Or rather, Attaboys. Worthy of a Sun headline perhaps? On the lines of Gotcha. (A reference to the sinking of the ARA Belgrano by the RN in 1982.)
Readers will know I’m among the first to denounce endless unnecessary military invasions, invariably by American-led forces under the guise of humanitarian aid or mythical WMD.
But I have to say, had I been on the Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday, I would have been thanking my lucky stars for the intervention, courage and presence of mind of the three Americans who tackled the gun-toting Moroccan.
All credit to Spencer Stone, Aleksander Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, and Briton Chris Norman for their bravery.
And rightly so, they’ve been commended by presidents and prime minsters Obama, Cameron, Hollande, and Valls, and received bravery medals from the Mayor of Arras, Leturque.
Stone was attacked with a Stanley knife by the gunman, and was taken to hospital with serious injuries to his hand.
Meanwhile, train staff were barricading themselves behind a steel door and leaving passengers and the gunman to get on with it. Because, let’s be honest, train staff aren’t usually trained to deal with gunmen. So who does deal with them?
Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel, announced that Franco-Belgian security patrols would be beefed up on Thalys trains, which link Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne.
This includes increased patrols and baggage checks at international stations.
Because, the Moroccan said he just happened to find a bag of weapons:
the suspect has told police officers he is not a terrorist but intended to rob the Thalys passengers at gunpoint having found the weapons “by chance in a park in Brussels”.
But do security patrols and baggage checks really do it?
Back in 1984 I travelled all the way round the world with my Swiss Army Knife on my person. Apart from anything else, it had the keys to the padlocks on my rucksack on it. When I got to NZ, it was a big no, and it went in a special bag, returned to me when I got off the plane. Weird. That was one journey out of more than a dozen. No one else had any interest in it.
The last time I got on a ferry, Brittany Ferries, Plymouth to Cherbourg, they had introduced luggage scanning. As ever, appearances count. The staff apologised to me for making me wait while they checked the luggage of the long-haired man in front. I was in non-rucksack mode and looking relatively smart.
One can envision the day when planes, trains and ships have armed guards, in true sci-fi mode. Buses too. Maybe even the little buses around Gib? No conductors because they’re a thing of the past, just armed guards and a driver, well maybe a driver, maybe not. Payment will be by card/chip anyway. No evil cash.
Again back in 1984, I was horrified boarding the sleeper from Bombay (as was) to New Delhi. The first person I saw on the train was a guard, holding a rifle! A rifle? What on earth for? I made my way to the ladies-only compartment still in shock.
During the night, male family joined the Indian women in our compartment to eat the evening meal, but then left, and at curfew time, we locked the door, to dream of bandits and armed guards fighting it out as we slept soundly behind that safe, secure door.
There’s a difference however, between a deterrent to bandits trying to board a train, and a passenger with a Kalashnikov and other weapons, who is already on board.
And the cost. What’s the cost benefit analysis? What price fare increases? Still, armed guards might provide much-needed employment. Always assuming the employees aren’t trigger-happy terrorists anyway.
The future sadly, seems to be easily scripted. Tracking of all legal citizens, retina scans, and at some point there will be no need to microchip cards because we’ll be chipping people, as we already do animals. Although one can always get them taken out. Private security forces will be everywhere. Freedom of movement will be restricted.
The question is however, would this dystopian future have always happened, regardless of some religious-based form of terrorism?
News source: The Grauniad