Monday, July 11, 2005

Divided we Stand

Yes there are times when I am proud to be a Londoner! I proudly express my admiration for the London emergency and security services for their low-key but highly efficient major-crisis plan that swung into action following the atrocities on our underground and bus network. Of course London has had the benefit of time, since watching 9/11, Madrid and all the other terrorism it has been our misfortune to have to learn to deal with. Still the plan was innovative, radical and obviously well thought out and I raise my black hat to whoever devised it.

Requisitioning all the buses from the area and turning them into makeshift ambulances for the walking wounded freed up the paramedics and the specialised teams to deal with more of the critically injured on the spot and must be recognized as a stroke of genius. Careful control of how and when the bad news leaked out spared the mass panic that the other cities had to contend with and probably helped the intelligence services monitor the terrorist’s reaction to the lack of one. Londoners showed their typical grit by displaying their stoicism to the world’s cameras instead of the cowed and hysterical pictures we had gotten used to after New York, Bali and Madrid. Maybe the difference was only in which pictures were chosen for broadcast but the calm and restrained image that was created did much to save the capital from potential chaos.

I think Tony Blair deserves our praise. He managed well in a time of extreme difficulty and his quiet determination probably helped set the tone that did London so proud. Once the sheer horror of what has happened passes on into history I am sure he will learn to derive some comfort from video reruns of his G8 statement and the glower on French President Chirac’s face as he was forced to stand aside to allow Blair, the upstart who had just swept the Olympic rug from under his feet, to again address the world while his gallic hands clutched his crown jewels for comfort. I wonder whether one could not detect just a tad of jealousy that once again Paris had been passed over in favour of another in the Pax Americana.

The BBC did itself proud too. After years of struggling with the English language and devising a whole lexicon of new words for describing people who kill civilians for political ends without taking sides they have found a new one for the London bombing. They are called terrorists! A polite letter I posted on their website asking for clarification of the difference was removed “because it contains content that other readers may find offensive.”

The Haaretz newspaper reported that Ariel Sharon had asked ministers not to equate the bombing in London with those in Israel. Of course, not everybody listened to him but at least we were spared the gloating of Raanan Gissim that so jarred after September 11. And if the Sun newspaper decides to mention all the cities that were hit by terror and did not see fit to mention Jerusalem we are not really surprised even though covering up titillating details is not what that particular paper is famous for.

Cherie Blair, her friends in the left-wing establishment and their newspapers I would not allow off so lightly. The PM’s wife opened her big mouth a couple of years back to say about Israel, "As long as young people feel they have got no hope but to blow themselves up you are never going to make progress." She was implying that it was Israeli policies that encouraged and nurtured the hopelessness that allowed suicide bombings to occur. While she apologised for her remarks (or for the fact they were published), they and her cause were taken up by papers like the Guardian and others who considered she had fallen foul of the Jewish American lobby but what she had said was in fact common knowledge and the opinion of most British people. Her words also did profound damage to Israel’s image even in the eyes of some British Jews. I do not know whether it actually was suicide bombers that caused the carnage here last week but I certainly did not see Jack Straw stand up and say it cannot have been because the Arab youth in the UK enjoy freedom and good living conditions. As Rowan Atkinson says, in his part as the devil welcoming a group of atheists to Hell, "You must be feeling a right bunch of wallies now."

Terrorism, activism, militantism, call it what you like, it is a scourge and it is here to stay. We can probably contain it, we can certainly learn to live with it but we will not eradicate it. The clash of civilisations will not be ended by the arrest of some sorry-arsed residents of Bradford or even the elusive and charismatic arch-activist. When we all realize that it is a common problem to all non-muslims; French, British, Israeli, German and American, and that truths like this may be said whether they are considered PC by today's standards or not, then we will have started to win the war.

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