Saturday, 23 January 2010

Increased alert levels amount to beating the drum for war

On Christmas Day, a zealot travelling from Yemen to the United States singed his pubic hair in the name of Islam.

This event raised some questions, since the "jet bomber" (a rather auspicious title for someone who never actually succeeded in bombing a jet) was on a US watch-list and there were some apparent intelligence failures. Security officials took this as an excuse to introduce new security measures which cause a headache for travellers and possibly violate child protection laws, but do nothing at all to combat terrorism. As I reported earlier in the month, the governments of the United States and Britain used the event as a pretext to ramp up already ongoing aggression in Yemen.

As such, this news comes as little surprise;
The UK terror threat level is being raised from "substantial" to "severe", Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said.

The new alert level means a terrorist attack is considered "highly likely". It had stood at substantial since July.

Mr Johnson refused to say it was linked to the failed Detroit airliner bombing, and said the government would not reveal specific intelligence details.

The home secretary stressed there was no intelligence to suggest a terrorist attack was imminent.
There's a general election coming, of course, and a new war needs justifying. And so the threat level can go up despite there being "no intelligence to suggest a terrorist attack was imminent." We're meant to believe, however, that this is simply to tell us that we must be "more aware." As Lord Carlile put it, "if you don't tell the public to be vigilant, they're not going to be vigilant." I'll leave aside the temptation to apply the same logic to the government and wonder who's telling them to be condescending, scaremongering pricks.

In the more immediate term, London plays host to "two major international conferences, on Yemen and Afghanistan, in London on Wednesday and Thursday." Reuters India tells us that whilst the Afghan conference "is intended to chart a path for the country to take greater responsibility for its own security," the Yemen conference addresses the "fear [that] the southern Arabian country could become a failed state allowing al Qaeda to use it as a launchpad for more international attacks."

The Yemeni government will no doubt seek to use international concern to crush "a Shi'ite revolt in the north and separatist sentiment in the south." However, as "the Obama administration is considering proposals to sharply expand Pentagon powers" in the area, the key aim of the conference is to build up this latest front in the War on Terror. The People's Daily tells us that "British ambassador to Yemen Tim Torlot said Wednesday that there are no financial aids proposed for the Yemeni government in the coming international conference on Yemen." As such, we can assume that the discussion on how to "coordinate aid to the Arab world's poorest country" will have quite different goals in mind.

The valuable deep water port of Aden, and thus access to the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, and other vital shipping lanes, is at stake in this intervention. History tells us of the devestating effect that US-UK hegemony over the region will have on the people there. History also tells us what happens when a devestated and desperate people strike back.

No wonder the terror threat has risen.