Sunday, 21 April 2013

Homegrown Bombers - Sunday Sample

From my book "Not In My name" published 2011 - part 2, the new politics is being waged online where it is far more vicious and bloody...

"Joe Bloggs’ Blog, London, July 8th 2006
The view from the top of the Clapham Omnibus
A year to the day. Plus one. In order to honour the memorial ceremonies passing off with due dignity.
But I can hold my peace no longer. Today I can ask the question, was that it??? A one-hit wonder? Is that the sum total, one atrocity?
Admittedly well-planned and co-ordinated, but where’s the sustained follow-up campaign? Apart from the four stooges who couldn’t even make a chapati, much less a bomb. And didn’t one of them, possessed with the courage of a lion, make his bolt by draping himself head to foot in a burka? How double-edged does the veil seem now?
It’s a bit of a well-worn tradition apparently. For I’m told as much as protecting female modesty, the veil can also help a vulpine lover secure access, to his off-limits but willing love in the harem.
Still, how we were all gripped by the thrill of the chase for a couple of weeks. CCTV footage of them plastered everywhere, rivalling a bad taste Benetton campaign. Blanket media coverage, till they were being led away under blankets. Extradited, locked up and forgotten about. News blackout.
About time they were coming to trial I’d say. How much more evidence do we need to gather? Caught red handed on camera. Up in the dock, so we can all see you for the pathetic specimens you really are! You’re nothing! We can’t even recall your names. Your prolix, unBritish sounding names, more verbose than any meaningful ideology you care to spout.
And, undaunted we’re still using the Underground aren’t we? Our wheels of commerce grind on. The fear and anxiety have diminished, cos you haven’t been able to repeat your heinous deed. Of course not, your top boys took themselves out in their one act. Your second top boys...are just languishing in our prison cells. I think you're done don't you?
So it showed that you could. Big deal. The Met Commissioner had been warning us for three years, with his mantra that it was a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. Well, ‘when’ has come to pass. And past. In theory the threat must still persist. But London has shrugged its broad shoulders and got on with life. We’re battle hardened, first from the Blitz, then the spud-munchers throwing blazing fertilizer at us. Such outrages only firm up our sense of community and togetherness. A sense of belonging you can’t possibly penetrate.
When all’s said and done, ultimately you were no more than a mosquito or a gnat bite. A knee-jerk into the groin. Enough to make our eyes water, but no need for an overreaction of the body politic.
Since there’s been no lasting terror beyond the one-off incident, therefore it had to have been an act of vengeful spite. A token. A hate token to the country of your birth. Not even your adoptive or foster country, but where you were born, brought up and educated. A single act of bloody bloodymindedness.
Rather than play out your destructive oedipal fantasies on our bodies, you would have been better off blubbering on a shrink’s couch, except that is rooted in the other bunch of Semite cousins you claim to abhor. Hatred is always non-negotiable. Like prejudice.
One of you only ended up on that bus cos you neglected to charge the battery. Still, how redolent was that image, with its roof ripped off like a sardine tin? Powerfully symbolic, but symptomatic of not very much at all. Except your lack of understanding of our way of life, both marooned up there in Yorkshire and holed up in a cave somewhere in Afghanistan.
Only a tired old strategy of economic dislocation, targets the transport system. But every Londoner knows any three Tube lines are out of commission on a daily basis. Signal trouble usually. The bus ought to have been your cue, seeing as it’s our culture you’re at war with anyway.
For our part, we may not be able to win a war on a word called ‘terror’. But you can triumph even less through war against a culture. Does Grozny or Gaza feel any more liberated by your act of derring-do? No, thought not.
So it remains a stifled howl. The yelp from kicking a three-legged dog. A petulant display from infantile minds. No matter how downright angry I may be after what you’ve done, I’m still civilised enough not  to be coming after your kith and kin. An eye for an eye? My eye more like. And I’ve got it trained on you."

"I heartily concur with the sentiments expressed from the top of the Clapham Omnibus. Though I believe there is a little more behind the motivations of such men, other than petty vindictiveness. I would refer you to the dedicated network, small as it is but dispersed worldwide, as represented by a myriad of sites on the Web. Where exist hundreds of webpage bomb-making cookbooks and footage of IED (improvised explosive device) attacks from the Middle East, shot from the vantage of those pressing the remote control for the bomb. There was even, in English, a Powerpoint step-by-step presentation of how to construct a homemade device, till the URL was spiked.

So, in similar vein, I thought it about time the arsenal ranged against this network was laid out in turn. To wit, the eyes and ears of entire nations. If the requisite information can be got out, to you the public, then there stands more chance of thwarting the bombers. The Authorities want the populace to keep eyes and ears open to help in the fight against terrorism, but they don’t want you to open your mouths and question what lies behind such actions in the first place. So as with your Blog host, I can hold my peace no longer. I will furnish you with all the information you need to know. To hell with the Official Secrets Act. If they haul me over the coals for whistle blowing, so be it. At least what I have to offer will already be out in the public domain. This is what you truly call a civil service. Below are my credentials.

I am and have been for over thirty years, part of the Intelligence Services of this country. In the past, we have been all that lay between you and periodic bloody carnage throughout our sceptred isle. It started with tracking down the Angry Brigade in the 1970’s. Then outflanking both Irish Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries (in the interest of balance). Welsh Nationalist firebombers (remember them? I know, hard to credit Pembroke and Monmouth ever being more desirable for holiday homes than Tuscany and Provence). Animal liberationists, (never averse to serving up some slabs of well done human steak). Extortioners. Arsonists with delusions of grandeur and an accelerant career ladder. Those mail bombers and nail bombers, letter bombers bearing grudges and misanthrope purveyors of hate crimes. Oh and Libyans. Most were embarked on prolonged campaigns of repeated outrages, that it was our duty to stop dead in their tracks.

We operated from the painstaking reconstruction of each and every device, plus a consideration of the psychological cues contained in the targets, to catch our perpetrators. I could tell you about the fertilizer based bombs favoured by the Boys from the Bogside, prior to their roaring trade in Czech semtex. Or the respectable middle class Angry Brigades, who would only blow up property and institutional symbols rather than target people. Even as government scientists were simultaneously devising neutron bombs that killed people, but left buildings standing. However all of this has gone out the blast shattered window here and now. Our manuals have been ripped up and used for kindling.

For the current crop of antinomian bombers are radically different. They are not pursuing a prolonged campaign. Just the one abomination is ample for their purposes. Lighting the touchpaper but not standing back, seems sufficient to pass on a flaming baton to the next disciples. Now we have to interdict them before they ever carry out the dark deed. That is made especially hard, since my superiors have not seen fit over the years, to establish much in the way of a network of contacts within these communities. To my lords and masters, most of these beardy blokes are 'clean faces'.

Made tougher still by the annealing of the present antagonists. In the past, a bomber, no matter how adept, would normally only set a device after several practice runs. And an explosion is the type of ultramundane sound, that prompts people’s recall, once it has been suggested to them that it bears a greater magnitude than a car backfiring. However, this lot either have done their training abroad and out of sight, or they just go for it hell for leather, the first and only time of asking. I believe that’s what caught out the second quartet of would be Tube bombers. They’d read their Blue Peter bomb primers, but for the want of any stickyback plastique, hadn’t been able to put it into any practice. Thank God.

Nor is their psychology the same. Most bombers bear a signature hallmark in their make up, as to why they have particularly embraced the destructive power of explosives. Some may revel in the intricacies of their constructions, the timers, trip switches and detonators. They may even want their bombs to be discovered rather than detonate, so they can pit their fiendish wits with our expert disposalists. Others may get their charge, if you’ll excuse the pun, from enchaining the elemental force of the big bang itself. The red hot wind that for a brief moment, expels and purges the very air itself. Before the devastation comes cascading back to earth. Collapse of stout party. The bomber as Hephaestus at his forge. Perhaps Zeus himself hurling his thunderclaps and leaving huge craters in the earth. Though obviously such association is beyond the majority of most bomb throwers. For they remain forever, third spear chucker in a lame production of a modern-day revenge tragedy.

But this clump are not interested in the finesse of their design, nor the temporary divine power it may vest them. For they willingly sacrifice themselves immediately upon such divinity and are consumed by it. They are not around to relive their handiwork in their mind’s eye, or even congratulate themselves grimly on a job well done. Ergo no signature handiwork, because it is an act never to be recreated. For them, the bomb is a means to a singular, solitary end, pure and simple. Same difference ricin, anthrax or nuclear waste. Ordination by ordnance. Unlike most bombers who have long-since skedaddled from the proposed locus of their perniciousness, these men probably do look their victims in the eyes shortly before triggering their devices. Indiscriminate, but somehow intimate. This is coffin calculus, at its simplest, most stripped down algorithm.

Having said that, like I say there are underlying factors behind the atrocities. Though I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say they constitute a body of coherent ideology. You probably all know the mantras of incitement: Palestine/ Iraq. American/ Crusader imperialism. Other hotspots around the world and corrupt, unIslamic Arab regimes. There’s a critique of Western materialism and sexual mores, with which I have a modicum of sympathy, but their solution for which I find yet more repellent. What this hodgepodge of ideas actually means, is that the diffuse network that is Al Qaeda, can inspire any local sparkplug to tap into his own motives. Like a sort of pick and mix of malcontentment. In the 1960’s Buddhist monks protested American Foreign Policy by setting themselves on fire. Something about Islam insinuates they have to make sure we combust along with them. Again, Clapham Omnibus has it about right with his positing that as a one off, they did it because they could. It has a lot in common with the goalless death dealing of Russian Nihilism of the Nineteenth Century. Just witness the current bloody insurgency in Iraq. For Shi’a and Sunni, you could almost read Hutu and Tutsi.

However, don’t for one moment believe that it has subsided on our Isles with this one isolated act. Just as a poisoner ought to arouse suspicion with the chemicals he purchases, we should all be on the lookout for bulk purchases, whether we are pharmacies, garden centres, catering suppliers or even hair salons. I don’t think it’s faintly possible to prejudice the case against the second cohort of Tube bombers, the ones who lived to face up to justice, but I can tell you that the constituents of their bombs were humble household products; hair bleach, nail polish remover and chapati flour. All the more terrible for being so mundane in their genesis. Things we utilise in our lifestyles, repackaged and spat back poisonously in our faces."

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1 comment:

Anne Stormont said...

Marc, powerful writing -and oh so true. Contemporary terrorism is different to what has gone before. Senseless killing and maiming is senseless killing and maiming whether it's 'old' terror or 'new' - or a lone, sick, gunman opening fire in a school. But acts of the type committed in Boston are all the more chilling in the ways you describe. Your journalistic style and - as always - use of powerful language make those chilling conclusions very clear.