Listeners to the BBC’s Radio 4 last night must be wondering what kind of world they’re living in. The midnight roundup, which went on for about 20 minutes, included this twilight zone of terror:
- Five British citizens were given life sentences for a 2004 bomb plot to kill massive numbers of civilians in London and nearby suburbs. Targets included a nightclub, shopping center, and a football stadium.
- Political leaders are demanding a national inquiry into MI5’s handling of intelligence prior to the 7/7 bombings in London, the most devastating terrorist attack on British soil.
- A British soldier convicted of inhumane treatment of civilian detainees in the Iraqi city of Basra has been jailed for a year.
- The head of the British army says that Prince Harry will be deployed to Iraq with his regiment.
- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he will not resign, despite criticism of his handling of Israel’s war against Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
- The U.N. Secretary-General has called on the terrorist group holding BBC journalist Alan Johnston to release him.
- The UK is deploying 1,400 more troops to Afghanistan to counter an expected spring offensive by the Taleban. Government leaders say they need to send more troops because of the reluctance of some NATO members to send forces to southern Afghanistan.
You would not realize it from the BBC’s treatment of these stories, but behind every one of them is the spectre of radical Islam. In each case, militarized young Muslims are engaged in activities to murder innocent men, women and children. This is what they spend every waking moment thinking about. They seek to topple entire governments in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and beyond. Their numbers are legion and they function in loose networks spread out across entire continents. As numerous intelligence officers acknowledge, they are desperate to acquire nuclear material to be used in horrific attacks against civilian populations.
Despite these threats, there is little enthusiasm here for the kind of military, intelligence or diplomatic operations required to meet them. The mistakes and difficulties in Iraq—magnified enormously by the content and tone of BBC coverage—have nearly overwhelmed any national resolve to identify, confront and defeat this enemy. Yet the enemy remains what it is.
Last week General David Petraeus, America’s lead general in Iraq, was in Washington, D.C. to brief President Bush and Congress. Petraeus quite literally wrote the book on counter-insurgencies. He has spent much time in Iraq, and is as tough and sober a military commander as one could hope for. He has no illusions about the failure of the Iraqi army and police to provide security. "One of the sad consequences of the sectarian violence is that many neighborhoods see U.S. forces as the impartial, professional and most trustworthy security elements," Petraeus said. That’s not the image one gets of American troops in Iraq from media coverage, to put it gently. Nor does the BBC like to give air time to disconcerting views of Iraq’s strategic importance in the war on terror. "Iraq is, in fact, the central front of al Qaeda’s global campaign," Petraeus said. "Success will take continued commitment, perseverance and sacrifice, all to make possible an opportunity for the all-important Iraqi political actions that are the key to long-term solutions to Iraq’s many problems."
Finally, Gen. Petraeus emphasized that the war in Iraq is "exceedingly complex and very tough." Yet he argued that the "incremental advance that we feel is being made is very much drowned out, overshadowed by sensational attacks, horrific car bombs by al Qaeda." In other words, the terrorist strategy of effectively enlisting media outlets such as the BBC to suggest wholesale and irreversible failure in Iraq is working.
But, again, the enemy remains what it is. Despite the state of denial of many liberal politicians and media pundits—who insist we stop using the expression "war on terror"—the forces of nihilism in Iraq are no different than those right here in the UK. Recall a recent "Religion of Peace Demonstration" in London. Throngs of militants—some veiled, some hooded, all invoking Islam as their inspiration—carried placards with these reassuring slogans: "Europe is the cancer. Islam is the answer." "Freedom: Go to Hell." "Be prepared for the real holocaust!" "Europe you will pay. Your 9/11 is on its way!!"
There is much attention at the moment on whether Britain’s MI5 could have prevented the 7/7 bombings, on whether it "connected the dots" in its surveillance of terrorist activity. Maybe it’s time more BBC editors and reporters tried connecting a few dots of their own.