Tom Lehrer had no idea how far this would go. Political satire has now turned into international diplomacy. Tony Blair has landed the job as the Middle East Peace Envoy. Is this someone’s idea of a joke? George Galloway, of the anti-war Respect Party, said: "It's rather like appointing Count Dracula as the head of the Blood Transfusion Service." Which is as good a punch-line as any I suppose.
Of course, coming in the wake of last week’s terror-attack in Glasgow, and the attempted attacks in London, this may not appear so funny; except that I‘ve been screaming with laughter ever since. It wasn’t the attacks themselves, of course: it was the political commentary afterwards.
"Al Qaeda has imported the tactics of Baghdad and Bali to the streets of the UK," said Lord Stevens, a former London police chief and Gordon Brown's terrorism adviser.
Al Qaeda, remember, were the guys who hijacked four planes and flew two of them into the World Trade Centre, and one into the Pentagon, and only failed with the fourth because of the bravery of the passengers: at least if we are to believe the official story that is. So now they have changed their tactics it seems. No longer satisfied with ruthless efficiency, they've decided to try stupidity instead.
Let’s get this right. Two guys in a jeep full of Calor Gas bottles and petrol, one of them with a can of petrol and a lighter, charge at full pelt into the entrance doors of Glasgow airport while simultaneously trying to set light to themselves. In what way is this “importing the tactics of Baghdad and Bali to the streets of the UK”?
The people who made the bomb in Bali knew what they were doing. They made a bomb. It was a real bomb. It worked. You don't have to sympathise with the bombers to know the difference. A bomb is something that blows up, not something that just catches alight. Bombers in Baghdad regularly blow up US army convoys using a variety of sophisticated methods. Some of them are suicide bombers: that is they have explosives strapped to their body which they can detonate at will having positioned themselves next to their target. What they don’t do: they don’t douse themselves with petrol to act as a slow-burning fuse, setting light to themselves with a cigarette lighter, shouting “Allah! Allah!” while driving a jeep into a stationary building.
These people weren’t terrorists, they were idiots.
This is the kind of threat that can arise occasionally in any city or town across the world: the threat of rampant absurdity. People go crazy occasionally. They do crazy things. Sometimes they even set cars on fire.
These people did the kind of damage to Glasgow airport that you might see on a road when someone falls asleep at the wheel. Well no: nowhere near as bad. Glasgow airport, you see, wasn’t going anywhere. Glasgow airport couldn’t swerve across the road to hit the on-coming traffic. The jeep hit Glasgow airport and Glasgow airport stayed exactly where it was, albeit smouldering a bit.
But it gets worse.
The front page of the Guardian this morning (Wednesday 4th July) says this:
“Mastermind based abroad suspected of guiding plot.”
MASTERMIND? As if Dr No and Ernst Stavro Blofeld had got together to launch this fiendish plot. It must have taken years in the planning, trying to work out just how to have the least physical impact with the most amount of trauma.
Maybe Osama bin Laden himself orchestrated it. I can see him right now, sat up there in his mountain fortress, surrounded by armed guards, thinking up ways to bring down the west. “We’ve tried ruthless precision. We’ve tried diabolical efficiency. We’ve tried flying planes into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Now let’s try stupidity as a tactic. They won’t be expecting that.”
The whole thing defies satire, it really does. A bunch of crazed idiots build a load of useless bombs and we are all supposed to be scared for our lives. Well they were clearly very angry people, willing to die for their cause: the only trouble is they had absolutely no idea how to go about it. The idea that there can possibly have been a link to Al Qaeda or that there was any training involved is just another one of those bad jokes.
OK, so it’s not a funny joke.
Try this one instead. Have you heard the one about the new Middle East Peace Envoy?
It’s Tony Blair!
Now that is funny.