The Deafening Silence


Those who were against the ‘pre-emptive’ Iraq war warned that the country would be transformed from one openly hostile to al Quaida into a recruiting ground for terrorists, and that London would become a target for them.  This likely consequence was widely feared and predicted by others not so purely anti-war.  The police warned that an attack on London was inevitable; the mayor of London declared we were now vulnerable, and his concerns were echoed by pundits of all political colours in the media.  But in the aftermath of the actual savage attack it seemed callous, a rubbing of salt into London’s gaping wound, to remind a suffering populace whose loved ones were yet unburied of the self-inflicted predicament.  So, don’t mention the war.

It was always to be London.  The terrorists had already struck in Madrid, and it was made quite plain there that the murder on the streets, when the bombs went off on the trains killing commuters, had been inspired by Spain’s sending of troops to support the invasion of Iraq.  But to mention Madrid now might give countenance to the murderers, so at this time please don’t mention the war.

No one expects the terrorists to strike at Paris, or Berlin, or any other European city.  Hitting any continental city now would give their cause a bad name amongst their own supporters.  Innocent lives destroyed on the continent would condemn the atrocity too plainly.  In their eyes a British city was the only possible legitimate target.  But nevertheless it would be impolitic to bring up this plain fact at this time.  Don’t mention the war.

The prime minister, Tony Blair, the one man responsible for committing us to George Bush’s ‘war on terror’, the man who has by now been clearly shown to have misled the country in his strange zeal to involve Britain with the U.S.’ inappropriate military response to terror, flew down from the G8 summit to address a packed House. ‘We will pursue those responsible, not just the perpetrators but the planners of this outrage, wherever they are, and we will not rest until they are identified and, as far as humanly possible, brought to justice.’   No one mentioned the war in Iraq.  Instead, Blair was even praised for his ‘calm, resolute and statesmanlike’ demeanour by the Conservative leader, Michael Howard.  The juxtaposition would have been too awkward in a House that had voted for the war, albeit on the misleading ‘evidence’ contained in the infamous dossier.  So, in the deafening silence, the war was not mentioned.

The media are full of tragic stories, of relatives and lovers searching in vain for loved ones, of pundits explaining about terrorists and ways of combating them, of Muslim clerics and others saying how much they deplore the atrocity in London.  Some newspapers contrive to keep the silence about the war: others run the occasional article making the link.  Gary Younge, in The Guardian, said, ‘Of course those who backed the Iraq war refute any link with the London bombs – they are in the deepest denial’.  But his reasoned article was spoilt when he added against the thread of his argument, ‘Tony Blair is not responsible . . . In all likelihood, ‘jihadists’ are.’  The bottom line, that had Britain opposed the war in Iraq it is inconceivable that London would have been a terrorist target, is never mentioned.

Vox pop interviews chosen to be shown revealed a doughty resolve by Londoners to get on with their lives, and ‘not let the terrorists win’.  But on one live interview a young Muslim who was at the scene of one of the train bombs suddenly said, ‘I blame the prime minister.  I think he should resign.’  Consternation.  The immediate termination of the interview.  The link with the war should not have been mentioned.

If the link with the Iraq war is mentioned now, it may seem to lend a shred of justification for the atrocity, give comfort to cold murderers, and encourage such acts in future.  No one believes that London is now safe, but believes that the city will remain a terrorist target while thousands of Iraqis are dying amongst the turmoil we have helped to create in their country.  There is no end in sight to the terror.  Yet we remain somehow tongue-tied about the war and our prime minister’s instigating role in it.  Nearly all who spoke out most vehemently against the war before the event are now silent.  But the time will come when we feel that we must end the deafening silence, that we can, that we must, mention the war, and bring all the criminals to justice.

Harry Davis.