Nine years ago today the War on Terror came home.
A series of four explosions on London transport killed 56 people – including the four suicide bombers – and injured more than 700 others.
The nation recoiled in horror. Some people even seemed to be surprised – although then and now one can only wonder why.
Most likely they had failed – or not actually been minded – to learn the lessons of their own history.
Recent history. The last bomb attack by Irish Republicans on mainland Britain had taken place not four years earlier. The final act of a three-decade campaign sparked by the State’s ill-considered, unjust use of our armed forces. The first recognised IRA strike outside Ireland came three months after the first mass internment without trial of Irish catholics in August 1971. Operation Demetrius.
A four-day Army-led operation in which 20 civilians died. One a priest, shot by a sniper as he rushed to aid a wounded man. Almost at once tales began to emerge of those taken into custody being subjected to ‘unusual’ interrogation. The ‘five techniques’ as they soon became known. Among them what we today call ‘water-boarding’.
Come Monday January 31 of the following year, one day after Bloody Sunday, the terms of the coming engagement had been set in stone.
Civilians were to be fair game.
‘Blowback’ came in the form of a 30-year mainland campaign which ended the lives of 125 men, women and children, and injured hundreds more, from London to Warrington and many points in-between.
This is the way of things. It will always happen. For every action an equal and opposite reaction.
Nine years ago we feared a new era of indiscriminate slaughter had been brought to our door. The pre-recorded, pre-atrocity statements of the bombers suggested as much. “Pull your forces out of Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Shehzad Tanweer, shortly before detonating a bomb on a crowded train and killing seven blameless people.
But the nightmare is yet to fully materialise. Barring the horrific murder of Lee Rigby, in its stead we get by on fear and loathing.
But a glance at any day’s news leaves no doubt that our meddling in the Middle East is far from over. We have too many ‘interests’...
If nothing else let us today hope our elected leaders proceed with the mistakes of their predecessors at the forefront of their thoughts.