One Sunday afternoon at the end of May, I was invited to meet with a small knot of activists formulating strategies to disrupt the G-8 summit set for July 6th-8th at the 886-acre Gleneagles Estate, home of a world-class golf course upcountry from this stately city. The dozen or so co-conspirators who huddled in the elegant gloom of the Communication Workers House in downtown Edinburgh were justifiably spooked by the eight column double truck “expose” yawping out from the front page of Rupert Murdoch’s heinous Times on Sunday: “Inside The Dark World of Anarchist Plotters.”
The hit piece was the rotten fruit of “a six- month undercover investigation” by reporter Paul Lamarra and yielded precious little hard news. Lamarra, who had passed himself off as an unemployed high school math teacher with environmental inclinations, seemed mostly concerned with being outed by his fellow globalphobes, complained that his new comrades never trusted him, and described a squabble between tire burners and enviros that erupted in accusations that he was a police spy.
Claiming to have penetrated the highest echelon of the conspiracy, Lamarra spoke of “hard men and women” dressed entirely in black who preached “diversity of tactics” and promised “spectaculars” â– protestors would hang from bridges in harnesses, burn junkers on access roads to Gleneagles, and erect 12-foot high gibbets along the highways from which dummy world leaders would be strung up. At the controls of this rage against the G-8 machine were Dissent, a Scottish anarchist collective, and the Wombles or British version of the Italian “White Overalls” âo” both groups deemed responsible for the May 1st riot of pseudo proletarians in London 2001.
Recovering piecemeal from their chagrin at having been so spuriously infiltrated, the organizers insisted they had long ago identified Murdoch’s spy as an enemy combatant. “The guy was a slug âo” we spotted him right away” Mac, a wiry chap from Glasgow spat, “but he had a car and we used him to drive us around to meetingsâo”
Mac confided that the Anarchist Golfing Association was now playing foursomes daily at Gleneagles and casing the perimeter for possible breaches. Loch Ness monsters might leap from the course’s water holes before G-8 was done. Black blockers from Spain and Italy would pour in for heavy street fighting. Black sun over Genoa and the ghost of Carlo Giuliani were never far removed from my informants’ fevered imagination. I spoke of how the Aymara people of El Alto above La Paz in Bolivia had toppled boxcars from a railroad trestle to block a highway below and keep the military at bay.
The scenario for the G-8 hijinks was beginning to attract attention. M15 and the CIA, British and U.S. military intelligence, the FBI, beamed in their antennas and the organizers feared that rogues and agent provocateurs would soon be infecting the rank and file. The Times story had flashed an early warning.
But the anarchists were not the only social combatants ready to confront G-8 at Gleneagles. The do-gooders and the bleeding hearts nourished by NGOs such as Oxfam, argued for mass non-violent protest under the drab common denominator logo “Make Poverty History.” The G-8 summit would zero in both on the Africa Dilemma and Global Warming âo” Africa has always been a touchstone for the British Left which still lugs around the white man’s and woman’s burden and besides, this would be Paul Wolfowitz’s first G-8 at the helm of the World Bank and it is the World Bank that ultimately decides the fate of Africa.
Both Africa and Global Warming are of little interest to George Bush. His loathing for Kyoto and his fetish for greenhouse gases of which the U.S. produces 25% of the world’s supply, is widely derided in Europe, and for Bush Africa represents no more than maximum sales for expensive AIDS drugs trademarked by U.S. pharmaceutical titans that provide the president with his deepest pockets.
In a flawed mission to nudge his Coalition of the Willing master towards token African debt relief and a conciliatory declaration on greenhouse gasses, Blair winged off to Babylon D.C., seeking to cash in his Iraqi war chips for a softening of Washington’s testiness. But the chips proved next to worthless. “I believe there is evidence of global warming” was as far as Bush would be pushed. The U.S. rejected an African bailout. George Bush would be going to Gleneagles to “defend U.S, interests” the White House arrogantly babbled.
U.S. rejection spurred Oxfam’s efforts to bring hundreds of thousands of protestors to Edinburgh for the Make Poverty History pageant. Now the NGO was selling MPH wristbands by the tens of thousands âo” the problem was that the wristbands were being assembled in a Fujian China sweatshop where forced labor (mostly women) was employed at nine pence the hour (about 16 cents Americano) to put them together. Make Poverty History t-shirts, manufactured from cheap west African cotton where the price of the crop has plummeted to record lows because of grotesque U.S. and European agricultural subsidies that have driven at least 50,000 poor farmers in Benin from their fields, were selling briskly in anticipation of the march.
The July 3rd stroll through downtown Edinburgh proved to be the largest in the history of Scottish protest with 200,000 souls filling the cobbled streets from curb to curb The usual suspects âo” Kofi Annan and Bono âo” were on hand but Pope Ratzinger was a no show (Wojytla would have jumped at the photo op in a hot minute.) The extravaganza was pumped up by the “Live 8” spectacle put together by Sir Bob Geldorf, formerly of the Boomtown Rats and the personal savior of Ethiopia ten famines ago with his original charity celebrity showcase “Live Aid.” Sir Bob, who boasted that billions would be tuning in, filled the stage with 16 all-white pop groups and one black African, the obligatory Yousou N’Dour âo” Geldorf explained that his selection criteria was pegged to record sales. You had to sell 4,000,000 of them to get on the bill and no African group had come close.
All of a sudden the plasma screens were filled with bloodless blondes âo” Madonna, Dido, Joss Stone âo” happily chirping to the BBC about how good it felt to help Africa. Snoop Doggie Dogg flapped his arms and yapped that the multitudes were all motherfuckas but not once mentioned the Mother Continent. “This was probably the greatest event ever organized in the history of the world” gurgled Chris Martin of the red-hot Coldplay. It was enough to make millions vomit.
MPH’s respectable numbers represented a bounce back for a British anti-war, anti-globalization movement that has been severely depressed by its failure to block the Bush-Blair war despite putting millions in the street. The healthy turn-out to diss G-8 came on the heels of French-Dutch rejection of the proposed European constitution when anti war and globalization foes on the left hooked up with right-wing nationalists as odious as Le Pen to deal the Euro-zation of practically everything a swift kick in the nuts âo” in addition to protecting what Pope Ratzinger argues is “a Christian continent” from mongrilization by the swarthy Turks.
Blair’s highhanded antics to force France and other Euro giants to cut agricultural subsidies at the June Euro-summit left Britain at the head of the EU for the next six months but also deeply fractured the Union on the eve of the Gleneagles G-8 when Bush and Blair would go Mano a Mano (so to speak) over Africa.
On Monday, July 4th, an appropriate date, the Make Poverty History campaign segued into anarchist defiance. With mobs of black blockers clogging downtown Edinburgh and trying to storm banks and insurance companies, the city was thrown into calculated chaos. 3,000 protestors were more successful in shutting down Faslane, homeport of Her Majesty’s nuclear fleet, just north of the city.
On the 5th, the Anarchist hordes moved on the Gleneagles perimeter but were met with a wall of cops and Tommies, U.S. commandos, London mounted police, Bush’s Secret Service, and an army of private security guards cradling Uzis under the trees. George Bush was persona non-grate in the hamlet of Auchterarder, adjacent to Gleneagles, which was besieged by U.S. Special Forces. The anti-capitalist confrontations, which ebbed and surged all day, were spearheaded by Dissent, The Institution for Surreal Topographical Rearrangement, and Clowns Against Globalization, and resulted in 60 arrests but were easily controlled in the wide open terrain near the meeting site.
Despite the upsurge of dissent at Gleneagles, Blair and Britain are feeling quite chuffed with themselves these days. The Pound is holding its own against a Euro riddled by $60 a barrel oil prices and the country is gilded with global glitz. On July 6th, the kingdom scored another trophy when the International Olympic Committee meeting in far-away Singapore awarded London the 2112 Games.
“I expect that you’ve already heard the news” the British Airways escort chuckled as he led me through the security checkpoint to the Serenity Lounge at Heathrow (I am as blind as the blind sheikh these days) on July 6th, “we have won the Olympics!” The decision had been made just five minutes previous but all England was tuned on. A taxi driver who ferried me to a soon-to-be-bombed tube stop earlier in the day had been even more demonstrative about British superiority over the cursed “cabbage heads” just across the chunnel.
Now in the former crown colony of Singapore, London Mayor Red Ken Livingston jitterbugged with joy at the anti-frog coup. His brilliant presentation of Bad Boy Beckham, the Spice tool, leading 60 allegedly impoverished allegedly East End youth to the IRC podium to plead for role models, was nothing less than nauseating hype for developers who are already dismantling the once-Cockney, now predominantly Muslim East End for sale to the global gentrifies. All the Olympic villas and stadiums will be sited on the East End spreading south and north from Hackney, uprooting the locals.
The impending demolition of these historic neighborhoods triggered jubilation and binge drinking amongst Londoners of all stripes. They had trumped Chirac and his garlic-chomping compatriots yet again and unbridled Hooligan euphoria settled in over what Chinese tourist guides call Foggy City. Londoners greeted the dawn with crushing hangovers.
The tragic coda to this mindless celebration came during the morning commute when three impeccably timed bombs exploded sequentially in the London Underground killing 54 and injuring over 700. about an average day in Iraq but 9/11-size here. All of the bombings took place on lines running east to west under the City, the financial heart of the UK. Like 9/11, 7/7 put the British economy in cardiac arrest.
Not quite an hour later, a fourth bomb tore apart a red double-decker #30 bus, the kind we once rode all the way to Baghdad. Cruising along upstairs above the pedestrian mobs and the snarled traffic had always seemed such a protected position. But now the Underground, once a sanctuary against the Nazi blitz had been transformed into a fiery tomb and even surface transportation was balefully suspect. If the purpose of such attacks is to demonstrate the vulnerability of the rulers, the terrorists had performed their cruel tasks with great precision.
A week after the massacre, the bloated corpses of accidental passengers were still lodged in broken rail cars on the Piccadilly line âo” the deepest on the tube map – just outside Kings Cross station, and 9/11 like signs pleading for clues to the whereabouts of the missing were hanging from the lampposts. But unlike 9/11, many have responded to the attack with stoically stiff upper lips. Whereas the United States of North America was virgin territory for Jihad, the British have been bombed before and seem quite proud of it. In Liverpool one midnight, a young anarchist proudly led me through a bombed-out church that had been preserved as a memorial to those who resisted Hitler’s blitz.
The London bombings put a big dent in the city and the country and the European tourist season and just about blew G-8 out of the box. When informed the long-anticipated Jihad had come at last, Blair abruptly abandoned the great meeting hall at Gleneagles and flew back to Foggy City, leaving his guests to cower behind locked doors for hours. Bush’s handlers were particularly interested in getting him out of town as soon as possible.
The London Jihad had accomplished what the anti-globes had never come close to achieving âo” it had shut down G-8.
After floundering around for 24 hours more, the Summit dissolved in sniveling bathos, the Leaders of the Free World mumbling oaths of solidarity with Great Britain and playing the War on Terror card as a pretext for not addressing the African holocaust (a doubling of aid to acceptable leaders over the next ten years is not a solution) or the one threatened by global warming, before fleeing back to the safety of their palaces. Itâos a good bet that the next time out, the G-8 will be huddling on a flotilla of destroyers floating somewhere in the Sargasso Sea.
The London bombings were powerful blowback for the Bush-Blair slaughter in Iraq yet the on-going illegal war was never mentioned in the conclave’s final statement.
The London Jihad was, of course, the second assault on mass transit systems in a country that is (was) a major player in Bush’s ill-named Coalition of the Willing (Berlusconi will not be riding the rails much in coming months) and there is little doubt that the U.S. president was in the crosshairs of the bombers’ hearts when they pulled the pin.
The bombings took place within 38 days of the loss of the 90th British soldier in Iraq and one day before the 91st would fall. The bombs went off just days after the Guardian reported that two Tommies imprisoned for the sexual torture of Iraqi prisoners in a case that has been dubbed “Great Britain’s Abu Ghraib” had their sentences commuted from two years to two months served. And the bombs exploded just 60 days after the release of the Downing Street memos, which proved without a shadow of a doubt that Blair and his colleagues knew full well that Bush was bullshitting about Saddam’s WMDs.
Moreover, these bombs were activated in a country that overwhelmingly opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq and a nation that hosts 1.6 million believers in the Islamic faith who similarly despise a war being waged upon their home boys. These two traditionally Labor constituencies âo” Muslims and Anglos opposed to the war âo” shriveled Blair’s majority in May elections when they chose either to stay home or cast for George Galloway, a sort of White Al Sharpton, and his Respect Party which resolutely opposes the carnage in Iraq.
Just as in Madrid, the London bombings brought the war in Iraq home to the Bush-Blair axis of evil. Both must know by now this is a war they cannot win. “So did McNamara” an African friend laughed as we drove from Cape Cod to Manhattan after my youngest daughter’s wedding the first week of July.
Now that the London bombing has been replaced on the Al Jazeera top story list by the mass suicide of 1500 sheep in Turkey (I am indebted to Sasha Crow for this significant fact), it has come time to ask some pertinent questions. One of course is whodunit? There are still plenty of IRA provisionals on the loose and the bombings came just as the Orangemen were once again marching through Catholic communities in the north. The hard men and women of the Black Blocs have acquired enough technogical savvy to pull this job off. Much is being made of Mossad involvement. The British press has been fingering “white skins” âo” white Muslims from the Balkans.
But inevitably the crime will be laid on the doorstep of Britain’s duskier Muslim population. Counter-terrorism “experts” cite 10,000 followers of Al Qaeda and other Jihadist movements afoot in the land. 700 have been detained and accused of terrorist affiliations âo” although only 17 have been convicted. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, and Sheikh Omar who once “predicted” 9/11 are popular bogymen here. Over 100 threats and hate crimes against Islamists have been recorded in the first week since the bombings.
Now four young British citizens of Pakistani descent from Leeds have been accused of perpetrating the London bombings. In every Muslim community in England these days, an older assimilationist generation is being confronted by youngsters who preach revolutionary Islam.
Out on one stretch of the Arab Street âo” Roman Road in George Galloway’s new East End district – five scowling young men in traditional jalabah, their black beards bristling, stand framed against a scowling sky. They gesture and speak roughly, their anger barely contained. Maybe they are arguing over the price of kabobs or the infidelity of women but I sense they are debating something much deeper, something deeper than even the London underground. Jihad is in the sky above London these days.
JOHN ROSS has been traveling in Europe and Turkey for the past two months, looking at global fight-back. Donations to defray the stupendous cost of this sojourn would be cheerfully accepted in the author’s name at 3258 23rd Street, apartment 3, San Francisco Ca. 94110.