Landschlacht, Switzerland, 28 March 2017
And the madness continues….
London, England, 22 March 2017 (1440 hours)
Just another day, business as usual.
Tourists take selfies outside the Houses of Parliament while inside the politicians buzz about on the business of Brexit and schoolchildren view the spectacle of Prime Minister’s Questions.
On Wednesday, exactly one year after the Brussels bombings, a London terrorist attack has left 5 people dead – including the attacker and a police officer – and 40 people injured.
Dozens of tourists and workers were struck down by a car on Westminster Bridge before the driver fatally stabbed an unarmed police officer outside the British Houses of Parliament.
The assailant, a man in his 40s wielding two large knives, was shot dead by other police.
The attack lasted five minutes, as the dark grey Hyundai Tucson hurtled across Westminster Bridge and jumped the curb.
Pedestrians on the Bridge thought that the driver must have collapsed and that the car would come to a halt.
Then the car changed direction.
The next sound was the revving of the engine.
This was a deliberate act.
The car barrelled along the pavement, hitting more than a dozen people, including a group of French schoolchildren, forces a woman to jump into the Thames to avoid being struck, before smashing into the railings by the Palace of Westminster near Westminster Tube Station.
“It was carnage.
There were bodies flying everywhere.
He (the driver) must have been going 70 mph.
There must have been dozens of people flying up into the air.
It was chaos.
There was mass hysteria.
(James Sheriff, witness)
Three shots were heard as the driver leapt out and rushed around the corner to Parliament’s Carriage Gates, stabbing a plainclothes policeman.
Constable Keith Palmer was standing near the entrance to Westminster Hall when the intruder, dressed in black, stabbed him in the back of the head and the back of the neck with an 8-inch long knife.
In the midst of the chaos of the attack, MP Tobias Ellwood, Foreign Office Minister rushed to the Constable’s side and performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while trying to stem the flow of blood pouring from his body and splattering Ellwood’s face and clothes.
By Ellwood’s side was Tony Davis, a Team Great Britain boxing coach who hopped over the fence to assist.
Despite their efforts Constable Palmer was pronounced dead later that afternoon.
Two armed plainclothes police officers then shot the attacker three times.
It saddens me that no one seems shocked, because terrorist-type violence has become so prevalent as to almost have become passé, with the notable exception of violence`s impact on its victims and their loved ones.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said that Westminster had been targeted by those who rejected its values of democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law.
The PM praised the bravery of police and said Parliament would continue to meet as normal.
“The location of this attack was no accident.
The terrorist chose to strike at the heart of our capital city, where people of all nationalities, religions and cultures come together to celebrate the values of liberty, democracy and freedom of speech.
These streets of Westminster, home to the world’s oldest Parliament, are ingrained with a spirit of freedom that echoes in some of the furthest corners of the globe.
And the values our Parliament represents _ democracy, freedom, human rights, the rule of law – command the admiration and respect of free people everywhere.
That is why it is a target for those who reject those values.
But let me make it clear…
Any attempt to defeat those values through violence and terror is doomed to failure.
Tomorrow, Parliament will meet as normal.
We will come together as normal.
And Londoners and others from around the world who have come to visit this great city will go about their day as normal.
They will board their trains, they will leave their hotels, they will walk these streets, they will live their lives.
We will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart.”
World leaders condemned the attack on Westminster as they reacted with horror and sympathy.
French President Francois Hollande issued a call to action:
“We are all concerned with terrorism.
France, which has been struck so hard lately, knows what the British people are suffering today.
It is clear that it is at the European level, and even beyond that, that we must organise ourselves.”
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council:
“My thoughts are with the victims of the Westminster attack.
Europe stands firm with the UK against the terror and ready to help.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that her thoughts were “with our British friends and all the people of London.”
“Although the background to these acts is not yet clear, I reaffirm that Germany and its citizens stand firmly and resolutely alongside Britons in the struggle against all forms of terrorism.”
In an Evening Standard article, from September 2016, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that capital cities “have got to be prepared” for terrorist attacks.
The article described how the Mayor ordered a complete review of the capital’s terrorist attack response.
Donald Trump Jr., the US President’s eldest son, tweeted (like father, like son):
“You have to be kidding me?!
Terror attacks are part of living in a big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.”
“Mini-Donald” has been accused of judging the Mayor and failing to read the full article.
Though one thing remains certain…
Somewhere, sometime, it is not a matter of if there is going to be another terrorist attack, but when that attack will come.
It is impossible to watch everyone and stop everything.
Terrorists cling to the knowledge that they only have to be lucky once.
“Since 2001, they have been lucky more than once….
The murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich in 2013, using a car and kitchen knives as weapons of terror, paved the way for the kind of crude atrocities we have since seen in Nice, Berlin and yesterday….
(H)owever…jihadists try more often than they succeed.
Since the Woolwich murder, 13 terrorist plots have been twarted while at any one time about 500 security investigations are taking place.
London….will defy the terrorists by returning to normal today, although it has had a sharp reminder to shrug off complacency.”
(Sean O’Neill, The Times, 23 March 2017)
Ellwood has felt the shock of terrorism before, having lost his brother Jonathan, a 39-year-old teacher, in the 2002 Bali bombings.
Above: List of the victims of the 2002 Bali bombings
Was the attacker inspired through the Internet?
In September 2014, ISIS chief spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani – killed last year in a Russian airstrike in Syria – issued a fatwa that spread rapidly around the world on jihadist forums.
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be.
Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.”
Since then, there has been a series of attacks in the West that appear to have been inspired by Adnani, including the vehicle attacks on the Nice waterfront and the Berlin Christmas market, when lorries were used as weapons, and the assault on the Canadian Parliament by a lone gunman.
Above: The Promenade des Anglais, site of the 2016 Nice attack
Above: Aftermath of Berlin Christmas market attack
Above: Ottawa’s Parliament Hill
London has seen it all before.
In the grim list of incidents in London that have been labelled as “terrorism”, as far back as 15 February 1894, when Greenwich Observatory was attacked with a bomb which killed only the French anarchist who mishandled it, London has been a target of groups and individuals who have intended to punish governments by attacking citizens.
Above: Royal Observatory, Greenwich, England
London has survived Roman and Norman invasions, plague and fire, German bombardment and riots in the streets.
In the 21st century alone, a series of four coordinated suicide attacks in central London in which three bombs exploded on the Underground and aboard a double-decker bus killed 52 people and injured 700 people on 7 July 2005; in 2013, a British Army soldier was attacked and killed near his barracks in southeast London; in 2015, a man with a knife stabbed a number of people at the Leytonshire tube station, shouting “This is for Syria!”.
Worldwide there have been thousands of terrorist attacks since the mid-19th century, starting with the Ku Klux Klan’s activities in the US.
In the year 2000, in just the first six months of the year, the world witnessed 91 separate acts of terrorism enacted on civilian populations.
And this was not an unusual year.
But many of these types of attacks go unnoticed the further away they occur from white Christian lands.
For example, every single day in January 2006 saw a terrorist incident somewhere in the world, but as these mostly occurred in the Middle East and Africa the media paid scant attention to them.
Does anyone remember on New Year’s Day last year ISIS executed 300 West African immigrants in Tripoli, Libya?
Above: The flag of Libya
If you don’t, then you are not alone.
But we remember Paris, we remember Nice, we remember Brussels…
There was a terrorist incident every single day in January 2017.
We all remember Alexandre Bissonette killing six Muslims in a mosque in Quebec City.
Above: Memorial outside the ruins of the Eglise Sainte Foy next to the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec which was targeted
Yet this same month also saw…
(I am only mentioning the double-digit casualities here.)
…17 killed in Cameroon, 30 killed in Pakistan, 77 killed in Mali, 94 killed in Somalia, 15 killed in Nigeria…
Don’t remember these?
First time reading about these?
Why am I not surprised?
President Trump has spoken with British Prime Minister Theresa May, pledging the “full cooperation and support of the United States government in responding to the attack and bringing those responsible to justice.”
Last month, 39 people were killed in terrorist incidents in Somalia, 45 people in Afghanistan, 93 people in Syria, 106 people in Pakistan and 185 people in Iraq.
We remember Olathe, Kansas, and one dead Indian computer programmer.
(For details about this shooting, please see Bleeding Beauty of this blog.)
This month alone, there have been 122 people in Afghanistan, 125 people in Syria, 53 people in Iraq, 13 people in Somalia, 12 people in India, 11 people in Mali…all killed in terrorist incidents.
Where is the world`s full cooperation and support?
Are Afghanis, Indians, Iraqis, Malians, Syrians and Somalians less noteworthy, less newsworthy, than others?
As we consider the events of the assault on Westminster on Wednesday, eight Nigerians were killed by a series of Boko Haram bombs detonated along a public highway on the same day.
Above: The flag of Nigeria
You might read about Nigeria sometime, buried in the back pages of a newspaper, if it is mentioned at all.
The War on Terror?
How exactly is that working out for everybody?
Claiming down on civil liberties in the name of security is not the answer.
Opposing democracy and independent development in other countries because otherwise their products or their labour in our factories there will become more expensive is not the answer.
Supporting regimes and dictators regardless of their atrocities because this gives us access to resources at a lower cost is not the answer.
If we are attacked by terrorists, religion is not the reason, it is the excuse.
If the West wants to prevent further attacks in the future, it must realise that neither unleashing our militaries nor tightening domestic security nor limiting discussion on supposedly patriotic grounds is the answer.
We see ourselves as decent, hardworking people who wish the rest of the world well and do more than our share to help.
We are proud of our freedom and prosperous way of life, but we need to have honest discussion about our conduct abroad.
Where is our conduct wise?
Where is our conduct not wise?
Does our conduct correspond to the values we say we believe in?
Outside of our homelands are our troops, our companies, our embassies practising the values we preach or only pretending to do so?
If we want a healthy relationship with the six billion people we share the planet with, we need to understand who these people are, how they live, what they think and why.
We need to care about the world beyond our borders, beyond our experience.
We need to think beyond our bank accounts and realise we are a planet of people interdependent upon one another for our mutual survival as a species.
We need to question ourselves and those who represent us and those who inform us and those who serve us.
This is not charity, this is for both our self-interest and self-preservation.
No nation is invulnerable.
We can no longer afford to ignore what the rest of the world thinks.
We are our brother`s keeper.
But when we bomb cities, allow dictators to crush their citizenry’s free spirit, finance and train revolutionary movements against democratically elected governments, disregard starvation, disease and starvation around the world while living such privileged wasteful lives, we should not be surprised when others might be upset with us.
As individuals we need to ask questions about what our governments are doing in our name and demand they practice the values they say they represent..
As individuals we need to demand a media that tells us the truth about ourselves and the world regardless of whether the truth is complimentary to ourselves or not.
The media should serve all its citizenry not just the business interests that fund it.
Remove the reasons for terrorism and remove the fear.
The only way to fight terrorism is to fight the causes of terrorism.
When people suffer injustice and oppression, when their lands are occupied, when they are endlessly humiliated, when they are beaten, imprisoned, raped or killed for expressing dissident political opinions, violence can seem their only alternative.
The best defence of democracy is the practice of democracy, both within and shown outside our lands.
London, Ottawa, Brussels, New York, Nice, Madrid have fallen victim to terrorist attacks.
So have Pakistan, Turkey, Nigeria, Iran and Iraq.
Their lives are no less important, no less significant than our own.
When someone commits a crime and says he does it in the name of a religion, this is not a religious believer this is simply a criminal and should be treated as such, an individual who has committed a crime.
Those who truly follow a religion do not practice violence.
Practicing a religion does not mean regular attendance at a building designated as religious.
Practicing a religion does not mean discrimination against others who do not do as you do, believe as you believe, dress as you dress, think as you think.
Practicing a religion means acting as if the words of love and obedience to love actually matter.
Practicing a religion is to show that religion as something that truly makes you happy and shines through you to make that religion attractive to others through your exhibiting love for others.
If we act responsibly then we can, with clear conscience, expect others to respond accordingly.
If we have done so, and those that represent us and inform us have done so, then those who do commit violence against us will have shown themselves to be the criminals they truly are and should be dealt with as we would with any criminal.
Be vigilant, be ready to respond to emergencies, but be loving towards others.
Fear usually is the result of our being worried for receiving punishment for the things we did but shouldn´t have or for the things we didn’t do but should have.
If my government is causing harm to others and I have done nothing or said nothing to prevent them from causing harm, then I should not be surprised if those who have been harmed seek vengence against me.
We are responsible for others and this responsibility doesn’t only stop outside our homes, our borders or our beliefs.
Did the individuals struck down in Westminster deserve what happened to them?
As individuals, no.
But as representatives of powers and principalities that allow harm to happen to others, it should not be a surprise if those that strike us down feel we are deserving of such a terrible fate.
We need one another and until we learn that lesson we will continue to destroy one another.
Sources: Wikipedia / The Times, 23 March 2017 / The New York Times, 25 March 2017 / Noam Chomsky, Power and Terror: Post-9/11 Talks and Interviews / Mark Hertsgaard, The Eagle’s Shadow: Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World