I came in for much criticism at the time for being the first “respectable” commentator to call the fact that the “Bigger than 9/11 airline plot” was massive government hype, but my sources were very good. After a long trial a jury has now found that there was no credible evidence of plans to blow up airlines.
jurors rejected prosecution claims that Ali was responsible for an unprecedented airline bomb plot. They discarded evidence that Ali intended to target passenger jets flying from London to major North American cities with suicide attacks.
The jury did find that three of the accused were engaged in a plan to carry out domestic terrorist bombing, and there does appear some quite firm evidence to substantiate that. Doubtless the appeals process will work its way through. But this appears to be another example of a small pathetic group of failed would be terrorists who were never, at any stage, planning to take liquid explosives on to airliners.
That is the fundamental problem with the “War on Terror”, It is not that Islamic extremist terrorism does not exist. It does. Frankly given the many, many thousands of civilians we have killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon, it would be surprising if it did not exist. But it is massively hyped out of all reality by a government determined to use it to justify a massive increase in its powers over the citizenry.
I ask you to cast your minds back to just how very massive the hype was about the “airline liquid bomb plot” in summer of 2006. Scotland Yard called it “Bigger than 9/11”. In particular, remember the appalling anti-Muslim stories of plans to blow up planes using babies and baby bottles – as potent and horrifying a racist urban myth as has ever been developed.
These were total rubbish.
Of the twenty one people arrested over this massive plot to blow up airlines, which the Metropolitan Police described as “Bigger than 9/11”, in the end three were convicted of conspiracy to murder and four of causing public nuisance. Not one of those dragged from their homes at 2.30 am on the direct personal instruction of John Reid was convicted.
Accepting that 7/7 was Islamic terrorism (which I realise many people do not), about 60 people have been killed by Islamic terrorists in the UK. Any death is terrible, but that is about 2% of those who died in the Northern Ireland troubles. Even in the year of 7/7, less people were killed by Islamic terrorists than were drowned in their own baths. You have more chance of being struck by lightning than killed by a Islamic terrorist.
Yet this terrorist campaign was described by Tony Blair as “A fundamental threat to Western Civilisation” and by John Reid as “A threat on the scale of the Second World War”. The astonishing thing is that they created a climate in which the media accepted those assesments without a hint of the ridicule they deserved.
Terrorism has to be fought and prevented, but that is best done by meticulous, plodding police and intelligence work. It is also fundamental, but worth saying, that opposing rather than participating in oppression, bombing, torture and illegal invasion abroad would cut the ground from under terrorism. You do not fight terrorism by massively talking it up and terrifying your population into anti-Muslim attitudes, and initiating a spiral of repression that will just cause more terror.
On December 2006 I blogged:
I still do not rule out that there was a germ of a terror plot at the heart of this investigation. We can speculate about agents provocateurs and security service penetration, both British and Pakistani, but still there might have been genuine terrorists involved. But the incredible disruption to the travelling public, the War on Shampoo, and the “Bigger than 9/11” hype is unravelling.
If anyone can point to anything more prescient, I shall be dead impressed.