Thursday, July 07, 2005

7/7 (Or, Black Thursday III)

As I write this, the bells of St Paul's are pealing, without end. It's quite appropriate; the Cathedral's great dome survived the Luftwaffe's blitz, and Londoners will get through today's carnage. The City is eerily quiet for a rush hour, even though most rail services out of town have been restored. Anyhow, some questions floating around in my head, ranging from the mundane to the inane:

1) Why today? Aside from the eerily symmetrical 7-7 date, it appears to have been timed to coincide with the G8 meetings in Scotland, when all of Britain's top cops are patrolling Gleneagles. Other theories floating around on the timing: the trial in London of radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, the Olympic announcement (although I don't buy this).

2) How did they do it? At first glance, the attacks appeared to be a rerun of the Madrid bombings -- here's one description: 'This is clearly an al-Qaida style attack. It was well-coordinated, it was timed for a political event and it was a multiple attack on a transportation system at rush hour," said Lawrence Freedman, professor of war studies at King's College in London.' True, but one interesting discrepancy. The Madrid bombers used mobile phones to set off the explosive charges. Mobiles don't work in the Tube, however. Perhaps the London terrorists set the bombs on timers, but that doesn't quite jibe with me, given the vigilance paid to unattended packages on the Tube. (Full disclosure: I left a bag on the tube five years ago, resulting in a rush-hour shutdown of the Bakerloo line. People notice these things.) Could that mean today's carnage was the result of some well-coordinated suicide bombers? Or has Al Qaeda infiltrated Transport For London? (According to this story, it may have.) Let the investigation, and the conspiracy theories, begin.

3) Speaking of conspiracy theories, why did they only attack the northern edge of central London? The more I think about it, the more it puzzles me. Take a look at a map of the bombings (courtesy, BBC):

Granted, if you want to kill a lot of people and sow chaos in London, you bomb the Underground during rush hour. But if you had your choice, why the Circle and Piccadilly lines? Why not the more heavily trafficked District or Central lines? And why two separate bombs on the same line (Circle)? It makes me wonder if this was just a first wave in a larger campaign. The geography also puzzles because Aldgate East and Edgware Road are major Muslim population centres. If this does turn out to be Al Qaeda-affiliated, I don't see why they would target predominantly Muslim areas.

As an aside, the masterstroke of the operation, if you will, was bombing the Route 30 bus, an hour after the first Tube explosion. The terrorists must have known it would be packed with commuters looking for alternative services from King's Cross. Sick, but well thought out.

4) Are Paris and Moscow next? Fun fact: Al Qaeda's now hit the other three Olympic finalists hard in the past four years.

5) Are people going to ride the Tube tomorrow (sans Circle, Hammersmith & City, and Piccadilly lines)?

6) Was there any photo op from 9/11 as poignant as today's snap of Tony Blair, flanked in solidarity by the leaders of the developed and the developing world? It's enough to restore your faith in humanity. And if you look really really hard, I think that's the side of Paul Martin's face on the left.

More tomorrow. I'm going to try and brave the train. Be safe.


Blogger Jason Cherniak said...

Have you guys seen this?

8:06 PM  

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