Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Governments helping - or doing al Qaeda's work?

The US, Japan as well as other countries, have issued travel advisories to their nationals after the alleged receipt of information regarding the alleged plans of Al Qaeda and its associates to organize Mumbai--26/11 like terrorist strikes in the UK, France and Germany. As yet, Australia has not yet issued a similar warning, although a travel advisory has been issued regarding the likelihood of terrorist incidents during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.

Travel advisories have their place - especially if authorities are in possession of specific information indicating a significant risk of a terrorist attack. It would be remiss of authorities not to issue such warnings.

However, the problem with warnings such as those issued by the U.S., is that all too often they are generalized, weak and uncorroborated. There is a danger that the public will become blasé about such warnings. A current affairs program recently interviewed tourists in European capitols, asking how they felt about the recent warning. The majority said it made no difference to them and would not alter their plans on the basis of vague information regarding a "possible" attack. Others said it is a matter of common sense to be careful - regardless of government hand-holding. I know that when I was in London at the height of the IRA bombing campaign, we too precautions as a matter of routine.

Other tourists however, were deterred from traveling, some postponing or cancelling their long planned trips. This poses a question. Do such warnings play into the hands of terrorists? Are governments aiding and abetting machines of terror such as Al Qaeda? If Al Qaeda doesn't scare you, then your government will.

Al Qaeda thrives on fear and intimidation and I would not be at all surprised if they welcome high level travel advisories. "Hey, Ali bin Hass bin - tourists are cancelling trips and walking around Paris and London looking over their shoulder because they think we are going to stage an attack. The infidels are doing our job for us!".

If we are going to have terror alerts and Al Qaeda under-the-bed scares, let's at least have more specific information. Give us facts not cries of "wolf."

Can we go back to using a survival tactic known as "common sense"? Something that in this age of the nanny-state, is not only unfashionable, but viewed by the Mandarins as something that should not be left in the hands of ordinary people. "If people start thinking for themselves about security - they may see what we are really up to"

Wherever you may be - be safe
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