The reaction to the bungled attack on Glasgow Airport has been interesting, and by “interesting” I mean “depressing”. Online the hardcore nationalists are blaming the English, others are blaming Asians (all of them, from what I can see) and a few others are suggesting it’s a false flag operation by the government to keep the population docile – although to be fair, the attacks so far have demonstrated a truly amazing level of incompetence, so maybe there’s some truth in that after all.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. On MetaFilter it’s been pointed out that if any terrorists want to get stacks of publicity and lots of new recruits to their cause, they should forget about Glasgow Airport and drive a burning jeep into Paris Hilton.
In among the casual racism – overheard: “Airport… Asians… Enoch Powell…” – people are already demanding a crackdown on this sort of thing. But a crackdown on what? Leaving aside the fact that the car bombs didn’t go off because the terrorists apparently got all their bomb-making knowledge from bad Hollywood movies, most of the ingredients in their bombs were everyday things: petrol, patio gas cylinders, nails. It’s very depressing to think that any Asian family popping to Homebase to get a gas refill for the barbecue in the next few weeks is going to find the DIY shopping experience even less pleasant than it usually is.
I agree with the various bloggers, such as Devil’s Kitchen, who point out that while it’s easy – and important – to mock the failed bombers (why couldn’t the papers have run a pic of the bombers with the screaming headline, “TWATS”?), there’s no reason to assume that any future attacks will be entrusted to the paramilitary wing of the special school. And that’s scary.
It’s scary for two reasons. The first is that it’s perfectly possible to make incendiary or explosive devices with everyday objects – with a bit of lateral thinking, I could turn the contents of my shed into an arsenal – and there’s bugger-all you can do about it (although I’m sure that won’t stop someone from writing to the Guardian suggesting that patio gas should be banned for anti-terrorism and pro-environment reasons). And the second reason is that no matter what you do, there’s always a way for a determined terrorist to cause carnage. Sure, Glasgow Airport will probably put some of those anti-truck concrete barriers in front of the terminal, but how do you stop someone walking in with a bomb belt or an explosive in their rucksack? And of course, airports are pretty tough targets compared to shopping centres, to city streets, to buses…
What we need here is intelligence, in the security services sense. Better intelligence won’t stop all atrocities from happening – not when Brits are making bombs from old barbecues – but it can help prevent some of them, and if attacks do happen it can follow the terrorists’ tracks to find accomplices, chains of command (if such things even exist) and so on – so if terrorists are part of a network, that network can be found and smashed before it attacks again.
Of course, that would cost money. A lot of money. The sort of money you’d spend on an ill-conceived, multi-billion pound ID card programme or something.