The Burdens Of Security

The tragic shooting of Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes in London has the UK in a state of shock, compounding the effects of the recent terrorist bombings.

At the same time, London police made the right call. Menezes refused to stop when confronted by police. He was wearing a bulky jacket on a warm summer day. There were reports from eyewitnesses that they saw wires protruding from his jacket. Were he wearing a bomb belt, dozens of people could have died. The police had a choice to make – do they take the risk that he wasn’t a suicide bomber or do they neutralize the threat?

The consequences of their decision were unquestionably tragic, but they made the right decision. Faced with those circumstances, the police chose to do what they had to do to stop what they viewed as a real danger.

Contrary to the armchair quarterbacks, real life is never cut and dried like some crime drama in which the bad guys are put away in 60 minutes. In this war against an enemy that has no compunction against targeting innocent civilians, decision-makers no longer have the luxury of assuming the best-case scenario. The argument that we should put blind faith in the idea that a potential threat won’t materialize is simply irresponsible in an age where a single bomb could devastate an entire city, or a vial of some virulent pathogen has the potential to wipe out millions. In such circumstances where we’re playing defense against terror, we have to bat 1.000 or thousands of people could be killed.

It’s certainly cold comfort to the police officers involved who have to live with the guilt of killing an innocent man in the pursuit of their duties. However, the actions they took were the right ones. As tragic as this incident is, had Menezes been a suicide bomber and the police not taken him down, the results would have been dead policemen and dead civilians.

The killing of Menezes was preventable had Menezes chosen to stop when confronted by the plainclothes officers – why he chose to run may never be known. However, when confronted with such a situation, the Metropolitan Police took the actions they felt were necessary to safeguard the lives of the civilians on that train. There are times when doing the right thing can lead to a tragic outcome – this was one of those times.

No More Excuses

The BBC has more on the most recent waves of bombings in London. If this was an attack, it wasn’t a particularly effective one. The “bombs” were merely detonators not tied to any explosives and only had a minor effect. There is a report of one injured person, who may be one of the bombers based on preliminary descriptions from eyewitnesses. It is believed that the explosive devices were designed to be more powerful but failed to properly detonate.

This attack has some of the hallmarks of al-Qaeda – multiple bombings designed to disrupt London’s infrastructure, but none of the sophistication or planning. It’s quite possible that if this were a real attack and not some prank by copycats, this is a sign that the terrorist infrastucture in London is being greatly diminished.

Fortunately there are no reports of casualties from this attack other than one injured person, and already arrests have been made relating to this case.

Faring not much better than the terrorists are the press. Glenn Reynolds gives them a hearty evisceration:

Some idiot correspondent asked Blair if the attacks were his fault because of the Iraq war. And others are taking an equally negative line — one asks if the propaganda war against terror is being lost.

No — but if so, it’s because of people in the media like these. John Howard’s too polite to tell them to read Norm Geras, but he put them in their place with logic, noting that Bin Laden was unhappy about the liberation of East Timor and declared war on that basis long before the Iraq invasion.

Translation: You’re idiots, cowards, and political hacks. Yes! The preening, point-scoring irresponsibility of the press, which is if anything worse in Britain than in America, is one of the most striking things about this war, and it will be decades before it recovers. If it does.

Geras makes precisely the right point in his excellent piece:

A hypothetical example illustrates the point. Suppose that, on account of the present situation in Zimbabwe, the government decides to halt all scheduled deportations of Zimbabweans. Some BNP thugs are made angry by this and express their anger by beating up a passer-by who happens to be an African immigrant. Can you imagine a single person of left or liberal outlook who would blame this act of violence on the government’s decision or urge us to consider sympathetically the root causes of the act? It wouldn’t happen, because the anger of the thugs doesn’t begin to justify what they have done. The root-causers always plead a desire merely to expand our understanding, but they’re very selective in what they want to “understand”.

Imagine if Ann Coulter wrote that the violence of the KKK was in some way justified or understandable because lower-class whites harbored deep-seated resentments dating all the way back to Reconstruction. Would she be considered a thoughful and astute thinker and praised for her open-minded tolerance? Or would there be a line to string her up for racism and heresy against the political correctness? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which.

If it’s unacceptable to try to understand the “root causes” and make tacit excuses and apologia for the KKK, why should it be for al-Qaeda? Either xenophobic violence is universally condemnable or it is not. Giving Muslim terrorism a pass is totally unacceptable and displays the double standards that exist on the part of many on the left.

Bravo To John Howard

The Corner has a transcript of Australian PM John Howard’s devastating response to a reporter’s Iraq question:

PRIME MIN. HOWARD: Could I start by saying the prime minister and I were having a discussion when we heard about it. My first reaction was to get some more information. And I really don’t want to add to what the prime minister has said. It’s a matter for the police and a matter for the British authorities to talk in detail about what has happened here.

Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it’s given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.

And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq.

Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia’s involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting we shouldn’t have done that?

When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn’t be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio de Mello was murdered in Iraq — a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations — when al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that de Mello had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor.

Now I don’t know the mind of the terrorists. By definition, you can’t put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I’ve cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.

Thank God that the Anglosphere (with the lamentable exclusion of Canada) understands the nature of this war and the absolute necessity of prosecuting it to its full end.

Drowning Ourselves In Guilt

Victor Davis Hanson has another exceptional piece on the war in National Review Online as well as an interesting radio interview with Hugh Hewitt. Hanson makes that argument that the West is hampered by a set of ideologies that weaken our resolve against terrorism – moral equivalence, utopian pacifism, and multiculturalism.

Hanson’s theme is now a major topic of discussion in Britain where the aftershocks of the 7/7 bombings still loom large over the United Kingdom. The fact that the London bombers were relatively affluent and seemingly well-integrated young Muslims has caused many on the continent to wonder about how far the cancer of Islamic radicalism has pierced European society. In The Scotsman, Fraser Nelson argues that the concept of a multicultural society helps breed terrorism:

Britain is incubating its own suicide bombers and has become the European headquarters for people seeking to indoctrinate them. It is not enough for Blair to “uproot this evil ideology”; he must also treat the soil from which it springs.

The solutions proposed so far say much about Britain’s woeful progress in tackling jihadism: Gordon Brown seeks to freeze the assets of terrorist groups – as if the mission is to suspend their ISAs, not lock them away; it will, we learn, become an offence to provide or receive terrorism training. Such activities have, it seems, been allowed until now by British authorities. It is as if the attacks of 11 September 2001 never took place.

Niall Ferguson also takes a critical look at Islamism and British society:

No, the problem today is not immigration per se; it is the fact that a pernicious ideology has been allowed to infiltrate Europe’s immigrant communities. And that has happened because we have blindly allowed our country to be a haven for fanatics.

And Tom Leonard writes in The Telegraph that crieds of “racism” have stifled integration in Britain.

Europe faces a unique problem – for years Europe has been a haven for immigrants from the Middle East. There’s nothing wrong with immigration per se, as Ferguson notes. Where the problem lies is that the societies in which these immigrants have settled are unwilling and unable to integrate these immigrants into society. The “root cause” is that the West is simply unwilling to uphold the superiority of its own value systems.

Gen. Charles Napier, a former British commander in India during the 19th Century once was confronted by the tradition of suttee, or bride-burning in India – when a husband died, his wife was burned in his same funeral pyre. His response to this barbarous practice was succinct:

It is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men murder an innocent person, we tie a rope around their necks and hang them. Build your funeral pyre and beside it my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your national custom – then we shall follow ours.

Today, Napier would be hauled in front of a board of inquiry, branded a dangerous racist, and condemned in no uncertain terms. The idea that the West has a superior culture is anathema to many in the West – propose such an idea on a college campus would probably get you kicked off for violating some Orwellian “speech code”. Moral relativism is less the idea that cultures can’t be judged, it’s the idea that Western culture is uniquely guilty of the world’s ills.

It is this sense of Western guilt that is the single largest fracture in this war. It is also an ideological framework than makes it difficult – if not impossible – for the West to prevail. As Hanson writes:

These tenets in various forms are not merely found in the womb of the universities, but filter down into our popular culture, grade schools, and national political discourse — and make it hard to fight a war against stealthy enemies who proclaim constant and shifting grievances. If at times these doctrines are proven bankrupt by the evidence it matters little, because such beliefs are near religious in nature — a secular creed that will brook no empirical challenge.

These articles of faith apparently fill a deep psychological need for millions of Westerners, guilty over their privilege, free to do anything without constraints or repercussions, and convinced that their own culture has made them spectacularly rich and leisured only at the expense of others.

Britain is facing the question of whether or not multiculturalism is compatible with civil society. Like many things in life, there’s a tension here.

  • Immigration
  • Multiculturalism
  • Civil Society

Pick any two.

Stemming immigration is difficult, and undesirable in many ways. Immigrants can and do add to the strength of a society. At the same time, no option in which the civil society of a state is sacrificed can be considered a good one.

It’s pretty clear which one has to go. Either human rights are universal demands that cannot be abrogated or breached, or the entire concept is utterly worthless. Either those who preach hate and encourage acts of terrorism are evil and abhorrent to a civil society or they are not. Giving someone a pass because of their race or religion is unacceptable to a doctrine of human rights.

We can no longer afford the idea that for every criticism of radical Islamists must come a corresponding period of handwringing over Western sins, real or imagined. The idea that we can say “the use of terrorist tactics is wrong, but…” is no longer acceptable, and should have collapsed along with the smouldering wreckage of the World Trade Center on that terrible day in September. Either we stand as one united force for the doctrines of human rights, or we admit that we don’t really care for the concept at all. Either it’s universally wrong to commit acts of terrorism and systematically oppress women and minorities, or human rights is a worthless concept. Either self-determination including free elections is a universal concept shared by all humanity or the values of democracy and human rights are worthless.

The sense of self-guilt that is smothering the West from truly taking a stand against terrorism is ultimately self-defeating. At the same time, it’s also deeply harmful to the rest of the world. The values of bride-burning, suicide terrorism, subjugation of women, and theocratic tyranny are not compatible with a healthy, vibrant society. By ensuring that any condemnations of such actions are met by Western handwringing we only serve to justify the fantasy ideology of victimhood that helps justify the continuance of such barbarity.

Attacks In London

At least four coordinated bombs detonated on London transportation routes this morning. A double-decker bus was torn apart by an explosion and at least three Tube stations were attacked.

Al-Qaeda al-Jihad has claimed responsibility on the day after London recieved the winning bid for the 2012 Olympics, the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland continues, and perhaps most importantly, radical Islamist Abu Hamza al-Mazri was to be put on trial.

More information as it comes.

UPDATE: Josh Trevino is in Edinburgh, headed to London and writes about the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

UPDATE: FoxNews is carrying a report from Britain’s SkyTV that the bus bombing may have been caused by a suicide bomber.

UPDATE: Captain’s Quarters notes that we’re all Britons today. This war is a war in which all of Western Civilization must defend itself against an ideology of terrorism and destruction. We’ve had September 11, the Australians had Bali, and now Britain faces the aftermath of the London attacks. These horrific events only underscore the absolute necessity of ensuring that such an ideology is not allowed to flourish and cause further devastation.

UPDATE: This shocking attack demonstrates the very evil of groups like al-Qaeda. The first bombings drove people out of the Underground and onto buses – where another detonation was already planned (rumored to be a suicide bomber). That’s almost certainly evidence that this was an al-Qaeda attack. Al-Qaeda’s MO is to use multiple mass-casualty attacks, driving rescue personnel into an area where another attack can knock them out as well.

Belmont Club estimates at least 40 people involved in the attacks. That figure seems about right – you’d need multiple bombers, money men, as well as a network of safehouses. Something tells me that the trail of this event will lead to the viper pit that is the Finsbury Park Mosque. Radical Islam has been allowed to fester in London for far too long, and Islamic radicals have found a safe haven inside many British communities. This is something that Blair will have to face, and he’s been far too reticent to do that previously.

UPDATE: Evan Kohlmann of the Counterterrorism Blog believes that the statement of responsibility was a hoax. Based on the evidence, that’s well within the realm of possibility. Al-Qaeda doesn’t normally claim responsibility for attacks, and while this attack has all the hallmarks of a Qaeda operation, it isn’t at all certain that the group claiming responsibility has anything to do with those who actually carried out the attack.