Nasty business. There are 32 confirmed dead so far, as of early evening on the day of the attacks, but more deaths are expected from the four synchronised attacks (three on London Underground tube trains and one on a bus). Nowhere near the horrific scale of 9/11, mercifully, nor even so far of Madrid, but sobering because the techniques used can be used again at will: there’s really no defence against a suicide bomber on a bus or tube since it’s impossible to search all the millions of people who use them every day, as the Madrileños know all too well. And the other sad thing is that these were co-ordinated attacks requiring considerable planning and collaboration yet none of the informers and moles scattered (we assume) through the extreme Islamicist groups had picked it up. The security people say, credibly, that several attacks of this kind have been planned in London since 9/11 but have been spotted, presumably through informers, and prevented. But there’s no way of being sure to detect and frustrate every single one, as today has proved. The London tube system is of course closed for the rest of the day but the buses are back and running again already and almost all the train services have been resumed so the disruption doesn’t seem too bad.
The timing is pretty clearly designed to disrupt the G8 meeting in Edinburgh, or rather at Gleneagles — it must have been planned well before the decision on the Olympics. Some of us are not at all pleased with the prospect of London being swamped by visitors for the Games in 2012, or of half of London being turned into a huge building site for the seven years between now and 2012, and we would have been more than happy if Paris had won instead. Or indeed New York or Madrid — anywhere but London. If the bombers had struck 24 hours earlier, London might well not have won (or would sympathy have swung even more votes our way?).
For once I actually feel sorry for Tony Blair, his Olympic triumph and any reasonably hopeful outcome from the G8 now irretrievably tarnished or at any rate overshadowed, as no doubt these unspeakable criminals intended. Well, we’ve had to live with the IRA in the past, as the Madrileños and other Spanish city-dwellers have had to live with ETA, and New Yorkers and Washingtonians with the memory of 9/11, and life goes on for most of us. It will be even tougher than usual for British Muslims, anyway for a while: the Muslim Council of Britain has already issued a message condemning the bombings, but some of the mud (or blood) will stick. It remains the case that the odds against any single one of us being killed or injured by a terrorist attack are just as astronomical as they were yesterday — indeed, they are probably even higher — and I think the great majority of Londoners will resume their lives tomorrow with their usual stoicism (not, admittedly, that there’s much alternative). Anyway, we’re all touched by the sympathetic messages pouring in from all over, and the El PaÃs cartoon that our friend in Barcelona (no, not Manuel) kindly sent is splendid. Chirac’s message was moving too. This kind of thing does underline the essentially trivial and ephemeral nature of our squabbles over rebates and British cooking. Nothing trivial about Africa or climate change, though. Perhaps the bombers will shock the G8 into an unaccustomed unity of purpose to tackle the real problems.
From El PaÃs