Thursday, 23 March 2017

Yesterday's incident in Westminster

I wish I wasn't having to write this blog entry today ... but I felt that I could not ignore what happened yesterday in Westminster. If that offends any of my regular blog readers, please accept my apology and I hope that you will return and read future blog entries.

I have lived in London for most of my life. In fact I was born in the General Lying In Hospital, which is very close to the southern end of Westminster Bridge and only a few hundred yards from the location of yesterday's incident.

As a result of living in the capital, I have been close to several terrorist attacks.
  • On 7th November 1974 I was visiting my then girlfriend (who is now my wife) when the PIRA (Provisional Irish Republican Army) bombed the 'King's Arms' public house just a few hundred yards from where she lived. Two people were killed and twenty eight injured.
  • On 14th May 1990 I was in my office at Eltham Green School when I felt – and then heard – the bomb planted by the PIRA at the headquarters of the Royal Army Education Corps in Eltham Palace. Four people were injured.
  • On 22nd May 2013 I was at home on Shooters Hill when Fusilier Lee Rigby was killed in Woolwich, less than a mile from where I live. I had planned to go to Woolwich on that day and at approximately the time that Lee was killed to visit the local branch of the NatWest Bank, but changed my mind before leaving home.
I have never let the fact that I was near to these incidents affect the way I have lived my life. Like everyone else, I carried on as normal in the knowledge that life was for living, and not to be spent cowering in a corner in a state of perpetual fear.

Yesterday was not the first time that the Houses of Parliament have been the scene of such an attack.
  • On 11th May 1812 the Prime Minister – Spencer Perceval – was assassinated inside the lobby of the House of Commons by John Bellingham, a merchant who had been imprisoned in Russia and who thought that he was entitled to some form of compensation from the government. He killed Perceval when his petitions for that compensation had been rejected.
  • On 17th June 1974 the PIRA planted a bomb that did extensive damage to part of the building and caused injuries to eleven people.
  • On 30th March 1979 the INLA (Irish National Liberation Army) planted a bomb under Airey Neave's car whilst it was in the Houses of Parliament's underground car park, as a result of which he was killed as he drove up the exit ramp. At the time Airey Neave was the Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and a prominent supporter of Margaret Thatcher, the then leader of the Opposition.
Despite all of these attacks, life in London went on as it had before. People were vigilant – and probably more than a little anxious – but not cowed. The majority accepted that if they stopped trying to live a normal life, they were showing that the attackers had not won ... and would not and will not win.


Today I feel very strongly that we should be thinking about those who were affected by yesterday's attack, especially the families of those who died (including PC Keith Palmer, who – despite being unarmed – tried to stop the attacker), those who were injured, those who dealt with the injured, and those who were in the Westminster area and who saw what happened.

I certainly am thinking of all of them ... and today I will try to carry on doing what I planned to do regardless of the fact that there was a terrorist attack in London yesterday.

Yesterday was also the first anniversary of the bomb attacks in Brussels that resulted in the deaths of thirty two innocent civilians and the three bombers, and caused injuries to over three hundred people. I do hope that yesterday's attack in London was not someone's distorted and perverted idea of marking that anniversary.

24 comments:

  1. Agreed. We know why the Irish Republicans of various hues attacked London, but why did this man drive the car over people, why did he stab the unarmed copper? And why have places in Birmingham and London been raided? This terror needs to be named.

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    1. AlFront,

      I suspect that the person responsible for yesterday's tragic events will turn out to be someone who was motivated by some sort of distorted religious view. I have known and worked with numerous Moslems in the past, and I have taught Comparative Religions during my teaching career, and I know that Islam shares the same values as the other religions 'of the book'. What happened yesterday does not accord with my understanding of the basic tenets of Islam, and it is to be hoped the perpetrator is not represented to be acting in accordance with those tenets.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Yes, I take your point, Bob, and very few people claim that it is 'all Muslims'. However, the Islamists (as opposed to Muslims in general), are extremely dangerous, and happily (and it is happily) murder people all around the globe. Most of their victims are other Muslims, but, clearly, western Europe is a target too. The Islamists believe that they are interpreting the Koran (and other texts, such as the Hadiths) correctly. They are able to find plenty of textual evidence to support their violent jihad. They are also able to point to the life of Mohammed, the 'perfect man'. If one ignores this, the one is, at best, fooling oneself. Also, the values of the New Testament, particularly the Gospels, are quite unlike those of the Koran, just as the life of Christ is absolutely unlike that of Mohammed.

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    3. AlFront,

      Islam seems to be going through the sort of internal upheaval that Christianity went through during the Reformation, with Sunni and Shite factions (and other less well known groups) regarding each other as not just wrong, but worse than unbelievers.

      The 'book' that Islam refers to is the Old Testament, and Christ is regarded as being just another prophet who preceded Mohammed. My understanding is that 'people of the book' (Jews and Christians) were to be tolerated.

      The situation within Islam is complex, and not understood by a lot of people ... including a lot of Muslims. In such a confusing situation it is not difficult see how easy it might be to entrap vulnerable people into following the teachings of an extreme sect.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. I was working in Whitehall in the 7o's and in the 90's and recall the IRA attacks of 9 March 1973 (bomb)and February 1991 (mortar). All one can do is just get on with one's normal routines. However, this particular threat will be with us for some time I fear and need to be addressed by a whole range of policies - social, economic, police and sometimes military over the long term.

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    1. David Bradley,

      The best way to defeat this threat is not to allow it to dominate our lives, and to support the work done to the various government and local agencies to unite the population against terrorists and those who support them. This might sound rather trite, but it is only by everyone working together to achieve this aim that the pernicious thinking that made this attack possible will be defeated.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. In particular, the UK Muslim population needs to sort out those of its own who are of an Islamist persuasion. Here's some findings, reported in The Guardian, about UK Muslim attitudes:
      'it also found that 31% believed the US government was behind the 9/11 terror attacks with a further 7% blaming the Jews and only 4% saying al-Qaida was responsible.

      When asked what they would do if they became aware someone close to them was “getting involved with people who support terrorism in Syria” only 52% said they would report them to the police.'
      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/02/uk-muslims-show-worrying-belief-in-conspiracy-theories-claims-thinktank

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    3. AlFront,

      Interesting statistics ... but how many Americans believe that their own government was responsible for the 9/11 outrage?

      You are right about the need to get the majority of the British Moslem population 'on side' with regard to reporting potential terrorists to the proper authorities ... but I have heard similar comments about not 'grassing' from white working-class students. It requires a complete culture change across the whole population with regard to what constitutes a threat to our way of life.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. Very well said sir. All the best to you, yours, and your countrymen. Cheers.

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    Replies
    1. Stanley Martens,

      Thanks very much for your comment and your support.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. Replies
    1. Steve-the-Wargamer,

      Thanks very much.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. I was just going to write what S-t-W wrote and the thought stands but I'll add an opinion.


    Whatever superficial reasons are offered up, there are almost always underlying social, economic etc problems. It seems quite rare for a well off member of the middle class living in an equitable society to sudden become a suicidal radical.

    Carrying on without panic while taking sensible precautions and dealing with underlying issues seems like the best long-term course to me.

    My own personal experience of such things is quite limited though our "October Crisis" seemed serious enough at the time and a few small bombs, kidnappings and deaths amid the uncertainty was enough to make the sight of armed soldiers on the streets of Montreal comforting to an anglophone. Most of the Quebecois friends I later made saw it all differently but with firm reaction paired with attention to underlying issues it all worked out in the end.

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    1. Ross Mac,

      Thanks for your comment and support.

      I'd forgotten all about the Canadian 'October Crisis' until you mentioned it in your comment, and I've just been refreshing my memory of the events. I think that the Canadian government probably adopted the correct strategy in the circumstances, but I somehow think that we have some way to go in the UK before we see quite that level of military presence on the streets of the UK as a whole and the suspension of habeas corpus.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. It was a controversial decision and now eidely seen as an over reaction to what the real threat was, not so much the presence of soldiers to assist the police but the declaration of martial law and suspension of civil rights. The reaction to the individual extremist attacks 2 years ago did not provoke anywhere near as extreme a reaction.

      The cabinet minister that was kidnapped and murdered only lived 2 blocks from my high school so for a month or you could walk to the edge of the school grounds and see the roadblocks and sentries.
      Quite happy that I didn't grow up in Belfast or any of many even more troubled places.

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    3. Just had a disturbing thought....that was 47 years ago! Didn't 47 years used to seem like a long time?

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    4. Ross Mac,

      The policy of internment adopted in Northern Ireland was little better than the suspension of habeas corpus, and actually made matters worse because putting all the so-called bad eggs in one basket meant that they could organise themselves and create networks that would prove useful once they were released.

      It would appear that the UK's prisons are proving to be quite a recruiting ground for Islamic extremists, who seem to be targetting potential recruits for radicalisation. Serving a custodial sentence seems to be on most of the recent UK terrorists' CV, and I understand that the perpetrator of yesterday's incident had convictions for carrying weapons etc. It is also emerging that he had been identified some years ago as being on the periphery of the militant and extremist Islamic movement.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    5. Ross Mac,

      47 years ago I was twenty!

      Inside I still feel as if I am that old, but on the outside my body isn't ... more's the pity!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  6. I agree, well said. My condolences to those who were hurt by the attack. Taking reasonable precautions is good. Over-reacting is not so good. The key is striking the right balance. And going on with live as usual as much as possible. In my humble opinion, of course.

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    1. Fitz-Badger,

      Thanks very much for your kind comment.

      The general tenor of what is being said in Parliament and the UK media is very much in the same tone. What has turned out to be a fake notice is reported to have appeared on a board on the London Underground. It stated:

      'All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us, we will drink tea and jolly well carry on. Thank-you'

      It was reported in Parliament, and although it is a fake, it sums up the attitude of most people.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  7. Unfortunately over-reacting, particularly in the media is exactly what's happening. Whilst it is very sad for those hurt and injured, we were not facing a Mumbai-style atrocity with the Palace of Westminster in flames and guys throwing grenades and spraying AK47s on the concourse at Waterloo Station. We need to retain a sense of perspective - I too lived in London during the height of the IRA's murder campaign but our modern society, particularly the media and government, would be totally unable to cope with the likes of such events now. On a related note, hopefully Martin McGuinness is currently rotting in He'll - it was good to see Bill displaying the usual Clinton lack of moral judgement in attending the funeral.

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    1. Jeremy Ramsey,

      Although I concur that yesterday's incident was minor in comparison to the atrocities that have taken place elsewhere in the world (I am put in mind of the attacks that have happened in France, Belgium, Spain, Germany, India, Pakistan, and Iraq over recent years ... and even the events in London just a few years ago) part of the reason why such attacks do not seem to have been mounted here - as yet - is the result of the lessons learned by the UK's intelligence and counter-terrorism organisations during the IRA/PIRA/INLA campaigns. The 'lone wolf' is almost impossible to stop whereas conspiracies that involve a number of people should be easier to identify and stop before the attacks take place.

      Did the media over-react? It always seems to these days, regardless of the nature of the news it is reporting. I tend to treat its output like the sound on my TV, and mentally turn the volume down when they begin to speculate rather than report.

      I also noticed the irony of today being the day that they buried Martin McGuinness. As to his ultimate destination in the afterlife ... well I'm going to keep my thoughts on that matter to myself and plead the Francis Urquart defence!

      All the best,

      Bob

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    1. Jubilo,

      And keep things on the Level.

      All the best,

      Bob

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