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Recognising grievances

Brian Taylor | 19:08 UK time, Monday, 2 July 2007

For politicians, it’s a real quandary. An exceptionally sharp dilemma in a generally tricky business.

Put yourself in the place of our politicians. Say you’re a front bench spokesperson. You want to condemn terrorism without equivocation. It is criminal, abhorrent, utterly wrong. Yet at the same time you may want to spotlight - and seek to alter - circumstances in which you believe such terrorism might thrive.

How do you do that, how do you highlight the culture, the soil in which terrorism exists without appearing, to some degree, to exculpate the acts of terror themselves?

In the Commons this afternoon, Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats tiptoed towards this quandary. He argued that, while we condemn terrorism without reservation, we should also recognise the grievances that exist in the wider Islamic community. Those might include Iraq and the conduct of Middle East policy.

Let me stress - as Mr Clegg did - that he was in no way condoning those who targeted Glasgow Airport or the London night club. Rather he was arguing that it is naïve to consider the extremist reponses without also considering the political circumstances in which such responses may develop.

It had been an occasion of unity. The new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was warmly praised on all sides for her steadfast and calm response to events. She told MPs that Britain would not be intimidated by terror.

And, in response to Angus Robertson of the Scottish National Party, she extolled the value of the co-operation she had received from the SNP executive, mentioning Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill.

In an impressive contribution, David Davies of the Conservatives endorsed the efforts of the police, the security services - and the public, including the civilians who intervened to help officers at Glasgow Airport. He said: “A real hero is someone who runs towards danger whilst others run away.”

To repeat, Mr Clegg did not depart from this united approach. Indeed, he nodded vigorously when the home secretary intepreted his remarks as seeking to isolate extremists from the wider, law-abiding Muslim community.
But perhaps he raised an intriguing political - and philosophical - point.


  • 1.
  • At 08:37 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • Alan K wrote:

An interesting point, but the problem at the moment is that we do not know why these bombings were attempted

was it afganistan, iraq, palestine, backing isreal, giving salman rushdie a knighthood, gordon brown being scottish or that glasgow has the same first initial as gordon

still some work should be done to stop terrorism but nothing in the end appears capable of ending it entirely

  • 2.
  • At 09:07 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

Consensus is a strange beast, here we find a politician who seems to be more troubled by the fact that he finds himself in the same camp as all other politicians than associating himself with the horrors perpetrated by terrorists; Liberal politicians seem always wishing to mark themselves as different from the rest in all areas of policy, hence they will never achieve political success on their own.

I have never found the term ‘one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter’ acceptable, especially as it most often applied from convenience not in defence of oppression; if we related this to Iraq I could understand such acts of terrorism if they were perpetrated when Saddam was in power, however these are most commonly perpetrated to prevent freedom.

I do not find the doctors working for the NHS, those of 7/7 or the five who planned the massive fertiliser bomb were oppressed, misguided, weak minded or malicious maybe but not oppressed. We should not feel we have to make excuses for such groups; our sympathies should lie with the victims or the intended victims of these misguided individuals.

  • 3.
  • At 09:29 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

This debate about Islamic extremism in Scotland/Britain is one which cannot exist as some sort of parallel discourse to the debate about our own foreign policy. Mr Clegg is right to make his point. Jacqui Smith is also right to reiterate that we should separate these extremists from the law-abiding muslim majority.

I am concerned that some of my fellow Scots believe that this important debate would simply go away were our country to secede from the UK. It is an embarrassingly naive position to take. Scotland is, in the eyes of radical Islam, as much an example of Western decadence as is England or the US. To help solve this problem questions such as those Mr Clegg raises must be considered by the people of Scotland, of the Uk, and the wider world.

  • 4.
  • At 11:12 PM on 02 Jul 2007,
  • stephen.reeves wrote:

When a neo-nazi exploded a few bombs in London a few years ago, no one was talking about grievances etc etc,, and it seems the Islamic bombers have a different grievance each month.

I imagine that politicians quite like the idea that the terrorists will attack us no matter what we do. It absolves them of any responsibility. Pretending that the attacks on Glasgow at the weekend had nothing to do with either the state opening of Parliament, or the crowning of a Scottish PM, is like pretending that the London and Madrid bombings had nothing to do with Iraq.

I remember a few years ago an interview on Radio 4, which discussed the reasons that terrorists were attacking us. I guess it must have been just after the London bombings. The Tory interviewee was, of course, shocked (as Tories seem to be almost permanently) at the suggestion that there might have been any reason for the attack, and continued to liken the perpetrators to mindless barbarians. He used the word 'justification' a lot.

Of course, he missed the crucial difference in meaning between the words 'understand' and 'justify'. To understand the reasons that someone would choose to murder hundreds, even thousands of innocent people, is quite easy, and there is no moral dilemma involved. To say that those reasons justify the actions is another matter.

But I think that understanding is a crucial step. Knowing your enemy is a strategy seen as crucial since Sun Tzu, but conveniently forgotten by those seeking to absolve themselves of responsibility.

(Oh and just to clarify, I do not by any means equate 'responsibility' with 'guilt'.)

  • 6.
  • At 09:51 AM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

It would seem that the terrorists are recruiting individuals with credible cover stories rather than the previous format of four or more with no visible means of support occupying accommodation that should be beyond their finances; as with 9/11 and other incidents terrorists were merely happy to live in their target country, it now seems that these credible individuals are either recruited to move here complete with excellent cover stories or those with excellent cover stories are recruited after they have ‘settled in’ here.

All foreign nationals already here and those incoming should now be required to make declarations and be required to carry ID cards at all times, oh I can here the moans of Shami Chakrabati and all those tree hugging liberals; in fairness, by choice I would also make these cards compulsory for all, which may also be a requirement of human rights legislation to which we have already committed.

The reality is that I will now view all foreign nationals with suspicion.

Peter from Fife,

(hand on Bible) As a foreign national living here, I hereby declare that I have never and will never engage in nor support terrorism.

You can believe me, but it would have been easy to make such a declaration insincerely and to carry your card. In my case, it would be hard to distinguish me as a "foreign national" until I spoke.


P.S. The Islamist extremists are just that - extremists. They are little different from our own folk of 'extreme' views, e.g. the BNP.

Wahabism or Islamism the totalitarian ideology funded by the Saudis and disseminated through the Pak madrasas is the root cause of terrorism that we are facing today.

This is obvious to anyone and everyone who's cared to understand the problem from an objective viewpoint.

But guess who the strongest "allies" in America's war are? The Saudis and the Pakistanis. The Saudis and the Pakistanis (at least the jihadis among them) are the most virulent enemies of the Americans and their way of life.
-- Anis Farooqui

It should be noted that the "Pak madrasas" were built up using American (and Saudi) funding in order to radicalise the Afghani mujahadeen into islamic fundamentalists to better fight the "Godless Russians".

Now the weapon we so carefully crafted is turned against us. The irony is too rich to believe.

  • 8.
  • At 11:40 AM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • James in Osaka wrote:

I think that politicians are and have been walking on eggshells a little bit. However, what needs to be said needs to be said. I remember John Reid the former Home Secretary got into a wee bit of trouble for asking Muslim parents to keep an eye on their children and to look out for any suspicious behaviour (I think it was John Reid). I am not sure how politicians can best broach difficult subjects with regards to the Islamic community. However, things have to be said, actions need to be carried out, and failing to say or act could inflame a situation more than dithering, or keeping tight-lipped.

  • 9.
  • At 12:50 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Lord Truth wrote:

Liberal Democrat M.P.Clegg did not 'raise an intriguing political-and philosphical point' in suggesting the Grievances in the wider Islamic community should be examined as a reason for these attacks
He directly went to the heart of the matter which unless it is examined and addressed will produce an ever increasing spiral of violence
The Western media cleverly endlessly presents these attacks as due to the frightening phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism.
That is wrong.There are three sources for these problems.
First overwhelmingly is the fact of the refusal of the west to put any pressure on Israel despite repeated UN resolutions,to give up its lands on the west bank stolen from the Palestinians.The Israeli justification for this theiving is that they were given these lands five thousand years ago by God-surely a classic example of fanatical religious fundamentalism
The war in Iraq was only partly caused by American desire for revenge for 9/11.It was urged on by Israel who wanted to prevent Saddam from supporting the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
The situation in Gaza at the present, where Palestinians are locked in ,can only enter through one entrance controlled by Israelis with water supplies limited and with incursions by Israeli forces happening at the whim of the Israeli authorities has created a situation tragically similar to that in the Warsaw ghetto of the forties when German Nazis starved terrorised and deliberately degenerated thousands of imprisoned Jews
The second factor in this situation is that the Muslim religion has always allowed inequalities of wealth or position to be made relatively unimportant.This systen worked as long as differences in wealth etc were measured largely in how many sheep or goats a man owned.
The last fifty years have seen huge differences developing between the small percent in Muslem countries who own everything and who enjoy western lifestyles and the great mass of the poor. The Muslem religion does not have the socialistic potentialities of Christianity and it is difficult for political ideas that could lead to a greater spread of wealth to develop
This allows the ruling elites to use this to crush any movement towards what could be called a western european style socialistic society
As a result ,with nowhere to go the mass of people turn inwards to their religion-as did many people in Europe in the nineteenth century
America true to its anti socialist tradition courts these oppressive regimes and urges them on even though the end result will be more terrorism as frustrations boil over
The third reason for these problems is certainly an element of true religious fanaticism .However I think this is nowhere near as inspirational as the previous two reasons
Furthermore,if the Israeli situation were dealt with - it could be solved in minutes with American pressure for an Israeli withdrawal coupled with generous funding of the settlers from the US EU Russia and Japan etc plus the creation of a multinational force including America to police a clearly defined frontier the religious idealogues would quickly lose support and influence.This would happen more quickly indeed if America dropped its hostility to socialistic ideas and put pressure on these dictatorships to introduce systems ensuring all members of society got a fair deal

My response to Peter from Fife seems to be the missing eighth comment. It wasn't at all malicious, honest!

  • 11.
  • At 04:18 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Aaron wrote:

One troubling fact here, which I'm sure many people are scratching their heads over, happens to be the occupation of these individuals. I believe that most of us think of terrorists as ideological extremists, which developed in poverty stricken communities, where choices were limited and ignorance abundant. However, what we see here are persons with high-level degrees that they put forth a lot of effort to achieve. Even if these individuals were once easily manipulated, the type of life they currently enjoyed would seem good reason to move away from their previous naive decisions.

Thus, understanding these individuals seems a rather daunting task and does make it difficult to trust just about anyone.

  • 12.
  • At 04:40 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Eirian wrote:

At least one of the communities to which I belong is oppressed every day in some way or another. I have not yet decided that the way to deal with oppression is to apply oppression to anyone else. There are ways to deal with oppression other than killing people. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Dafydd Iwan each led non-violent movements that brought results. The Gay and Lesbian and Transsexual activists dealt with oppression by campaigning to change laws and by working with Members of Parliament.
By contrast some animal rights activists and a few Islamic groups have adopted violence as did ETA and others.
Removing oppression is a cross community matter and those in a position to do so should build bridges with people from other communities.
I commend Chris Walker's comments.
I wonder if Peter of Fife would repeat the kind of injustice done to the Italian community during the second war. Men were interned in Douglas and then many shipped to Canada. Journalist Mario Basini's uncle was one of many lost at sea when the ship was sunk in the Atlantic en rout to Canada.
Similar disgraces were experienced in London (Germans) during WW1 and in California (Japanese) in WW2. Periodically, innocent people from a range of foreign communities have been attacked violently by British Caucasians throughout the last few decades.
The bomb in a car represents escalation but it is the same initial sentiment that preceds it as preceded the numerous lethal attacks of indiviuals reported periodically.
Shooting, stabbing and beating someone to death with a bar is closely related to the bomb. None of it is warranted.
The need is to reduce the number of people so motivated, and a part of that is being proactive in recognising and removing injustices. That is a duty of political leadership.

  • 13.
  • At 05:02 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Martin Graham wrote:

One of the suspects arrested at Glasgow Airport has been taken to London for questioning. Why?

Scotland has its own separate legal system (guaranteed by the Treaty of Union, no less) and "justice" is a devolved matter under the Scotland Act.

Now it seems there are plans to try all the suspects arrested over the last few days (including those arrested in Scotland) in an English court of law.

This is completely indefensible, especially with regard to the Glasgow Airport bombers and their accomplices. The criminal acts took place in Scotland, the intended victims were Scots, and the arrests were made by the Scottish police.

If these suspects are not repatriated for trial in a Scottish court, it will be nothing short of a scandal.

I agree with Brian that there has been a political consensus over the last few days, and that is only right when the country is under attack and in the midst of a crisis.

However, this consensus will not last for ever, and nor should it.

  • 14.
  • At 06:42 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Hamour el Kabir wrote:

Brian, your naivete astonishes me. Do you really believe that 'Britain's foreign policy' is the sole, or even major, motivator of these deluded people ?
They don't. They read the Koran and find instruction to behave in this way. They do not believe that religion is for Fridays, weddings, funerals alone. Rather they are totally and completely convinced that their religion gives them the obligation and the right to blow up other human beings as and when the urge directs them. They heed supernatural voices - what they call religious duty - and they obey them.
They are religious and they are maniacs. Generally we class such people as dangerous lunatics or criminals or both.
Brian, please think a bit more.

  • 15.
  • At 09:40 PM on 03 Jul 2007,
  • Wladyslaw Mejka wrote:

Not sure that Brian's blog adds anything to the wider debate - maybe that is why there are so few comments. Unity, a theme of this blog, in the Commons is not necessarily a good or healthy thing when tackling issues to which there are no easy answers, if indeed there are answers. Brian himself manages to fill his contractual quota without really adding a fresh perspective, crystallising an emerging consensus, or even venturing any radical options. Tired blog from a tired journalist?
Suggestion. Could we start to try and get it clear what we want out of all this? And please, no Brian'isms like 'winning the war on terror'. Only by being clear on what we want can we work out how to secure our objective.

  • 16.
  • At 12:33 AM on 04 Jul 2007,
  • fran wrote:

We are in a very volatile situation now in Scotland. It would seem we are the targets now for some unknown reason. all the theories have been put forward but no one knows for certain why now. All I can think of is that we have to have more of a deterrent. no use putting them in jail. They just continue where they left off. Is hanging the answer? After all is it not still a hanging offence committing treason? The nwe make martyrs of them. Maybe just putting them on a plane to a Muslim country never to return here..

What does it take to get a comment to appear? Is the blog blogged or blogstipated?


  • 18.
  • At 01:30 PM on 04 Jul 2007,
  • Brian (Glasgow) wrote:

Too many people here jumping to conclusions. For a start, this 'Monty Python' attempt at an attack can in no way be likened to the events of 9/11 and 7/7. These massive events were carried out very professionally, which cannot be a word used describing two men (why not one) in a car (why not two cars, hence twice the damage?) turning themselves and the car into a bonfire and achieving little more than forcing BAA to re-paint the front of the terminal (overdue anyway).

Now a real terrorist event requires solid and professional organisation, as Peter Power of Visor Consultants agrees. Quote on BBC radio 5 on the evening of 7/7 "Well we were actually running an exercise involving a company of about 1000 people which involved simultaneous bombs going off at 'precisely' the railway (underground) stations that it happened this morning. So I still have the hairs on the back of my neck standing upright"

To which the radio host retorted "So let me get this straight, you were actually running an exercise for this very event and it happened while you were running the exercise?"

Peter Power replied "Precisely."

What are the odds of that? Co-incidence? Same time... same place... and 'precisely' the same events! (his words not mine).

...a million to one? I'd guess more!

Oh and Also (not finished yet)... on 9/11 the USAF also happened to be running multiple exercises (one of them involving flying planes into buildings) which was the main reason 4 Passenger Jets were able to buzz around for nigh on 2 hours without a single intercept, cos there were no F16's around, they were all over Canada.

Knowing what I know, nothing would surprise me about the events at the weekend, however I find it hard to believe that Intelligent Doctors could make an absolute bungle of an attempted attack. It seems to me the only thing that got blown up was the media blowing the whole thing out of proportion, whilst in posession of none of the pertanent facts.

Ps. I already know, that although true, this will be censored.
Whoever you are, your job is obviously more important than 9/11 or 7/7 ?

"a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial
appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in
defence of custom. "
from Tom Paine's Common Sense

Let's not forget it's the two hundred and thirty first anniversary of American UDI!

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the
circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

-- July 4th, 1776

Scotland's turn is coming!


  • 20.
  • At 03:55 PM on 04 Jul 2007,
  • David wrote:

As for Ed, a bunch of Baloney. If in 1776 The head of the British Government had been an American, as the U.K. now has a Scot, and if the preponderance of Americans were established within the government of that time as there are Scots in the present U.K. government, and if the leading opposition parties were led by Americns or Anglo Americans, as the current opposition parties are led by a Scot and an Anglo Scot, there would not have been a revolution. So much of the SNP xenophobia is fantasy.

  • 21.
  • At 04:26 PM on 04 Jul 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

Ed Inglehart

You assume the declaration I referred to was similar to an oath, it was not; what I would require and I alluded to was the history of the individual from birth, a full education record and the countries visited by that individual.

I referred in my post to all foreign nationals and this was what I meant, irrespective of skin colour or language skills, it is therefore of little interest to me whether or not the individual in question or yourself looks foreign or not.

I do not treat such items as terrorism in an off hand manner especially where the lives of our indigenous population may well be at risk; I make no apologies for calling for increased controls and records at the points of entry to this country, but I do call for such requirements to be applied to all immigrants whether from America, Asia or Australia.

  • 22.
  • At 10:03 PM on 04 Jul 2007,
  • Cleisthenes wrote:

The reality is that I will now view all foreign nationals with suspicion.
Peter, Fife

Would that include the four British natives who allegedly carried out the 7/7 bombings? Or did you really mean brown faces?

As for ID cards, what possible difference would they make apart from creating a false sense of security, and an opportunity for less honest governments to spy on their own people?

Remember, the individuals arrested for the recent spate of attempted attacks in London and Glasgow were educated, and one would assume, capable people; one of them was a neurosurgeon, for example. Do you really think it would be beyond their ability to forge ID cards, or any form of identification?

It's ironic that people who call for ID cards will often view them as a means of preserving 'our way of life'; a way of life that has generally succeeded in keeping government at arms length and a servant of the people. They work for us, and they don't need to tag, chip, ID or track us to do so.

It's important to remember the original post above raised the spectre of reasons behind mass murder attempts. It's reasonable in a mature democracy (and, frankly, long overdue) that our politicians actually start thinking like adults, and publicly explore the effects Iraq and Afghanistan have had on our security situation. Again, in a mature democracy it should be possible to do this without implying justification for alleged bombers actions.

The more ready we are to fall into the trap of believing:

1) Our actions abroad will never be felt at home
2) A simplistic attempt at control will somehow catch those intent on harm (including seemingly legitimate individuals who appear to have much to offer, like brain surgeons)

... the more we become like the very people we like to despise: those ignorant, ill-educated boys who ebrace suicide bombing as a 'legitimate' form of protest or combat.

You don't need to be genius to work out that the high number of deaths of Iraqi civilians by the coalition forces will anger people. What do you think we'd do to, say, Iran if they carpet bombed Edinburgh? You don't need to assume that discussing its effect is an attempt to excuse it, but it's getting a bit old to continually hear politicians recoil at the very idea that our behaviour may be a factor. Can't we think a bit more clearly here?

  • 23.
  • At 10:40 PM on 04 Jul 2007,
  • Duncan wrote:

We must never make excuses for terrorism - of course there are reasons but people who commit these acts don't attack the people they have a grievance against they attack indiscriminately against the innocents who have no more control over the events than anyone else - this is the ultimate evil and cannot be sanctioned or excused in any circumstances - all the evidence seems to point to these people being brainwashed and unable to determine right from wrong - we need to eliminate the extremist leaders who spread hate and promote the Religious leaders who preach peace and understanding

  • 24.
  • At 10:57 PM on 04 Jul 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:


I really wish you would read what I post not what you think I post, I posted, “I do call for such requirements to be applied to all immigrants whether from America, Asia or Australia” it is you yourself who chose to raise the subject of “brown faces.”

I have said on many occasions that ID cards will never stop all of the terrorists all of the time, but if they give our security services a ‘heads up’ on an individual even though the details turn out to be false it will set alarm bells ringing; intelligence is not a science it is the piecing together of information similar to a jigsaw, only when part complete does the picture become clearer.

If all those individuals who argue against ID cards were to apply their ‘logic’ to our police forces, they would call for all police forced to be disbanded as they do not catch all of the criminals all of the time.

David (19),
I thought it was us Americans who had trouble with irony!

Peter (20),
Some folk resent their names being misspelled. It's a sign of carelessness.

I appreciate your non-racial, non sectarian application of the proposed restrictions, but I still maintain they would be relatively easily circumvented by anyone determined to perpetrate criminal acts.

I need say no more, as Cleisthenes has put it all far better than I might.


  • 26.
  • At 09:34 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

I do not know how much clearer on this subject I can be:

“I referred in my post to all foreign nationals and this was what I meant, irrespective of skin colour or language skills, it is therefore of little interest to me whether or not the individual in question or yourself looks foreign or not.”

Those who reach to the past to find support or instances of errors made by previous Governments seem not to have listened to or choose not to heed the words of our Prime Minister at yesterday’s PMQs:

Hansard: “The Prime Minister: First, I may say to the right hon. Gentleman on comments made about identity cards in the past that we have got to take into account what is actually happening now. It is because the situation has changed that more and more people have come to the view taken by his security expert and Lord Stevens that we need identity cards—and I know that many on the Conservative Back Benches believe exactly the same as we do.”

It is today’s threats we need to take action and legislate against, we must create our policies to meet the challenges of today, granted we should take cognisance of the errors of the past but I believe we have moved greatly from practices and behaviours which once were acceptable in the past.

  • 27.
  • At 10:51 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Michael McFarlane wrote:

I definitely consider Mr Cleggs point to be valid. However, the very same question/point was raised by many ordinary people in the days after 9/11 -almost six years ago. Why does it take all this time for a Politician and Political correspondents, before they understand why the point is valid?. Our intelligence is being insulted here. Without intending to be rude; You, political analysts and reporters, would serve us public better if you started to seek the answers. I'm astonished an intelligent man like yourself, seems only recently to have recognized the relevance of such an obvious question. The possible answers are what you should be writing about; and not in six years from now either.

  • 28.
  • At 11:48 AM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Bill wrote:

Two brief thoughts.

1. As a soldier in Northern ireland, we were consistently taught that there was no military or police- driven solution. A political (or, if you prefer it, a social) answer was the only long term option. I don't see any big difference between that and the current situation.

2. Those who rush to condemn the Islamist extremists might moderate their self-righteousness a little by remembering that Islam is about 500 years younger than Christianity. And where was Christianity 500 years ago? Wars between religious factions, burning 'heretics' at the stake - and we still had the Spanish Inquisition to look forward to. The only thing that is new in this situation is mobility and the wea... No the only two things that are new are mobility and new weapons and communic... The only three things are ..... But we've been there.

  • 29.
  • At 10:59 PM on 05 Jul 2007,
  • Cleisthenes wrote:

... ID cards will never stop all of the terrorists all of the time, but if they give our security services a ‘heads up’...
Peter, Fife

What kind of 'heads up' would fake ID cards give anyone? Surely they'd just muddy the waters? No one can seriously believe a plastic card can compensate against motivated, skilled individuals intent on harm. Anything can be forged.

The point of the original blog post was the role our actions, and our foreign policy generally, might play in our current security situation. Or, more succinctly, is Britain now less safe since engaging countries in Asia.

If we are to believe there is a need for a debate on the role of ID cards in fighting terrorism, there's surely a place for debating our foreign policy too.

Whilst tracking those intent on crime is necessary, isn't it sensible to understand their motivations too? They're not robots, and as the recent bunch appear to be well educated it's hard to write them off as misguided peasants exploited by Jihadist masterminds.

A debate about the role of surveillance in all of this has its place but it's naive to assume compulsory ID cards will solve it. There must be a reason people want to harm us, and I doubt it's because they 'hate freedom', or any of the other vague reasons I've seen bandied about.

Finally, the introduction of ID cards will affect everyone; innocents and criminals alike. This is not the same as, say, setting up a specialised unit to fight a particular type of crime like fraud or terrorism. We'll all be subject to scrutiny in a way that's hard to justify. We have a right to privacy and freedom, and it's exactly that freedom that extremists threaten. Ultimately, isn't that what worries us?

Now, about your second grievance...

I posted, “I do call for such requirements to be applied to all immigrants whether from America, Asia or Australia” it is you yourself who chose to raise the subject of “brown faces.”

I gratefully accept your rebuke, and appreciate the minor clarification. However, your comment was:

The reality is that I will now view all foreign nationals with suspicion.

I naively assumed it was just a subset of humanity you'd view with suspicion. Had I realised it was all non-Brits, including our exceptionally strong allies the Australians and the Canadians (both of whom have the Queen as the head of state), to pick just two, I'd have been less kind.

The kind of mentality that uses mild xenophobia as a justification to curb our civil liberties is quite worrying. What's next, Star of David badges on our jackets?

Finally, the entire premise of your argument avoids the tricky issue of what motivated four Englishmen to allegedly detonate the bombs on London on 7/7. Whilst you were busy watching Johnny Foreigner they were plotting carnage. Like the recent London/Glasgow bombers, on paper, and presumably in the hugely expensive database that goes with the ID cards, they looked like normal, everyday people. Like you and me.

  • 30.
  • At 09:39 AM on 06 Jul 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

ID cards will have an alphanumeric code that can be relayed and checked against details held on a secure database; criminal and terrorists will either require to steal the ID of an individual of similar appearance because the alphanumeric code will be unrelated to the individual as are the codes currently used on driving licences.

If the criminal or terrorist simply makes up the alphanumeric code the feedback from the database could either be code, sex, address, etc invalid for the individual; these cards if copied well would offer little or no aid against terrorists if they are merely displayed but if the details require checked for ‘restricted sales items, i.e. fertiliser or gas cylinders, police or custom checks is where the ‘heads up’ will be delivered.

As for the comment about ‘Star of David’ badges, this does your cause no credit and is one step away from meeting the requirements of Godwin’s Law; I generally find the use of what I would consider unacceptable phraseology is most commonly adopted by the defenders of freedom.

You may be unaware that similar checks on the point of entry are in place in the United States where advance knowledge of air passenger details must be passed to US immigration authorities before landing clearance will be authorised; such check have been introduced this very month in Spain, the first EU country to implement such advanced aviation requirements on air operators. Spain will not be the only EU country to adopt such restrictions on incoming air carriers and passengers.

Your final point about home grown terrorist has already been conceded, but the security services would be supplied a link to those visiting regions of the world known for terrorist training with the purchase of restricted item.

Finally you make the assumption that I am normal looking.


I second all that you say. Well put. We must at least examine the causes, even if only as a guide to understanding the behaviour of those who would harm us the better to thwart them. It would be better to understand the root of their perception of grievance in order to modify either our causative behaviour or disabuse them of their error OR BOTH.

XXIII. We must not again allow public emotion or the public media to caricature our enemies. If our enemies are now to be some nations of Islam, then we should undertake to know those enemies. Our schools should begin to teach the histories, cultures, arts, and language of the Islamic nations. And our leaders should have the humility and the wisdom to ask the reasons some of those people have for hating us.


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