The Indian Express
The Indian Express London Bombs
It is difficult to comment on the latest terrorist atrocity in London without repeating the many predictable statements that have been issued from all sides. Voicing one’s revulsion before that carnage of innocent commuters will be one more echo of a nearly universal reaction. However, it is the duty of the chronicler to delve beneath the surface of unanimous condemnation, and try to record some more sincere if less audible feedback.
Two days after the event, I was talking in a small town of Southern France with an American citizen of Iranian origin who had lived in the US since Khomeini’s revolution. He was a Westernised, very affluent man who had a thriving business in his adopted country and was holidaying in Provence with a few of his American friends. During our conversation, encouraged by my French nationality and my familiarity with Iran and Islam, he confided that although he could not approve of the methods used by the terrorists in London or anywhere else in the West, he fully understood their motives. He sympathised with their anger and need for revenge against the remarkably unselfconscious but self-righteous Western imperialism, cloaked in its current humanitarian garb. He was quietly elated by the growing success achieved by freedom fighters in Iraq and by the Taliban in Afghanistan against Anglo-Saxon occupiers.
I could not express any surprise since I myself feel deeply offended by the unscrupulous arrogance of the American and British governments, like many people in all countries of the world. Twenty years of the good life in the self-styled Land of the Free had not erased this man’s profound sense of ethnic and religious identity, in spite of his secular and thoroughly ‘‘modern’’ lifestyle. I believe that such a radical attachment to one’s country is synonymous with pride in one’s own identity, which no amount of devalued paper dollars or membership in an exclusive golf club can eradicate.
Britain has several million citizens (is the word not ‘‘subject’’?) and permanent residents of Middle and Near Eastern origin. Until 7/7 July, Tony Blair’s regime prided itself, rather deludedly perhaps, on the successful integration achieved by relative newcomers within the multiethnic salad bowl of “Cool Britannia”. Some already equate that Blairist Utopia with the soft tyranny described in a prescient book by another Blair, better known as Orwell.
There is growing doubt, in the light of recent events, about the depth of the assimilation and patriotism achieved by those heterogeneous groups for which the materialist, money-crazed ‘‘country club’’ clone of American society built by Thatcher and Blair may represent little more than a sound investment for the time being, only to be dumped when the stock sinks. Britain in Europe and in the world is in a position similar to that of the little boy who gets his way in school every time because he brings with him an 800 pound gorilla clad in the stars and stripes.
In a context of glib triumphalism highlighted by the award of the 2012 Olympics, the British population was shaken to its core by the revelation that there were indeed suicide bombers ripening quietly in the country’s drab middle class suburbs, ready to make a hapless public pay dearly for the crooked deals and ill-conceived military ventures of its government. The symbolic trappings of the event, similar to those of previous massacres, such as the chosen date of 7-7-2005 (2 + 5 = 7), after New York’s 911 and Madrid’s 311, 911 days after the ‘‘first’’ 911 and leaving, strangely enough, 191 dead, as if by a macabre numerological twist, got many conspiracy theorists going.
How come the London attacks took place at the very hour and on the very day when the British Government was carrying out a mostly undisclosed real time drill in the subway, with the participation of private security consulting companies such as Vector Inc.? The mock exercise involved laying out and then finding and defusing a number of bombs in the tube. At the very same time, several explosions took place simultaneously, as the drill itself had planned, with the tragic consequences we know. Those facts are now confirmed and explain why just before some of the bombs went off, some stations appear to have been closed to the public.
This may also be related to the news items relayed by the Israeli media about Finance Minister Netanyahu, in London at the time, being warned by the British police to stay in his hotel room shortly before the first explosions took place. Such reports will have to be rechecked and analysed, but they have not contributed to clarifying a tense and rather puzzling situation.
Another aspect of the UK’s long-standing policy came under close review after 7/7. Successive British governments have been known hitherto for their remarkable tolerance and understanding towards Islamic extremists and revolutionary movements of various hues. They were normally allowed to enter and settle within the tightly-knit and strictly-watched fundamentalist communities spread around London and other cities, in what came to be known in the jargon of intelligence experts as ‘‘Londonistan’’.
There was until this month a widespread belief that Her Majesty’s government kept those recalcitrant minorities under control and had a more or less tacit deal with them: protection in exchange for them refraining from attacking targets on the kingdom’s soil or British interests abroad. It appears that this long-standing truce has now blown up and some foreign intelligence services are speculating about the identity of the skunk which got into the garden party.
In any event, how could a terrorist organisation escape the age-old vigilance of MI5 and MI6 which have been monitoring and tailing all the suspects on their soil and listening in on their communications with their brethren abroad? Was it negligence or was someone double-crossed? Many of these questions will probably take a very long time to be answered or may in fact never be answered, because the methods of anti-terrorist investigations are not calculated to ensure transparency. No state or police system is eager to admit and publicise its failings or reveal its shenanigans.
From a government known for its love affair with conspiracy and deception, and headed by a proverbially smooth and sanctimonious hypocrite, all statements are bound to be received with suspicion. After all, this is the same cabinet which wants people to believe that dissident intelligence expert David Kelly suddenly committed suicide at a convenient moment. Machiavelli warned against rulers in lying too often and thereby losing their credibility, even when telling the truth. Tony Blair ought to read the Florentine moralist to the last page.
Labour MP George Galloway, Tony Blair’s nemesis, has saved more than once the old though much-dented honour of Britain. Galloway said on the floor of the House, shortly after the attacks: ‘‘When you bomb people (in the Middle East) they’ll come and bomb you back.’’ Here is at least one who still understands the law of cause and effect.