Saturday, 11 September 2021

Thinking about 9/11, 11M and 7/7.

It’s twenty years today since the twin towers in New York were destroyed. All the news media are talking about it. Hadley Freeman, writing in the Guardian, reflected on the oddness, the irony, of her being in New York as a 23 year old fashion journalist sent by the newspaper to report on New York’s fashion week, being asked by her employers to help with coverage of the events. No doubt there were more fashion journalists than other other reporters so close to what was going on. 

As for me, I was into the first or second week of a new term at the sixth form college. I had no classes to teach that quiet afternoon and I was working away in my rather hot and stuffy classroom. I went down to the college office for something and found the receptionist and other admin staff glued to a tv screen - 9/11! Our college had a 30+% Moslem intake and as it became clear over the next few days what had happened in America, we had some tensions of our own to deal with. I drove home that day and discovered Phil, our daughter and her then 4 year old daughter watching news reports cycling round. How much did that small girl understand of what was happening? She certainly understood the solemnity of it all. I must ask her what, if anything, she remembers of that day. 

There’s a lot of speculation about what would have happened if the response had been different, if America (and allies - don’t forget the allies, including us!) had not gone in guns blazing but had gone down a more conciliatory, negotiating route, offering aid without strings attached.

Here’s Martin Amis writing at the time in response to 9/11:

“What are we going to do? Violence must come; America must have catharsis. We would hope that the response will be, above all, non-escalatory. It should also mirror the original attack in that it should have the capacity to astonish. A utopian example: the crippled and benighted people of Afghanistan, hunkering down for a winter of famine, should not be bombarded with cruise missiles; they should be bombarded with consignments of food, firmly marked LENDLEASE – USA. More realistically, unless Pakistan can actually deliver Bin Laden, the American retaliation is almost sure to become elephantine. Then terror from above will replenish the source of all terror from below: unhealed wounds.”

If the response had been different would 11M terrorist attack in Madrid in 2004 have taken place?

“The 2004 Madrid train bombings were nearly simultaneous, coordinated bombings against the Cercanías commuter train system of Madrid, Spain, on the morning of 11 March 2004—three days before Spain's general elections. The explosions killed 193 people and injured around 2,000. The bombings constituted the deadliest terrorist attack carried out in the history of Spain and the deadliest in Europe since 1988. The official investigation by the Spanish judiciary found that the attacks were directed by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, allegedly as a reaction to Spain's involvement in the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. Although they had no role in the planning or implementation, the Spanish miners who sold the explosives to the terrorists were also arrested”

Would the 7 July 2005 London transport bombings have taken place?

“The 7 July 2005 London bombings, often referred to as 7/7, were a series of four coordinated suicide attacks carried out by Islamist terrorists in London that targeted commuters travelling on the city's public transport system during the morning rush hour. Three terrorists separately detonated three homemade bombs in quick succession aboard London Underground trains across the city and, later, a fourth terrorist detonated another bomb on a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. The train bombings occurred on the Circle line near Aldgate and at Edgware Road, and on the Piccadilly line near Russell Square. Apart from the bombers, 52 UK residents of 18 different nationalities were killed and more than 700 were injured in the attacks, making it the UK's deadliest terrorist incident since the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 near Lockerbie, as well as the country's first Islamist suicide attack.”

That last event I remember particularly because our son was working in London and we had great difficulty getting though to him to be sure he was safe. 

Unfortunately we can’t go back and change those past events. We can only hope that our politicians learn from them and manage current and future events differently.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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