The Guardian from London, Greater London, England on September 12, 2001 · 19
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The Guardian from London, Greater London, England · 19

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Wednesday, September 12, 2001
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The Guardian Wednesday September 12 2001 25 Founded 1821. Number 48212 Blair: ideological, illogical Day of infamy The sum of all our fears Even in its agony, America must stay cool the United States was plunged into a state of war yesterday by an enemy it could not see. Unlike other conflicts in which the US has engaged, there were no klaxons this time, no air raid sirens, no open declaration of hostilities, no ultimatum, nor any prior expression of intent. This was no mere car bombing, no sneak attack on a US warship or embassy, nor a lone gunman's targeting of an American diplomat or businessman. Yesterday's offensive was simply unparalleled. It came, without a trace of a warning, on multiple targets chosen for their paramount symbolic value, and was clearly, pitilessly designed to cause the maximum damage, the highest possible number of casualties, and the greatest achievable degree of terror. Even the sailors of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour in 1941 discovered, too late, who was attacking them. When they realised what was happening, they knew why. And they knew what they had to do in response. A chief part of the horror of yesterday's truly appalling, awesome events was the lack of a face or a name, the lack of meaning the lack of reason. But terrorism has never been a rational activity. It is by definition a negation of humanity, the opposite of life, sense, and sensibility. It is, as the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, said in a speech last April, "a persistent disease". To those many, still unknown numbers of Americans who died yesterday, to those who were injured, and to those who will suffer the consequences of this mass murder for the rest of their lives, we offer our deep sympathy. To those who carried out these cowardly attacks, we offer only our contempt and the heartfelt conviction that Britain and the British people, no strangers to terrorist outrages, will do all in their power to assist the American government in finding those who are responsible. The United States, its government, and its people did not deserve this. For this day of carnage and tears there can be no justification or excuse. It was, as the sequence of horror first began to unfold across New York's skyline, initially unbelievable. As if in some far-fetched Hollywood disaster movie, reports came in of an explosion at the World Trade Centre, possibly caused by a plane. Then, as the cameras arrived and the live television commentary began, another plane seemed to come from nowhere. "The second plane curved in from the west and appeared to aim straight at the second tower and hit it just below the level of the first impact... it was being aimed deliberately at the target," said one reporter at the scene. Suddenly, a fireball erupted from the second tower and both skyscrapers were on fire. People jumped from the burning upper floors, driven to their deaths by excoriating flames. As each person fell, a great, screaming wail went up from those below. But this, it transpired, was just the beginning. Within minutes, the Pentagon in Washington was on fire. Another hijacked plane had plunged straight at it. Some reports said defence chiefs had been alerted that the aircraft was heading their way. But even the most powerful military in the world could do nothing to stop it. Soon after that, a bomb exploded at the State Department, and full-scale evacuations were underway at the White House, Treasury, and other buildings in the heartland of America's federal government. The airline system was shut down, cities from Chicago to Los Angeles to Miami went on full-scale alert, and normal business from Wall Street downwards came to a halt. Even that greatest of all American symbols, the presidency embodied at this moment by George Bush seemed shaken, unnerved, and at a loss for words. ar from being a Hollywood director's fantasy, it was all horribly real. It was indeed the sum of all fears. As emergency services in New York scrambled across Manhat tan, debris from the wounded towers created a new hazard. Panic swept the streets as people struggled to clear the area. And with good reason. One after the other, with a dread inevitability, the World Trade Centre 'scrapers toppled and crashed to the ground. What the renegade Saudi millionaire terrorist, Osama bin Laden, and his fanatical Islamic fundamentalist followers had tried to do in February, 1993, had now finally been achieved. If ever the world needed a symbol of the potency of the threat that confronts us all, here it was as frightful actuality. That moment of collapse will be remembered for years to come, as the moment when international terrorism became, without question, the primary menace to global security. If these men of blood can reach out into America's front yard and wreak desperate havoc with such apparent impunity, then who among us is safe? That is merely one of the many questions that now come to the fore with an urgency borne of grief and a rising tide of anger. Another is whether the US government could have prevented the attacks. It is not as though it was unaware of the problem; it is not a question of complacency. The State Department has long charted and plotted the numerous terrorist groups that inhabit all corners of the globe, from Northern Ireland to the Philippines, and which could (in theory) mount attacks against the US at home. It publishes annually a list of "state sponsors" of terrorism which includes countries such as Iraq, Iran, Libya and Sudan but also, in recent years, Afghanistan, Bin Laden's adopted home. Last May, Mr Bush placed his vice-president, Dick Cheney, in personal charge of counter-terrorism efforts in the US mainland and created a new national agency, the National Preparedness Office, to coordinate federal emergency responses and intelligence-gathering. The FBI, the CIA, the Pentagon's Defence Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency already command vast budgets and deploy enormous resources to keep track of potential threats. But yesterday, none of this worked. There was not a sniff of what was coming, not a hope in hell. Not a single fighter was scrambled as the hijacked planes loomed, it seems; not a bomber was seen, let alone caught. Once again, the lesson was clear. Suicidal terrorism against civilian targets is all but unstoppable, whether you are an Afghan resistance fighter such as Ahmad Shah Masood, an Israeli policeman, or the most powerful country in the world. hat is not to say that terrorism cannot be curbed, or that its perpetrators cannot be found and punished. The next, perhaps biggest question, even as the New York ruins are combed and sifted for signs of unextinguished life, is who? Mr Masood is relevant to this inquiry, being himself a recent, probable victim of the Bin Laden terror network and its Taliban and Arab supporters. Three weeks ago, Bin Laden boasted that he was planning to attack American interests in a supposedly "unprecedented" manner. Such threats have been made before. And others yesterday were named as possible suspects, including the militants of Islamic Jihad, one of Israel's principal tormentors. But Bin Laden has the track record. He has attacked on US territory before the 1993 Trade Centre bombing. His attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 were bloody in the extreme; hundreds died. He is widely believed to have organised the attack last year on the USS Cole, an American warship visiting Yemen. Bin Laden has long been regarded by the Americans as their most powerful, non-state opponent. He has the cash, he has the resources, and he has the sort of blind ruthlessness and self-righteousness that is required for such inhumanity. And if Bin Laden is the most likely suspect, that, in a perverse sort of way, may be a blessing in disguise. The thought that Saddam Hussein's Iraq, or another "rogue state", were behind the attacks is indeed chilling. That, if proven, could provoke a full-scale American war of reprisal with consequences that would be truly worldwide. Another mercy, on a day of little compassion, is the fact that neither chemical nor biological weapons were used in New York or Washington. They might have been and, it has to be said, Mr Bush's flagship defence plan national missile defence would have been powerless to stop it. Effective, worldwide curbs on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of conventional weapons, including small arms, is something to which the Bush White House must now pay much more attention. The hurt that all Americans must feel today cannot be underestimated. Two immediate dangers arise. One is that, wounded, bewildered, and convinced that the world is its enemy, America will drawback into itself. Too often in recent months, the US has seemed at odds with its friends and partners on a range of issues, big and small. But an even greater unilateralism, even a growing siege mentality, is to be avoided at all costs. It would be a victory for the terrorists. Likewise, American over-reaction, especially of the military variety, must be guarded against. The temptation right now is to make somebody pay. And pay... and pay... and pay. Take a deep breath, America. Keep cool. And keep control. M 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R3ER Telephone: 020-7239 9959 Fax-. 020-7837 4530 Email: lettersguardian.co.uk We do not publish letters where only an email address is supplied; please include a full postal address, a reference to the relevant article and a daytime telephone number. If you do not want your email address published, please say so. We may edit letters. I do like Mondays What a pity that Roy Hatters-ley feels himself to be an atheist (I'd like to believe but I just can't, September 10). Very often I find that his Endpiece on a Monday morning confirms and encourages my Christian beliefs even more than the church sermon of the day before! Morris Walker Eastbourne, East Sussex I was amazed to discover (A girl's best friend, G2, September 11) that the Guardian has a "pets editor". Is that for any pet, or only those that can read? Roy Stewart Caterham, Surrey The Welsh don't need the English to say rude things about them (There's only one thing wrong with Wales the English, September 10). If you look up "arsehole" in the OED (2nd edition) you will sec, among the supporting quotations, one from their national poet Dylan Thomas, who in 1966 wrote (parodying Shakespeare): "This arse-hole of the universe, this fond sad Wales". Fritz Spiegl Liverpool 9 If correspondence after the death of Flip Phillips (Obituaries, September 11) is going to follow the lines of Larry Adler, may I suggest Clarence Clenions, of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band fame, as the best rock saxophonist? Steve Little Lvtham St Anncs, Lancashire Sendfootie to Coventry It would appear that the campaign for the national stadium not to be in London has been a huge success (Wembley way no good, September 7). All the potential users the fans and the players do not want the stadium to be in London. Of course this is not a situation where the customer is always right. The stadium project is not really a "national" stadium but a football stadium and its location is ultimately a decision for the FA. There is no doubt there could be considerable cost and time savings by choosing a location outside London. But despite the noise coming from Birmingham, the best set of proposals has actually come from Coventry. If it is a genuinely fair competition, Coventry may well still get the national stadium. Nick Matthews Rugby, Warwickshire So Tony Blair "warns" the private sector he will not tolerate it driving down public sector pay and conditions (Blair: trust me on public services, September 11). But it is just a warning; I do not see any mechanism to enforce it. Look what has happened in other public sectors, in hospitals and local authorities. Blair won't look. He says he will not tolerate ideological opposition to privatisation but who is being ideological? Opponents point to the inefficiency and failures of private management, yet he appears to be immune to the evidence. Who but the ideologically blind would appoint a company castigated for its failures in the Hatfield train fiasco as a preferred bidder in the London tube PFI? Mike Turner 'IXvickenham, Middlesex To argue that critics of his PFI police are being "fatuous" is astonishing, even by Blair's standards. Unions have a duty to oppose this irrational, ideologically-led policy, and will have the support of most users of those services. It ! is a thug's logic being forced through by Blair. Doug Buchanan Reading, Berkshire "Private firms must not exploit staff for profits" how else does Blair think private firms make profits? They pay their staff less than the amount which their efforts contribute to the profits of the company. There is no other magical way, destabilising financial speculation aside, in which private firms can hope to make a profit. So are our politicians deluded or do they engage in doublespeak? I am not sure which is preferable: leaders who do not know what they are doing or those that deliberately attempt to mislead us. In Blair's case it is worryingly the latter. A!ex Nunn Altrincham, Cheshire 9 So, on Planet Blair, exactly how does capitalism work? ; Charlie Addiman i London Blair has done severe harm in his incompetent handling of the foot and mouth scandal, which is likely to have cost the UK about 7bn. He had time to change the established slaughter policy and didn't. He took too much notice of the National Farmers Union, a corrupt and corrupting organisation whose interests do not coincide with that of the nation. Tourism losses have outweighed farming losses by two to one. NR Bassett Manchester Blair claims that in marginal seats where there was a real battle, the turnout was up. It is an interesting argument but completely untrue. Every single constituency in the UK had a fall in turnout in this year's election. Taking the 10 most marginal Labour seats from 1997, the average fall was 10 and turnout in every one of these hard-fought seats fell by at least 8. Blair may dismiss proportional representation but it does seem to have an effect on turnout. Henry Stewart London The parallel world of asylum seekers Polly Toynbee (Calm this whirlpool of panic and hysteria, September 5) claims that my report.Welcome to the Asylum, published by the Centre of Policy Studies, states that 400,000 people enter this country illegally every year; but the result of a year's research shows that nobody knows the exact figure. An immigration officer with many years experience estimated 150,000 to 200,000 currently per annum. This excludes asylum seekers. One of the main points of my report is that we need to establish what these figures are in the face of considerable uncertainty and confusion. Discussion about numbers is irrelevant when compared with the plight of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers in this country ! today. We pretend we act I humanely to asylum seekers ! when we do everything possi- ! ble to prevent them arriving ' here legally then behave as if ! they barely exist or waste ! their talents. We lack an effective immigration policy and it is clear that immigrants are the first to suffer. Our asylum system ensures law abiding people are forced outside the law and into the power of the gangs. Slavery, child labour and child prostitution are the result . of illegal immigration and a corrupt asylum process. While we have been pretending an immigration problem does not exist, a parallel world has grown up alongside our safe and orderly society. It is a cold and brutal place and we should be ashamed of it. Harriet Sergeant London Despite all the accumulated intelligence available on terrorist organisations and all the defensive precautions, a new, terrible demonstration of the vulnerability of modern society has just occurred, with implications for the world's economy and stability more far-reaching than the immediate tragic loss of life. I hope this outrage may yet persuade President Bush of the futility of investing billions of dollars in a missile defence system to protect the US from nuclear attacks from "rogue" states. Surely the cost of sustaining world civilisation in terms of aid and investment is less than the price of maintaining conflict and adversity. Laurence Courtney Faversham, Kent laucourtltinyworld.co. uk The terrorist attacks are the price we pay for ignoring the wisdom of the founders of this country as expressed by Thomas Jefferson: "Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliance with none." Stop making enemies and we won't have to worry about terrorism. Vote libertarian. Bill Holmes Carlsbad, California xctholmescompuserve.com I I Despite the horrific loss of life in Manhattan and other parts of the US, the Bush administration must not overreact by retaliating against the usual suspects until they have incontrovertible evidence as to who was responsible. Killing the wrong people will neither assuage the undoubted anger of the American people nor ensure ! that such atrocities will not ! be repeated. WR Jackson Nottingham bil!.j nthcorld.com Dame Stella s conversion has come far too late I welcome Dame Stella Rimington's decision to publish her memoirs (Stella's Story, G2, September 10), in particular her pauline conversion to Official Secrets Act reform. But I must take issue with her comments on Peter Wright and Spycatcher. She suggests that he went out of his way to mention every sensitive operation and codeword he could recall, but she omits the key fact that in her case MI5 and the government agreed to vet her manuscript so changes could be made prior to publication. In Wright's case, despite numerous requests, the government refused to blue-pencil the manuscript. We were told lifelong confidentiality was non-negotiable. As ever, there is one rule for DGs (Dame Stella is now the second to have published memoirs, the third if you include Dick White who collaborated on his authorised biography) and another intelligence workers. Her protestations about the Wilson plot arc ludicrously unconvincing. She tried to persuade us in her Dimbleby lecture that there was nothing in the idea that elements within MI5 worked against the Wilson government in the 60s and 70s. This is the second time she has asserted publicly that Wright withdrew his allegation in a 1989 Panorama programme. I have a copy of it and he did no such thing. He agreed he had over-stated the numbers involved, and that the active conspirators in the end were Wright and one other officer. But he never withdrew the allegation. As Dame Stella well knows, the thrust of the investigation was that there was something murky going on inside British intelligence in the mid 1970s. She tells us how as DG she called Labour party grandees and tried to knock this all on the head but was unable to and it never seems to have occurred to her that she was unable to deter these senior politicians precisely because they knew there was some truth to it. No sensible person could spend time (as I did) interviewing former members of MI5 and MI6, and not conclude that the culture inside MI5 during the 60s and 70s was a disgrace. I Paul Greengrass, j Co-author, Spycatcher, ! London ! If MIS want to get us to believe something, their only hope would be to include it in a book by a former (apparently) senior insider and then appear to attempt ban its publication. Riming-ton may believe she was once head of MI5; she may believe what she wrote about operational matters to be true; and she may believe MI5 tried to kill her book I find it all implausible. But then I may be a spook attempting damage limitation. David Lewin Didcot, Oxon It's a shame that Dame Stella didn't have her revelation about the Official Secrets Act prior to her thugs threatening me with it for endangering the security of the nation by revealing the prices in the British Museum staff canteen. Steve Sparkes London Bowled over by Bart King I was at Hambledon for the match between Ted Hayes's LA kids team and the young Australian Aborigines (Googly from the ghetto, G2, September 11). It was certainly a unique and marvellous occasion. But if the Compton Homies achieve their ambitions, it won't be a first for America. Ted and the team had never heard of Bart King who, when touring England with the Philadel-phians at the peak of the Golden Age of batsmanship, took 93 first-class wickets in 1903, and 87 in 1907. He has been included in all-time World Xls and described as the greatest and most versatile fast bowler ever. Danny Castaneda and his young friends can look to him for inspiration as they fight the drug and gang culture with cricket. Martyn Berry j Seal, Kent ! berrymartynbeeb.net Corrections and clarifications In a sidebar accompanying a report headed Iran-contra men return to power, page 10, August 20, we said that John P Walters, who has been nominated by President Bush as director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the "drug tsar") was the son of General Vernon Walter sic, Nixon's deputy chief of the CIA. In fact, Mr Walters is unrelated to General Walters and the two have never met. Mr Walters's father is Mr John W Walters, who lives in retirement in Lansing, Michigan. Apologies for that error. In a panel of contenders for the job of chairman of the BBC, page 3, Media, September 10, we said of Baroness Jay that she was able to advise Tony Blair about "sleeping arrangements at Number 10, which had been her childhood home". At the time her father, James Callaghan, was prime minister (1976 to 1979), Lady Jay was in her late 30s. A headline reading Rail authority orders 4 cut in fares for London commuters, page 6, September 8, should have read Rail authority orders 1 .4 cut in keeping with the report. In the same report, we noted that Chiltern Railways performed best on punctuality with 90 of its trains "no more than 10 minutes late". Punctuality for long-distance high-speed operators is defined as arrival within 10 minutes of the stated time. However, punctuality for London and South East operators is defined as being within five minutes of the stated time. It is this punctuality standard that Chiltern Railways has achieved. In a match report, page 13, Sport, September 3, we said that Chesterfield would have taken the Third Division title last season but for a nine-point penalty for financial irregularities. In fact, Brighton and Hove Albion would have won the title even without the penalty imposed on Chesterfield. In a caption beneath a picture of Leonard Nimoy (accompanying an obituary of the make-up artist, John Chambers, page 20, Obituar ies, September 6), we re-j ferred to his character in : Star Trek as Dr Spock, thus j confusing his name Mr i Spock with that of the ! paediatrician Dr (Benjamin) ! Spock, 1903-1998, author of ! The Common Sense Book of 1 Baby and Child Care. ! The name of the author of j the article headed The hills j are alive, starting on page 98, ; Weekend, September 8, was misspelt. It should have been ' Russell Chamberlin. I It is the policy of the Guardian to correct signifi-i cant errors u soon as j possible. Please quote the date and page number. Readers may contact the office of the readers' editor bit telc- phon ins 0845 451 9589 between I lam and 5pm Monday to Friday ( all calls are charged at local rate). Mail to Readers' editor, The Guardian. 119 Farrinadon I Road, London EC1R HER. Fax 020-7239 9897. Email: I reudergitardian.co.uk Millfirail

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