July 9, 2005


People Power: The terrorist plot to destroy democracy from within. (William Saletan, July 8, 2005, Slate)

"Britain is burning with fear and terror, from north to south, east to west," the Secret Organization of al-Qaida in Europe crowed after yesterday's London bombings. "We warned the British government and the British people repeatedly."

Sound familiar? In a video released four weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Osama Bin Laden boasted, "Here is the United States. It was filled with terror from its north to its south and from its east to its west."

The terror talk and the compass points are just two of the patterns in al-Qaida's post-attack messages. A third is the pairing of Iraq with Afghanistan. A fourth is the punishment theme, which deflects blame from them to us. But the most telling pattern is a constant distinction between the "people" of the West and their governments. Last year, the bombers hit Madrid, hoping to turn Spaniards against their government and force a pullout of Spanish troops from Iraq. It worked. Now they're trying to do the same to the Brits and the rest of the G8. [...]

Bin Laden's whole game plan is to turn the people of the democratic world against their governments. He thinks democracies are weak because their people, who are more easily frightened than their governments, can bring those governments down. He doesn't understand that this flexibility—and this trust—are why democracies will live, while he will die. Many of us didn't vote for Bush's government or Blair's. But we're loyal to them, in part because we were given a voice in choosing them. And if we don't like our governments, we can vote them out. We can't vote out terrorists. We can only kill them.

John Howard (Bali bombing) and George W. Bush (9-11) were re-elected in historic victories. Tony Blair was widely presumed to be on the way out of the PM's office, but it's being said his handling of this crisis could even be enough to get him another term. The people seem relatively unaffected. Political and intellectual elites though have been separated from their governments just as they were at the tme of Vietnam and Ronald Reagan's final confrontation with the USSR.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 9, 2005 6:45 AM
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