Well another group of cowards has struck. Three bombs were exploded in the London rush hour killing at least 40 people on a double Decker bus, and in two underground stations. A terrorist group claiming affiliation with Al-Qaeda has taken “credit” for this latest attack.
Using the excuse of British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan they unleashed the worst carnage on London since the bombing raids of World War two. Even at the height of the I.R.A. bombings of the sixties and the seventies the citizens of London have never had to deal with such a horrendous event.
World reaction has been quick with denunciations coming thick and furious from all of Britain’s allies. These have been quickly followed by announcements of beefed up security in all G8 countries who have troops involved in either Iraq or Afghanistan. From Toronto to Washington, and Rome to Sydney (which although not G8, Australia has been one of America’s biggest supporters in Iraq) all mass transit systems are being scrutinized for potential threats.
As the countdown to the G8 meetings in Scotland this weekend continues it is certain that security restrictions around the site will be increased even more. What this will mean for the demonstrations planned to coincide with the conference remains to be seen. Already there have been clashes between protestors and police at the barricades and fences surrounding the Gleneagles Hotel, and this latest act is bound to increase police worries about the potential for any type of violence.
The British author Christopher Brookmyre in his book A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away refers to terrorists as “wankers without the balls to face a man with a gun”, or at least words to that effect. For all their brave talk about fighting for one cause or another they never have the courage of their convictions.
The bravery involved in sneaking up behind somebody and hitting them in the back of the head with a hammer while their sleeping is all that these so called freedom fighters are good for. It is very rare for them to ever take on combat soldiers in any kind real engagement.
There was a time when guerrilla groups were actually fighting units. From the original Spanish partisans who fought Napoleon, (the word guerrilla comes from the Spanish word for war, not from a member of the ape family–similar to the French word guerre) and engaged in hit and run tactics against supply trains and other lightly armed troops, their simple objective was to make life as miserable as possible for the forces occupying their country.
Guerrilla warfare and partisan actions were incredibly dangerous with repercussions for those waging it far worse then regular troops. If capture, they did not receive the same treatment as regular soldiers, and were guaranteed a painful death and torture. There was also the good chance that any near by civilians would be punished for their actions.
Today’s killers of civilians only worry is the amount of publicity they can generate for whatever cause they are purporting to represent. Their actions usually have the opposite effect that they claim to be seeking. Instead of breaking a people’s resolve it invariably stiffens, due to a desire to not surrender to cowards. (In the case of Spain, the majority of people in the country had been against the war in Iraq. The government which had committed troops was defeated in an election based on that very issue. It was not the terrorist attack on Madrid that caused the supposed turnaround. There can be no turnaround when the policy was not supported in the first place.)
The real danger of any terrorist attack, aside from the obvious destruction and death, is our reaction to it. How much we let blind panic govern us in the immediate aftermath gives almost more satisfaction to the cowards that originated the attacks then the act itself. How they must gloat when we immediately implement policies that restrict the freedoms we cherish and are willing to die for on battlefields around the planet.
Why do our governments think we who they trust to fight and die for freedoms of others would not be willing to do the same at home? True, we have little or no defence against suicide bombers willing to fly a plane into an office building, like we would armed and equipped on the field of battle. But as the war in Iraq has shown us, even armed soldiers have no defence against those willing to sacrifice themselves as human bombs.
In his song “The Harder They Come” (from the movie of the same name),
Jimmy Cliff sings: “I’d rather die a free man in my grave, then living like a puppet or a slave…” As an act of defiance against those who would intimidate us through acts of terror, should not that be the response? Do our governments have so little faith in us and our belief in liberty that they think we are not prepared to make sacrifices for the freedoms we so cherish?
Instead they act like we need to have our hands held and are incapable of making decisions. Have we not already surrendered to these cowards when we surrender our freedoms? How can our governments so blithely take away the rights we claim to epitomize?
Do we not have trained people whose job it is to ensure that these sorts of attacks don’t occur? What happens to the massive amounts of taxpayers’ money that goes into maintaining the security forces that all countries utilize for the protection of their citizens? Aren’t our governments admitting it’s wasted because these people can’t do their jobs unless we start treating all our citizens like suspects and throw away our cherished civil liberties?
In 1970, Canada was hit with a series of internal terrorist acts. The Front de Liberation de Quebec kidnapped the British High Commissioner to Quebec and the Quebec provincial Minister of Justice. The Justice Minister, Pierre Laporte, was found murdered four days after his disappearance. Then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, under pressure from the mayor of Montreal and the premier of Quebec, implemented the War Measures Act, the only time in the country’s history it has been used outside of wartime. The act gave the army and the police sweeping powers to arrest anyone they thought potentially dangerous and hold them without trial for an indefinite period. Thousands of people were rounded up and imprisoned for no reason other then suspicion. That quite a few of them happened to be political opponents of the mayor of Montreal who was facing an election at the time must have been coincidental.
This two week period in Canada’ history (the October Crisis) further divided Quebec along separatist and federalist lines. Since the majority of those rounded up were members of the Parti Quebecois, a nationalist Quebec political party, it only increased their alienation from the rest of Canada. It’s debatable whether the War Measures Act had any impact on resolving the crisis, but in the long run it did more harm then good.
Nationalists who may have just wanted more recognition for French language rights in Quebec in 1970 became convinced that only separation would guarantee them security from the same sort of event happening again. It may not have been the birth of the Separatist movement in Quebec, but the War Measures Act sure hastened their ascension to power. From 1970 to 1976, the Parti Quebecois went from an obscure fringe group to holding a convincing majority in the National Assembly parliament of Quebec. This in turn led to the first vote on sovereignty association.
The current situation is different in that the enemy is from outside the country. But there are still lessons that can be learned. Instead of the county’s attention being focused on the terrorists it was split over concern of the repercussions of the implementation of martial law. The same thing is happening in our countries today. Instead of all our citizens standing together against a common enemy we are turning on ourselves over internal issues. It’s gone beyond who’s right and who’s wrong. The rhetoric from both sides has become so vehement that a rift is being formed that may never be healed.
The terrorists have no need to launch any more attacks on us. Their work has been accomplished by our surrendering of the ideals that make free countries strong. Think how much more unified both the United States, and to a lesser extent Canada, would be if we weren’t torn apart by divisive arguments about freedoms and liberty. If our governments had shown enough faith in us to have the courage of our convictions wouldn’t that have had more of an impact on the world then our constant bickering and false alarms.
I’m proud of the freedoms and liberties Canada grants me and I would be more than willing to die in its defence if we were ever invaded. By implementing laws which restrict those rights, are not governments showing a lack of faith in their population’s patriotism?
I don’t want see anyone die in a terrorist attack. Attacks like today’s in London only show that we are dealing with cowards who are too afraid of fighting a war on the battlefield to pick up a gun and join their comrades in battle. Isn’t our best response to show that they can’t scare us and we will never surrender any part of what makes us better than them?