EXCLUSIVE – Winning hearts and minds must to counter terror threat: Jack Straw

LONDON: Considered to be one of three generalisations as a response to any terrorist threat, hearts and minds must be ‘secured’, says Jack Straw.

The former Home and Foreign Secretary spoke at the Securing Asia 2012 Conference in London, today, where he admitted that winning hearts and minds were vital when answering back to a terrorist threat.

He said: “Alongside the security response, there has to be serious efforts to secure hearts and minds”.

He also said that a firm, effective, if proportionate and lawful security response is a fundamental of any counter-terrorist strategy worthy of the name.

“Even where the ultimate solution to the terrorism is negotiation, it is rare for this to be possible,” he added. “Unless and until the state has proved to the terrorists that the best they can achieve through violence is a stalemate; that they have no chance of “victory” by violence”.

Mr Straw also talked about what terrorists are attempting to seek. What they most pursue is a counter-terrorist enforcement against them descends to their level.

He said: “A state response which is random, disproportionate, not susceptible to the rule of law, and has many innocent, collateral victims”.

He spoke of the horrible event of Bloody Sunday, in Northern Ireland, in 1971 where fourteen men and boys were shot dead at the hands of the British Army during a civil rights protest.

“Such responses,” he carried on. “Serve as recruiting sergeants to the terrorist organisation, increase the sympathy of the host communities, and make the gaining of intelligence much more difficult”.

Mr Straw also recalled an event where he was “in the wrong place at the wrong time” when, as a young barrister, he was at the Central Criminal Court where PIRA-planted bomb exploded.

He added that the very people who ordered that bombing would be shaking hands very soon with Queen Elizabeth II four decades later on.

He talked of that simple handshake as a symbol of victory of politics and a ray of hope.

He said: “That simple handshake will symbolise a quite remarkable triumph of politics over violence, and give us all hope, that through the right combination of enforcement and imagination, enduring solutions can be found to many conflicts but it can take much time.

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