As Scotland Yard announces a new counter-terrorism operation in London, the introduction of more armed police officers on our streets is a worrying development. Named ‘Operation Hercules’, which is undoubtedly intended to convey an image of strength and power, unfortunately, it also shares it’s moniker with a planned but never executed fascist invasion of Malta during WWII.
Whilst many welcome this new initiative, hoping that it will provide extra security in the wake of the recent continental terror attacks, others, like myself, are less enthusiastic. There are questions about the effectiveness of such techniques in preventing terrorism. There are plenty of instances of attacks on locations with an armed presence, such as those during the troubles in Northern Ireland for instance. France have armed police on their streets, which does not appear to have acted as a deterrent to the perpetrators of the numerous recent incidents on their soil, and likewise, so do the USA.
There are also wider concerns about the militarization of the police, and their increased presence among our daily lives. The promise of more armed checkpoints to stop ‘suspicious’ vehicles in the capital was tucked away amidst a blanket of assurances from the Comissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. There is lots of evidence that a highly mobile, quick reaction force is an effective response to an attack, it’s what the army has done for years. The need for them to look like the real life version of Team America, whilst waving automatic weapons around in public is debatable. The effectiveness of such a force in preventing an attack is limited, they would literally have to catch the offenders in the act, or just before it. And again, there is lots of evidence from Northern Ireland, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan, to suggest that such preventative patrols provide a focal point for an attack.
Make no mistake, according to MI5 security chiefs, the threat of an imminent terrorist attack in the UK is severe. Reading between the lines, I would hazard a guess that this means our security services have strong intelligence that points to that being the case. Intelligence is THE best tool at our disposal to counter terrorism, and Britain is very, very adept when it comes to the dark arts of espionage and infiltration. Now at this juncture it is tempting to wander off to discuss who the perpetrators actually are, who trains them, funds them, if they even exist in some circles. There are oceans of data, discussion and debate online relating to it all, which all seem a little pointless when there are dismembered bodies dressing the street.
That is not to say there isn’t a lot more to the story of ‘The war on terror’ than we are told. I am not an investigative journalist and I have little appetite to delve into the swamp that is international affairs, but it doesn’t take long to unearth astonishing connections between the west and pivotal figures in the origins of extremist movements. Rebels thought of as allies when being used to destabilize unfriendly governments or fight the west’s enemies, have turned to bite the hand that fed them in spectacular fashion. Combine that with what can only be described as a clusterfuck of a foreign policy, that has seemingly created more terrorists by the profit motivated invasion, occupation and regime change of Muslim nations, and it is clear we have a great deal of soul searching to do from the comfort of the ivory tower that is our green and pleasant land. When the definition of terrorism is considered, we are as guilty as any in the world if not more so. Hopefully, as time goes by and the truth manifests itself, humanity can learn from it’s mistakes and prevent future conflict. But if history is any indicator, or the recent insipid Chilcot report, then it may take longer than we have left.
So whether Operation Hercules makes us (or the residents of London at least) any safer by preventing terrorism, or adds to a cycle of fear that promotes division and resentment, propped up by the right wing press, remains to be seen. I think that there is a very good case to suggest that further hostility will only lead to further radicalization. One thing that is for certain, is that the champion of removing human rights, Theresa May, will not be overly concerned about who she oppresses in the process.