Thursday, July 07, 2005

Streets of London

I thought I would change things up and bring you a post from Richard, who writes a blog with his friend Ken in the UK called Militant Moderates about the events today in London.

I'm listening to Ralph McTell's 'Streets of London', which Ken introduced me to a few months ago. I wanted to break my self-imposed break from blogging to offer some thoughts after the blast in London today.

The most moving image of the day, for me, was the BBC interview with an old World War II veteran, who had been on the way to a reunion with other old soldiers, when he was caught up in the attacks. He simply said, nonchalantly, "well, we've been through it before, haven't we?"

The key response of London and the whole of Britain must be to adopt a defiant spirit of the Blitz, and to offer resistance not through acts of wrath but by carrying on our everyday lives, in silent acts of defiance that we won't allow anything to change as a result of the blasts. Dramatic changes in the British way of life would represent a clear victory for terrorism, and invariably serve little actual purpose in reducing the likelihood of attacks.

I realise there is some irony in invoking the spirit of the Blitz, when some civil liberties were curbed during the Second World War, but reflection on these invariably shows they served little practical purpose, and to transplant tactics from a traditional total war to a terrorist attack is probably unhelpful. Indeed, the sterling work of the police, ambulance and fire services today reinforces the fact that these terrorist attacks are so horrific and frightening precisely because they are not warfare in any conventional sense. And while metaphors to Pearl Harbour and the Blitz are certainly apt in communicating shock or defiance, it's important not to extend the metaphors into finding solutions. This is not a "war on terror" in the sense that it cannot be fought as a war, but is an infinitely complicated police operation.

There has never been any hesitation within Britain that international terrorism must be opposed; indeed, the conversion of America to opposing terrorism, after years of equivocation in their relationship with the IRA, was welcome. What is vital now is that a programme of aggressive support for human rights overseas continues. This will mean challenging state sponsors of terrorism, and also the corrupt pro-Western regimes such as Saudi Arabia, where the majority of 9/11 bombers came from. I have no doubt that such a resolve will hold, even if there is healthy debate on the best ways of achieving the fundamental aims of that policy.

What's important now is to take pride in the emergency services' brilliant work, in the deeply competent efforts of the Government, and in the good spirit in which London has reacted. I take great pride in an understated national response, and I very much hope that the best traditions of Britain will be born out in the coming days. It is imperative, even if, as is likely, domestic extremists were involved, there is no back-lash against the law-abiding and peaceful Islamic community in Britain.

The very essence of a British response must be to offer rational and calm defiance, eager that the best way to avenge the dead of London is by living; living normally.

"We shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the undergrounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."

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