Published: 08 July 2005
"If you bomb our cities," Osama bin Laden said in one of his recent video tapes, "we will bomb yours." There you go, as they say. It was crystal clear Britain would be a target ever since Tony Blair decided to join George Bush's "war on terror" and his invasion of Iraq. We had, as they say, been warned. The G8 summit was obviously chosen, well in advance, as Attack Day.
And it's no use Mr Blair telling us yesterday that "they will never succeed in destroying what we hold dear". "They" are not trying to destroy "what we hold dear". They are trying to get public opinion to force Blair to withdraw from Iraq, from his alliance with the United States, and from his adherence to Bush's policies in the Middle East. The Spanish paid the price for their support for Bush - and Spain's subsequent retreat from Iraq proved that the Madrid bombings achieved their objectives - while the Australians were made to suffer in Bali.
It is easy for Tony Blair to call yesterdays bombings "barbaric" - of course they were - but what were the civilian deaths of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the children torn apart by cluster bombs, the countless innocent Iraqis gunned down at American military checkpoints? When they die, it is "collateral damage"; when "we" die, it is "barbaric terrorism".
If we are fighting insurgency in Iraq, what makes us believe insurgency won't come to us? One thing is certain: if Tony Blair really believes that by "fighting terrorism" in Iraq we could more efficiently protect Britain - fight them there rather than let them come here, as Bush constantly says - this argument is no longer valid.
To time these bombs with the G8 summit, when the world was concentrating on Britain, was not a stroke of genius. You don't need a PhD to choose another Bush-Blair handshake to close down a capital city with explosives and massacre more than 30 of its citizens. The G8 summit was announced so far in advance as to give the bombers all the time they needed to prepare.
A co-ordinated system of attacks of the kind we saw yesterday would have taken months to plan - to choose safe houses, prepare explosives, identify targets, ensure security, choose the bombers, the hour, the minute, to plan the communications (mobile phones are giveaways). Co-ordination and sophisticated planning - and the usual utter ruthlessness with regard to the lives of the innocent - are characteristic of al-Qa'ida. And let us not use - as our television colleagues did yesterday - "hallmarks", a word identified with quality silver rather than base metal.
And now let us reflect on the fact that yesterday, the opening of the G8, so critical a day, so bloody a day, represented a total failure of our security services - the same intelligence "experts" who claim there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there were none, but who utterly failed to uncover a months-long plot to kill Londoners.
Trains, planes, buses, cars, metros. Transportation appears to be the science of al-Qa'ida's dark arts. No one can search three million London commuters every day. No one can stop every tourist. Some thought the Eurostar might have been an al-Qa'ida target - be sure they have studied it - but why go for prestige when your common or garden bus and Tube train are there for the taking.
And then come the Muslims of Britain, who have long been awaiting this nightmare. Now every one of our Muslims becomes the "usual suspect", the man or woman with brown eyes, the man with the beard, the woman in the scarf, the boy with the worry beads, the girl who says she's been racially abused.
I remember, crossing the Atlantic on 11 September 2001 - my plane turned round off Ireland when the US closed its airspace - how the aircraft purser and I toured the cabins to see if we could identify any suspicious passengers. I found about a dozen, of course, totally innocent men who had brown eyes or long beards or who looked at me with "hostility". And sure enough, in just a few seconds, Osama bin Laden turned nice, liberal, friendly Robert into an anti-Arab racist.
And this is part of the point of yesterday's bombings: to divide British Muslims from British non-Muslims (let us not mention the name Christians), to encourage the very kind of racism that Tony Blair claims to resent.
But here's the problem. To go on pretending that Britain's enemies want to destroy "what we hold dear" encourages racism; what we are confronting here is a specific, direct, centralised attack on London as a result of a "war on terror" which Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara has locked us into. Just before the US presidential elections, Bin Laden asked: "Why do we not attack Sweden?"
Lucky Sweden. No Osama bin Laden there. And no Tony Blair.