Al Qaeda a Bigger Threat Than the Nazis? I Beg to Differ Mr Reid .

Article excerpt

Byline: CORRELLI BARNETT

An eminent war historian exposes this shameful claim as a cynical exercise to win support for Labour's dangerous newanti-terror laws

JOHN REID, Secretary of State for Defence and Tony Blair's aggressive 'Glasgow glasser', pronounced yesterday in a lecture that the danger from Al Qaeda to this country was worse than that posed by Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.

He said that while Hitler had used some of the same evil methods as Al Qaeda, 'never have we faced an enemy that embraced them all on such a scale'.

Al Qaeda fanatics, according to Reid, 'set out to cause the greatest pain they can to innocent people', all with the purpose of terrorising civilian populations. Moreover, Al Qaeda 'is an enemy unfettered by any sense of morality'.

Let's be clear straight away: when Reid places Al Qaeda in the same category of mortal danger to this country as Adolf Hitler, or even in the same category of evil, he is talking absolute tosh - as he well ought to know, considering he holds a university degree in history.

For a start, in regard to the question of comparative evil, how can Reid equate Al Qaeda's kidnapping and murder of innocent individuals such as Margaret Hassan and Ken Bigley in Iraq, cruel though such acts are, with Nazi Germany's industrialised murder of some six million Jews, gipsies and mental defectives? The comparison is simply ludicrous.

And even if we add up the hundreds of innocent victims cumulatively slaughtered over the years in Al Qaeda bomb outrages such as Bali, Madrid, and London last July - even if we also add the 3,000 killed in the destruction of the World Trade Centre on 9/11 -- the total comes to a tiny fraction of the number herded by the SS into the gas chambers.

When John Reid told his audience yesterday that Al Qaeda 'is an enemy unfettered by any sense of morality', the implication clearly was that Hitler by comparison was fettered by some sense of morality.

How, then, would Dr Reid the historian square that with the fact of 'the Final Solution', surely the most evil act in all history?

Then again, if Dr Reid compares the totals of civilian casualties inflicted by bombs alone by Nazi Germany and by Al Qaeda, he will find Al Qaeda's puny efforts far outstripped by the wartime Luftwaffe.

German bombers destroyed the centre of Warsaw in September 1939 and Rotterdam in May 1940. Along with the V-1 flying bombs and V-2 rockets, German bombers killed no fewer than 60,000 civilian men, women and children in Great Britain between 1940 and 1945.

What's more, these terror attacks were far more effective as a means of spreading fear among the British civilian population than any sporadic atrocities that Al Qaeda might perpetrate.

Dr Reid attempts to place Hitler and Al Qaeda in the same bracket in terms of a threat to the life and liberty of the British nation. The attempt is utterly preposterous.

However, it is part and parcel of Bush's and Blair's long-term campaign to glorify Al Qaeda as a mortal threat - a threat that can only be parried by 'a war'.

If Dr Reid - and his boss - do not understand the difference between sporadic smallscale terrorist outrages and 'war', especially war with Hitler, let me try to explain it for their benefit.

In the first place, there is the scale of the threat. Al Qaeda can never amount to more than a nuisance, albeit a cruel one.

Even if it could mount weekly bombings on the scale of London last July, it still could not bring about the disruption of Britain's economic life, let alone menace the stability of British society and endanger our liberties. …