The aircraft bomb plot and Iraq: a fine pair of slanders
The foiling of the UK terrorists’ plot to bomb aeroplanes in mid-air between Britain and the US (still cautiously referred to in the Guardian and elsewhere as the “alleged” plot) has prompted the emergence into the daylight of two particularly unpleasant slanders, one new and specific to the bomb plot, the other old and discredited but seemingly impossible to kill off.
The new and specific slander is the allegation that there wasn’t really any plot at all: that the whole thing is a deliberate invention by the government, the police, the security service and other conspirators, designed to distract media and public attention from the government’s unpopular stand on Israel-Lebanon and to supply a spurious justification for yet another assault on our civil liberties by “Dr” Reid and his power-hungry friends.
We needn’t spend much time on this ludicrous accusation. You need to be an especially glassy-eyed conspiracy theorist to believe that such a huge deception, involving so many public servants of whom a clear majority are plainly honourable and conscientious men and women, could ever hope to survive the inevitable inquiries and investigations without being quickly unmasked. Raking up old allegations of security service incompetence or worse — de Menezes, ricin, Forest Gate, and so on — and pointing to the absence so far of anyone being charged, blithely ignores an inconvenient reality: a terrorist suspect may well be arrested and questioned, but eventually released without charge, for several possible reasons which in no way demonstrate that the original suspicions were misplaced. For example, there may be irrefutable evidence which confirms the guilt of the suspect but which can’t be used in court (e.g. because its use would compromise a vital informer, or because it depends on hearsay or telephone intercepts, or because it would alert other terrorists still under investigation, or because it has enabled the police to recruit a new informer). Could those who believe that the latest plot against the aircraft is a fiction, or a deliberate misrepresentation of some harmless fantasy, be the same people as those who believe that the CIA organised the destruction of the Twin Towers, that the moon landing was filmed in a studio in Nevada, and that JFK was assassinated by agents of LBJ? I’m especially sorry to see my friend and former colleague Craig Murray joining this group of eccentrics and obsessives, earning himself a magisterial rebuke and rebuttal from the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
The second and older slander is the assertion, cropping up once again all over the place, that (in the words of Jon Henley in the Guardian of 16 August 2006) Tony Blair “famously [sic] insists that there is no connection at all between the actions of his government in Iraq and the threat to the UK from international terrorism.” Well, no, he doesn’t, actually, and never has, however ‘famous’ the allegation that he does. He is even on the public record as stating that he has never said such a thing. Here is an extract from his answer to a question at his press conference on 26 July 2006:
Q. …how then can you still deny that there is at least the very possibility that Iraq played a contributory factor into fomenting the extremism amongst some Muslim youths that found its ultimate expression in an act of terror?
Prime Minister: …I read occasionally that I am supposed to have said it is nothing to do with Iraq, in inverted commas. Actually I haven’t said that. If you go back and look at the comments I have made over the past couple of weeks, what I do say is this, … of course people are going to use Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed if you look at what a lot of these terrorist statements say they use both Iraq and Afghanistan incidentally. Often people just talk about Iraq, but they use both of them. They will use Iraq to try and recruit and motivate people. They will use Afghanistan. Before Iraq and Afghanistan, and 11 September, which happened before those two things, they used other things. But I think most people understand that the roots of this go far deeper… And I want to make one thing very clear to you. Whatever excuse or justification these people use I do not believe we should give one inch to them, not in this country and the way we live our lives here, not in Iraq, not in Afghanistan, not in our support for two States, Israel and Palestine, not in our support for the alliances we choose, including with America, not one inch should we give to these people. [My emphasis — BLB]
Those (and there are many of them in addition to Mr Henley) who persist in claiming that Blair has denied any connection between the UK role in Iraq and Islamic extremist terrorism in the UK have a plain obligation to give us chapter and verse for their allegation. Perhaps the evidence exists somewhere: Blair is by no means always consistent. But I haven’t been able to track it down, and until someone produces it, I shall continue to believe that this is one rare charge on which Blair has the right to be acquitted. I suppose I can’t blame Jon Henley, the Guardian and other editorialists, and all the other card-carrying members of the leftish commentariat, for having failed to read, learn and inwardly digest at least two of my earlier Ephems blog posts, on 28 August and 2 September 2005, in which I dealt at my usual inordinate length with both the accusation and also the fallacious and dangerous conclusions that too many commentators have tried to draw from it.
Why do I find myself defending the appalling Blair all of a sudden? (No, don’t tell me.)
Incidentally (my favourite opening of a final paragraph), here’s a question to be pondered by those who think that if Britain’s Iraq policies and actions had been different, the atrocities of 7/7 and the “alleged” plot to bomb US-bound aircraft in the past weeks would not have occurred (and that if the government now reversed our Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon policies, there would be no more terrorist activity in the UK): how do you explain the botched terrorist attack on regional trains on 31 July this year — in Germany?