Tuesday, July 12, 2005

American Backlash?

One Knoxville reader writes in:
Any insight on the political fallout following the bombings? I'm anxious to see if these acts bolstered Blair's position in Iraq or if it weakened the "coalition of the willing". I realize that the Brits aren't the type to capitulate a la the Spanish but how much blame has been placed on the US. I've read quite a few online articles, but I want to know the grass-roots feel in the Fog.

The Vol Abroad responds:
When it became clear on Thursday what was going on, I was a little nervous about whether this would create a resurgence of some of the rather ugly anti-Americanism that I experienced in London (and from people who really should have known better) in the run-up to the Iraq war. In fact, I would say there really hasn't been - at least not yet, and it doesn't feel like it will. I'm meeting up with a bunch of Texans for drinks on Thursday, so I'll ask around if anyone's sensed anything.

It didn't help that this morning it was revealed that American military personnel were still banned from London (see my earlier post). But that was really annoyance. People felt that it undermined the "C'mon let's all get back to work" feeling that leaders in the city and citizens in the street have been trying to promote. It was also pointed out that US Embassy had told Americans to go about their normal business in London, but to be vigilant.

In response to this, London's Evening Standard http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/ published an editorial saying that the US needs to appoint a new ambassador to Britain. The post has been vacant for around a year, guess Gee-Dubya forgot to get us a new one. I wrote to the President around Christmas asking for him to appoint a new one and suggesting Colin Powell (I also said that if that didn't work out, I'd do it. The Ambassador's house in London is SWEET - the backyard is huge and not overlooked by anybody. I could have all the bbq's I want and crank the Lynyrd Skynyrd with no complaints from the neighbours). I didn't get a response from un-curious George, but I don't really want to press the case now. If John Bolton isn't headed for New York, he might be on his way over here instead.

On the Iraq question, most Londoners were against the Iraq war (it was about 50:50 support throughout the rest of the country). Even those who were equivocal (like me) can now see we were lied into war, but I think too many will think "We can't give in to terrorism now" perhaps meaning we can't support withdrawal from Iraq. I might be wrong, but this may solidify Blair's support. Of course, if Iraq wasn't an exporter of terror before... it is now. It would probably remain so even if we left. But my view is that Cheney and chums and Rumsfeld have so mismanaged this and refuse to learn any lessons that Iraq is gonna be a hash whether we stay or go.

Will vigilance help now?
Nope. Vigilance doesn't do a damn bit of good in the face of suicide bombers. Forget suspect packages, I'm sad to say that we can only look out for suspect people. Police now believe that the bombings were carried out by 4 suicide bombers. At least three are British born (of Pakistani origin) and from the Leeds, West Yorkshire area.
I'm afraid the backlash will be against the Muslim community.

But it's time for Muslims to split their 'community' and for some to more explicitly denounce those who foment hatred and violence here (or anywhere). There seems to be a few who are standing up and saying so - and to be fair they've been saying this for a long time. One person, Irshad Manji, who is a liberal (and I sure don't mean this in the perjorative sense), wrote a brilliant piece in the Evening Standard today and she senses some hope that Muslim in communities really are condemning the bombings in London wholeheartedly (which hadn't been the case in the past). Check out Irshad's website.

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