Sunday, March 14, 2004
The British response to the bombings in Madrid

Whilst the terrorist atrocities in Madrid represent the first of Al-Qaeda's forthcoming strikes in Europe, it is now clear that membership of the 'coalition of the willing' raises the likelihood of being targeted by Al Qaeda. Spain was already in the crosshairs due to the stated grievances concerning al Andalus, and by Al Qaeda's general hatred of the West. The announcements of Bin Laden have always pointed the finger at those countries which have sent troops to Iraq, and warned that they would suffer for their participation.

In the condolences that followed, Blair's strong perception of a global community fighting evil through international action shone through:

"This terrible attack underlines the threat that we all continue to face from terrorism in many countries and why we must all work together internationally to safeguard our peoples against such attacks and defeat terrorism," Mr Blair told his fellow politicians.

Whilst other members of the government viewed this as an assault on the European collective in their statements, Blair's global perspective raised his eyes above the continent, and by omission, left out any role for its institutions in security.

Al-Qaeda have shown that they are capable of exploiting intelligence blindspots and identifying opportunities for mass murder using transport and other systems. Their bombmaking has become more sophisticated and they may have abandoned symbolic acts in favour of a greater death toll. Understandably, the government stated that it would not cut funds to the armed forces or the police and compromise security.

The first step has been the announcement that marshalls will ride on trains although there is no reference to arms on their person. However, the 'fifth column' remains as morally convincing as ever.

Attacks on the US by al Qaida or other groups were viewed as justified by 13% of the 500 British Muslims questioned.

Another 15% said they did not know whether the such attacks are wrong or right.

If this poll is correct, over a quarter of British Muslims do not view terrorist attacks that kill large numbers of innocent people as evil. The vast majority do not support Al Qaeda but, nevertheless, a worrying and substantial minority are sympathisers.

(21.55, 14th February 2004)


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