How many people actually realised that today was the 5th anniversary of the London bombings? I’d say less than half, I wouldn’t have realised myself had I not overheard a conversation earlier. Which leads me to ask why we don’t indulge in the kind of outpourings of grief that, say, America does.
Not a year goes by when we aren’t reminded on the 11th day of September what happened in 2001. Now I wouldn’t for a second suggest that the terrorist attack on our shores, which killed 52 and injured roughly 700 others were as severe as the twin tower attack which killed 2,995 people, including the 19 attackers. But were they any less shocking? If not in context of international relations then at least in it actually happening again, so many years after finally overcoming the IRA.
It reminded us of our own vulnerability, that stemmed mainly from joining America in a war supposedly about terrorism but more likely than not about oil. How else can intelligence that is so frequently spot on about terror be so wrong on the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq? We can surely only have ourselves to blame for the hatred so many Islam extremists have for us. We were America’s lapdog in wars that really were none of our business – both on Afghanistan but to a greater extent in Iraq. Since the WMD threat has been dismissed at best as wrong and at worst as a downright lie, the best reason I hear to justify our existence in the region is that Saddam Hussein needed to be overthrown. If that is the case why don’t we do something about the likes of Robert Mugabe then? Possibly the fruits of the land aren’t worth the effort it would take to control them? Perhaps then that is a reason for us not sobbing on this date once a year – retaliation has to be expected, and whilst nobody can say we got what we deserved, it certainly came as no surprise.
Of course there is no denying that the spectacular images of the explosions and collapse of the towers was far easier to grab attention and return to than underground bombings of which there was no television footage of the blasts. But surely an attack on our own soil warrants at least the same attention that one on foreign ground does.
Maybe that is the problem. We have faced such terrorism before – in the form of the IRA. Although before my time I have heard countless stories, read plenty of articles and watched so many programmes on ‘The troubles.’ Bombings were a common factor, particularly of London life and IRA executions happened with alarming regularity. It would be wrong for me to dwell on that particular period as it was before my time, but from accounts I hear, we as a nation were spectacularly good at just getting on with it. As we apparently were during The Blitz in WWII.
Therefore with the media it was nothing new. With the UK citizens, it was as it was in the past, and regarding the terrorists? It was more bombs by different people. It wasn’t an innovative new method like using planes. And using trains was how the Madrid bombings were carried out in 2004 – which actually killed 191 and wounded over double the amount of people in London.
Certainly these are all factors. But my belief is that simply we are more comfortable with our place in the world than America is. An attack on that scale, albeit it unprovoked, by foreigners in America? Not since Pearl Harbour. And that finally made the country get off their arses and help us out in WWII. The difference is that whilst Pearl Harbour could be viewed as a strategic bombing to paralyse the American Navy whilst Japan increased their Pacific stronghold, 9/11 held no obvious enemy. As brilliantly pointed out in the Family Guy clip below, the link to Afghanistan was tenuous at best, yet the Afghans and later the Iraqis were to be the enemy in America’s “War on Terror.”
That attack only increased the insecurities of the USA. After decades of ensuring International Isolationism in the wake of WWI they were forced into WWII. After proving themselves top dog and Super-power of the world they spent decades in an arms race in a bid to win the Cold War against Russia. And with that threat seemingly passed and the USA once again believing themselves to be Supreme Masters of the Universe they were attacked and left reeling by an enemy that they didn’t think could come near them.
The reason we don’t cover the London Bombings in the same way that the States cover 9/11 is that we mourn our dead. As we always have in such circumstances. America mourn not just the people they lost but the shattering of the misguided belief that they were untouchable. We should celebrate the fact that we don’t share their arrogance.