PMW in the Media
Will terror unite Europe? Yeah, sure.
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Now that London has been brutally shoved into the cycle of violence, can we expect different and better handling of terrorism from Europe? Not bloody likely, if experience in the Iberian Peninsula is any indication.
Will terror unite Europe? Yeah, sure.
Every commentator worth his drinks money called the 7/7 outrage an act of terror - and rightly so! Terror sets out to destroy lives and livelihoods with little respect for anything or anyone. For 24 hours, London ceased to function. The dead numbered in the dozens. Hundreds were maimed; countless more were traumatized and many will need prolonged treatment. Ordinary people, who might now think twice about taking public transport, have joined the swelling ranks of victims of terror.
Tony Blair"s persistent calls for a global war against terror were and are based on what everyone now sees as true: the disease infecting the Middle East is all-too-easily borne by the trade winds to Europe's shores. The British media, by contrast, have been so busy disparaging Her Majesty"s Force's efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq that they pretend terrorism doesn't even exist. When Madrid's trains blew up, the press in England laid the blame at the door of "separatists." But not this time: uncharacteristically, the BBC rushed to label the London bombers real terrorists. Days later, realizing their horrible breach, the BBC retroactively corrected its influential website to remove the judgemental "T" word, replacing it with "bombers."
Whether it's in Bali, Madrid, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Bosnia or Beslan, the semantic policy of the day is: anything but terrorism. Thus, the sowers of fear, mayhem and terror, the murderers of innocent civilians, women and children, gain a media seal of approval as "militants," "insurgents," "separatists," "hard-liners" and other euphemistic honorifics.
Being clever at name games is not all the pundits know to do. They also give advice: to beat this terror, identify it and confront it. Good intelligence, pinpoint attacks on sources of funding, tough unity and steely resolve. And above all, keep in mind that terrorists have no interest in our view of a democratic society. That"s why they want to rip it to shreds, literally.
Europe gets high marks for doing this kind of thing well. Bonn and Rome overcame local insurgent groups in the 70s and 80s, and more recently, Madrid and Paris have put solid walls of police on the streets when needed. Blair, looking uncharacteristically shaken after the blasts, put it well: "This type of terrorism has very deep roots. As well as dealing with the consequences of this - trying to protect ourselves as much as any civil society can - you have to try to pull it up by its roots."
The decades-long battle with Basque separatists has endowed Madrid with a solid desire to confront international terror. One way is the hosting of anti-terrorism conferences. Less than two months before the 11M bombings in March 2004, Spain hosted an international congress of terror victims. The Spanish being the Spanish, invitations to their exclusive "victim of terror" club were issued selectively. Being maimed or having a family member killed in a terror attack didn't cut it. Victims had to hold a Politically Correct passport. Thus, invitees were sourced from Spain, the United States, France, Algeria, Northern Ireland, Colombia and a handful of other countries. But representatives of the millions of terror-afflicted families in Sudan, Bosnia, Senegal, Chechnya and Iraq failed to make Spain"s list. It cannot have brought much joy to Israeli and Kurd terror victims to note that the ambassadors of Palestine and Syria were on Madrid"s official VIP attendee list in their place. The organizers made extra effort to ensure that the four Israeli terror victims who came along knew that they were uninvited and unwelcome gatecrashers.
The political standing of your country in certain circles seems to set the degree of solidarity, support and basic human sympathy you can count on. The recent decision of the Spanish EU Presidency to authorize "low level diplomatic contacts" with Hamas highlights this. Star billing on the EU"s list of prohibited terrorist organizations can"t be allowed to spoil the fun. It must be just coincidence that forensic analysis of the explosives used by the London bombers connects them with the English-born bombers who blew themselves up (along with several innocent patrons) at the Mike's Place pub in Tel-Aviv. Oops...Hamas again.
Is it really surprising that in March 2005, three months before the attack on London, Al-Quaida publicly ridiculed Spain's international terrorism conference? "You infidels, whatever you prepare, you will be defeated and never be victorious because Allah has promised us victory. So you have only to wait... and we will be waiting too."
Ken Livingstone, the clever lord mayor of London, must have felt very pleased with himself for having come up with the ultimate anti-terror shield. His public hosting, fulsome praise and frequent defence of the Qatari Sheikh Yussef al-Qaradawi was a masterstroke. Regarding the murderers of women and children in Iraq and Israel al-Qaradawi used his religious authority to rule: "This is not suicide, it is martyrdom in the name of God." Red Ken, never short of spin, explained it thusly: "Very often those who raise uncomfortable truths are denounced."
Of course, Red Ken's support for the cause is really appreciated. Palestinian Media Watch reports that official Palestinian Authority controlled television dedicated its regular Friday sermon to the bombing 24 hours before, praying for Britain and the lives still hanging in the balance. The gentle words of imam Suleiman Al-Satari were inspiring. "Annihilate the Infidels ... Allah, count them and kill them to the last one, and [do not] leave even one." A nice touch, given that the PA"s broadcasting budget and the salaries of its television staff are so generously supported by the EU and the UK's Department for International Development.
Those of us yet to rise to the position of Lord Mayor are left to ponder some fairly disquieting aspects of terror. Simply put, it's... well... dangerous. A secret MI5 report leaked to the Sunday Times says that Britain is called home by up to 16,000 potential terrorists, all of them just waiting to get the nod. London's commuting classes learned the hard way that terrorism has a domestic British agenda, when the bombers declared "the time has come for the revenge from crusading Zionist nation of Britain."
Coinciding almost precisely with the exacting of that revenge was a decision taken in Scotland by the G8 to endorse an additional $3 billion of aid to the Palestinians. Coming hard on the heels of the London massacre, it's arguable that terrorism is seen to have tangible rewards. While the bodies were still warm in the tube wreckage, the very people that taught the world airplane hijacking and suicide bombers had another payday.
The war on terror is one of those all-or-nothing propositions. The lessons are many, and if you're not a high-level politician or a Lord Mayor, you can get quite vexed about making sense of it all. Except about one thing: the way Europe is playing the game, the next atrocities are a certainty.