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Wednesday, May 14, 2008 

More boom!

Just when you thought that the idea that eight men could build bombs out of "liquid explosives" in Oasis bottles, smuggle them on to airplanes and then detonate them resulting in "mass murder on an unimaginable scale" couldn't get any sillier, the Telegraph reports this further piece of evidence that wasn't mentioned in any of the stories yesterday:

Woolwich Crown Court heard the danger of the homemade device going off was so great that scientists at the Forensic Explosives Laboratory at Fort Halstead in Kent had to insert the detonator with a mechanical arm once they had left the chamber.

So, as yesterday, this is the experts who know what they're doing using the exact same materials as the rank amateurs were meant to, and the danger of rather than explosives blowing up a plane but instead going off in the face of the bomb-maker was so great that the detonator had to be inserted using a remote-controlled machine. We're meant to assume that if this plot was going to come to fruition that the 8 men were going to overcome the volatility of the materials they were using, something the experts couldn't, succeed in smuggling the bombs onto an airplane without the explosives going off prematurely on the journey to the airport and then the plane, and then again manage, after fully constructing the bomb, to detonate it without anyone else noticing what they were up to with an explosion so successful that it would result in the deaths of everyone on board.

Something else worth noting in the reports today, in both the Telegraph and the Sun (most of the other media with the exception of the Mail seem to have ignored the entire exercise, which suggests that if the fourth estate can't even be interested by a bottle going boom they're hardly going to cover the men's defence) is that both now freely admit that the "bombers" hadn't succeeded in constructing a viable device. In fact, despite their experimenting by drilling holes in bottles etc, there isn't any evidence that they had attempted to even do so. We already know that at least two of the men didn't have passports; they might have recorded their arrogant and pathetic "martyrdom videos", but it doesn't seem by any measure that the attacks were as imminent as originally claimed, let alone whether the attacks would have been any more successful had they not been interrupted than last year's adventures by Abu Beavis and Abu Butthead.

To be a little clearer than I perhaps was yesterday, there is little doubt that at least some of these men were suitably radicalised to record messages which leave the implication that they were willing to lay down their lives like other jihadists for the cause of extremist Islam. Like with the other plots that have been "foiled" or have failed however, it has been hyped out of all proportion, with any journalistic intrigue into whether such attacks are actually feasible completely abandoned, believing completely that such plots were not just possible but would have killed hundreds if not thousands of people. It's one thing to want to kill someone; it's whether they have the means, determination and skills to be able to do so. The evidence so far at the "liquid bombs" trial suggests that these men didn't have it. That doesn't mean that they are not dangerous, or that they are innocent of any crime; that will be for the jury to decide. What is clear however is that all are guilty of fantasising, of self-aggrandisment and dilettantism.

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