Yesterday’s disgusting attack on London will naturally be seized upon by politicians of all hues to advance their various agendas. Opponents of the war in Iraq have lost no time in blaming Tony Blair and British engagement for the bombs that hit London and killed dozens and injured many hundreds. They have a point. As the Butler report revealed, the Government was explicitly warned before the Iraq war that our involvement would exacerbate the risk of terrorism in this country. But that does not for one moment mean that if Britain had not been involved in Iraq, then London would have been safe. It bears repeating that more British people died in the attacks on the World Trade Centre than in yesterday’s brutal outrages, and it must never be forgotten that 9/11 preceded the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, as did the series of vicious Islamicist bombings in Paris in the 1990s.
Which is to say that we in London, Paris, New York and the rest of the civilised West face a terrorist threat which cannot be said wholly to have been provoked by Iraq. These are people whose hatred of what they see as Western values is seemingly ineradicable. It is impossible to negotiate with them. Their grievance is not just with the war in Iraq or with the treatment of Palestinians by Israel but with the whole system of Western values that they find troubling and disturbing, not least the emancipation of women.
We must tackle the terrorist threat with calm resolution and without recourse to wild or hysterical measures. Yet the Government will now seize on this event with no less vigour than their opponents to campaign for a series of repressive and illiberal measures of doubtful utility in the so-called war on terror. Prime among these is the compulsory ID card. It must be stressed that whatever the merits or demerits of an ID card system, it would have done absolutely nothing to prevent the horrors of yesterday. As with the 19 suicide killers of 9/11 the problem was of intention and not identity.
In the coming days and weeks the public will urged to accept such restrictions on their liberty as ID cards as a price we must all pay for liberty itself. We believe that argument to be absurd and fallacious, and hope that defenders of liberty will recognise that it is exactly this kind of panic-stricken measure that will most gratify the killers.