By Max Hastings
The scene was a theatre of blood — more horror than terror, because while it has not frightened the British people, it has most certainly appalled us. Since Wednesday afternoon, I have heard people who are customarily oblivious to events outside their own lives volunteer their stunned sense of revulsion.
We customarily think of murder as a thing of the night, of secret places and denials of guilt.
Yet now, instead, we are confronted with the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby, of the Royal Fusiliers, in the most brutal fashion imaginable, in broad daylight before witnesses in a London street, by savages bent upon flaunting their martyrdom before the world.
Attention-seekers: The perpetrators (suspect Michael Adebolajo pictured) were apparently as eager to embrace death as any suicide bomber, and threw themselves at armed police.
Drummer Lee Rigby, of the Royal Fusiliers, was killed in broad daylight before witnesses in a London street, by savages bent upon flaunting their martyrdom before the world
The perpetrators were apparently as eager to embrace death as any suicide bomber, and threw themselves at armed police.
Among those who deserve sympathy today are the nurses who must minister to these two least deserving of hospital patients.
Some 30 years ago, Margaret Thatcher, as prime minister, imposed a ban upon the broadcasting of interviews with members of Sinn Fein and the IRA, to ‘deny them the oxygen of publicity’.
But in the modern world in which privacy is almost extinct, and censorship unenforceable as well as unacceptable, it would have been impossible to prevent the Woolwich killers from triggering an avalanche of national and worldwide publicity.
We do not yet know whether they acted alone, or were members of a terror group. But their act of depravity has won an audience beyond the dreams of most fanatics.
They hijacked the agenda of the Home Secretary, intelligence services and the COBRA government disaster committee. The Prime Minister dashed home from Paris.
Millions of people have listened to the killers’ broadcast ravings, in which they asserted their claims to act under the banner of Allah, in retaliation for the actions of British forces abroad.
Since all terrorists are by definition attention-seekers, others may well be encouraged and incited by the achievement of the Woolwich two.
Publicity: The Woolwich killers hijacked the agenda of the Home Secretary, intelligence services and the COBRA government disaster committee, with the Prime Minister dashing home from Paris
Perhaps it was unavoidable that the whole national security apparatus was mobilised.
Though only a single death took place, had David Cameron and Theresa May not been seen to respond energetically, they would have suffered a storm of criticism.
But it is dismaying to witness the impact of this primitive assault on a country of some 60 million people.
In the years after the 9/11 attacks in America and the 2005 London bombings, there was fevered speculation that Al Qaeda might soon belabour the West with biological or even nuclear weapons.
Now, instead, we have seen two men armed only with a car, kitchen knives and butcher’s cleavers forcing themselves onto the centre of the national stage.
Our forefathers who braved two World Wars and the Cold War would be bewildered and, I think, dismayed that such an action could generate such turmoil.
It was deeply shocking to discover that two men who have lived for years in the midst of our peaceful, decent society, were capable of such barbarity
But Wednesday’s events struck a society now addicted to video immediacy.
Moreover, it was shocking to discover that two men who have lived for years in the midst of our peaceful, decent society, were capable of such barbarity.
The spectre of an ‘enemy within’ is bound to be more disturbing than any foreign threat.
While most British Muslims wholeheartedly condemn the killers, we know from bleak experience that a significant minority will tell opinion pollsters they actually endorse what was done.
Tens of thousands of Islamists living in Britain not merely reject our society and its values, but even dare to despise them, supposing their own violent and intolerant creed superior. British Christians do not seek confrontation with Islam — yet some of its adherents are bent on confrontation with us.
We must nonetheless sustain a sense of perspective. Racially aggravated murders, claiming victims of all races, have been taking place for many years.
Among the most notorious cases were when in 2004 Glasgow teenager Kriss Donald was beaten, stabbed 13 times and then set on fire by a British Pakistani, Daanish Zahid.
A gang of white teenagers in Leeds beat to death an Asian taxi driver, and, of course, the black teenager Stephen Lawrence was brutally murdered in 1993.
None of those who carried out these killings made grandiose claims to be either white supremacists or jihadis.
They were simply thugs with a propensity for violence, who out of brutish ignorance and stupidity focused their hatred on people of other races.
I would guess that the Woolwich murderers will prove to be little different from other racist killers.
But such men have now identified a means to dignify their deeds as supposed political acts, executed in the name of jihad.
Western societies are becoming increasingly populated with alienated, confused young men whose supposed grievances are fuelled by the internet and by jihadist preachers whom our judges and asylum tribunals indulge by providing them with British residence.
It was the cub scout mistress, Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, who precipitated a confrontation with one of the killers who spoke for the nation when she told him: 'It is only you versus many, and you are going to lose'
Islamic extremists support a burden of rage about their own inadequacy.
They hate the rest of us for getting on with our lives, for our cultural tolerance, respect for women, and for achieving a material success unmatched by any Muslim society in the world.
Of course we ask: what went wrong? Whose failures allowed such a dreadful event to happen?
Yet, on the evidence thus far, nobody has done anything blameworthy except the murderers.
M15 must tell what it knew about the killers. But there are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential extremists out there.
In a free society, such as we cherish, the Security Service lacks resources to track them all, and they cannot be detained on mere suspicion.
Ultimately, though, it was the cub scout mistress who jumped off a bus and precipitated a confrontation with one of the killers who spoke for the nation when she told him: ‘It is only you versus many, and you are going to lose.’
Fuck you, Peter Mandelson, Neil Kinnock, Tony Blair, New Labour, David Miliaband, Red Ed, Ed Bawwwwwwls, Gordon Brown, Ron Todd, Andrew Neather, Labour's 'Progress' think-tank, Arthur Scargill, and the rest of you traitors that pushed this treasonous plot on a loving land.
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