- Ronald Reagan, Pointe du Hoc, 1984
"Whatever the duration of this struggle, and whatever the difficulties, we will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men free people will set the course of history."
- George W. Bush
"Maybe Bush is a fool. Maybe he suffers from the naivete that, in the view of many Europeans, makes the United States a dangerous, blundering giant. Or maybe he breathes the idealism that rescued Europe, liberated Kuwait, and saved the Muslims of Kosovo . . . Maybe with care and perseverance, flowers can bloom in the desert."
- William Saletan
And so I sidled out of work yesterday a little before 5pm I'd put in a 15-hour day the day before, the first one of those since the "glory" days of the Boom, back in the fecund Valley of cubicle farmers ambled through Victoria Embankment Gardens, and descended to Platform 1 of Embankment Underground station. Which is how I get home.
As I traversed the platform toward the exact spot at the other end where, getting on the train at that spot, I would get let off right at the exit of my local station on the other end (I'm a pro now), I glanced up, as one habitually does, to see when and what the next train was. It was a District line service, all stations to Ealing Broadway, approaching right then. As the train pulled up, it looked a little full and there was a goodly crowd on the platform, waiting to get on. Noting that the next train was due in one minute's time, I actuated the winning strategy of waiting one minute for a much emptier train, and a more relaxing journey. (Like I said: a pro.)
This decision also meant I could take my time ambling down to that precise spot of the platform. As I did so, I got a funny feeling and did a double-take at the arrivals board overhead. It said:
Circle Line, via High St Kensington - 1 min"Whoah ho!" exclaimed I, aloud. "We're back online!" The Circle Line was running for the first time since the bombings of 7/7! When the train pulled up, I got on with a sort of reverence. On the ride, I sat silently, not reading, just enjoying it.
When we pulled into Victoria, a dark-skinned young man, with trendily spikey hair and wearing a nice suit and tie, boarded. He caught me looking over, and gave me a slightly defensive No-I'm-Not-A-Sodding-Suicide-Bomber look in return. I felt bad about this; but I decided against trying to explain to him that I was actually not looking at his rucksack, but rather checking out his inordinately hot girlfriend.
A week earlier, on 28 July, the three-week anniversary of the bombings, and the one-week anniversary of the attempted bombings, at 7:30AM, I exited my building in Earl's Court and walked the couple of blocks to my local Tube, Gloucester Road. It's a sweet little station. In his book London, The Biography, the historian Peter Ackroyd suggested that Underground stations have very distinct personalities. He described Gloucester Road as "comforting" (if I recall correctly).
Which is why it was so strange, on this morning, to find two armed police officers standing at the entrance! Unless you've lived in Britain for awhile, I don't think you can understand how dissonant and jarring it is to see armed police. I suppose part of it is that when they go armed, they're really armed: Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns and Glock 17 sidearms (plus body armour and cute little tactical baseball caps). I expected to see this type of thing at, you know, Victoria, or Waterloo. But Gloucester Road?
When I descended to the platform, I found two more! One on each platform, pacing up and down. Wow. Trippy.
At the end of the day, when I went back to Embankment, there must have been a dozen (armed and unarmed) police in the lobby and it's a pretty cosy lobby. They blanketed the place.
At the time, the Met claimed that the massive deployment was a readiness exercise, meant to be reassuring to the travelling public. A few days later, however, the papers revealed that they'd actually had information about a planned third attack. As a result, they had 3000 armed police out, including 900 on loan from other cities, and patrolling every Underground station on the network.
Not quite a week earlier, on Friday evening, the very day after the failed attacks, I was taking my regular commuter line back into central London to meet mates for drinks on Charing Cross Road. At Victoria, the half-way point of my journey, the train stopped longer than it should have. After a bit, an Underground employee swept through the carriage, checking things out. Right behind him, two Met officers came through, asking everyone loudly about their bags.
The doors still stood open; and there was a palpable sense of unease. And two thoughts went through my head, in sequence and I'm guessing that these same two thoughts, in the same sequence, probably went through the heads of at least some of the other passengers on this train:
- Hmm. Maybe I should get off of this train, while the getting's good . . .
- No, wait a minute. I'll be fucked if I'll get off this train.
I arrived at my destination without incident.
Earlier this week, I decamped from the office for part of the morning heeding a casting call from darling Adaora, friend and filmmaker, who is shooting her new production, RagTag. For reasons unimaginable to me, she asked me to fill a non-speaking part, as a local hoodlum in a scene roughing up an 8-year old boy. Well, okay, maybe I can see it. Anyway, it was good fun. And great to see Adaora in her element. And there was a nice cast/crew buffet table.
At the station, Hendon Central, on the way out, a nice police officer sheepishly poked around inside my bag.
The authorities, by the way, and if you haven't been following along (and I don't know how big the coverage of this was overseas), have caught all four of the complete loser failed attempted suicide bombers. They've also arrested a variety of other alleged conspirators. In other words, they're getting the job done, breaking up the network, as I predicted they would.
Also, today, the Prime Minister has outlined new powers for deporting, or denying entry to, the variety of extremist asshole imams and others who come into Britain, generally as asylum seekers, and hang out in Finsbury Park living on housing and income assistance while preaching death to Jews and infidels. In other words, British taxpayers may finally be getting out of the business of financing the jihad levelled against them. But this the problem of "Londonistan" is a topic worthy of a separate dispatch . . .
Sitting at home last night, a couple of post-work-relaxation drinks in me, it suddenly and forcefully occurred to me: Boy have these arseheads got it wrong. The only thing that imparts any meaning to this cold, sublunary existence (and you can't spell existence without existential) . . . is love for other people. And the only imperative down here, the one single prime directive, the lone unswaying handhold up here suspended over the yawning moral void is: DON'T, FOR GOD'S SAKE, HURT ANYONE ELSE. And, generally, when I say that, I mean, like, people's feelings. And then but so here is this group of guys strapping on explosives and going out explicitly to blow other people into bloody, irreparable meat. This is bullshit. (And God agrees with me.)
Do me a big favour and don't anyone write to explain to me that these people have grievances.
First of all, as Christopher Hitchens noted, it is completely and totally unacceptable to give any consideration to the idea that people can have any impact on any political process through mass murder. Secondly, I'm aware that the Islamists have grievances: they're aggrieved whenever they see a woman not wearing a veil. They're aggrieved that gays and lesbians can live their lives without being stoned to death. They're aggrieved that people get to live in free societies, because as Zarqawi noted explicitly in a dispatch from his head-hacking headquarters in Iraq democracy includes freedom of religion, and that would allow people to practice religions other than Islam, and that can't be allowed.
And to suggest they're aggrieved that we "invaded Iraq" which is to say, we liberated 25 million people from a Stalinist terror state run by a psychotic crime family, where they were subject to summary mass execution, torture, systematic rape, children's prisons, ethnic cleansing, and environmental terrorism is absurd. 9/11 was prior to Iraq. So was the first attempt to destroy the World Trade Center, in 1993. And Khobar Towers. And the East African embassies.
They're aggrieved, not at Iraq or Afghanistan but by the remaking of the Middle East in 1922. And the fall of the Caliphate before that. And the loss of Andalucia. Islamism is a totalist political philosophy. Terror and tyranny are flip sides of the same hellish coin. In Orwell's phrase, "a boot stomping on a human face forever".
And to suggest as London Mayor Ken Livingston has that Blair brought these atrocities on Londoners by being involved in Iraq is also exquisitely wrong. A liberal London weekly ran the headline: "Blair's Bombs". Did anyone suggest that the bombs that fell on London in the Blitz were "Churchill's bombs"? He could have accorded with Hitler. He could have stayed out of D-Day. You know, minded his own business.
I ardently wish more people on the left would try to internalise that Islamism represents a brutal, bloody, implacable assault on every single value and accomplishment of liberalism: women's equality, rights of minorities, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, consensual representative government, equal justice under the law, nonviolence . . . And yet here is the western left intelligentsia claiming it's terrified of those tyrannical evildoers George Bush and Tony Blair. This very nearly borders on moral nihilism.
And as a final plank in this unbidden rant, I will reassert what I have said to many people in person, which is that the liberation of Iraq, and the attempt to create a beachhead of both decent consensual representative government, as well as some economic opportunity, in the totalitarian cesspool that has been the Arab Middle East for 80 years, represents the only deep, strategic response to 9/11. Until the people of that region experience something other than the twin horns of autocracy and religious fanaticism, some of them will continue to become human bombs. Everything else is just Band-Aids.
If you'd like to contribute to a fund to help the bombing victims and their families and Londoners have already contributed over £100,000 you can do so here.
President Bush Continues To Get It, Thank God
(from his press conference in Crawford this morning)
Q: Al Qaeda's number two, Dr. al-Zawahiri, is warning that attacks will continue until U.S. troops leave Iraq. How serious a threat is this?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The comments by the number two man of al Qaeda make it clear that Iraq is a part of this war on terror, and we're at war. In other words, he's saying, leave. As I have told the American people, one, that people like Zawahiri have an ideology that is dark, dim, backwards; they don't trust they don't appreciate women; if you don't agree to their narrow view of a religion you'll be whipped in the public square . . . They want to spread that point of view throughout the world, starting in the broader Middle East.
They have come up against a nation that, one, will defend itself. Zawahiri is a part of that team that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001 . . . I vowed then that we would stay on the offense against these people. We owe it to the American people, and other freedom-loving countries, to bring these killers to justice. And that's what they are: they're terrorists, and they're killers. And they will kill innocent people trying to get us to withdraw from the world, so they can impose their dark vision on the world . . . And the comments today by Mr. Zawahiri absolutely reinforce what I've just told you.
We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. And the job is this: We'll help the Iraqis develop a democracy. They're writing in the process of writing a constitution, which will be ratified in October, and then they will elect a permanent government. It's also important for our citizens to understand that progress has been made, particularly when eight-plus million people got to vote in the face of Zawahiri and Sarawak and these killers . . .
The Iraqis want to live in a free society. Zawahiri doesn't want them to live in a free society. And that's the clash of ideologies freedom versus tyranny. We have had these kinds of clashes before, and we have prevailed. We have prevailed because we're right; we have prevailed because we adhere to a hopeful philosophy; and we have prevailed because we would not falter.