Learning To Live In Fear

If the war against Iraq begins, it's likely I'll be sent to do a bit of reporting in one of the Gulf States. Nothing too arduous ... but as my employers are caring employers, they decided I had to be trained for all contingencies. That meant a crash course in first aid; an exercise to discover how it feels to have a black bag over your head and to be (very carefully) kidnapped by soldiers ... and a quick introduction into the noble art of how to find a landmine with an empty ball point pen.

I kid you not... that was part of the training.

To be honest it was fun. Then came a course in how to react to chemical, biological or radioactive weapons. Now that was NOT fun ... in fact, it was truly depressing. No need to worry if you're a solider. You will have the right protective gear and the right training... so it's on with the mask and on with the war. A chemical attack on an army might slow them down, but it won't stop them. It will just make them angry. Hardly worth trying, in fact.

But an attack on civilians ...now that WOULD be catastrophic ...and the problem is just such an attack in considered likely by those in authority. Just look through that window behind me and imagine the impact if the whole population took fright and decided to get out of town ... millions running for their lives ... running from something they couldn't see ... running from fear ...it would be chaos... worse, I suspect, than anything we have yet seen.

It's the danger of such an attack on civilians which lies behind the war on Iraq. The aim, says the Pentagon, is to prevent terrorists getting hold of weapons of mass destruction... to take out any source of such weapons, like Iraq. But there are, unfortunately, many other sources of such evil.

The truth is that we in the UK and you in the States are going to have to learn to live with the fear of such weapons in the coming decades, as we learned to live with the bomb in the past. And the question is whether war on Iraq makes our cities more or less likely to suffer such an attack

By Peter Allen