The world has changed.
Dateline – NEW YORK, United States, September 2001: Two hijacked planes crash into the World Trade Centre leaving 3 000 dead.
Dateline – PARIS, France, November 2015: An armed attack and hostage situation at a theatre leaves 137 dead; 352 wounded.
Dateline – LONDON, England, July 2005: Bombing of three subway trains and one bus results in 56 deaths and 784 injured.
Dateline – BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 2016: Three suicide bombings at Brussels Airport and a subway station leave 172 dead.
Dateline – PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, November 2015: Authorities confirm that 89 Trinidadians have joined Islamic State (ISIS). Former national security minister Gary Griffith calls for laws to block Trinidadian-born ISIS recruits seeking to return to Trinidad and Tobago.
United States Major John Kelly, head of the U.S. southern command, has previously revealed that ISIS has been recruiting in the Caribbean and identified Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Suriname and Venezuela as countries from which prospective Islamic fighters are heading to Syria for recruitment.
A number of countries in the west, in response to the clear and present danger presented by terrorism and acknowledging the threat’s global reach, have responded with a raft of proactive security systems. Their strategies – some very stringent – reflect the threat.
In the United States and other destinations there is the advance passenger information and passenger name record data. This is directly to prevent terrorist travel and to improve the standard of screening. It is a standard feature now in most proactive western countries. There is also a visa security programme and pre-departure vetting. Other measures include fingerprinting of travellers at both sea and airports.
Dateline – BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: Trade unions are opposed to the placement of security cameras at the country’s points of entry for reasons best published in a signed copy of Enid Blyton’s Yellow Fairy Book.
Unions, some social activists and many who believe that saying their prayers at night will translate into imperviousness to terrorism, exercise their democratic right by objecting to the notion of fingerprinting persons arriving and departing the island. Legalese, academic arguments, failure to grasp the bigger picture, and Don Quixotes on white steeds, complete with windmills, relegate the country’s security to the nether regions.
Despite the incidents of weekly shootings – some leading to death – and indications that very sophisticated artillery is being employed, unions and others raised righteous indignation when acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith suggested that guns and ammunition were being brought through our seaport and airport with the likely complicity of officials at both locations. If these occurrences have become routine, then the arrival of misguided religious zealots at the arrival lounge is not necessarily that far behind.
And so the questions are asked. Are we in Barbados truly appreciative of the serious threat of global terrorism? Do we accept that terrorism is not as far removed from these shores as we would pretend? Do we understand that if terrorists are being recruited from the Caribbean, that terrorists could also be returning to the Caribbean? Are we prepared to do the things to improve our security or do we take the reactive approach? Will we be guided by the experts who actually face these scenarios, or will we be cajoled, comforted or confused by those who search the newspapers for any cause célèbre to attached their names?
It was revealed just 48 hours ago that key ISIS terrorist Mohammad al-Adnani was killed in an operation in Syria. This Islamic extremist’s reported specialty over the past decade was to spread terrorism across the globe, especially where the United States has a presence.
This was his reported exhortation to the ‘faithful’ and it has often been carried out with horrific success. “‘If you can’t shoot them, then stab them, and if you can’t stab them, then crush their heads with rocks. If you can’t do that then drive your cars, your vehicles, to kill them.” And to his followers he placed no limitations on western targets.
This is the global environment in which Barbados – a soft target if there ever was one – finds itself. We bury our heads in the sand to our own detriment; we follow blinkered crusaders to our own chagrin; and we fool ourselves that clasped hands, bended knees, heavenly gaze and earnest entreaties will make the threat of terrorism disappear.
Our security starts first by accepting that the world has irrevocably changed.