THIS IS A WAR, RIGHT?
I have been to London on two occasions, and both times I have had a wonderful time. The highlight of my latest visit (February 2003) was riding “the Tube” about the city. The Underground is one of the most efficient, clean, and enjoyable transit systems I have ever used; it runs neck and neck with the Paris Metro as my personal favorite. London is an exciting metropolis, and riding the Tube is both a great way to get around and a great way to get a good look at London’s vibrantly multicultural population.
This morning I learned that the Tube was the focal point of several coordinated bombings that had been timed to London’s morning rush. Dozens have been killed, and hundreds wounded. One of the stations hit, King’s Cross, is a major hub between several Tube lines and intercity rail. I’ve not read the minute details of the attacks, but given what I have seen personally, it is likely quite fortunate that more weren’t killed. (I distinctly recall the crowds my wife and I had to run through in an attempt to make it from Russell Square to King’s Cross for our BritRail train to Edinburgh, and this was after the peak of the morning rush.)
I’ve read a thumbnail sketch of the account up to this point here. In spite of all the horrible images that crop up in my mind of the likely aftermath of the explosions, the worst things I read in the account were the blustery words of British politicians. Not only does London Mayor Ken Livingstone call the attacks “cowardly” (irrelevant) and “indiscriminate” (hardly; the bombers knew exactly what they wanted to hit and when), but he urges all Londoners to “stand together against terrorism.” I know you probably mean well, Ken, but does that “terrorism” you describe include the “shock and awe” your government participated in starting in 2003? Or is only the “terrorism” inflicted on you and your constituents to be repudiated? Similar numbskullery was bleated, not unexpectedly, by Tony Blair:
“We will not allow violence to change our societies or our values…”
(But it’s supposed to work that way for Iraq, Tony?)
“The perpetrators of today’s attacks are intent on destroying life.”
(No shit, Sherlock. All of your bombing and shooting of innocent Afghans and Iraqis, though, that was supposed to preserve life, eh?)
David Davis, the shadow home secretary, couldn’t resist getting in on the superfluous value judgment game, labeling the bombings acts of “unspeakable depravity and wickedness.” He then said something which really pumped the hot air into his balloon:
“This is not just an attack on our capital, but also an attack on our way of life as a whole.”
(Did the bombers send this factoid to you in a memo, David?)
I shouldn’t have to say this if I’m writing to thinking people, but what the heck: I’m not trying to belittle the suffering of those who actually experienced the bombings, nor am I unsympathetic to the grief of the survivors of the dead. My problem is that this arrogant rhetoric conveniently ignores that Blair’s government, much like the Bushies here, has repeatedly referred to fighting a “war on terror.” Well, isn’t is necessary to have at least two sides in a war? Did the British government think it could just act with impunity in its dealings in the Middle East? (I can see where their history might lead them to think so, but let’s not digress.)
This leads me back to my trip to the UK in February of 2003. At the time, there was massive public unease about the Blair government’s proposed entry into Bush’s impending folly in Iraq. While we were in Edinburgh, R. and I saw military vehicles patrolling some of the streets, and we also saw many posters and adverts for a huge protest rally that had been planned for the weekend after our departure from the city. There were also thousands of people descending on the city for a series of Six Nations Rugby Tournament matches, so the Edinburgh protests were not going to be ignored. After Edinburgh, we returned to London for three days. Apparently, we had just missed a massive anti-war rally (one that featured Jesse Jackson and George Galloway, among others) there.
In the aftermath of yesterday’s attacks on London, it was up to George Galloway to put things into perspective:
“We argued, as did the security services in this country, that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attack in Britain. Tragically Londoners have now paid the price of the Government ignoring such warnings.”
(Easy, there George; you wouldn’t want to suggest to fat, spoiled Westerners that they might actually be held accountable for their rapacious foreign policies.)
Millions had marched in the UK and the US (and the rest of the world) in the weeks leading up to the Iraq invasion, and they had all let it be known that they would not tolerate Bush’s and Blair’s proposed imperial adventure. Their voices, as well as those of government officials like George Galloway, went unheeded. Worse yet, the tools of the powerful in the corporate media (on both sides of the pond) did their best to smear and marginalize those voices of protest.
So Bush, Blair, and all their supporters got their war. Then, when all their other justifications were proven without a doubt to be false, they fell back on lumping their illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation into their ambiguous, open-ended “global war on terror.” As I asked before, were they arrogant enough to expect that war to be one-sided? Apparently so, and now hundreds of innocents in London have paid a price for that arrogance. Add them to the thousands who’ve already perished.
In the coming days we here in the US will be hearing more pointless rhetoric about “cowardly terrorists” attacking “our way of life.” Well, I submit that if “our way of life” depends on victimizing the weak and the innocent of other parts of the world, then it needs to be attacked.
How it is attacked can be up to us. We can attack it ourselves by revising and reconstructing the aspects of our economy that rely on perpetuating the suffering of foreigners for our own comfort. We can demand that our leaders deal fairly with other cultures and peoples, instead of running roughshod over them in the name of corporate profit. If we do these things, then there will be fewer ‘evil-doers’ who will see fit to do us harm, and they will have fewer places of anger, resentment, and frustration in which to hide. The alternative is to continue our greedy, arrogant, and vindictive ways, and to wail piously every time one of our chickens comes home to roost.
In any case, if we insist upon calling ourselves a democracy, there is no escaping that the choice is ours.