THE Americans have obtained a copy of a video of what may be an al Qaida training video.
It shows children no older than 11 learning kidnapping, assassination and robbery techniques.
US and Iraqi forces were raiding a suspected al Qaida hideout north of Baghdad when they came across the five video tapes.
They are said to have assumed that these were Al Qaida training videos. On the face of it, this is a reasonable conclusion.
I’m no conspiracy theorist and the voices in my head are clearly telling me I’m not paranoid; but isn’t this just a little iffy?
Let’s look at what’s going on here.
The first and most obvious point is that children aged 11 have so far not been used by al Qaida for terrorist acts anywhere in the world.
Al Qaida has started to use women suicide bombers, but it has refrained from using children, possibly on the grounds that the Koran frowns on it.
So are we looking at a new phase in al Qaida tactics?
In the BBC’s coverage of this event they picked up on the US military viewpoint: "The Americans hope the images might persuade Iraqis to turn against the Islamic militants."
The West sees children being taught to run around with weapons as a form of child abuse, and so, apparently, do most sensible Iraqis.
A video showing al Qaida cranking up the ante with children is (the Americans may be calculating) just the sort of thing to get moderates to throw a wobbly and run in the opposite direction.
This captured video has been paraded in America and in Baghdad as the despicable sort of trick of which al Qaida is capable.
It comes at a time when one senses your average American is getting heartily sick of the stream of guff about the primaries.
UK hustings are all over and done with in about six weeks; the Yanks have to put up with electioneering until November.
This video is, of course, not available through your local Blockbuster outlet. It is being given the Cloverfield treatment.
And, to be fair, there’s every chance this is a genuine video, that al Qaida – whatever, whoever and wherever that is – financed the operation, hired a film crew, picked a location and used local acting talent.
But I have to ask: If you’re going to make a video with such explosive content why make it a few miles north of one of the heaviest Allied military concentrations in the world?
It just seems foolish that al Qaida would go to the trouble of making a video and distributing many copies.
They must have known that a copy would fall into Western hands, that it would be seized upon and that its propaganda value to the West would be far greater than its propaganda value to terrorists.
If it is genuine who is going to watch it and, having watched it, is going to set up their own bombers’ playschool in Batley, Birmingham or Bermondsey?
Al Qaida is many things, but it is not stupid.
But on the other hand the war on the West is for hearts and minds. A video like this is perfectly honed to strike fear into the West.
So, they’re training children to be bombers now? Well, isn’t that typical of those scurrilous Islamic militants, you can almost hear the Colonel Blimps spluttering.
However, given that many people think al Qaida is an invention of the US State Department anyway, might the Americans have got a few tame Iraqi children and an adult instructor to put the video together for propaganda purposes?
Well, I suppose it’s possible. This is a dirty war, no holds barred.
My father-in-law, who served in North Africa during the Second World War, said they captured some young Italian soldiers who shrank away from the Tommies as if they were poison.
It seemed their commander had told them that if they were captured by the British they would be eaten. The British, they said, had not had fresh meat since the start of the war.
In wartime – and this, both sides insist, is war – anything that scares the pants off ordinary folk is good. Think about the endless shenanigans of the Cold War.
If al Qaida or America thinks we’re getting a bit lax, careless, less fearful of Mr Terrorist, this is just the kind of video to get us back on the straight and narrow.