Thursday, 7 July 2005

Grievous loss in a real war

I am sitting in my office in Holborn surrounded by the fall out from a number of terrorist attacks. My family know I am safe, so I can write here without repproach. My heart goes out to those who have been killed or injured this morning.

London has finally been hit. Everyone knows that it was only a matter of time and scale. As someone who has seen terrorism first hand in Northern Ireland, I can say now that, despite the awful casualties, London has been relatively lucky.

This attack has all the hallmarks of an attack designed to make a small statement at short notice rather than cause maximum damage through long term "big bang" planning. Our Olympic victory in Singapore yesterday sealed our fate as the target but we have our security services to thank for the limited scale of the attack.

It is so often the case that when security is working, long term planning is prevented and small, quick, snap attacks are the only option available.

The individual bombs have been small enough to move around and uncharacteristically targeted without precise relation to others. It is co-ordianted only in as much as it has been apparently random and targeted at busy commuter facilities. This is still an Al Quaeda attack, but it has been limited in success by security measures and specific circumstance. It could have been Paris or Madrid. It was designed to be able to react in a very short time scale.

So, in a limited scale (by their standards at least) the terrorists have demonstrated that they remain alert and capable. They have struck with good timing and done enough damage to achieve the the most desired of goals - public fear. If it turns out that these have been suicide attacks, then we face our worst nightmare - that their are people living amongst now today, who are prepared to die and to kill for their cause. They wear no uniform, they form no army, they simply emerge from the shadows and detonate their device.

Two subjects will, at some point soon, bubble to the surface.

Sadly the issue of ID cards will gain momentum. This would be a travesty since they remain the most terrible assault on our liberty and would do NOTHING to prevent this sort of attack.

More seriously, the issue of our continued involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan will re-ignite. It will be no more than a week before someone says that we brought it upon ourselves, that the war was wrong and that we should withdraw and give up.

They will never have been more wrong. The war against religious extremists started on 9/11 and whilst it may be inflamed by our activities in Iraq, it does not go away if we withdraw. This problem must be faced and fought with resolute fortitude and a momentous determination. This is not a contest we asked for but it is one that we must deal with. Cowardice now will cause only more suffering later.

They are innocent victims today. Their numbers and names are as yet unkmnown but their loss is heart-breaking to their friends and relatives and grievous to the nation. As a nation, however, we must remain committed to enduring the worst in order to secure the freedom and liberty not just for ourselves but also for those living under religious tyrannies.

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