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July 24, 2005 - The Second-String Executes Badly

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Small explosions Thursday morning in London hit three subway trains and a bus.  There was one injury and no fatalities.  NBC offers this summary:


Small explosions struck London's subway system and a bus at midday Thursday in a chilling but bloodless replay of the suicide bombings that killed 56 people two weeks ago.

NBC News has learned that British authorities told their U.S. counterparts that the backpacks used in Thursday's planned attacks and the explosives found in the backpacks are identical to those used in the July 7 attacks - evidence that strongly suggests the two sets of attacks were connected.

In Thursday's attack at lunch hour, Londoners were shocked and the capital disrupted, but no one was hurt.

However, information derived from police sources who have collected eyewitness accounts suggests that the attackers, who once again targeted three subway stations and a bus, intended to carry out suicide bombings and cause the kind of mayhem seen two weeks earlier, but failed because their detonators failed, NBC News has learned.

Earlier, Police Commissioner Ian Blair said forensic evidence collected from the crime scenes could provide a "significant break" in solving the case, and hours later police announced two arrests in connection with the latest attacks.


Late reports indicate those arrested were from Pakistan, or British citizens of Pakistani descent.  Early reports were playing with the idea this may have been a "copycat" amateur thing, but it has become clear now that the original group is still active.  The first-string players did the deed two weeks ago, and the second-string tried to replicate the original event - with a "we're still here and can do the same exact thing any time we want" message.  Something went wrong.  Whoever assembled the backpack bombs, with, it seems, a somewhat less reliable explosive this time, didn't read the instructions carefully enough, or perhaps the instructions were badly written.  Or the explosives were past their "use by" date.


One assumes, if the British authorities don't break up the group with careful questioning and lots of probing investigation, there's probably the third, fourth, fifth and sixth layer of players.  As they say in sports, one assumes these guys have a deep bench.

There was massive coverage on the news, but a bit less than on the 7th with the first bombs.  Less surprise, fewer bleeding bodies, no death.  It led all the newscasts, but there was room in the available twenty-two minutes for other stories.

SLATE.COM runs a daily review of blog reaction - not very extensive but something - and had these notes Thursday:


Health care director David Kitchenham of Duenna Care Ltd. approves of the sparse media coverage.  "Terrorism is a media fed fire, if it was not for the countless television channels then such actions would be futile," he writes.  "Media may well be the capitalist's tool, but it is the terrorist's proffered weapon and they know how to use it."  Christian blogger J. Marcus Xavier of Very Small Doses, on the other hand, is incensed by the mild response: "Has it totally escaped the notice of everyone that the only reason that there isn't another field of dead in London right now is that the people who orchestrated this thing screwed up? ... The prospect of having to live in a situation like Israel - where massive random orgies of death are a common occurrence - does not sit well with me at all."

Australian artist Toxicpurity of One Dog Said to the Other sneers, "Bloody amateurs.  They not only deserve contempt for their sheer callousness, but also for being both inept and unimaginative."  ThinkingMountain's John Pilger, an environmental management consultant, directs his contempt elsewhere: "Blair brought home to this country his and Bush's illegal, unprovoked and blood-soaked adventure in the Middle East. Were it not for his epic irresponsibility, the Londoners who died in the Tube and on the No 30 bus almost certainly would be alive today."


Yeah, well, regarding the point about media coverage, the day after the earlier London bombings Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit (very influential on the right) said this:


I bet if the media voluntarily stopped showing any pictures of all terror attacks, that the terror would stop.  Thus ending the GWOT without a shot. This policy would be NO DIFFERENT than how they cover folks who run on to baseball fields: they do NOT show them on TV; they ignore them.  Would the media ever put peace above their ratings/profits?  Never.


Huh?  Well, that's one idea, and the best response I saw was from Andrew Sullivan, who called it idiocy:


… I suppose I see the underlying point: that terror needs media oxygen to survive.  But the notion that we should somehow not cover mass murder, or that it's equivalent to misbehavior at sporting events, or that the only reason for covering it is "ratings/profits" is nutty.  People have a right to know what's going on in their own countries and around the world.  If the mainstream media decided to stop reporting terror attacks, bloggers would fill the gap.  Yesterday, for example, was remarkable for the first-hand accounts of terror we were able to read - within hours of the massacres - by citizen journalists.  Would Glenn like to see them silenced?  Yes, these events shouldn't be hyped; yes, they should be put in context.  But this out-of-sight-out-of-mind mentality is a form of denial.  The same goes for abuse and torture accusations. I nstapundit won't actually link to credible accounts.  By ignoring them, he somehow thinks they don't exist or will go away.  They won't.  Similarly, exposing the violence perpetrated by the Islamists is simply what the media does.  Moreover, it doesn't always help the terrorists; it also hurts them.  We need to see the atrocities these fanatics commit, however appalling, however vile.  The job of the media, even in wartime, is to relay facts, not to skew coverage for purposes of morale.


Is the Bush administration listening?  No?

As for who is to blame for what, after the first London bombings, Ken Livingston, the left-wing mayor of London ("Red Ken") surprised everyone with this:


This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful; it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers; it was aimed at ordinary working class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christians, Hindu and Jew, young and old, indiscriminate attempt at slaughter irrespective of any considerations, of age, of class, of religion, whatever, that isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith, it's just indiscriminate attempt at mass murder, and we know what the objective is, they seek to divide London. They seek to turn Londoners against each other and Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack... I wish to speak through you directly, to those who came to London to claim lives, nothing you do, how many of us you kill will stop that flight to our cities where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another, whatever you do, how many you kill, you will fail.


And everyone cheered.

Ah well, two weeks later he is now saying this (interview on UK Channel 4 reported in The Scotsman) about what's going on –


You've just had eighty years of western intervention into predominantly Arab lands because of the western need for oil. We've propped up unsavory governments, we've overthrown ones we didn't consider sympathetic.


And he goes on to suggest the bombers just might have been motivated by concrete grievances, rather than free-floating homicidal rage.

Tresy over at Corrente comments


… Really?  Ya think?  Four Arab youths with apparently no history of even political involvement, let alone radical activities, happily strap on backpacks full of explosives to kill as many innocent civilians as they can, and you think there might be an articulable motive (however morally unjustified)?

Certainly Tony Blair wants such DoublePlus Ungood thinking rubbished out, and the sooner the better. Doing what struck me as an uncannily creepy impersonation of President Pinocchio on CBC Television, Blair blathered on about the bombers' unappeasable armageddonite fantasies while familiar spasmodic smirks flickered across his face, his jaw periodically jutting forward like a barroom drunk trying to pick a fight. Is this tic diagnostic of the compulsive liar generally, I wonder?

Somewhere I read that one sign of the delusional mind is the conviction that the laws of the universe don't apply. And what else is this dogged belief that Western actions have no negative reactions, than a denial of Newtonian physics? On Riggsveda's recommendation last week, I went out and bought a copy of Paul Williams Roberts' A War Against Truth. Among its many virtues (controlled outrage, verbal dexterity, caustic irony) one that I did not expect was its merciless recounting of the cynical betrayal of the Arab world by the Western powers after World War I (and one that continues to this day) - a story I, at least, knew only in general, if also unflattering terms. It was only then that I realized the larger actual scope of the book's title. Betrayed people have long memories.

A Canadian neighbor remarked to us the other night that during her years living in San Francisco in the late 80s, she was struck by how, even then, Americans still couldn't talk honestly to one another about Vietnam. I remarked that it looked like our collective neurosis was on its way to siring an offspring in Iraq. "Oh, but Iraq is even worse, because you have no idea how to get out."

As long as politicians can't even state the most elementary truths about the course they've set us on, that's not going to change.


And the bombing will continue. (And more of the same argument here from Patrick Cockburn.)

The counterargument is here:

The Neoconservative Convergence
Charles Krauthammer, The Wall Street Journal, Thursday, July 21, 2005

A few hours before the second set of London bombings he says this:


In Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world, the forces of democratic liberalization have emerged on the political stage in a way that was unimaginable just two years ago. They have been energized and emboldened by the Iraqi example and by American resolve.

… The Iraqi elections vindicated the two central propositions of the Bush doctrine. First, that the desire for freedom is indeed universal and not the private preserve of Westerners.

Second, that America is genuinely committed to democracy in and of itself. Contrary to the cynics, whether Arab, European or American, the U.S. did not go into Iraq for oil or hegemony but for liberation - a truth that on Jan. 30 even al-Jazeera had to televise.


And few hours later the bombers tried London again.  They just don't see the truth?  Guess not.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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Paris readers add nine hours....