“If you bomb our cities,” Osama bin Laden said in a recent videotape, “we will bomb yours.”‘ It was clear Britain would be a target ever since British Prime Minister Tony Blair decided to join President Bush’s “war on terror” and his invasion of Iraq. We had, as they say, been warned. The G-8 summit was obviously chosen, well in advance, as Attack Day.
It’s no use Blair telling us, “They will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear.” They are not trying to destroy “what we hold dear.” They are trying to get public opinion to force Blair to withdraw from Iraq, out of his alliance with the United States, out of his adherence to Bush’s policies in the Middle East. The Spanish paid the price for their support for Bush — and Spain’s subsequent retreat from Iraq proved that the Madrid bombings achieved their objectives — while the Australians were made to suffer in Bali.
It is easy for Blair to call yesterday’s bombings “barbaric”‘ — they were — but what were the civilian deaths of the Anglo American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the children torn apart by cluster bombs, the innocent Iraqis gunned down at American military checkpoints. When they die, it is “collateral damage”; when “we” die it is “barbaric terrorism.”
If we are fighting insurgency in Iraq what makes us believe insurgency won’t come to us? One thing is certain: If Blair really believes that by “fighting terrorism”‘ in Iraq we could more efficiently protect Britain, this argument is no longer valid.
To time these bombs with the G-8 summit, when the world was concentrating on Britain, was not a stroke of genius. You don’t need a Ph.D. to choose another Bush-Blair handshake to close down a capital city with explosives and massacre its citizens. The G-8 summit was announced so far in advance that he gave the bombers all the time they needed to prepare. A coordinated system of attacks of the kind we saw yesterday takes weeks to plan; we can forget the idiotic fantasy these were timed to coincide with the Olympic decision. Bin Laden and his supporters don’t set up an operation like this on the off chance that France will lose its bid to host the Games. Al-Qaida does not play football.
No, this would have taken months — to choose safe houses, prepare explosives, identify targets, ensure security, choose the bombers, to plan the communications.
Coordination and sophisticated planning — and the usual utter indifference toward the lives of the innocent — are characteristic of al-Qaida.
Let us reflect on the fact that yesterday — the opening of the G-8 — represented a total failure of our security services. These are the same intelligence “experts” who claim there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there were none but who utterly failed to uncover a months-long plot to kill Londoners.
Trains, planes, buses, cars, metros. Transportation appears to be the science of al-Qaida’s dark arts. No one can search 3 million London commuters every day. No one can stop every tourist.
Then come the Muslims of Britain, who have long been awaiting this nightmare. Now every one of our Muslims becomes the usual suspect, the man or woman with brown eyes, the man with the beard, the woman in the scarf, the boy with the worry beads, the girl who says she’s been racially abused.
I remember, crossing the Atlantic on 9/11 — my plane turned around off Ireland when the United States closed its airspace — how the aircraft purser and I toured the cabins to see if we could identify any suspicious passengers. I found about a dozen, of course, totally innocent men who had brown eyes or long beards or who looked at me with “hostility.” And sure enough, in just a few seconds, bin Laden turned nice, liberal, friendly Robert into an anti-Arab racist.
And this is part of the point of yesterday’s bombings: to divide British Muslims from British non-Muslims (let us not mention the name Christians), to encourage the very kind of racism that Blair claims to resent.
But here’s the problem. To go on pretending that Britain’s enemies want to destroy “what we hold dear” encourages racism; what we are confronting here is a specific, direct, centralized attack on London as a result of a “war on terror” that Blair has locked us into. Just before the U.S. presidential elections, bin Laden asked: “Why do we not attack Sweden?”
Lucky Sweden. No Osama bin Laden there. And no Tony Blair.