Monday, October 04, 2010

Be Vigilant, Mr. & Mrs. Tourist!

Today, the most urgent lead story is that Canada has aped our southern neighbours (or is that neighbors?) in issuing warnings to those of us who are off to Europe. The admonition is that somewhere in Europe, something bad may happen to you and so you should be vigilant! That's it. No specific kinds of targets, not even a wild guess of most likely cities or countries. And, perhaps vaguest of all, no usable advice on just what the average camera-slinging perambulators are supposed to do to be "vigilant."

One tidbit is that western anti-terrorist intelligence thinks that, just maybe, whatever deed is done may resemble the horrific Bombay* (AKA Mumbai) massacre two years ago. In that multi-pronged and exceptionally well planned assault, numerous sites were rapidly and simultaneously attacked by terrorists lugging grenades and automatic weapons, while concurrent car bombs went off rapid-fire. They came with clear orders to maximize fatalities and property destruction in as short a time span as possible. To those who survived, the suddenness of the events was unfathomable. Here's one anonymous account:

"I was just sitting and reading the paper. ... I started seeing the sound was increasing and bodies started falling and all of the bloodshed. ... People were crying; people were limping. We were frightened; we started to run. I was trying to see if I could see anyone carrying a gun or anything, but I couldn't." (From Source)

So, again, what precisely is it that Canada, the US, and Japan are all suggesting that the hapless tourist do if she or he has the bad luck to be in the path of such determined, tactically proficient, well-trained fanatics? Or is the whole unsettling thing merely that intelligence agencies are covering their collective butts, causing all sorts of useless anxiety so that if and when the worst happens they can definitively say, "We told you so!"

* The belief that the name "Mumbai" is the unequivocal preference of all India and that "Bombay" is only for imperialist throwbacks is a vast oversimplification of how this latest bit of political correct toponymy arose. Many locals still prefer Bombay because at least the oppressor who gave the place that name is history, while radical Hindus are, alas, not. Besides, that most famous, gutsy and literate of all living Bombayians (my usage), Salman Rushdie still calls it by that horrid colonial epithet. And if it's good enough for Sal, it's good enough for me!