Terrorists Attack London Transit System; “Many” Casualties
Home Secretary Charles Clarke said blasts occurred between Aldgate East and Liverpool Street tube stations; between Russell Square and King’s Cross tube stations; at Edgware Road tube station; and on [a] bus at Tavistock Square…
Describing the bus blast in Tavistock Square, eyewitness Belinda Seabrook said she saw an explosion rip through the bus.
“I was on the bus in front and heard an incredible bang, I turned round and half the double-decker bus was in the air,” she said.
If this does turn out to be al Qaeda’s work, it will be the second time in two years they have struck a European capital’s public transit system (the first was last year’s attack in Madrid, which killed 191 people). John Robb calls it a “direct replay” of the Madrid attacks, which sounds about right. Here’s a comment I left on Robb’s blog — I’m curious what you all think:
Now that we’ve seen two attacks along the same pattern, I’ve been thinking about what the 9/11 Commission report said about “terrorist entrepreneurs“.
Because of its structure, al Qaeda doesn’t develop institutional tactics; rather it develops individuals who have their own M.O., which it then supports. So you had Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was the “crash hijacked planes into buildings” guy, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was the “blow up ships” guy. Once you rolled up their operation, you basically put an end to al-Qaeda’s use of their signature tactic, as al-Q moved on to invest in other more promising avenues.
So I’m wondering — do two attacks on mass transit in European capitals mean that we’re seeing the emergence of another “terrorist entrepreneur” a la KSM or al-Nashiri? Is “blowing up subways at rush hour” the latest investment of the al-Qaeda venture fund?
UPDATE: Sandy Smith nails it: “This puts paid to Bush’s argument that we’re fighting in Iraq so we don’t have to fight here.”
Yup. If, after London and Madrid and al-Khobar and Istanbul and Casablanca and Riyadh, you still believe that somehow “terrorists” are a unitary thing that we are pinning down by throwing our entire Army into Iraq — well, frankly, you’re pretty fucking dumb.
UPDATE (9:19PM EDT): The Cunning Realist agrees:
[T]he “flypaper” thesis. I have one question for President Bush today: how did those terrorists manage to slip out of Iraq undetected? I thought they were “bottled up” over there, so we wouldn’t have to “fight them here.” Or is London not really “here” just as Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, and Bali weren’t here? Is “here” really just Times Square now? Did we not learn anything from 9/11, including the lesson that terrorism is difficult to fight precisely because it does not know or respect international borders? This reminds me of the German citizen who, after World War II, said that he began to realize the war was not going well when Germany’s “victories” kept getting closer and closer to Berlin.
UPDATE (7/8/2005): I was moved last night to follow this line of thoughts up with an illustration. See it for yourself: