With the bombings in London, a million-resident metropolis has once again been struch by terrorists. But this time the terrorists’ calculus, to create lasting fear and horror didn’t succeed. The Brits have shown a tremendous spirit of resistance and the terrorists have suffered a strategic defeat.
The incidents all seem to follow a pattern. They begin with urgent reports and the first chilling images of ambulances, bleeding victims and chaos, followed by special reports, expert commentary, press conferences, eyewitness accounts, and end in a day that’s ultimately filled with images of destruction, horror, sorrow and blood. London’s day of terror fits into a series of similar incidents in New York, Casablanca, Djerba, Istanbul, Riyadh and Madrid, the places where al-Qaida has launched devastating attacks that, when combined, have killed thousands and left behind tens of thousands of injured.
But the London attacks are only similar to earlier terrorist attacks at first glance. Though not yet certain, it is highly likely that al-Qaida is behind Thursday’s attack. But the terrorist objective of producing lasting fear and terror among the population seems to have failed, as Britons have dealt with the extremity of the situation with astonishing composure.
After overcoming their initial shock, bleeding victims recounted their experiences in front of live cameras, while Londoners took a disciplined approach to the fact that this city of millions was incapacitated for an entire day. There was no panic, no hysteria, no despondency and, most of all, no assigning of blame to the British government. Cool Britannia.
“We will react as we have always reacted: quietly and courageously. We will not allow ourselves to be intimidated,” said the British ambassador to Germany, Sir Peter Torry, in a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview. “You will see that London will do its utmost today to continue living normally. That’s just the way we are.” It’s an attitude that has been demonstrated again and again since Thursday, an attitude deeply embedded in the British soul, an attitude that calls for keeping a stiff upper lip and remaining composed in even the most difficult times.
Londoners are no strangers to threats to their very existence. Memories of the “Blitz,” as the British call the Nazis’ brutal air raids on their capital in World War II, are still alive in London today. Britons also haven’t forgotten the daily threat of terror in the 1970s and 1980s, when the fear of IRA bombings lurked around every corner. The Guardian has noted, with respect, that even young Londoners have upheld this tradition, reacting to the bombings “with a combination of composure and courage.”
The terrorists responsible for the 7/7 attack clearly misjudged the reaction it produced. Their intention was to divide the British people and thereby force the British government to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, that approach was entirely successful after the Madrid bombings. The conservative Aznar administration was swept out of power and Spain withdrew its forces from Iraq. But this time the attack produced the opposite effect, as Britons rally behind Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has faced tremendous criticism for his support of US President George W. Bush. Indeed, the London attack is the first major setback for the leaders of the Islamist terrorist movement — it is even worse than the losses they have suffered as a result of Bush’s and Blair’s fight against terrorism, the Taliban and al-Qaida. That’s because the British reaction has called their entire strategy into question, despite the fact that the terrorists were successful at striking in the heart of London on a symbolic date that coincided with the G-8 summit in Scotland.
The leaders of the G8 countries also conveyed the impression of unity yesterday. Despite some major differences of opinion, the heads of state attending the summit demonstratively gathered behind Blair when he said: “We will not allow ourselves to be terrorized,” and promptly followed up with action. With astonishing speed, they managed to agree on a joint statement on climate control, and they also successfully came to terms on eliminating trade barriers and debt forgiveness for the world’s poorest countries. Could this yearning for consensus have come about without these attacks?
Tony Blair clearly adopted the appropriate tone in his address to the nation. He was dignified, unwavering, combative and, most of all, British. The Roman newspaper Il Messaggero pointed out that Blair’s statement was reminiscent of one of Great Britain’s political icons, Winston Churchill. In 1940, when the island was being threatened by a Nazi invasion, Churchill said that his country was facing its darkest hour, but added that it would also experience its most glorious hour if it prevailed. Autor: Rüdiger Ditz