or how "sustained campaigns" of fear can be brought to a close.

Does Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller truly believe that the cult of Osama is some passing, youthful fad that will one day be gone, like David Cassidy's fan club? Will it somehow be swept away by new boy bands or iPods? Not exactly, it seems. We must all stand up for our core values, "equality, freedom, justice and tolerance", she says. We must therefore confront "the powerful narrative that weaves together conflicts from across the globe, presenting the west's response to varied and complex issues, from longstanding disputes such as Israel/Palestine and Kashmir to more recent events, as evidence of an across-the-board determination to undermine and humiliate Islam worldwide".
Recalling an earlier post, I'm not sure that the British or wider European public has the collective stomach for all this terrorist chasing without addressing root causes.

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