A terror so great we forgot it at once

13 December 2006: Dhiren who? Mention Dhiren Barot to anyone and the chances are that you’ll be met with blank looks. At best, some might say, ‘Oh, wasn’t he that guy who, er, that trial recently, yeah, bit worrying.’ Thus the British have somehow failed to register the significance of the conviction last month of a man who was one of al Qaeda’s biggest fishes, guilty of the most devastating terrorist plot ever known in this country and one which would made [sic] 9/11 look like a minor warm-up act.

This former airline ticket clerk plotted to kill hundreds of thousands of people in a series of synchronised atrocities in Britain and the US. He planned to blow up public buildings using gas cylinders in limousines, to mount a gas attack on the Heathrow Express rail shuttle, and to blow up the Tube under the Thames to rupture the walls keeping out the river. Police found in his notebooks details of how to construct a chemicals laboratory, along with recipes for poisons and plans to use radiation to spread sickness, panic, chaos and death on a vast scale.

Terrifying and astounding as all this was, the real significance of the case lay in the way it punctured the myths fuelling Britain’s state of denial over Islamist terrorism.