The Scandal of the Olympic Missiles
Published by Max Salsbury on Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 at 22:29 pm
The Government’s decision to install surface-to-air missiles on six London sites during the Olympics is simultaneously puzzling, infuriating and contradictory.
As has long been the case, officialdom’s threat-of-terrorism card trumps all the sanity and rationality cards you can hold, so the deployment of war-grade rocketry in a built-up civilian area during peacetime to counter a non-specific threat is, at the very least, unsurprising.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair pulled a similar stunt in 2003 when he had tanks sent to patrol Heathrow, ostensibly to prevent a rumoured al-Qaeda attack.
In the event, no attack materialised, but the armoured mobilisation bewildered many.
If there had been a terrorist assault on the airport, what good would tanks have been? To my knowledge, all terrorist attacks in the UK have involved small groups that either plant bombs and run away or blow themselves up at the scene. Was anybody seriously expecting al-Qaeda to arrive at Heathrow with a selection of artillery pieces and begin shelling the area?
The completely unnecessary tanks were either a massive over-reaction symptomatic of an irrational and desperate government, or they were a sideshow for the people, the press, the world.
Now we are to have very powerful missiles in the midst of the capital, guarding against a vague aerial threat.
If the weapons were installed in low-populated areas on abandoned buildings or exclusively on wastelands, perhaps the move, though questionable, could be gotten on with quietly and without too much fuss. But the Government and the MoD have, in their ineffable wisdom, decided to locate two of the sites on the top of civilian buildings.
One of these sites is the Fred Wigg Tower, a social housing block in Waltham Forest which is managed by Arm’s Length Management Organisation Ascham Homes.
The tower’s tenants are so concerned and infuriated by this enormously irregular imposition that they have taken legal action. Howe & Co Solicitors has filed legal proceedings in London’s Court on behalf of the residents, claiming various breaches of the Human Rights Act.
Angered and worried as any of us would be if we suddenly found ourselves and our families living underneath a set of high explosives, what is particularly insulting and obscene in this shabby and shady affair is that nobody in the Government or at the MoD thought it necessary to actually consult the tenants before they went ahead with the deranged plans.
In response to the residents’ worries and legal action, Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond dismissed the turmoil - with all the utterly uncaring, self-centered creepiness so characteristic of the modern politician when it comes to matters of security vs the people - as the work of a “small number of activists”.
Certainly, the Olympics needs protection from terrorism. Who would argue that there isn’t a broad but tangible threat against all large public events? But when a government tries to protect some people at a sporting event by jeopardizing the safety of some of its citizens in their homes against their will, it has created a contradiction and it has lost its way.
Perhaps the missiles have a 100 percent safety record. Perhaps there is nothing for Fred Wigg Tower’s tenants (or the residents of the Lexington Tower in Tower Hamlets, another civilian building that will house rockets) to worry about. But how can they know that or feel otherwise secure when they have at no stage been consulted?
The present government has in many ways picked up exactly where the last one left off in terms of its sinister attitude towards terrorism, security and the people.
Why even bother consulting a bunch of social housing tenants, the MoD may have reflected. After all, they are just social housing tenants. They’re not stars of track and field, or international dignitaries, or royal visitors. They don’t live in Mayfair or Kensington. Why should they refuse to allow us this benevolent and thoughtful act to protect the universally adored Olympic Games?
Most importantly, what can they do if they don’t like it? How can they stop us?