In times of relative peace and prosperity, it's easy for those under our sphere of influence to forget just how unpleasant life could be without our protection. Sometimes the protected need reminding. Otherwise, they can become over-confident, too daring, a danger to ourselves or others.
One such reminder which brings my own daughter running for protection, is when papa growls 'Fee fye foe fum', the words which signal the arrival of the child-eating ogre of Jack & The Beanstalk.
I find this interesting because, anecdotally, it suggests that mythology or the repetition and embellishment of stories we tell each other - trigger fear just as effectively as a rational assessment of what's before our eyes.
And so to today and the media descriptions of the recent bomb threats to London nightclubs, Glasgow airport and Tesco supermarkets. Note the trigger words - 'terror', 'extremists'. We easily recognise their place in the storybook of 9/11 and 7/7, the stories of the ogre that crushed skyscrapers, smashed trains and killed without mercy.
Does the diminutive bobby on the beat stand a chance against such a monster? Of course not. No wonder the poor head of the Association of Police Chief Officers has chosen this moment to demand more powers.
But hang on. Let's step back and get some perspective. Do we really want to give our policemen the green light to lock people up indefinitely without charge? How much does that raise the probability of innocent people being victimised on the basis of mistaken identity, bad intelligence or simply looking the part? That would be terrible too, wouldn't it?
In fact, this is not the first time that politicians in Europe have braced themselves for the next deadly bout of violence against civilians. This isn't even the first time we've seen massacres at train stations or in supermarkets.
During the Cold War years, numerous acts of violence were perpetrated across Western Europe.
What can we learn from the motivations behind them?
For one thing, we learn that, in nearly all the worst cases, it was a mistake to assume that the first suspect that sprang to mind was actually responsible. The blame was successfully pinned on communists - or, more specifically, on the political parties, activists, unions, and governments with communist or left leaning sympathies - but they were not the instigators.
During this period, trained neo-fascists and secret agents infiltrated extreme left groups and egged them on to carry out acts of extreme violence. Only in 1990 did the wall of silence finally give way to the revelation that these dark actors were members of secret 'stay behind' armies set up by Nato to resist a Soviet invasion... an invasion which never came.
We don't have much hard evidence of CIA and MI6 involvement. That's because anybody who does know about their activities is sworn to silence.
What we do now know from declassifed documents, is that the destruction of communism was the secret services' cause celebre throughout the cold war.
Was this a sensible precaution?
May be. But a positive feeling about Soviet socialism was also understandable in post war Europe. 13 million Russian soldiers gave their lives helping save Europe from fascism during WWII. Given that level of sacrifice, how did Communism wind up being branded 'evil'?
Most likely, Western power brokers didn't much like the idea. Given its promise to distribute wealth more equitably, it was never going to be the rich person's first choice. Demands from the fat controller to stop the spread of communism, almost certainly resulted in this marriage of convenience to repress it - the marriage between big money, big business chiefs, judges, secret services, the military officer class, senior policemen ... even the mafia.
Before we think that this is all getting a bit far fetched, the history of Cuba provides ample evidence that these sections of US society have indeed collaborated with the aim of destroying Castro's Cuba. They have also protected and provided cover for those that would attack the Cuban system.
But were these Cold War atrocities against civilians solely carried out to turn the public against an ideology? Certainly not. It would be naive to think that the participants acted solely out of patriotism with no hope of extending their own power and influence.
Skip to the USA where the combination of urgency and a feeling of powerlessness in Congress due to 9/11, provided the climate in which the Patriot Act would be approved without serious debate.
Passed just 45 days after 9/11, the 1200 page Act's full implications are yet to be felt. But Americans aren't now so sure they like the way the Act sanctioned wiretaps and clandestine house searches and on-demand access to a businesses' confidential records about customers. Whatever the cause, the effect, in any case, was an extension of state and executive powers.
Why would the ruling Executive in the US and UK want the power to put civilians behind bars without hard evidence that a crime has been committed?
What has spooked the fat controller this time?
Is it really Al Qaeda that has given the world's greatest superpower a dose of the heebie-jeebies?
Winding back, we note that the CIA , during the Cold War, offered training to all sorts of combative people who could help them repel Communism. This included the Mujahedeen, the group of Islamic fundamentalists for whom Bin Laden was a fundraiser. Equipped by the CIA, they expelled the Soviet army from Afghanistan before regrouping as the Taleban and rebranding as Al Qaeda.
It's messy, but what these Cold War events seem to tell us is that, when real power feels threatened, no executioners are ruled out for the job of stamping out the threat.
Snap back to today and it seems that the covenant of peaceful co-existence, made when Islamic Fundamentalists were helping us remove the Russians from Afghanistan, is now in tatters and these allies have become the fat controller's worst 9/11 and 7/7 nightmares.
Or have they?
Not so, if you believe that the biggest threat facing the USA today, is, in fact, oil depletion combined with the diving dollar.
In this case, having an arch enemy in the Middle East is rather helpful. It helps justify the continued presence of US troops in the part of the world where the largest remaining reserves of cheap- to- extract oil are waiting to be drilled.
Now peak oil is very definitely a concern to all major oil consumers. Supplies are already tight. In fact, 27 of the 51 oil producing nations mentioned in BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy reported output declines in 2006.
Tightness of supply hasn't been helped by a series of devastating oil industry leaks, fires and explosions which took the UK perilously close to winter gas shortages early in 2006. Who exactly was responsible for these has not, to my mind, been adequately explained. But these shocks were not a bad way to impress on a Parliament the seriousness of the threat... the real threat of shortages to which Iraq's ample oil reserves might seem to be the answer.
So, this is my assessment.
It is obvious that, all things being even, when shortages begin, the world's greediest per capita energy consumer of oil will find it hardest to adjust.
Consider the US army without oil for 24 hours. The planes, humvees and helicopters would stall. The generators, refrigerators, air conditioners and rock music would fall silent. Darkness would descend.
Oil keeps the entire show on the road.
Without oil, America risks the collapse of its power.
Surely that's what spooked the fat controller.
The thought of the magic beanstalk being cut through at the roots in the not too distant future, bringing the real ogre - the whole debt-laiden edifice - crashing down.
Ends | 17 July 2007 | Republished Aug 2017 | The Leg | Sources
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