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The British like to believe that their police force, the oldest in the world, is also the best, though they're careful saying that out loud ever since the current commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, said that his force's antiterrorism preparations were the "envy of the world" in a radio interview, and a couple of hours later the bombs went off in the London Underground.
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The grim reality is that the police in Britain can scarcely claim to be any better than their counterparts elsewhere. An unprecedented epidemic of armed crime is sweeping inner-city Britain, and the police seem ill equipped to handle it. In at least two cases since the 7/7 bombings, bungled antiterror operations led to innocent civilians being shot, there is a general rebellion of drivers against traffic rules, and of course, there's the racism thing.
Cop refuses to guard Israeli embassy
In 1981, following the Brixton riots, an official report accused the police of "racial discrimination." Eighteen years later, in another report following a mishandled investigation into the murder of a black teenager, the police were already guilty of "institutional racism."
There have obviously been many instances of racism by police officers toward blacks, Muslims, Hindus and, of course, Jews; unfortunately the reports and the media storms they generated forced police commanders into an impossible vicious circle of having to prove their political correctness while trying to continue with their policing duties.
Ambitious commissioners like Blair sent officers to a wide range of courses on "community awareness" and "diversity tolerance" and did everything in their power not to anger assorted minority and pressure groups.
In the immediate wake of the London bombings, it was Blair and other senior police officers who led the "don't blame Islam" chorus aimed at exonerating the community that had hatched the home-grown suicide bombers.
On the morning after the bombing, I interviewed one of these officers in London. He confirmed that British policemen had traveled to Israel to learn how to counter terror attacks against public transport. In the space of a five-minute interview, he must have repeated at least three times the mantra that "of course methods like these are impossible in an open pluralistic society like ours."
Two weeks later police shot down an out-of-work Brazilian electrician in a London street who had been mistakenly identified as a terrorist.
The latest scandal over the Muslim police constable, Alexander Omar Basha, who was allowed to refuse to guard the Israeli Embassy in London during the Lebanon war despite being assigned the job, should come as no surprise in this context of a beleaguered police force, anxious not to offend the Muslim community in any way while trying to defend the city from Islamic terror.
The story was first published by The Sun, and Blair, having come under fierce attack lately from the right-wing press for his political correctness, hurried to announce an "urgent review."
Meanwhile, other officers have already come forward with what will probably turn into the official version before long. Apparently it's not that Basha refused to guard the embassy on religious or ideological grounds, he had family in Lebanon and was worried for their safety.
To accept this account of events, you've got to believe that Hizbullah, at the height of war, had the resources to record every officer guarding every Israeli embassy and consulate around the world and to determine their identity and whether they had a brother or a cousin in Beirut. And then to go after them. But then, ridiculous policies call for ridiculous explanations.