Monday, July 11, 2005

A Brief History of London Under Fire

Well, we certainly do live in interesting times.

With London such a fundamental part of my DNA, it would be inappropriate to ignore the events of last Thursday by refusing to mention them at all. It goes without saying that it was a horrible and unpleasant sequence of events that will leave a mark on my city. But it’s important to put things in perspective. So, here goes:

New York & the Pentagon - September 11 2001

Death toll: 2,986

Bali – October 12 2002

Death toll: 202
Wounded: 209

Madrid – March 11 2004
Death toll: 191
Wounded: 1,460

London – July 7 2005
Death toll: At the moment, over 50 confirmed
Wounded: Over 700

I’m not trying to diminish the events of last week. Without a doubt, it was a terrible day for London. But other cities have faced carnage far in excess of the London bombings last week. Let’s bear that in mind.

Putting things in historical perspective, London has faced far, far worse itself over the years. Look:

The Blitz – September 7 1940 – May 16 1941 (although bombing continued until the end of the Second World War in March 1945)
The Nazis carried out sustained and intensive bombing of UK targets, resulting in 43,000 deaths and the destruction of a million houses. And we are still standing strong.

And let’s not forget the frequent bomb attacks on London by the IRA from the Seventies right through to 2001. I can’t seem to get my hands on exact data for this at the moment, but London has a history of being bombed and attacked by the IRA. And we are still standing strong.

David Copeland, the London Nailbomber, targeted London’s gay, black and Asian communities in 1999. On April 17 1999, his first bomb went off on Electric Avenue in Brixton. His second bomb targeted Brick Lane, the heart of London’s Bangladeshi community. Copeland’s third and final nailbomb went off in the Admiral Duncan pub in Old Compton Street, a popular watering hole for London’s gay community. Three people died and over a hundred other people were wounded and maimed by the nails in the bomb. I was in a pub a street away when the Soho bomb went off. The pub shook ever so slightly. And then Soho was full of noise: the thwacking rotors of police helicopters in the sky; the streets blanketed in sirens and the desperate, insistent chirpings of mobile phones.

But back to last week. The bombers aren’t the only villains of this piece. There are others. Here are a few objects of my ire:

George W. Bush on July 4 2005, three days before the London bombings: "We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home."

Is that right, motherfucker? Tell that to the families of those injured and killed in Bali, London and Madrid. Time to find another angle for your spin to justify your continued atrocities all over the world in the name of “freedom”.

Here’s a doozy. This from Fox News’ top anchorman Brit Hume: “My first thought when I heard - just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, 'Hmmm, time to buy.'"

What a colossal, venal, shit-sucking scumbag. Want to respond to Mr. Hume? His e-mail address is and his office number is 202-824-6300.

All of London is back to work today. London’s the John Wayne, the Lee Marvin, and the Clint Eastwood of world capitals. We take a licking and keep on ticking. Don’t fuck with London.

I'll leave you with the words of London Mayor Ken Livingstone, which I think says it all best: "In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential.

They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail."

(Special thanks to The Huffington Post and Wikipedia for helping me with the research for this piece.)

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