Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Now, there's a name you don't hear much these days. And that's a shame really as he's probably one of the most important people not alive. I'll tell you for why.
Let's go back to 1914 and Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie are visiting Sarajevo, state visit, that sort of thing. Now, some people were not entirely happy with Franz Ferdinand. One might even go so far as to call these people terrorists. The one I'm concerned with I shall call Segei the Bolshevik. His name wasn't Sergie and I'm pretty sure he wasn't a Bolshevik but, it was a long time ago and my memory's not what it was. So, Sergie he will be in this story.
Sergei and a few of his mates decided they'd like to bump off Franz Ferdinand on his state visit so they arranged themselves along the route of the motorcade in order to do the deed. Sergie's standing there with his revolver in his pocket when the sh*t hits the fan at the other end of the road. Bombs flying through the air, people running hither and thither, cavalry horses jumping over motor cars. Very noisy.
Young Sergei reckons he might as well give it all up as a bad job. Wanders off up some side streets and finds a little cafe, orders some coffee and a nice piece of cake. Since it's a sunny day he sits outside to enjoy his snack.
Meanwhile, Franz Ferdinands' chauffer is finding the driving heavy going, what, with the bombs and everything. He turns off up a side road hoping to find the streets less crowded but pretty soon realises he's going in the wrong direction.
"Ah ha" He says to himself "I'll turn my motorcar around using forward and reverse gears just like I was shown in my driving lessons and go back the way I came. Here's a convenient place to turn. Close to this cafe where I see a young gentleman enjoying a cup of coffee.".
Sergei the Bolshevik could hardly believe his eyes when Franz's car pulled up right next to his table. He finished his coffee, popped the last little bit of cake into his mouth, then strolled over and shot Franz and his missus to death.
Sergei the Bolshevic in action.
Which goes to show two things:
Number one. Terrorists only succeed despite their own ineptitude.
Number two. The only people more inept than terrorists are governments.
Now this brings us rather neatly (thirty odd years later) onto the Second World War. It's 1940 and the greatest army the world has ever seen is just twenty miles away from England's green and pleasant land on the other side of the English Channel. Our army is in disarray and only about 650 aircraft of the RAF stand between us and total defeat. The Commonwealth stands at our side but, let's face it, they're on the other side of the planet.
One of the first things our Government did was ban radios in motorcars. Presumably this was so that any Nazi spies couldn't receive messages from Berlin. Of course you could still have a wireless at home so that sort of defeated the object of the whole thing I would have thought. Anyway, any self respecting Nazi spy would have had a radio the size of a two seater sofa in his attic where he could tap out morse messages to Berlin to his hearts' content if he so chose.
The only result of this legislation was that people could no longer motor through the English countryside listening to pleasant tunes.
"This is the BBC Home Service. Here is the news read to you by Bernard V (wearing a tie)."
If WW2 was fought on the grounds of style the germans would have won easily, just look at the uniforms. Nice lines, excellent stitching, good use of colour. Their aeroplanes filled the skies over England. In May 1940 over one thousand people were killed by Nazi bombing in Liverpool alone and, that was just one city among all the rest. I happen to know that because my dad was in Liverpool at the time putting out fires and dodging machine gun bullets.
Well, there was nothing for it but to introduce identity cards just in case the Nazi's, despite their overwhelming firepower, decided to also sneak in through the back door..
This takes us up to the early nineteen fifties and ID cards are still required. In fact I was issued one and I still have it. One day I'm going to frame it and put a little brass plaque underneath which says 'I don't have to carry this '.
Anyway, early nineteen fifties and Clance Henry Willcock is pedalling along on his hoop spinner (bicycle, to the rest of you) when Mr Plod the policeman leaps out of the hedgerow and demands that Mr Willcock produce his ID card. Mr Willcock refuses. He's an englishman going about his lawful business in England and it's bugger all to do with Mr Plod unless he is suspected of breaking some law or other.
Mr Willcock was found guilty of not cowering under the accusing finger of blind governance and fined the sum of ten shillings. However, the Lord Chief Justice proclaimed publicly that the whole idea of ID cards was tosh and the following year they were dropped.
And now we're in the nineteen sixties, the middle of the 'Cold War'. The Soviet Bear was encroaching all across eastern Europe and plotting the downfall of all western values. You could hardly move in the North Sea for Soviet submarines. The sky was dark with Tupolov 144's just outside our territorial waters (or so they told us). My mate Paul and I responded to this threat by the heartfelt wearing of multicoloured clothes and growing our hair over our shoulders. There may have been some strange music involved also. Frankly, we didn't give a fig.
Turns out we were right too. The Supreme Soviet was more concerned with making borcht, vodka and, the production figures for 'Tractor Factory Number 42'. Do you know how many missile launched atomic weapons the Russians had in the early sixties? I'll tell you.....eleven. All those missiles you saw trundling through Red Square on May Day were made of wood. The Russians spent more money on the production of fine optical equipment at the Pentacon factory in eastern Germany than they spent on nukes.
They made Skoda's too but, the least said about those the better.
The nineteen seventies onwards and we had to deal with the IRA. They weren't any less incompetent than any other terrorist, it's just that there were lots of them and they specialised in blowing up shopping malls full of women and children. Either that or crowded pubs. Taken collectively the IRA murdered more people than the Islamic Jihadis have in the western world during the last ten years.
They attacked Downing Street with mortars (missed). Tried to blow up most of the members of our Government at the Party Conference in Brighton (missed most of them). Tried to blow me up too once and didn't make a very good job of it. I was talking to a mate of mine the other night who reminded me about one IRA bomber who tripped over the curb and blew himself up. Now there's incompetence for you.
For finance they relied heavily, as you'd expect, from drug smuggling, prostitution, protection racketeering and outright robbery they were also dependent on foreign donations. When those dried up in 2001 the IRA gave up their 'armed struggle'. Now Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness (their leaders with more blood on their hands than you can imagine) sit in our Parliament. Well, they don't actually sit in Parliament as such. They refuse to enter. They're not above collecting the salary and all the expenses they can though.
And now we have Islamic Jihad.
Leaving aside the Twin Towers, Madrid and the London underground which one might argue were also more due to government incompetence than terrorist competence, what have we got?
Exploding trainers that don't explode. Exploding underpants that just fizzle. Some blokes who tried to throw a petrol bomb at Glasgow airport (it bounced off the wall, rolled underneath their truck and blew them up).........You can see where I'm going with this can't you?
Then we've got the 'Liquid Explosive Bombers' who, the Head of the Metropolitan Police said, would have caused "carnage on an unimaginable level". There were some drawbacks to his accusations though which came out at the trial. For one thing three of the eight accused had never been to London never mind Heathrow airport and, only five of them had passports. You'd think that'd be a drawback to their plans wouldn't you? Not to mention the fact that none of them had made any effort to produce or otherwise acquire any explosives.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. It is impossible to produce a decent explosive by mixing two chemicals together in the toilet of an aeroplane.
(Sorry, there was a link here to show that 'binary explosives' can't be made in the toilet of an aircraft. Unfortunately I lost the blog when Multiply disappeared. You'll just have to take my word for it. It can't be done.).
But because of Commissioner Blair (Head of Met) I can't take a bottle of brandy onto a 'plane anymore. Nothing more than 100ml and everything must be in little clear plastic bags that you need to buy at the airport. You can't even take your own plastic bag.
So there we trudge heading for our 'plane. Shoes and belt in one hand, holding our pants up with the other hand and holding a plastic bag in our teeth. But wait, here's the 'special' airport scanner that will let people that I don't know look at my naked body through my clothes. Even my mother didn't do that since I was old enough to bath myself.
Here's a thought. Why wouldn't one of these imagined bombers stick some semtex up his bottom (in the manner of one of those IRA drug smugglers), amble off to the bathroom once the 'plane's in the air and then............well, you can imagine.
So, all the body scanners and searching will do no good to deter the serious bomber. You wait until you have to drop your pants and bend over a desk before you can get on your flight......... If you want to be really safe.
Look at this bloke. Abbas Iqbal from Blackburn convicted of standing behind a tree in Blackburn park and crossing the footpath on his hands and knees. And, then posting the video on his webpage while proclaiming 'Islamic Jihad'. It's a plastic childs toy for heavens sake. It's even got the little red bobble on the end.
Sixty years ago we'd fight the combined might of the Nazi military with a cheery grin (sometimes). Now we're frightened of exploding underpants. We should be ashamed of ourselves.
If you want to know how to make your own liquid binary explosives just take a look at my first comment below.