Comment: Britain’s 9/11

By David Horovitz July 8, 2005

Now in the UK, as then in the US, those who lust for death have struck at the heart of a civilized nation, exploiting trust and freedom to cause indiscriminate murder and mayhem

Whoever turns out to have been responsible for Thursday’s terrorist assault on central London, and however grave the death toll ultimately proves, there is already no mistaking that July 7, 2005 is Britain’s September 11.

Now in the UK, as then in the US, those who lust for death have struck at the heart of a civilized nation, exploiting trust and freedom to cause indiscriminate murder and mayhem.

And now as then, one suspects, the response of the targeted nation will be resilience and a determined response, rather than capitulation. London is not Madrid.

Speaking hours after the blasts, from the G8 summit in Scotland, Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair accurately defined the enemy as comprising those who ‘have no respect for human life,’ and whose goal is to destabilize not one nation but ‘all nations and… civilized people everywhere.’

Those words were evidence of a mind-set that recognizes that terrorism, whether carried out in New York, London or Jerusalem, can never claim to have legitimacy – that however pressing a cause, it may never justifiably be furthered through the premeditated killing of innocent civilians.

Sadly, Blair was probably less accurate in his assertion that terrorism would not be allowed ‘to change our society.’

For notwithstanding the UK’s bitter experience with IRA terrorism, the British landscape, and the behavior of its people, will likely be changed by today’s devastation. Israelis, these past five years in particular, have tragically had to adjust to a reality in which, wherever we gather in any kind of crowd, we must assume that somebody determined to blow us up may be lurking within our midst. Americans, too, have gradually had to shed the free-world assumption that the people with whom they come into banal, everyday contact, delight in the simple gift of life. Now Britons, too, a fundamentally decent and trusting people, will have to learn to regard each other with a new, sorry suspicion.

The London Underground and bus services will have to be secured as never before; hitherto, a uniformed security officer was the exception, not the rule. There will likely be calls for a wider distribution of firearms among Britain’s police, who traditionally do not carry guns. Prominent public institutions and tourist sites, even places of worship and movie houses and shopping malls, may from now on be deemed to require the kind of security that, to date, had been the unfortunate norm only of Britain’s synagogues and other potential Jewish targets – the places where, until today, it had been anticipated that terrorists would be most likely to strike.

There will doubtless be some who will seek to brand Britain the architect of its own suffering, to claim that Blair’s alliance with US President George Bush on Iraq, perhaps even his relatively sympathetic attitude to Israel, are to blame for London’s bloodshed today.

But most Britons, I suspect, will want to find the unity, discipline and tenacity they last had to show in the darkest days of World War II. And most Britons, now as then, I suspect, are fully capable of recognizing the true nature of their enemy.

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