Forest Gate, de Menezes and shock-and-awe

mass police.jpgJust over a week ago a 250-strong army of police officers, all armed to the teeth and sporting hysteria-inducing fashion accessories such as “chemical” suits and gas masks - and with the world’s media in tow - invaded a nondescript street in the normally-peaceful Forest Gate neighbourhood of east London, knocked down the front door and windows of the family home of two young brothers and shot and nearly killed one of them.

A very helpful British media later informed us that this “major anti-terrorist operation” was launched after “specific intelligence” from the Special Branch and the spooks of MI5, the so-called “intelligence” service. Even though no weapons - or weapons of mass destruction - were found in the premises, you could sense a desperate news media willing with all their telekinetic abilities for “at least something” to be found.

“It will only be a matter of time”, we were told: They are going to pull down that house brick by brick. They will come up with the goods; the police know what they are doing; they would not have mounted such a massive operation based on nothing; there was ‘specific intelligence’ of the brothers’ involvement in a sinister plot to deliver a chemical device, and on and on and on.

Keystone Kops

My immediate reaction? This is surely a rerun, déjà vu, here we go again, Britain’s keystone cops have topped themselves again - call it kneejerkism, scepticism or whatever, but I knew deep in my bones that there was something not-quite-right here. The whole thing stunk to high heaven but, being a responsible, “straight kind of guy”, I decided to keep my powder dry until all the facts of the case came to light.

During this period I had occasion to go to south London. On my way back I took a detour through Stockwell menezes shrine.jpgstation, the site where the young Brazilian electrician, Jean Charles de Menezes, was executed by police one rush-hour morning last July as he was going to work. It was my first ever visit to the make-shift shrine that supporters and campaigners had erected to the slain man’s memory. It is located right next to the station’s entrance.

I am not sure why I went there. To convince myself of my solidarity, my humanity, my disgust at what is increasingly becoming a police state? To make up in some way for not having been before? It may be that I was in the vicinity and had the time.

The shrine comprises a casing made of wood measuring about 6 by 4 feet. Sentimental messages and poems and angry denunciations of “the pigs” are pasted, nailed or stapled to it. A taster: “Welcome to the Policeman’s Balls-up.” There are pictures of Menezes himself and of his distraught family, of banner-carrying demonstrators; on the floor are vases and bottles with flowers - and the flowers are fresh! (Would it not be a good idea if we erected a permanent memorial on that very spot? Its cost should be docked from police pay.)

menezes.jpgYou may already know this, but there is no harm in hearing it again. This is how Jean Charles was killed: One officer rushed him and pinned him down in his seat on the train, while two others pumped his brain full of seven dumdum bullets at zero range. Textbook gangland-style execution, cold blooded murder if ever there was one. We’ve heard of the West’s use of shock and awe tactics in the killing fields of Iraq; the murder of Jean Charles was its application in a London setting.

Just as was the dawn raid just over a week ago at Forest Gate. It has been claimed that the operation was “intelligence led”. It could have been, but I don’t believe it. Only the production of this so-called intelligence will get these state-sanctioned executioners off the hook. Abdul Kahar, 23, and Abul Koyair, 20, were two hardworking brothers who just happened to be “swarthy”, Muslim and bearded.

One of the brothers was shot in the shoulder during the raid by trigger-happy police who claim that he was going for a weapon. They even leaked to the media that one of the brothers had shot the other in the confusion. Remember the misinformation about Jean Charles after his killing? This held that he was acting suspiciously, was wearing a heavy jacket which could have concealed a “device” and that he jumped the ticket barrier at Stockwell station - every one of which turned out to be a lie.

Needless to say, both men have now been released without charge and they plan to sue the boys in blue for damages. A neighbouring family assaulted in the raid plan to do the same. As we wait on the securitariat to come up with the mysterious intelligence, allow me to share my theory as to how and why there had to be a Forest Gate: Shock and Awe.

Repressive instruments

Ever since the bombings in London on 7/7, the security establishment have been under intense pressure to detect and prevent any such attacks; not just closing the stable doors after the horse has bolted. At the legislative level, they requested for and were given all the repressive instruments needed to pave the way for them to ride roughshod over hard-won, democratic rights of citizens and non-citizens alike.

But the securitariat have failed to come up with the goods. It is not rocket science - especially after foiled terrorist plots in other countries - to deduce that at anyone time in Blair’s Britain someone somewhere is spending a lot of time and energy either thinking of or actively planning a “spectacular” to rival, or even surpass 7/7. That is a given. So, what do you do if you can’t catch them? Simple: you scare the shit out of them, so they won’t even think about it. As we have seen in Forest Gate, you don’t even need intelligence (in any sense of the word).

All you do is pick a target out of the bag, preferably from the “suspect” community, then you assemble overwhelming, disproportionate firepower (the more the merrier), invite sundry media organisations to the party (maximum publicity is absolutely vital here) - and then hit the bastards with everything you’ve got. The resulting hullabaloo will ensure the intended message goes out very loud and clear to any bad guys lurking out there: “We will kill you if we get you, so just be a good boy and behave yourself.”

I agree, it’s a crude way to run a security apparatus, but it’s the best these boys could come up with. And it may be working, who knows! So what if a few immigrant communities kick up a lot of bother and bleeding-heart liberals mouth their chorus of “damage to community relations”. All that matters is that the job gets done.

It is possible, I hear you say, that this may just explain the case of the Forest Gate Two, but certainly not the case of Menezes, where it was clearly a case of mistaken identity. That is true, but it does not invalidate my theory. All it establishes is that on that occasion they had credible intelligence - after the bombing attempts of 21 July 2005, remember. And when they caught up with the man they thought was their man, they used shock-and-awe.

If there was really some real, hard intelligence about the brothers, the raid would have netted something; also, there would have been simultaneous raids on other locations to net the brothers’ accomplices. So, since there were no other related raids, we should assume that they were working alone. And, if they were working alone and there was intelligence to substantiate it, why have they been released without charge?

Method in the madness

For the sake of argument, let’s say the “intelligence” services were right and the brothers are terrorists. Let’s also assume they were not working alone. Then this raid has alerted their partners that the authorities are on to them. They would have flown their nests by now, thus making their capture and the prevention of any “outrage” that much more difficult, if not impossible.

Some may interprete my shock-and-awe theory as specious and “irresponsible”. What other explanation can there be? Trust me, this is the best gloss one can put on both the killing of Menezes and what could have easily been the murders of the Forest Gate Two. At the very least it shows that there is some method in the madness, that they are not out of their depth. That they have a handle on things. Otherwise, one would have to go with the view that the securitariat are a bunch of bungling, overpaid clowns whose only relationship with the word “intelligence” should be prefixed with the word “sub”.

Either way, heads should roll. Whose? Have a guess. They are the Laurel and Hardy, the Abbott and Costello of today’s Britain. Not there yet? Yes, you’ve got it, my friend: Prime Minister Tony B-Liar and name sake Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair.