TCS Daily

London Calling

By Roger Bate - July 7, 2005 12:00 AM

LONDON -- The euphoria over London's win for the 2012 Olympics has dissolved into a mixture of grief and grim determination -- terrorism is back in London. Driving past Trafalgar Square yesterday when the successful bid was announced was a marvelous feeling for this ex-Londoner. But now the festivities plan for the return from Singapore of the victorious bid team have been shelved. There are hundreds injured from the seven blasts this morning. And the one doctor near Tavistock Square this morning said at least ten people had died there alone. With such knowledge depression has set in, along with a steady London drizzle.

Sunken eyes, and no witty remarks from the newspaper sellers or cab drivers seems to be the order of the day. Its "like the IRA in the 1980s", said one fruit seller. I can remember the "bus bombing and the other outside Harrods" he said. Others silently nodded in affirmation. And the "markets are going to collapse again and we were just turning the corner", said another less upset but equally disgruntled trader.

I left them and went on my way to have my photo taken for my new US Visa. I was in the Kodak photographic store off Victoria Street, where I met Lance, an accountant from New York, who was there buying a pen for his notepad and he was in tears. The feelings of that sunny New York City morning on September 11th came flooding back in waves. The jovial quintessential London store owner, gave him a hug and told him that this would increase our resolve to fight terrorists. But the friendly bravado could not hide the nerves he seemed to be feeling.

Since I can't use public transport and all the cabs are gone, I've bought a bicycle. There appear to be far fewer people in London than yesterday and its easy to get around. The sirens are not that intrusive -- like Washington DC on a normal day -- and I am used to helicopters flying overhead all day. Most Londoners are not and conversations stop as another military chopper flies easterly in the direction of Victoria station. Terrorism is back in London and the Londoners don't like it. But at first blush, they're as defiant as one would hope. And thankfully it makes the anarchists in Gleneagles less of a story.

As I write, the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is on his way back to London. He said it was "reasonably clear" there had been a series of terrorist attacks, claiming they were "particularly barbaric" given that the G8 summit was intended to try and help prevent death around the world. Al-Qaeda is apparently claiming it was behind the attacks.

If anything can come out of this attack it is perhaps that the leaders of the G8 are together. How will anti-war leaders President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder react to another terrorist attack in Europe? President George Bush was quick to tell G8 Summit media in Gleneagles that "the war on terror goes on." And perhaps for the first time in a while he has the support of the majority of the British people behind him. But its not the people of UK and US that need to be paying attention, but those in France and Germany. It's time to wake up -- Paris and Berlin may well be next.

Roger Bate is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.


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