This post has been rewritten; comments below refer to a prior version of this post, which was riddled with errors.
By now, I believe all readers will know that London was struck by four bombs during the commute hour. First, I wish to express my condolences to the people of London for this (Independent time line). At this time, there are 37 believed to have been killed, mostly in the London Tube. One of the shorter and more succinct summaries I've seen is here, at Global Guerrillas.
This is a direct replay of the successful Madrid bombings and follows the pattern of system disruption we see emerging globally (a move to economic sabotage that was anticipated by this analyst). As we know, a single series of attacks on this scale will not harm a city's economics (see Urban Takedowns for more) in a lasting way. A "terrorism tax" that deflates the economic equilibrium of a major urban environment requires a series of attacks over a period of months that changes basic behavior....That seems like the safest conclusion. However, I would like to prod a bit deeper.
Attacks of this type aren't aimed at the moral defeat of the UK's population. They are an "insult" meant to prompt more global fragmentation (an increase in military activity, isolation, and instability). Think in terms of "effects based" operations, particularly effects that damage the economies of target countries
Another, well-reasoned and unimpeachable essay is offered by Prof. Juan Cole (Informed Comment). Again, I suspect there is an additional twist to the attacks that makes the picture somewhat more complex, but I'll get to that presently.
Polly Toynbee (Guardian) also has some perceptive and philosophical remarks on the significance of the attacks: they are, to all intents and purposes, meaningless.
...In a way it hardly matters who did it or why.As one who has spent a lot of time and energy trying to understand why terrorism occurs and how political systems foster it, I have to admit that it's not obvious. It's exasperating that our society makes the same mistakes endlessly, but it's actually hard to explain which act is a mistake. The terrorist may believe, in his own inverted righteousness, that it ought to be obvious, but it is not.
Random atrocity has become part of the modern weather, almost as devoid of meaning as typhoons. The minds of those who did it seem too remote to understand, too unknowable a twister to summon up much rage or thirst for revenge. A thousand questions about fanaticism will go for ever unanswered. Of course we must detect, prevent and expunge it as best we can - but it is a monstrous force of unreason beyond arguing with.
Now, let's turn to the matter of who benefits from these monstrous acts. In my opinion, there is clearly a "repressed" class struggle underway in much of the Muslim world, and the elites in the more traditionally-minded regimes are threatened by this struggle (HC). They rely on confessional identity politics to de-class the struggle in Islamic society, to strip politics of its class character.
Al-Qaeda is allowed to "take credit" for everything, which serves the strategic interests of the conservative (because "Islamic national"-istic) ruling elites. The potential of class consciousness is thwarted, and a chimerical "Islamic nationalism" drives out social justice as a goal. Western intelligence perceives no threat to their interests by allowing al-Qaeda to bask in "the reflected glory" of the actual perpetrators; al-Qaeda does not propagate a coherent ideology of social transformation.
Posted by James R MacLean at July 7, 2005 09:02 PM
LINKS TO PUBLIC AL-QAEDA/UbL STATEMENTS: For the following links, I am indebted to Mark T.A.W., who provides considerable detail:
Robert Fisk describes his encounter with 'Usama bin Ladin (6th Dec 1996)
'Usama bin Ladin interview with Robert Fisk (1996)
'Usama bin Laden interview with Nida'ul Islam (1996)
'Usama Bin Laden interview with Peter Arnett (CNN, 1997)
Frontline: Who is bin Laden?: interview with 'Usama bin Laden (May 1998)
Jan 11, 1999 issue of Time-Asia