by William Rivers Pitt
A British associate penned a quick response to the bombing attacks that took place in London this morning. "The message from those claiming responsibility says, in part, 'Britain is now burning with fear, terror and panic in its northern, southern, eastern, and western quarters,'" he wrote. "Well it isn't, so fuck them."
My first response was a wrenching horror, a kick to the gut when I checked my email and saw two hundred messages with the words 'London attack' in the subject line. Suddenly, the television was on and I was reading every news report I could get my eyes on. At least thirty-three people were killed and hundreds more wounded in four coordinated bombing attacks aimed at the mass transit system.
All of a sudden I was back in my classroom, back in the middle of a bright September morning, surrounded by wall-eyed students asking me if this was World War III as we watched two buildings burn, and then fall, and then unannounced I had Ani DiFranco in my head and she was singing, "And every borough looked up when it heard the first blast, and then every dumb action movie was summarily surpassed, and the exodus uptown by foot and motorcar looked more like war than anything I've seen so far..."
That was my first response, but I'm a little wiser nowadays. My second thought, bluntly, was that of all the Western cities in the world, London can handle this. From 1973 until roundabout the year 2000, bombings in that city took place with dreary regularity. In November of 1974, two IRA bombs in Birmingham killed 19 and wounded 180. A 1989 bombing at the Royal Marines School of Music killed 10 and wounded more than 30. There were more than a dozen different major incidents like these, and many smaller ones besides.
London handled the Nazi blitz. 'Handled' is perhaps the wrong word. Londoners watched as their city was battered to rubble day after day, and squared their shoulders, and sent out the RAF, and prevailed. A fire chief named Deasy summed up the British response: "The idea of England folding up, that's a joke. That outfit will never fold up. They've got just as much guts as anybody in this man's world has and they'll carry right on. Anybody thinks they're gonna fold up, they're crazy."
In other words, the British associate who wrote that note this morning hit the nail on the head.
Now comes the so-called official response. Predictably, George W. Bush proclaimed that the War on Terror goes on. Conservative frother Rush Limbaugh got on the radio and made a few remarkable rhetorical contortions. To wit: The G8 summit, which was apparently the target of these attacks, is a liberal summit. Yes, you read that right. He called it a "leftist summit" aimed at achieving leftist goals like saving Africa ("Again," he said) and stopping global warming, and so this was an attack on leftists who will now attack Bush.
The idea that the G8 is a leftist organization is a new one to me. I must have missed a memo somewhere. Apparently, the three billion people who went out last weekend to ask the G8 to do the right thing likewise missed the memo. Other conservative commentators rushed to microphones to proclaim that if we had all been standing shoulder to shoulder with Mr. Bush, this London attack would never have happened. Never underestimate the ability of the right-wing to use tragedy as a means of beating on people they don't agree with.
I am a little wiser nowadays, and perhaps a little more callous because of that wisdom. My first response was horror, and my second was a sense that the British people have the strength to endure this. My third response was to marvel at the news coverage. Four bombings, more than thirty dead, hundreds more wounded? In London, it is a terrifying, enraging, appalling act of despicable violence that must be immediately avenged.
In Iraq, they call events like this "Tuesday."