T HEY’RE scandalised in England about the fact that the army wants to put surface-to-air missile units on blocks of flat near the Olympic Stadium in London in order to thwart any nasty Al-Qaeda types planning a spectacular attack on this summer’s Olympic Games.
There wasn’t a paper you could read, a TV or radio programme you could tune into, a website you could click on that didn’t have shock-horror headlines about this latest terrorist threat to the fabric of the nation. Damn those pesky ragheads for destroying the English way of life – elderly ladies cycling to church of a summer evening with a bell sounding in the distance, or playing cucumber on the village cricket with green sandwiches at evensong, or whatever it is they do over there.
Unfortunately they don’t do much of that in Stratford any more, as anyone who’s been there in the past 20 years will readily confirm. The place is located within the borough of Newham which is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse boroughs in the country, where 90 per cent of the cricket is played by young men of an Asian background, and where the bikes are more likely to be BMXs ridden by young black kids than step-throughs with wicker baskets ridden by old maids.
Against that background, and with all the grim knowledge that we’ve garnered thus far about the ‘War on Terror’, it’s probably true to say that high-rise military installations would be there to spy on the populace below rather than provide a line of defence against 9/11-style airborne attacks on the long-jump pit. Because, let’s be honest, while Squinter wouldn’t like to have a SAM7 fired into his shed when he’s in there fixing the lawnmower, there’s not much that it’s going to do against a 100-ton Jumbo fully loaded with passengers, fuel and freight that’s heading at 600mph towards a massive stadium half a mile away. They’d need three or four miles to take that thing down, and even then they’d probably send it crashing into a high-rise block of flats or a row of terraced houses.
The indignation is entirely feigned, of course, because the Brits have a long established tradition of putting military installations in civilian buildings, and we’re not talking about Captain Mainwaring and Sergeant Wilson billeted in St Aldhelm’s church hall with the air raid warden giving them grief. We’re talking about Squinter’s primary school, which was stolen and turned into a massive military base some time around 1971. We’re talking about those houses and flats in Lenadoon Avenue that all those people were kicked out of around the same time and that were turned into outposts bristling with heavy weaponry. We’re talking about Casement Park, which was turned into the Andytown equivalent of Baghdad’s Green Zone. We’re talking about Divis Tower which had a spy tower and snipers’ nest on top serviced by Chinooks.
And that’s only where Squinter lived.