Friday, 10 September 2010

9/11 or 999 for Kent?

Kent’s faced a strange set of anniversaries this week: the beginning of the Blitz 70 years ago on Tuesday and tomorrow the anniversary of the New York 9/11 attacks.

The Blitz has still left its scars on Kent – whether it’s the folk memories of the raids on Ramsgate and Canterbury or still bomb-sites.

But AlQaeda? What’s that to do with Kent? Suicide Attacks such as 100 dead in Pakistan this week or incidents in Iraq are confined to the Middle East. Islamic insurgents such as Jemaah Islamiah are confined to sporadic attacks across the Thai-Malay border, Indonesia or the Philippines. And the networks dismantled to a few hundred prisoners in Britain and even less in Guantanamo.

But Kent certainly boasts rich pickings though for a Jihadist: whether it’s Dungeness, Dover Europe’s largest Port or even the birthplace of Christianity at Canterbury Cathedral.

Perhaps more disturbing is Kent’s open front door at Manston. The last few years have seen banned aircraft flying into Kent from Ostend and Africa: a deadly mix of ageing craft, sloppy safety standards, an unfettered cancer cost and cargo from bushmeat to gunrunning to blood diamonds.

Only this week Meridian Air was banned hard on the heels of MK Air along with banned Russian Ilyushins and DAS Air.

Repeated flight breaches means any Jihadist worth his salt could file a flight log and crash into Canary Wharf, Big Ben or the EU Parliament within a few minutes of fly-time.

Or perhaps in shades of AlQaeda learning to fly but not land at flight schools before 9/11 - a half dozen Lear jets or Cessna would make a less dramatic but large impact into Canary Wharf.

If Kent is caught napping then the rogue nuclear states of Iran, Syria, North Korea and Burma pose a constant danger. As our Kent regiments have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan – and the Iranian ayatollahs and similar “purple revolutions” of the Middle East and Central Asia – a “war on terror” can only go so far but people power cannot be stopped.

We’re entering a post-Cold War age of a clash of religions but of ethics. Greater democracy removes the need for fundamentalism: ETA this week announces a ceasefire and the Real IRA pose only a diminished threat in a reformed Ulster. While the Blitz that scarred Kent eventually saw democracy triumph over dictatorship in 1945 and in 1989.

While the murderous child-soldiers of the Congo, Sudan and Rwanda such as the Lords Resistance Army rape and slaughter millions to secure blood diamonds and the gold and tungsten blood minerals used in your mobile phone or computer.

Surely Kentish safety lies not just in stamping out rogue operators like Infratil and Meridian or Total but greater democracy and prosperity in far-away places. And ethical stances such as KCC divesting its guns, booze and tobacco investments. Or Kent’s universities, Police, NHS and phone retailers becoming blood mineral free in their IT procurement.

In Kent we’ve seen far too many public authorities that are rated by the government itself as stagnant or sub-standard. Yet the UN Millennium, Goals marks the single greatest framework to eradicate poverty, famine and disease. They’re meant for here not just there. We’re working to establish these with every public authority in Britain, the World parliament “House of Commons” for the UN.

While Climate Change initiatives such as Desertec promise not only carbon-free, renewable solar power and wealth to the Sahel states But re-energising Kent’s pharmaceutical and engineering industries such as Pfizer – and we could certainly use the solar and desalination expertise as Kent warms up, tips up and floods with Climate Change.

The only certain way to prevent 9/11 isn’t more bombs and bullets or car bombs and suicide flights but delivering the UN Millennium Goals as a backdrop to greater democracy, prosperity and sustainability. Eradicating malaria for example was something we did in the Kent marshes a hundred years ago – along with cholera, rickets and polio – and may need to do again with Climate Change.

In the 21st century not to be able to provide clean drinking water, vaccines, condoms, trees and seeds – the kind of goods available in any Boots or B&Q – for half of the world only encourages a Jumbo-sized explosion in a future 9/11.

Tim Garbutt is the Managing Director of Sincerity Agency the leading Green and Ethical advertising agency in East Kent:

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