Rupert Goodwins' Diary

There's little I can say about the past week that hasn't already been said. So instead of the normal retrospective diary, let's look forward.

There's little I can say about the past week that hasn't already been said. So instead of the normal retrospective diary, let's look forward. We find ourselves adrift in a different world. The sound of a passenger jet in the sky is no longer just the sound of our culture at work or play. Nobody can look at a skyscraper glinting in the sun without thinking of the frailties of flesh and blood inside. Nobody knows what will happen next: you and I and six billion others will just have to wait and see.

Yet we are not powerless in the face of the future, and now is no time to lose our nerve. Despite the political thundering, we are not at war - the idea of a war on terrorism is sloppy shorthand, good for mobilising resources and focussing minds but bad for keeping things in context. America has been waging a "war on drugs" for decades: it's certainly seen paramilitary actions aplenty in South America and elsewhere, but the drugs themselves are scarcely less plentiful. Where there has been a reduction in use, it's been through education and rehabilitation, not at the point of a gun or the nozzle of a poison-spraying aircraft. Who can look at the footage of angry anti-American protests in Palestine and Pakistan and imagine for a second that this new "war" will achieve through military action Bush's stated aim of removing the evil of terrorism from the world?

But war has other implications. The rights of citizens are put in abeyance, with the state assuming the power to monitor and control everything we say. Already, there have been calls for encryption to be banned and privacy to be removed from electronic communications - although how this would do anything except increase vulnerability to economic terrorists has not been explained. With moves designed to force us to use officially sanctioned and controlled computers, ostensibly to stop us ruining the entertainment industry by ruthlessly increasing their sales as hitherto, it won't take much of a leap to reintroduce approved, weak crypto. Presented as an essential tool to stop terrorists from organising around the world, who could object?