She was asking for it, guvnor.

by Maria on July 10, 2005

Today’s NY Times and Washington Post both carry prominent articles saying London is, and has for some time been, a hot bed of terrorists. Let’s leave aside for today all the arguments about how to fight terrorism in a democratic state. Implicitly blaming London and Londoners for last week’s atrocity is in rather poor taste. Yes, there’ll need to be analysis, discussion and perhaps further refinement of how the UK deals with domestic terrorism. But for today, let’s put the shoe on the other foot. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, people who tried to blame the US for attacks against it were rightly condemned. So let’s have a little equal treatment, please, a little respect. At least till the bodies are buried.



bi 07.10.05 at 3:01 am

Maria, who do you think you are? Emperor of Everyone’s Mouths? Minister of Speech? In this world of free speech, where do you get off dictating to people what to say and what not to say at your own whim? Huh? What can be more anti-American, anti-freedom, anti-democracy, than attempts like yours to control what other people think and say? Shame on you!

“Equal treatment”? Did Tony Blair gives equal time to both sides? Huh? _Huh_? *HUH*?

And no, my way of life isn’t going to be changed by terrorists. Neither is my way of life going to be changed by authoritarian fascist pinkos like _you_. Because my way of life includes criticizing Bush and his allies when I know they deserve to be criticized. And I intend to keep it that way.

For your crimes against freedom, you should be charged for treason. Again, shame on you.


Bob B 07.10.05 at 3:23 am

What’s new?

It is perhaps less often remarked on than it should be that in the aftermath of the revolutions that swept across much of mainland Europe in 1848, Karl Marx and family sought refuge in Britain and so did Prince Metternich, previously Chancellor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Marx and family settled in a few modest rooms in Dean Street, in the Soho district of central London – see the blue plaque on the Quo Vadis restaurant – to live off subventions from Engels who ran a commercially successful family textile business in Manchester.

Prince Metternich eventually settled in more capacious accommodation at 42 Brunswick Place, Hove, East Sussex.


Chris Bertram 07.10.05 at 3:27 am

“bi” : Not only has Maria not restricted your freedom or anyone else’s , but you’ve even been allowed to post a comment here on CT demonstrating that you don’t know the difference between Maria opining that someone else should conduct themselves with decorum and sensitivity and Maria trying to restrict that tasteless boor’s freedom.


Mrs Tilton 07.10.05 at 3:30 am

The problem with your comment, Bi, is essentially grammatical; you have mistaken the hortatory for the imperative.

Maria is emperor of nobody’s mouth (let alone an ‘authoritarian fascist pinko’). She has not the power, nor (I daresay) the desire to abridge your freedom of speech. Rather, she was pointing out to people like you that you will come over slightly less the contemptible twat if you learn to mimic certain minimum standards of decency.


drscroogemcduck 07.10.05 at 3:40 am

This is more like people saying the US didn’t have enough security for domestic flights than people saying the US had it coming because of X and Y.


bad Jim 07.10.05 at 3:51 am

Mrs. Tilton, one hardly recognizes you without the spider gravatar.

A London less extravagantly resilient, less splendiferously multicultural, would not have ridden through this latest outrage with comparable aplomb.

Look at the gherkin. If you’ll put up with that, you’ll put up with anything. Gaudí, if you were living at this hour, we could have a more complicated conversation.


bi 07.10.05 at 3:57 am

Chris Bertram, Mrs Tilton: point taken, but I’m still wondering what rules for decorum make “today” so special that any London criticism is out of bounds (well, today’s “special” in that it’s roughly 3–4 days after the bombing, but that’s about it for what I see), and what kind of “equal time” is it that allows her to condemn people who blame London, and say nothing about people who blame those “cowardly” terrorists behind the act (when nobody even knows what the terrorists actually thought and felt).

Is it really about etiquette, or is “etiquette” used here as a handy excuse for something else?

(And of course, I was being a bit hyperbolic in my previous post. My bad. :| )


Tracy W 07.10.05 at 4:37 am

Umm, after September 11 I thought quite a few Europeans and Americans blamed the US in a similar manner as the papers appear to be doing so here – ie not blaming 9/11 on US foreign policy but saying it happened because airport security was slack, or due to failings by the US intelligence forces and/or the laws they worked under. I don’t recall them being condemned as implicitly blaming the Americans for causing the terrorists to attack them and thus being in bad case (although, the Internet being the Internet, someone out there probably has).

I didn’t read the articles as saying so much that the British deserved to be attacked, or that they caused the attack (as if the terrorists were mindless automans not human enough to be expected to bear any moral responsibility) but that the British intelligence services were deficient in some ways and this allowed the bombings to happen, and if those deficiences were corrected then the bombings might not happen again.

I do not know of any clear moral theory of the border between the criminal’s responsbility and the government’s. The bombings would never have happened if some people had not decided to commit a terrorist act. But it does strike me that, given there are dangerous people out there, the State does have some duty to defend its citizens (especially since it prosecutes viligantes), and therefore can be criticised for failing in its duties without implying that the State therefore caused the terrorists.

And criticising the State for failing to do its job properly, if your complaints are right and I have no idea if the newspapers are, is probably going to be a more successful way of preventing further attacks than just saying that the terrorists should not have done it because murder is morally wrong – no matter how fervently I agree with the last clause.


abb1 07.10.05 at 5:16 am

I blame Blair for the atrocity – and by extension UK politicians and the UK public – whether the bodies are buried or not. It has absolutely nothing to do with the bodies being buried, or, at least I don’t see the connection. People have been killed, someone’s to blame.


dglp 07.10.05 at 6:37 am

My sense of the NY Times article was that it accentuated shortcomings that exist, well, pretty much everywhere, and could be asserted by anyone at any moment. It added nothing new to the dialogue about security, and seemed to be drawing from some now-discredited stories about London and the UK. In other words, it was a cheap shot, and in bad form coming two days after the blasts.

That’s bad enough, but when one stops to ask why this article was written, and what purpose it serves, two answers come to mind. One is to lay the finger of blame upon Brits for their laxness and tolerance. The other is to promote the idea that there are hotbeds of terror in other places, and that these places can be blamed for America’s suffering.

I was not born or raised in Britain, but I was nonetheless offended that a couple of non-resident journalists would cursorily slag the considerable efforts and sophistication of Britain’s efforts to deal with ‘terrorism’. Better that they should be looking at their own system with its profiling and its heavy-handedness, and asking if the British response is somehow more ‘proportionate’ to the situation. Bluntly, it seems that even the NY Times has succumbed to over-reaction and paranoia, and that this article was written from what might be called a ‘hysterical’ perspective.

This makes my second point a bit easier to see. Paranoia and blame go hand in hand, and it seems pretty clear that the article was looking for a scapegoat, and finding one in London, and Britain more generally. The reasons behind that thinking are not so easily identified, but seem to revolve around the demonisation of others for the sake of satisfying one’s own rage.


Jack 07.10.05 at 6:56 am

The bombers are to blame for the bombs.

The point of waiting till the bodies are buried is that is what is important now. If it isn’t then there isn’t that much to be worried about. There are other reasons too. It seems a sensible practice in that it might help avoid responding during the sleep of reason that inevitably follows such a painful loss. At best its like talking to someone who’s just lost a loved one in a car accident and asking if they feel they should have bought a Volvo instead

These stories would be objectionable at any time because of their hatred of free speech, the right of asylum and due process of law and for their myopia. The idea that Tony Blair is to blame for not turning away refugees or banning free expression of unwelcome opinions, that all of these firebrands are in league with the bombers, that these people had nothing to be afraid of in their original homes, even if it was Iraq. It is full of things that might have been done with no consideration of the price that would be paid for doing them, dangerously coupled with a remarkably narrow view of what is important. We wish to preserve a way of life not just lives. What is more it has relevance only if it relies on suppositions and simplifications that may turn out to have some value but for now are just that and it does so without examination of those.

Of course I am holding the story up to a higher standard than is common for newspapers but I feel less disposed to display the customary phlegm if messrs sciolino and van datta choose this time to make this point. I found the article facetious and oddly motivated.

abb1, do you blame them, blame them only, blame them primarily or blame them for the kind of reason expressed in the article? Do you think the bombers are helpless automata programmed by Blair’s belligerence? I would be interested to know if you thought that the population of London deserved to be bombed for their failure to overthrow Tony Blair.

Never mind the people waiting for their loved ones to be brought up from the tunnels, never mind that we don’t know who the murderers are, lets blame someone and lets not think too hard about why or bother with facts or coherence. Good grief!


Brendan 07.10.05 at 8:10 am

I love the idea, from the New York Times article, that it was our ‘long tradition of civil liberties’ that was to blame. Clearly we should get rid of this tradition immediately.

I notice that although many on the Right have been quick to blame ‘liberalism’, ‘leftism’ and ‘civil liberties’ for the mass murder in London (with some going as far as to say the attack was a ‘good thing’ because it would help the British ‘stay the course’ in Iraq), the likes of Nick Cohen have been mysteriously quiet about these opinions, concentrating their fire (pardon the pun) on those on the left who have attempted to contextualise the attack. Harry’s “Little Green Soccer Balls” Place has been fuming with self-rightous rhetoric about these commentators. Harry himself has done his bit to curtail the tradition of civil liberties that, as we must all agree, caused these attacks, by more or less abolising his comments section, and banning anyone who disagrees with him. Well done! All it needs is for Tony Blair to follow his lead and abolish free speech and elections and the war on terror will be all but won.


Chris Bertram 07.10.05 at 8:13 am

Whoever is behind the character “abb1”, author of multiple comments here at CT: please get the message that the joke wasn’t especially funny six months ago and is in really poor taste now.


Daniel 07.10.05 at 8:29 am

In related news, if you are annoyed with the comments policy at Harry’s Place then please understand that none of us can do anything about it. The correct thing to do is what I did; whine about it on your own blog and at If you want to complain about the Crooked Timber comments policy, the place to do so is at Shot By Both Sides and if you want to complain about comments there, I suggest an email to the Daily Mail’s “Have Your Say” column.


bi 07.10.05 at 8:40 am

Jack: oh, facts. Here’s a fact: _safety is a form of liberty, and a very important one too. Safety is the liberty to live._ Here’s another fact: _limits on free speech does not equal no free speech._ Here’s another fact: _many of the people to respond to this attack are precisely those who aren’t caught in it in any way._ Thank you for your attention.


Brendan 07.10.05 at 9:04 am

‘Safety is a form of liberty, and a very important one too. Safety is the liberty to live.’

How very true. If your safety is compromised our essential liberties are under threat.

One question. Yes or no, no ‘ifs’ ‘ands’ or ‘buts’. Did you feel safer from Islamic terrorism before the Iraq war, or after? Yes or no?

This question goes double if you happen to live in London.

One last question: a quote from Bush, October 2004. (c/o Kos).

‘ We are fighting these terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond SO WE DO NOT HAVE TO FACE THEM IN THE STREETS OF OUR OWN CITIES’ (emphasis added).

How do we all feel about this statement now? By his own criteria has Bush’s war in Iraq succeeded or failed in its objectives?


paul lawson 07.10.05 at 9:23 am

V.S. Naipul pointed out, some time ago, that some kinds of Islamist ‘senses of displacement’ were headed to places in which they might be more overt.

The format saddens. Greatly. One identifies, with the victims, to the point of tears, in places well known.

But Maria and Bob.B have it right: ideas of haven for sanctuary will prevail, eventually, over ideas of the rottweiler ‘right’, which merely slavers.

In a better world, all places will offer some sanctuary. In the Western tradition, it was available in a church. The Blue Mosque in Istanbul is also such a place. Think of a place that way.

How else are centuries bridged, but by ideas?


Fergal 07.10.05 at 10:10 am

The (short) choice seems to be this:

1. London had it coming because Blair tolerated the Islamists who had come to town. Or…

2. London had it coming because Blair sent soldiers to Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, the (short) question is: Would absence of either (or both) have prevented the bombings?

And, if London “had it coming”, did Madrid? Beslan? Istanbul? Bali?


dglp 07.10.05 at 10:36 am

fergal – you mean that people are saying London had it coming, either way, right? But some of those people are saying it with the benefit of hindsight, from expertise developed after the fact of being jolted out of their former complacency. So, if London had it coming, what of New York, and Washington?

On one hand, we’ve heard the anti-imperial argument that the little Eichmanns had it coming, and that the US had it coming. Blowback.

On the other hand, we also hear that there are people out there whose mission is to destroy American liberties. It may have been the Russians, now it’s Al Qaeda. In these terms, America still has it coming. But is that how it’s being spun by these commentators? Are they saying that Britain is a target precisely because it holds the same values as Americans? Or is the message being altered, slightly but noticeably?


abb1 07.10.05 at 10:39 am

Chris, what joke and what was the joke six months ago – are you talking about Ward Churchill’s stuff?

I do blame Tony Blair just as many people do (albeit not in the way the linked articles do, of course). And it’s also true that citizens in a democracy are in part responsible for the actions of their government. How is this a joke?


Brennan 07.10.05 at 10:39 am

We still know very little about the attacks in London. We’ve been told that they bear the marks of Al Qaeda noting the timing, the civilian targets and the use of explosives.

However, this isn’t Al Qaeda. Perhaps it is, but for Al Qaeda to dull the edge of their blade seems rather weak – something Al Qaeda is known to avoid. No, I think the London attacks were from a much smaller clique. Someone a little different from Al Qaeda in their structure, but perhaps sympathetic to their cause.

Studying the pathology of other extremists that have left their safe havens of western democratic societies to become fighters in a more pressing cause, we learn that the reasons for fighting range from the killing of innocent people to suppression of civil liberties. Bernard Henri-Levi wrote an excellent book about the subject in “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?”. It is essentially a profile of Omar Sheikh, a Pakistani born Londoner that was first spurred by war in the Balkans, but later perused closer to Usama Bin Laden.

An Al Qaeda strike would resemble the 93 WTC bombing or the African embassy bombings. Perhaps it is the WoT that is dulling the blade of Al Qaeda neglecting them to lower level attacks where they can be most effective. The London attack looks like a roll of the dice. Set off some bombs and see what happens next. Adjust accordingly. If Omar Sheikh is anyone to learn from, then the world is a chessboard and the London attacks were merely a move of a pawn.


Andrew Boucher 07.10.05 at 11:00 am

The French papers had the same kind of article, only earlier. Here’s one from Le Figaro:

If memory serves a similar article also appeared in Le Monde. Anyway here’s part of an interview which appeared in Le Monde: “Parce qu’on considérait, avant 2001 et même après, que les Anglais étaient laxistes en autorisant des lieux de prosélytisme djihadiste. Par exemple la mosquée de Finsbury ou celle de Whitechapel. Et en fait, ces lieux de prosélytisme, pour les services britanniques, étaient des points de fixation qu’ils laissaient exister, mais qu’ils surveillaient. Et après septembre 2001, ils ont arrêté des figures éminentes du “Londonistan”, par exemple Abou Qatada, et du coup, paradoxalement, il y a tout un tas d’islamistes radicaux qui ont basculé dans la clandestinité et dont on a perdu la trace. Ce qui fait qu’à l’heure actuelle, les tendances récentes étaient les suivantes : disparition dans la nature de nombreuses personnes ; démantèlement récent de cellules formées d’individus parfaitement intégrés dans la société, ne fréquentant pas les milieux radicaux et sans antécédents judiciaires. L’autre tendance, c’était l’apparition de réseaux islamistes radicaux dans les campagnes anglaises, en Irlande. Et à cet égard, on peut parler de Dublin comme d’un “Londonistan bis”, même chose en Ecosse. Les choses étaient donc devenues beaucoup plus incertaines.”


Jack 07.10.05 at 11:38 am

bi, I think those italics would be better described as platitudes. I’m interested to know which of those you think I don’t accept.


roger 07.10.05 at 11:48 am

Although always happy to slag the NYT, I do think that is a deliberately eccentric way to read the articles. On the other hand, that way of looking at London does have a long history. In The Secret Agent, the Russian ambassador’s assistant, Mr. Vladimir, who orders Mr. Verloc to carry out an outrage at Greenwich, goes on at length about the ridiculous English habit of tolerance:

“England must be brought into line. The imbecile bourgeoisie of this country make themselves the accomplices of the very people whose aim is to drive them out of their houses to starve in ditches. And they have the political power still, if they only had the sense to use it for their preservation. I suppose you agree that the middle classes are stupid?’

Mr Verloc agreed hoarsely.

`They are.’

`They have no imagination. They are blinded by an idiotic vanity. What they want just now is a jolly good scare. This is the psychological moment to set your friends to work. I have had you called here to develop to you my idea.’

Although it is tempting, I can’t really say that Mr. Vladimir and the NYT are operating on the same page.


bi 07.10.05 at 12:19 pm

Brendan: I never supported the Iraq war. So what? The Iraq war is wrong, therefore everyone should have the right to talk crap with their traps? Sounds like a non-sequitur to me.

Jack: well, I guess to you they are merely meaningless platitudes, because I just saw you disagreeing with every one of them. (1) Exchanging various liberties for safety? Argh, that’s “myopia”! It’s a “narrow view of what is important”! The right to live is nothing, I say nothing, compared to all the other miscellaneous rights like the right to asylum! (2) Crackdown on murderous propaganda? Argh, that’s “hatred of free speech”! It’s a recipe for dictatorship! Bad bad bad! (3) Dang, is this really a platitude?

By the way, ever notice that those British citizens who keep saying “We Will Not Let The Terrorists Triumph, We Will Show Them With Our Actions” on the TV screen seem to be precisely those who suffer no bodily injuries? Respect for the dead. Talk the talk…


Brendan 07.10.05 at 12:20 pm

Who, precisely, has actually stated that London ‘had it coming’?


Dylan 07.10.05 at 12:27 pm

The two criticisms are different. The anti-US 9/11 line was we deserved it. The argument you disdain now is that it could have been made less likely by deporting or imprisoning the radicals. There’s a difference between criticizing a rape victim for wearing a short skirt versus leaving her front door unlocked when she sleeps at night.


Bob B 07.10.05 at 12:45 pm

I hesitate to mention this here but a web trawl shows that in the early 1900s, Lenin and his partner Krupskaya came to London quite often on political business.

For example: “Lenin and Krupskaya left Munich on April 12, 1902, arriving at Charing Cross a few days later, in ‘disgusting’ weather. They were met by Alekseyev, who took them to a furnished room near his lodgings. By the April 23 they had found two unfurnished rooms at 30 Holford Square, off Great Percy Street in King’s Cross Road, almost opposite Frederick Street. (The square was bombed during the Second World War.) The rooms were simply furnished with two beds, two tables, a few chairs and some rough bookshelves. . . ”

The famous split between Mensheviks and Bolsheviks in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party emerged at the Second Congress of the Party in London in 1903. Lenin was here again then.

By accounts, he and Krupskaya were here again in 1905.

Readers will now whom to blame for all the inevitable subsequent events in world history . .

I suppose the one dubious claim to redemption for London and England, if it be that, is that in 1886 Engels wrote this in the preface to the English edition of Marx’s Capital:

” . . Surely, at such a moment, the voice ought to be heard of a man whose whole theory is the result of a lifelong study of the economic history and condition of England, and whom that study led to the conclusion that, at least in Europe, England is the only country where the inevitable social revolution might be effected entirely by peaceful and legal means. He certainly never forgot to add that he hardly expected the English ruling classes to submit, without a ‘pro-slavery rebellion,’ to this peaceful and legal revolution.”


abb1 07.10.05 at 12:46 pm

I think the ‘we deserved it’ line is a bastardization of a reasonable argument. One should be able to assign a share of responsibility to the society as a whole without faulting random individual members of this society, especially those who are victims of resulting violence.

It’s gotta be possible to find some reasonable balance here. This might be one of those Hegelian cases with transition from quantity to quality. One person is a person, 60 million people is a society, and yes – the society is responsible.


John Kozak 07.10.05 at 12:56 pm

Look – they hate our freedom, so if we get rid of it, they won’t hate us any more. What’s so hard to understand about that?


Bob B 07.10.05 at 1:16 pm

Abb1: I’m all for blaming society when in doubt. The only problem is knowing which one to select. After all, there are so many to choose from.


moni 07.10.05 at 1:28 pm

Am I the only one to think that the people who actually planned the attacks and planted the bombs are not the ‘fiery preachers’ of the kind overtly speaking to 500 people (the supposedly ‘ever-larger crowds’…) in a conference centre in London?
This is not Ramallah we’re talking about, and it’s not impressionable young kids recruited to blow themselves up with cheap nail bombs. I don’t see how preaching or supporting political extremism, of which there’s quite a lot more around than the Islamic kind, equates with actual sophisticated terrorism.
Not saying there’s no relation whatsoever; just that even if the UK expelled every sheik Omar and followers, I don’t believe it would have changed much in terms of prevention of actual bombings.

Besides. We don’t even know who did it, yet.

Although Britain has passed a series of antiterrorist and immigration laws and made nearly 800 arrests since Sept. 11, 2001, critics have charged that its deep tradition of civil liberties and protection of political activists have made the country a haven for terrorists.

I can only hope that’s poor wording… whereas what follows seems even too clear:

The British government has drawn particular criticism from other countries over its refusal to extradite terrorism suspects.

Translated: they don’t like Guantanamo and torture outsourcing to ME regimes as much as we do. Traitors!


Daniel 07.10.05 at 1:36 pm

Unfortunately, because of our plucky, never-say-die, London-can-take-it blah blah etc blah nature, I suppose that we will continue to provide a haven for terrorists going forward. Thanks to all our American cousins who gave us their unconditional support in doing so. For indeed, unless we continue to provide a haven for terrorists, in a real sense the terrorists will have won. Or something. Christ the New York Times is a terrible newspaper.


george 07.10.05 at 2:00 pm

Thanks Bob B, that’s good stuff. I’ve always dug the ‘Marx in the reading room’ story, but didn’t know about Metternich. I probably should have known about Lenin’s history in England too. Interesting in light of how (as John Keegan describes it) Germany facilitated Lenin’s entrance into Russia in 1917 as a form of wartime sabotage, which worked like a charm.

More broadly, I read somewhere recently that Rome, despite the occasional abberation, was the most open society of its day, and still one of the most open ever. Can’t say whether that’s accurate, but it got me thinking about the relationship between political openness and social advancement, and (perhaps inevitably) empire. Or in other words, those who say the UK’s openness will be its downfall may have it exactly backwards. The UK’s openness has been what has made it great.


Jack 07.10.05 at 2:59 pm


When you have finished massacring straw men and when your empire has withdrawn from its occupation of my mouth…

It is probably true that most of the radicals quoted in the article had nothing to do with the bombing. It is also probably true that many of them would have died if they had not obtained asylum. It is certainly true that a lot of people would have died if we had asylum laws that would have kept out the motley crew featured in the NYT. How does that relate to your point about safety being a premium.

Do you really disagree with the “We Will Not Let The Terrorists Triumph, We Will Show Them With Our Actions” sentiment? Who else is not going to let the terrorists triumph? If there are no wider effects the terrorists will be seen to be nothing but tawdry murderers. If they stir up all kinds of trouble and everyone sits around wringing their hands or passing even more laws against murder, will they be closer to their goals or further from them?

Roger, I think the NYT story, especially because it could have been written any time in the last 20 years is making that point. I don’t however believe that they are soliciting the planting of the bombs. I find it depressing how much a century old book reflects what is happening at the moment.


Sebastian Holsclaw 07.10.05 at 3:59 pm

I didn’t read the articles as saying so much that the British deserved to be attacked, or that they caused the attack (as if the terrorists were mindless automans not human enough to be expected to bear any moral responsibility) but that the British intelligence services were deficient in some ways and this allowed the bombings to happen, and if those deficiences were corrected then the bombings might not happen again.

This whole line of argument operates from the faulty premise that even an excellent intelligence service or police service can protect against terrorists. They can’t. As Rice said (and I paraphrase): we have to get it right every day, they only have to get it right once. The whole reason Bush wants to take it to ‘their’ homes is becuase we can’t reliably provide the kind of security needed to keep them from coming into our homes to blow us up and simultaneously keep our civil liberties. (Arguably even if we were willing to sacrifice our civil liberties it wouldn’t work–witness Russia).


Alex R 07.10.05 at 4:13 pm

Can we try to keep the distinction between cause and desert?

To say that the actions or inactions of an individual or a society were a contributing *cause* of an event is *entirely different* from saying that those actions mean that the event was *deserved*, or that they were “asking for it”. When public health officials go around telling people not to go around having unprotected sex with lots of different people they are *not* saying that those who do “deserve” to get AIDS — for that, you’ll have to talk to a religious fundementalist.


soru 07.10.05 at 4:15 pm

The British government has drawn particular criticism from other countries over its refusal to extradite terrorism suspects.

Perhaps worth mentioning that the country doing the criticism in question is actually France, over suspects from the 1995 Paris Metro bombing.

Ramda`s case has been a source of antagonism between London and Paris, with French officials saying the delay in his extradition showed a lack of British cooperation in tackling global terrorism.


The treatment of Muslim suspects in France is notoriously bad. In a recent report, Amnesty International noted a pattern emerging of an increase in police violence, deaths in custody and torture. The victims are predominantly Muslims of North African origin. Furthermore, these incidences for the most part have been overlooked and the French Government has not to date introduced any mechanism to ensure such abuses are checked and promptly investigated. Amnesty International is concerned about France’s failure to abide by its obligations under the UN convention against torture, particularly in the area of its law enforcement agencies.



abb1 07.10.05 at 4:18 pm

Wow, there’s a reason. And all that time I thought it was something like a catch-phrase of a cartoon character.


Michael Otsuka 07.10.05 at 4:23 pm

“Implicitly blaming London and Londoners for last week’s atrocity is in rather poor taste.”

There was no blame of London or Londoners. Rather, there was the reporting of certain criticisms of the British government.

If these criticisms are sound, and the British government ought to have been doing the things its critics say it should have been doing, then it’s not too soon to report them.

If, for example, newspaper reporters had learned on September 13, 2001, that the Bush administration had ignored various signs of an impending terrorist attack in the months leading up to 9/11 (as Bush’s counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke later alleged), then September 14 would not have been too early to report this. Any editor would have been rightly fired for sitting on this story as in ‘bad taste’ to run before the ‘bodies are buried’.

If these criticisms are unsound, then object to the NYT and the Post for uncritically reporting them. But don’t get on your high horse about bad taste, respect, and unburied bodies.


Nick 07.10.05 at 5:37 pm

There’s been much in the last four days about how we British will not allow the terrorists of Thursday to change our way of life.
I doubt our political masters will show the same courage and resolution.


Russell L. Carter 07.10.05 at 6:17 pm

Jeebus. I am going to break radio silence and say that I completely agree with Sebastian for once (well also the torture bits). See Jack Balkin for the civil liberties erosions suffered by the British… before this last atrocity. It’s not possible to have a diverse and free urban society without structural tolerance for cranks and madmen, some of whom are going to crackup and will need to be dealt with after the fact. And as Sebastian says, if the source is truly external, eliminating it at that source is essential. Unfortunately, Iraq was not the source (though might be additively contributing now), and apparently crucial resources were squandered pursuing that little imperial adventure. As DeLong said, more attention on Afghanistan and Pakistan please, and I’ll add in the Saudis.


antirealist 07.10.05 at 6:27 pm

If these criticisms are unsound, then object to the NYT and the Post for uncritically reporting them. But don’t get on your high horse about bad taste, respect, and unburied bodies.

Thank you.


Matt 07.10.05 at 7:19 pm

I’ll voice a bit of agreement w/ Sebastian, too, except to say that the comparison w/ Russia isn’t really good for a number of reasons. First, the crack-down of civil liberties in Russia really doesn’t have anything to do w/ terrorism there. That’s sometimes used as an excuese, but it’s a blatently transparent one to anyone who knows anything about the situation. None of the moves towards an authoritarian state there can plausibly be seen as anything like a rational response to the acts of terrorism there. (This of course becomes even more the case when you look at the FSB complicity, and perhaps even participation, w/ many of the events, especially the moscow apartment bombings.) Secondly, what largely keeps Russia as unsafe as it is is massive corruption and a sort of inefectiveness that’s not (thankfully) that common in either the UK or the US. Relatively small cash payments can get you through a police checkpoint w/o trouble in Russia, while the same is probably not true in the US or the UK. So, while the general point is okay, using Russia as an example doesn’t really work.


John Emerson 07.10.05 at 7:48 pm

When the Chinese Empire finally fell in 1911, Sun Yat-sen (one of the main leaders of the revolution) was in Denver, Colorado fundraising among Chinese miners.


John Emerson 07.10.05 at 7:51 pm

In 1911 when the Chinese Emperor finally fell , Sun Yat-sen (one of the chief leaders of the revolution) was fundraising among Chinese miners in Denver, Colorado.


paul lawson 07.10.05 at 8:44 pm

Ulyanov also spent a bit of time in Zurich. He and his friends were being watched by and reported on by their concierges. The police records of ‘Lenin in Der Schweiz’ are hilarious.

Perhaps a compulsory concierge might simultaneously solve employment and supervision problems in London and elsewhere? Who for example should be chosen to concierge Crawford? Chaney should not be deprived of Washington. He has done so well.

Should we stop blaming the British and start in on the Swiss? They are not blameless.

In 1834 ‘revolting’ persons festered in Geneva, and before one knew it, it was 1848.

Then again, because the bill for concierges might be up there with the bill for Halliburton, perhaps some ‘root’ causes might be addressed.

Poverty. Decades of conscious or unconscious exploitation for ‘gas guzzlers’. Education. The Arab world gave us much before the mullahs took over. Our numeracy, for starters.

Are there lessons in the broad sweep of an historian like Braudel? Hhhhhmmm.


Joe Welsh 07.10.05 at 9:32 pm


Haven’t read the comments but I must say that I agree.


bi 07.10.05 at 11:17 pm

Jack: ARGH! OH NO! STRAW MEN! STRAW MEN! Meaningless platitudes instead. May I suggest you point out exactly where my rewordings differ from what you actually said.

As I said, it’s easy for people like you to say “We Will Not Let The Terrorists Triumph, We Will Show Them With Our Actions”. Hell, I can say that too, especially when I’m literally zillions of miles away from the incident. It’s easy to embark on moral posturing if you aren’t on the frontline. God forbid we interview one of the _actual victims_ to ask them what they feel about this whole thing!

And what Holsclaw said. And Matt.

Daniel: truly, that’s very Zen.


dglp 07.11.05 at 12:46 am

Willfully eccentric? Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? An explanation would be interesting.

The responses that refer to a quasi/national character are nice. I like the idea that Londoners in particular are blithely dismissive of ‘shock and awe’ tactics. One might expect agents of an authoritarian state, fictional or or otherwise, to be peevish about this nonchalant attitude, fouling their speech in frustration at the detachment of people they want to impress, negatively or otherwise.

Similarly, what Daniel and George have said. The absence of moral panic is a fine trait. Just the thing to rouse the ire of jealous people elsewhere. ‘You’re not freaking out! What’s wrong with you?!’ Apologies if that seems willfully eccentric. It’s just an alternate reading.


dglp 07.11.05 at 1:19 am

Gary Younge seems to be picking up bits of this topic, although his focus is elsewhere, on playing the blame (Tony) game.,16141,1525755,00.html?gusrc=rss

A couple of snippets: ‘Shortly after September 11 2001, when the slightest mention of a link between US foreign policy and the terrorist attacks brought accusations of heartless heresy’

‘The space to mourn these losses must be respected. The demand that we abandon rational thought, contextual analysis and critical appraisal of why this happened and what we can do to limit the chances that it will happen again, should not. To explain is not to excuse; to criticise is not to capitulate.’

At first glance it looks like he’s echoing some of what’s been said in response to the NYT and Washington Post articles: that Washington was/is in denial about terror as a response to US policy, while being quick to point out the shortcomings of others; that grieving takes precedence over ill-founded assertions of culpability, and that pause for reflection is not capitulation.

Yes, these issues are tangential to the central theme of the article, but I think they’re in line with the things Maria noted above, and continuity of topic is observable in Younge’s piece.


Jack 07.11.05 at 3:00 am


I think the onus is on you to show where I have made the points you argue against but since I have trouble following your argument I will attempt to show that I didn’t mean what I didn’t say.

1) Myopia refers to the limited range of possible explanations considered, the lack of consideration of the costs of pursuing a different policy and the lack of consideration of whether the loss of freedom would buy any safety. You clearly are not one of the freedom or death school nor one that believes that it is quite hard to trade freedom or death yet you agree with Mr. Holsclaw who makes the same point.

2)More or less the same point. Some people said some worrying things, some others did some bad things, we must agree with your politics. A law that made most of these speeches illegal would make a lot of things illegal — Mark Steyn possibly.

3) I regularly travel on the number 30. As far as carrying on and not letting the terrorists win, I have to run the risks being talked about. I don’t see that I should leave London because someone bereaved has magically attained true wisdom and thinks that staying in London is not worth their loss. I really fail to understand what you think I should do or what higher road you propose to take.

Murdering 50 people chosen more or less at random does not directly further anyone’s cause. If the actions have any purpose at all it comes from the wider response. I don’t really understand why it provokes so little disgust. For example if the muderers had instead abused 50 children that also would be terrible but I think also highly counterproductive. Why not the same with murder?

Now, what is your point? Can you not find anything I actually said to disagree with or does it only work if you make it up? I’m surprised that someone so keen on the sovereignty of other people’s mouths should feel so free to put words in them.

If you are replying so quickly and are literally zillions of miles away you must have mastered the art of faster than light travel so perhaps you could make yourself useful and hang about Kings Cross from about 8 am last Thursday and see if you can do something.


Steve LaBonne 07.11.05 at 8:13 am

As an American I have no problem saying myself, or hearing others say, that the 9/11 attacks could and should have been prevented but for the bureaucratic bungling of the FBI and FAA. That has nothing to do with “blaming America”. By the same token I see no problem if someone claims that the British government should have kept a tighter rein on extreme Islamist groups (whether that is true or not is a separate matter and I am not well-informed enough to have an opinion.)


goesh 07.11.05 at 9:07 am

It was probably just diversionary in preparation for something more dramatic to come in a lesser known locale.


Bob B 07.11.05 at 10:04 am

As the names and diversity of the victims of Bloody Thursday are brought into the light, the perpetrators are looking about as dumb as Caliph Umar I, who finally destroyed the great library of the ancient world at Alexandia.

By repute, Caliph Umar with evidently compelling logic reasoned that the wisdom in the manuscripts in the library had either been incorporated in the Koran or was heretical. Either way, the library was unnecessary and had to go.


db 07.11.05 at 10:23 am

Whatever the propriety of Yanks expounding to a fifth column of Muslim terrorists within the UK, nobody seems to have noticed that the Times sounded the same theme on July 10: The Hate: Who planted the London bombs? Experts believe a new generation of angry young British Muslims has spawned its own terrorists.


J Thomas 07.11.05 at 10:51 am

“As Rice said (and I paraphrase): we have to get it right every day, they only have to get it right once.”

This is completely wrong-headed. It comes from an appalling provincialism, an unwillingness to look at things from the other guy’s point of view.

Terrorists don’t get an unlimited number of tries. Every time they try and fail they risk everything — they risk losing their own lives for nothing, they risk their whole organisation. From their point of view they have to succeed every time.

Given an unlimited number of separate terrorist organisations, then sure we’ll fail. They’ll achieve minor successes like 9/11 and this british thing, and the governments involved will get bad publicity. But it isn’t enough for them to win once. They haven’t yet made an attack that destroyed 1% of a nation’s GDP. A hundred 9/11s wouldn’t be enough for them to win. They’d just make the american government look bad for not stopping them.

If you look at it from the point of view of an american bureaucrat who gets held responsible for every terrorist action that makes the news, then it looks bad. But if you look at it from the point of view of a terrorist it looks bad for him too. Sometimes life sucks.

[quote][b]The whole reason Bush wants to take it to ‘their’ homes is becuase we can’t reliably provide the kind of security needed to keep them from coming into our homes to blow us up and simultaneously keep our civil liberties.[/b][/quote]

It’s hard to do mindreading with Bush. Up until recently the thing that seemed to best predict his actions was he’d do whatever would improve his polls among his voting blocks. But now that prediction fails and he’s promoting an unpopular war and an unpopular social security system.

Apart from Bush, though, this argunent is fatally flawed. The USA has a lot of enemies, and we expect to make a lot more. Our problem is not arabs or muslims, our problem is everybody in the world who’s opposed to the USA and who’s willing to do terrorism. And as the rest of the world sees how frighteningly vulnerable we are, we can expect attacks from lots of places — including from americans who for one reason or another want to do terrorist attacks in their own country.

“taking it to the enemy” is like, well….

It’s like, say a wasp stings you. And you decide you have to find the nest that wasp came from and destroy it. And you buy a ton of insecticide and you go out trying to kill every wasp nest or bees nest you find, and while you’re out lookiong for wasp nests with your 80 pound insecticide backpack you stumble into a deep mudhole.

So about civil liberties. We don’t have the right bo bomb other people’s property or public property. Bomb your own house if you want to.

We don’t know how to stop people from bombing other people’s property and still give them full privacy. OK, we have to either accept that our crazy neighbors might bomb us or we have to give up a lot of privacy.

I think all the other civil liberties arguments are based on our distrust of our government. We figure we’ll only keep our liberties if the goverment doesn’t know about them. But maybe we should look at ways that the government can find out who’s making bombs without actually restricting our other freedoms. If we could build a government that we could trust with our private information, then it would all work out.


Chris Williams 07.11.05 at 11:07 am

Can I win the prize for being the first commentator to mention NORAID? Thanks!


dsquared 07.11.05 at 11:53 am

A law that made most of these speeches illegal would make a lot of things illegal—Mark Steyn possibly

I nevertheless think that such a law would be a bad idea.


Jeremy Osner 07.11.05 at 1:31 pm

literally zillions of miles…

(scratches head)


J Thomas 07.11.05 at 3:39 pm

literally zillions of miles…

“(scratches head)”

I think he’s implying that his target is from marz or points west.


soru 07.11.05 at 6:00 pm

This is completely wrong-headed. It comes from an appalling provincialism, an unwillingness to look at things from the other guy’s point of view.

Interesting comment, because Rice was actually quoting an IRA spokesman.



george 07.11.05 at 7:48 pm

Soru: zing!


bi 07.11.05 at 10:14 pm

Jack, you’re clearly an incoherent idiot.

J Thomas: _But maybe we should look at ways that the government can find out who’s making bombs without actually restricting our other freedoms. If we could build a government that we could trust with our private information, then it would all work out._

That’s an idea.

dglp: _’You’re not freaking out! What’s wrong with you?!_

And of course, dglp knows how to read the minds of terrorists. Now tell us exactly where the next bomb will be, otherwise you’re committing treason.


MDP 07.11.05 at 11:45 pm

If the Times had merely reprinted the New Statesman piece, “Why terrorists love Britain,” would it have been in poor taste?


J Thomas 07.12.05 at 1:39 am

Soru, the article you quote is about an example where the british used normal police methods to find the perpetrator and jail him. They found the bombmaker. They found out about his associates. They didn’t need to change the laws to do it. And this was after a technically successful mission. The bombs went off, and the high government officials weren’t killed but they came close. It might be the IRA was better off with high government officials who survived by luck than with replacement officials who didn’t have that personal experience. But part of the terrorist organisation was damaged even after an operation where they performed perfectly.

So why is Rice repeating false terrorist propaganda?

Doesn’t she know better?


Jack 07.12.05 at 5:36 am

bi, you are sniping with half a point that everybody else has already considered. Even within that limited scope your criticisms are self-contradictory and so poorly developed that it is hard to be sure of what you might mean beyond the insult implicit by your tone. Your judgements are clear but your reasoning opaque. When challenged you won’t support your arguments. Despite your numerous targets I can’t see one that you have attacked without the support of an enormous non-sequitur. Of this your last reply to dglp is the most compact example.

Possibly you have a point but are too inarticulate to express it clearly (that might explain the extravageant markup and use of capitals) or maybe I’m an idiot for not paying sufficient attention to the bells on your hat and bladder on a stick in your hand before responding. In any case I find you rude, incoherent, trite, gnomic and smug.


bi 07.12.05 at 6:02 am

-sigh- Thank you, Jack, for giving an amazingly accurate critique of your own posts (except “dglp” should be replaced with “bi”, and “extravagant markup and use of capitals” with “long-winded posts containing several paragraphs”).

“A law that made most of these speeches illegal would make a lot of things illegal — Mark Steyn possibly.” This is of course a well-supported conclusion, arrived by a rigorous, irrefutable, detailed argument which is a nice contrast to my “opaque” reasoning and my “non-sequiturs”! Now I’m converted.

(And personally I don’t see what’s so important about Mark Steyn that he should be allowed to speak. He’s just as loony as any Islamic fundamentalist, except he’s not gotten to the point of exhorting others to kill. Or has he?)

And in case you’re still too block-headed to get the point about dglp reading minds: how does he know that “You’re not freaking out! What’s wrong with you?” is what the terrorists are thinking, and perhaps if “we” just presevere a little more, the terrorists will give up and convert to Christianity. For all we know, they may be thinking, “They’re not freaking out. Well, let’s just try harder next time. And if that still doesn’t work, let’s try _even_ harder. We will definitely succeed in the end, for Allah is on our side.” I defy anyone to prove that this can’t be the case.


Jack 07.12.05 at 6:32 am

Fair comment on the length of posts. I however am not so insulting.

Using Mark Steyn as the example was a joke. The point was that laws that outlaw these bad things inflict extensive collateral damage.

The earlier point about facts was that the New York Times article was written at a time when we didn’t even know who had been killed or by whom.

dglp didn’t claim to know that the terrorists were thinking “You’re not freaking out! What’s wrong with you?”. He expressed a preference for that as a sentiment to project. If you disagree with that preference you are free to say something like “Denying the real pain inflicted by these attacks might merely spur terrorists to reach new and greater depths — look at the World Trade Center for example”. Point made and not an insult in sight.

I’m not sure that anyone has to prove that this couldn’t possibly be the case to disagree with it however. There is much that we don’t know isn’t possible. Often there are lots of things we don’t know are possible and have to make a judgement about reality without being able to eliminate all alternatives as impossible.

For someone so worried about other people imputing thoughts to other people and about people restricing other peoples speech you are very loose with your paraphrasing and surprisingly censorious in your manner.


bi 07.12.05 at 10:12 am

Jack, why are you so worked up about what you perceive as “insults”? Anyway, I didn’t comment on this blog in order to care about other commentators’ feelings and make everyone feel good about themselves. Or is it another of those “etiquette” things?

Comments on this entry are closed.