11 July 2005

London Redux

I grew up mainly in the seventies and can vaguely remember Patty Hearst, wildcat strikes, and numerous airline hijackings. Also gas rationing, the Iran hostages, and waiting in line for the first Star Wars movie.

I'm thinking about these things mainly because I'm thinking quite a bit about the reaction to the London transit bombings. Shocking as they are, as I wrote before, they're nothing new to London.

Back in the 1970's, while we were enduring "even-odd" days at the gas pumps and the biggest domestic terrorism was the Weather Underground planting bombs in (usually) unoccupied buildings (or accidentally blowing themselves up), the UK was living through a series of IRA bombings both in England and in Northern Ireland.

I think the major difference between then and now is that then the IRA was never in a million years going to bomb the USA (despite what crackpot Tom Clancy might dream up), especially since most of their funding came from here; in fact, the only foreign group to perpetrate a bombing in the USA, and in Washington no less, was Pinochet's Chile, in the assassination of Orlando Letelier. Henry Kissinger has blood on his hands from that one.

Al-Qaeda, however, has cast their net a bit wider than the IRA's...their supposed goal of casting the "infidels" out of Muslim lands makes pretty much any non-Muslim majority country -- and even Muslim majority countries that aren't seen as cooperative -- targets. Of course, helping the USA in any way moves you up the target list. Therefore, these London bombings, like the Madrid bombings before them, signal activity that could just as well be taking place in the USA.

Hence all this shock in the London attacks -- shock that is for the US, but not for the UK.

And please please please, let's not have any more of macho posturing with no realistic goal in sight. You say start shooting people? Who? The guy on the bus who looks like his bag's too full? The five hundred villagers rounded up in the hills of Afghanistan because somewhere within ten miles someone fired a shot at a helicopter? That strategy didn't work in Vietnam; it hasn't worked for Israel; and it won't work in our situation. Unfortunately for us, what will work in our situation isn't easy to swallow, because it means rethinking the economic assumptions that have organized our lives for at least 80 years.

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