07 July 2005

What does it all mean?

photo: Associated Press

JUAN COLE has a translation of the statement
claiming credit for the London bombings
posted on the web.

Some comments from both sides of the Atlantic…


Absolutely nothing is achieved by responding
to such terrorism in the way the terrorist most
wants, by behaving differently. The terrorist
most wants people to stop using the Tube.
The terrorist wants tourists to stay away from
the central area. The terrorist wants Londoners
to remain at home, stop working, haul their
children out of school. The terrorist wants shops
and theatres to suffer, the Stock Market to crash,
the Olympic spirit to fade. The terrorist wants
everyone to feel perpetually terrorized, to look
askance at every Arab faces and dress, to
overreact, cut and run for cover from the world.

That is precisely why today's outrage should in
the literal sense of the word be ignored. It should
be treated as an accident in London's history, the
random act of madmen. We should do as Guiliani
said after 9/11. We should go about our business,
take the kids to the park, see a show and wave
defiance to the world. London is not to be
terrified by anyone.


Whoever carried out these attacks managed with
a minimum of expense and a modest amount of
planning and ruthless execution to upstage the
G8 Summit, instantly deflate London's euphoria
over winning the Olympic nod for 2012, and wipe
the smile off of Tony Blair's face--Blair, for whom
the G8 summit was to be his big comeback stage
and an opportunity to get out from under his
poodle image by taking the high moral ground
over Bush on the issues of global warming and
African relief. It's been over three years since
3000 Americans died on 9/11, Bin Laden is still
at large, Iraq is turning into quicksand, oil has
crested $60 a barrel, and yet the Steadfast and
Resolute politicians and pundits still insist on
underestimating the strategic and tactical
intelligence of Al Qaeda. Why, I don't know.


The immediate answer to this is to hunt down
the people immediately responsible, root out the
primarily non-state terror networks that support,
plan and make these attacks possible and start
getting serious about homeland defense --
port security, rail security, nuclear power plant

On that last count, what we've accomplished in
the US over the last few years has been painfully
inadequate, largely because of our focus on
nation-states that have only a tenuous connection
to this threat -- a lot of lies, mumbojumbo, and
scurrilous and dark motives by the usual suspects

Finally, I think we should look very closely at what
actually happened today. It took a lot of coordination
and it took a lot of lives. But it was extremely low-tech.
It didn't take mad scientists or proliferated technology.
And in a way that makes it all the harder to prevent.


We argued, as did the security services in this
country, that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq
would increase the threat of terrorist attack in
Britain. Tragically Londoners have now paid the
price of the Government ignoring such warnings.


Bush's latest rationale for maintaining the course in
Iraq adventure has been the "flypaper strategy" - it's
better to fight the terrorists over there than at home.
Nevermind that the Iraqis never asked to have their
country turned into a dangerous den of terrorism,
insurgency, violence and death. For war supporters
looking for an excuse, any excuse, to justify the
continued disastrous American presence in Iraq, the
flypaper rationale was as good as any.

Except that it's not working. The war isn't making
the West any safer. In fact, it's creating a whole new
class of terrorists. Today it was London. Next time it
could easily be the United States. And waging the
war in Iraq, rather than make us safer, is further
motivating Islamic terrorists to strike at the West.


I mean, my first thought when I heard -- just on
a personal basis, when I heard there had been this
attack and I saw the futures this morning, which
were really in the tank, I thought, "Hmmm,
time to buy."


The natural state of the English is a kind of gloomy
diligence, which is why they do so well in hard times.
In 1940, Londoners went dutifully on with their
business while the Luftwaffe bombed the hell out of
them. Today, most of them are doing the same. I was
in Washington for 9/11, and the whole city went into
a panic. Offices emptied, stores shut, downtown D.C.
became a ghost town. But in London today, everyone
still has a cell phone clutched to their ear. The delivery
vans are still racing about, seeking shortcuts around
all the street closures. The Starbucks is packed.

And when I walked by the Queen's Larder Pub, not
half a mile from the Tavistock Square wreckage, at
11 a.m., a half-dozen men were sitting together at a
sidewalk table, hoisting their morning pints of ale.
Civilization must go on, after all.