Monday, 7 December 2015

Terrorism on the tube?

The police were very quick to designate the attack by one man with a knife at Leytonstone underground station in London as a "terrorist incident."  Whether this was on their own initiative or on instructions from on high we are not yet told.  There will be investigations which may  discover a network of fanatics out to cause similar mayhem in other London stations in the name of their religion.  Or maybe it was an isolated incident involving just just one person with a mental illness.

For the man suffering from "deep lacerations to his throat" this is certainly a very serious matter, though his  injuries are said to be "not life-threatening."  And for the bystanders who couldn't think of anything more helpful to do than take photographs, it will be a bit embarrassing.    Otherwise, on the scale of nasty incidents it hardly compares with the 13 (and, it is now thought,  possibly more) women killed by the Yorkshire Ripper, or the bombers who killed 56 in July 2005, or the 30+ innocents killed in October when the Americans "target bombed" the Médecins sans Frontières hostpital  at Kunduz .

Hyping the incidence of terrorism, if that is what is happening, is a ploy that may backfire.  The police may see it as a way of  avoiding cuts and perhaps even gaining more resources.  The government may see it as a justification for their joining the bombing of Syria.  But opponents of bombing may equally argue, as we did before parliament made its decision, that joining the bombing would be more likely to provoke rather than prevent terrorist attacks in this country. That would be very likely to be the case if this young man turns out to be "home grown."

Perhaps the wisest reaction to the incident would be to increase the resources devoted to caring for and curing the mentally ill.

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