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Joe Riley: We're living on the eve of destruction.

Byline: Joe Riley

THOSE of us who remember as if yesterday the 1962 Cuban missile stand-off between John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, know all about living through the eve of destruction.

It was another 25 years before the Raymond Briggs cartoon, When The Wind Blows, told the harrowing story of an elderly British couple who failed to cope with nuclear attack.

On neither occasion was the Armageddon scenario deemed inevitable.

Last night was different. Reality TV doesn't get more real than the BBC drama, Dirty War, depicting a terrorist nuclear attack on London.

This time, unlike in any previous conventional warfare -- or conventional terrorism -- the enemy is not scared to die. Death is an honour.

Putting aside the inevitable whining about the bad dies being Islamic fundamentalist nutters (is there any other realistic option at present?), this compelling docu-drama was not without its faults.

Why always London? Nobody expected the IRA to bomb a small town like Warrington.

Callers to the later discussion programme, including two from Liverpool, gave ample proof that terrorism is rightly perceived as a nationwide threat.

The capital error is to assume such acts of vengeance can only be reeked in obvious places.

The drama and the studio phone in enclosed a particularly grim news bulletin: a bomb scare on a USbound aircraft, hurricanes in Florida, and the still smirking glinty-eyed sight of Tony Blair preparing to face a Labour conference now smothered by Iraq.

So there, albeit unknowingly when the actors had depicted Domesday Britannia, was the link.

Would such a programme have been made had Blair not declared war on Saddam?

The result, in language even Blairite foots oldiers can understand, has been akin to p*****g on a wasps' nest.

London mayor Ken Livingstone says the UK is a sitting target. So does the head of the anti-terrorism branch.

A weapons expert now reveals that components for a small nuclear device are widely available.

If -- or when -- this happens, the IRA will be relegated to the level of naughty boys with cap-guns.

And don't think that living in Llanfairpoddle or even Glenbogle will save your bacon. Those who sat out World War ll in far-flung country resorts did not face the long-term effects mentioned almost as codicils to last night's wake-up call.

There's the prospect of a drifting radiation cloud, of areas being mothballed for 30 years -- and the likelihood of financial wipe-out for millions of pension funds.

No-one is stupid enough to think we are going to be saved by a flimsy government pamphlet. Only common sense can prevail. Perhaps, come the crunch, nothing short of emigration.

But this is all theory. For most, the practice is too diabolical to contemplate.

It should even wipe that sickly grin off Tony Blair's face.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 27, 2004
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