Then an interrogation in
Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up
multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a
year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani
dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I
witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information
this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they
might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture.
What it doesn't give is the truth.
The gentleman being
"interrogated" had fled the UK after being wanted for questioning
over the murder of his uncle some years ago. That might be felt to
cast some doubt on his reliability. It might also be felt that factors
other than political ones might be at play within these relationships.
Much is also being made of large transfers of money outside the formal
economy. Not in fact too unusual in the British Muslim community, but if
this activity is criminal, there are many possibilities that have
nothing to do with terrorism.
We then have the
extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests
over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in
desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for "Another
9/11". The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave
them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought,
wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled.
We then have the
appalling political propaganda of John Reid, Home Secretary, making a
speech warning us all of the dreadful evil threatening us and
complaining that "Some people don't get" the need to abandon
all our traditional liberties. He then went on, according to his own
propaganda machine, to stay up all night and minutely direct the
arrests. There could be no clearer evidence that our Police are
now just a political tool. Like all the best nasty regimes, the
knock on the door came in the middle of the night, at 2.30am. Those
arrested included a mother with a six week old baby.
For those who don't
know, it is worth introducing Reid. A hardened Stalinist with a long
term reputation for personal violence, at Stirling Univeristy he was the
Communist Party's "Enforcer", (in days when the Communist
Party ran Stirling University Students' Union, which it should not be
forgotten was a business with a very substantial cash turnover). Reid
was sent to beat up those who deviated from the Party line.
We will now never know
if any of those arrested would have gone on to make a bomb or buy a
plane ticket. Most of them do not fit the "Loner" profile
you would expect - a tiny percentage of suicide bombers have happy
marriages and young children. As they were all under
surveillance, and certainly would have been on airport watch lists,
there could have been little danger in letting them proceed closer to
maturity - that is certainly what we would have done with the IRA.
In all of this, the one
thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political.
This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand
British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve
per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harrassment of
Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most
of the very few - just over two per cent of arrests - who are convicted,
are not convicted of anything to do terrorism, but of some minor offence
the Police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives
they had shattered.
Be sceptical. Be very,
was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004.