When London subways were bombed last summer, one of the most discussed and most frightening things about the attack was that, according to London police, the suicide bombers were "clean skins," anonymous young British Muslims who no one had ever suspected of terrorist connectons. The Home Secretary Charles Clarke said they had "simply come out of the blue."
On top of 52 people randomly getting killed and 700 more injured, the shocking anonymity made for a chilling atmosphere. Terrorists could be growing up in odd corners, unknown to the police and unsuspected by their neighbors. The enemy lurked among us, we, the good people, the safe people.
Now it comes out that the British intelligence service had bugged Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, a second bomber, for two months as they talked about Khan’s desire to fight in what he saw as the Islamic holy war." They dropped the surveillance because they thought Khan was a con man.
So the idea of the "clean skins" was a myth -- and the police very quickly knew it. Who knows why they hid the real story (maybe to protect their funding?) but that concealment served the purposes of governments on both sides of the Atlantic.
Rachel, who was aboard one of the trains when it blew up, is understandably pissed off:
The dirty secret of both the U.S. and British governments is revealed: they'd rather keep us afraid, than prevent terrorist acts. They thrive on keeping us afraid. Our fear of terrorism facilitates Bush trashing of the Constitution. Brits don't have a constitution, but they are seeing huge erosion of civil liberties by Blair's government.
It is time to take a deep breath and propose some radical rethinking of our recent history. It is time to let go of 9/11.
Yes, that was a horrible day; the terrorists made us all extras and victims in their made-for-TV movie. But life in the U.S. goes on -- very well thank you, compared to much of the world.
Terrorists can certainly hit us again. Vigilance is good. But this isn't a bad movie; there is not the slightest possibility that terrorists can overturn the U.S. -- even if they nuked a major city! Hell, we saw a major city sink out of existence without any terrorist complicity at all last September. Though hundreds of thousands still suffer, did that make more than a ripple in the fabric of society?
It is time to tell the irrational fear mongers to take a hike, to figure out what kind of country we really want, and to build it. For a start, we can stop thrashing around in other people's countries and try to make some friends again.
People who can't recover from trauma spread their victimization over the lives of everyone they encounter. So do countries. Time to get over it.
Hat tip to Bloggerheads for the Times story.