More explosions in London today
Just to let all oD Today readers know after today's news, that the openDemocracy team is safe and sound.
When I went to Trafalgar Square just last week to witness London winning the Olympic Bid 2012 I encountered joy, happiness and excitement.
The contrast to what Trafalgar Square looked like yesterday evening could not have been any starker.
Instead of tears of joy people shed tears of sorrow. What struck me most was seeing London's mayor Ken Livingstone wiping his eyes with a tissue backstage right after he had made his speech. He must be devastated. I caught him having a refreshment after making his speech in the scorching sun to thousands of people.
Next to Ken there were speakers of different faiths, together with celebrities, such as newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald, calling Londoners to stay strong together, regardless their faith or ethnicity.
Everybody listened in silence, clapping every few seconds in agreement with statements of encouragement.
TV crews and photographers were running in between the crowd, stopping to interview and photograph the spectators.
It was a touching an memorable event. Seeing thousands of Londoners shoulder to shoulder certainly proves that they stand united against the threats.
A Muslim culture of victimhood?
A Muslim culture of victimhood? This is the wrong diagnosis of a political, not religious or cultural, problem.
There is a very popular argument which sees the popularity of radical Muslim activism of the kind which finds its most extreme expression in bombing attacks, as being fed by a ‘culture of victimhood’ among Muslims in various places around the world. Such a culture of victimhood, it is said, nourishes anti-Western sentiments, and can more or less easily become the breeding ground of violent expressions of resentment.
As I reflect upon the latest bombings in London and the sociological profiles of those Leeds young men implicated in the attacks, the possibly pernicious consequences of the assumptions behind the ‘culture of victimhood’ argument become clear. The ‘surprise’ and ‘astonishment’ upon learning the identity of the ‘homegrown’ perpetrators as expressed by various acquaintances, informed bystanders and the like were echoed all over the media. But what is so surprising or astonishing?
There are two points that I want to discuss here.
From a concerned bystander
We had to wait at the ticket barriers at London Bridge for a couple of minutes; we were told there had been a power surge. It’s not uncommon to wait to get down onto the tube at London Bridge, and we all rushed down to get a tube to work once they opened up. It was as busy as usual and a bit of a squeeze. I spotted an attractive girl on the train and was trying to make eye contact with her.
We were told the train was bypassing Bank because of the power surge. Then Moorgate. A few people grumbled; I was alright as I had to go all the way to Kentish Town. I was getting quite uncomfortable standing in the heat with little room to stand, but I swear the girl looked at me and smiled so it wasn’t too bad.
The politics of denial
Throughout the 1970s and 80s the Provisional IRA set off bombs in London for one major strategic purpose: shifting the front line of warfare from the streets of Belfast and Derry to the streets of London-- in short these bombs were an attempt to deghettoize the Northern Irish conflict and to transform it into a UK wide issue and everyday reality for the British public.
For almost three decades, internecine sectarian conflict, state torture and shoot-to-kill arrests, and the suspension of common rules of law and civil liberties were facts of life in one part of the United Kingdom, which by and large were ignored, accepted or normalized by the rest of the British body politic.
The IRA strategy was a misguided and inexcusable attempt to confront this politics of denial among the general British public and to create a politics of collective accountability for what they perceived as the social suffering of the minority community in Northern Ireland.
The 7/7 attack on London effectively moved the frontline of the insurgency/counter insurgency in Iraq to the streets of London, just as the front line was moved into the streets of Madrid last year due to the Spanish military presence in Iraq. The attack has also mobilized a new politics of denial: that the London bombings were inevitable due to long-term Islamic fanaticism and have only an incidental connection to Tony Blair’s foreign policy in Iraq.
A World Citizen
Today oD's London office received sad news from a friend and contributor to openDemocracy, John Adeleke, illustrating only too starkly the ongoing pain and suffering caused by Thursday's terrorist attacks. He writes:
"Glad you're recovering from the cruel acts of Thursday. We've just had some sad news. The son of family friends Marie and Alan Fatayi-Williams, it appears may have been killed by one of the bombs. Ironically his late grand-father was one one of our most respected Chief Justices, and a staunch moslem, from Lagos. We're all hoping that it might just be a case of mistaken identity."
Marie has travelled to London from Nigeria to try to find her son Anthony Fatayi-Williams, whom she describes as a "world citizen". The BBC carries a report on her story, as she calls for an end to "this vicious cycle of killing":
Who was behind the London attacks?
Just in case you wondered what the authorities are doing at this very moment: the police are reviewing 1800 hours of CCTV footage from across London, and the forensic scientists are piecing together the four explosive devices from tons of rubble. Both activities are aimed at finding out who was responsible for the London attacks: the viewing of the CCTV tapes will help to identify the individuals that carried the bombs onto the trains, whereas the reconstruction of the bomb will provide vital clues as to what group was responsible. (Bomb-making is a special skill that terrorist groups entrust to a relatively small number of people. As a result, almost every bomb carries the ‘handwriting' of a particular individual or group.)
At the moment, everything you hear about the identity or the modus operandus of the possible attackers is pure speculation. Generally, though, there are two theories which should be taken seriously. The first is that this was an attack by a completely new group, which has little if any association with the existing networks. This would explain why the police had no indication at all that an attack was on the way. It would also make it plausible why there was no increased chatter or activity among known Islamists, which the intelligence services would have picked up. The second is that this attack is somehow linked to Al Qaeda. This would make sense given the nature of the attacks, which - with multiple, no warning bombings aimed at the transport infrastructure - are almost identical to previous Al Qaeda attacks, most prominently those in Madrid last year. It would also tie in with the two claims of responsibility that have been received thus far.
We found the spot, and you bent to pick up something
Today, wishing myself back beneath that tree,
Bring back reason ...
Irony. I first heard that anything was amiss on the day, at around ten, from my daughter who was in a field somewhere in the vicinity of the G8. 'Secure' in a double cordon of police, she was worrying about those of us on the front-line in London.
I turned on one telly, then another, then a radio, all the time trying to get hold of my son whose tube-line could all too easily have coincided with the first of the devastated ones on the screen. There was no response. And no response. Numbness. An internal crossing of fingers.
The hospital rang, but it wasn't about my son. I was being told that my partner who had gone in for a minor op that morning of all mornings was being sent home. There were other priorities.
Then, at last, the news that Josh was fine. He had arrived at the tube when it was already closed and ended up in a taxi. He was amongst the lucky ones. I took a very deep breath.
I recount all this because I'm certain it's a story that can be replicated with slightly different inflections over the entire map of london - and indeed abroad amongst the friends and relatives of visitors. One of its effects is that I find myself weeping (not something I'm prone to) over stories of people who are still searching for loved ones, or who have suffered loss, or who have been damaged in the fray.
Blog from America...
by Todd Gitlin
8 July 2005
Hearing the news, a pall came over America, and then: solidarity, horror, memory, resolve, dark fatalism, and regrettably, some smugness (we got hit first so welcome to the club, New York Governor George Pataki seemed to brag while relaying good wishes to London). Police poured into the subway cars. Calls for spending money on rail safety, subdued for months, years, revved up.
And inevitably there were lunatic spasms. Unimpressed by new fact, barking heads launched into messages that sounded prerecorded. “Finish the job,” “stay the course”—these were among the cant phrases that spilled through the airwaves.
Right-wingers lurched into rhetorical high gear. Kimberly Strassel, a Wall Street Journal leader writer on public television tonight, thirsted for an expansion of the Patriot Act—this on a half-hour show whose entire cast of characters comes from the most right-wing editorial page in the United States. Another Journal editor gamely maintained that the attacks proved that al-Qaeda is fading. This had a bit of the aroma of Dick Cheney maintaining that the Iraqi insurgency is “in its last throes.”