July 14, 2005


This is a turning point: we have to fly the flag for Britishness again (Boris Johnson, 14/07/2005, Daily Telegraph)

Of all the shattering revelations of the past few days, the worst has been that these suicide bombers were British.

It's revealing how few of the stories can bring themselves to state that simple fact.

Mr. Johnson goes on:

That shocking fact of their Britishness tells us something frightening about them and about us, because, as suicide bombers go, they are unusual. When the Palestinian bombers attack Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, they usually come from miserable lives in Nablus or Hebron. When the 19 suicide bombers destroyed the Twin Towers they originated, without exception, from the Arab world, mainly Saudi Arabia.

We seem to have pulled off the rare feat of breeding suicide bombers determined to attack the very society that incubated them; and the question is why. Why does America import its suicide bombers, while we produce our own? Last summer we had a magnificent holiday driving around America, and for a cynical Brit it was astonishing to see the way the Americans fly that flag of theirs.

On every porch, on every flagpole, on every bumper: there were the stars and stripes, unabashed, exuberant, proud. Contrast our treatment of the Union Flag, which is endlessly being cited in racial harassment cases, on the ground that it is provocative merely - for instance - to stick it on your locker. Remember Bob Ayling, the Labour-supporting businessman who succeeded the late, great Lord King at British Airways, and decided that the Union Flag was so too embarrassing that he stripped it from the tailfins of his planes.

The Americans would be mystified by our approach to a national symbol. For them the flag is a vital agent of integration, a way of asserting that, in that vast immigrant country, each person is not only American but equally American, and has an equal stake in society. That is why American children still begin their day at school by pledging allegiance to the flag, and that is why the Americans show a patriotism and a simple enthusiasm for their own country that our jaded British sensibilities find childish.

Well, if you consider what is taught in British schools - and when you think that one of the killers was actually a primary school teacher - it is hard to deny that in their assessment of what a nation needs to stick together, the Americans are right, and we are tragically wrong.

You are what you tolerate.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 14, 2005 10:40 PM

A flag on every porch, flagpole, and bumper is a gross exaggeration, of course. Not more than half true even in my neighborhood. Other than that ...

Posted by: ghostcat at July 15, 2005 1:05 AM

How easy to be smug, and how foolish. I've already read one article casually mentioning that one of the bombers "had links to Al Quaeda sympathisers in the USA."

If you think that there won't be US citizen suicide bombers appearing in the next few years, I only hope you're right.

Criminals and lunatics commit criminal and lunatic acts. Trying to 'understand' their motives, or ask 'what did we do wrong?' misses the point. Ask Timothy McVeigh.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 5:03 AM

We can't ask Timothy McVeigh, because we killed him. Hopefully the British will have sufficient intestinal fortitude to take a similar stance if they are left with a live one. And yes you are correct, that there will be future "Osama McVeighs" in America, but I hope we "care" enough to continue as we did in the original instance.

Posted by: h-man at July 15, 2005 5:21 AM

So your terrifying punishment for someone who wants to martyr himself in order to attain paradise is to kill him?

Hmm...really good deterrent for future would-be martyrs who want to die in order to attain paradise.

Eternal humiliation in Gitmo or equivalent would surely be more effective. Nothing could be less effective, anyway.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 5:27 AM

They may or may not run out of their inventory of suicide freaks (of which neither Timothy McVeigh, nor Osama Bin Laden was a member). That is somewhat irrelevant, to the question of what a society will "tolerate", when given a live one.

McVeigh was alive and now he is dead. I receive the message that those in charge care about justice, and you perceive they are ..what exactly.. impractical? Osama and his ilk are viewing the same drama. The pragmatist, he smirks at. Because he knows that he can offer the pragmatist a "perfect solution" to everyones problems.

By the way I'm not smug as you imply regarding US safety or in the determination of general population to resist terrorism. We'll see, but I desire that they resist easy solutions. Britain and the US are similar, despite OJ's insistence that there is a significant difference.

Posted by: h-man at July 15, 2005 6:04 AM

Publicly killing suicide bombers who accidentally survive would be impractical certainly, in that it probably create more suicide bombers than life imprisonment.

But more importantly, it would also be inappropriate punishment. Like punishing a masochist by whipping him.

If somebody wants above all else in the world to die for a cause, letting him do exactly that is not a punishment, it's a reward. It would be crueller to give him a mansion and a million bucks.

A more appropriate punishment would be to let him stew in a dank hole somewhere without access to the Koran or TV cameras.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 6:29 AM

Just kill him on our terms instead of his. Recall Atta's will?

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 7:45 AM

McVeigh wasn't a lunatic or a suicide bomber.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 7:47 AM

Right killing suicide bombers creates more suicide bombers. So your solution to people who want to kill you is...what exactly? Surrender? Appeasement? Collaboration? Sorry, Brit, but I think you've nuanced yourself into a corner. And by the way, executing him only kills him, as opposed to letting him take the innocent with him.

Posted by: Mikey at July 15, 2005 8:14 AM

No, McVeigh was a bomber. These guys are suicide bombers. They want to die. You guys want to reward them. Good thinking, Batman.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 8:18 AM


As I said, my solution would be to let them stew in a dank hole somewhere without access to the Koran or TV cameras.

Of course, these braindead drones plodding onto Tube trains with explosives strapped to their backs aren't the real culprits. They're machines. It's the blokes brainwashing stupid young men, sending them to London, then buggering off to the safety of some camp in Pakistan that need addressing. I'm quite happy for the them to be taken out.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 8:26 AM

What was it that Marine said? Something to the effect of: "They want to die and we want to kill them." Seems to me it works for everyone. Now, if you want to debate wrapping them in pig skin before burial, that's a matter on which reasonable people can disagree.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 15, 2005 8:26 AM


It's the failed culture that doesn't assimilate its citizens anymore.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 9:12 AM


it's easy to deny them what they want...and whack them:


as David partially suggests, have a pregnant woman strangle them with pig intestines.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 9:14 AM


Send them to prison, one of the main recruiting grounds....

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 9:16 AM


"It's the failed culture that doesn't assimilate its citizens anymore."

Utter nonsense. Dangerous nonsense. Apologist nonsense. And just the sort of thing Galloway would say: "It's the West's fault".

No it isn't. These people are mad or evil or both. Mad or evil people exist in all societies, tolerant and intolerant.

We need to spend less time understanding, excusing and introspecting, and more time punishing and preventing.

As to that punishment: whether prison is a "recruiting ground" is irrelevant if you never let them out of solitary confinement.

And help me out here, please. In my book, if you give someone exactly what they want, that's reward. If you give them the opposite, that's punishment. Sorry if that's too nuanced.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 9:21 AM

No, Brit. They want martyrdom, i.e. death while taking many infidels with them. Whacking them does not give them martyrdom. They're just another failure then. Under your scenario kamikaze pilots were just as happy dying when their aircraft hit an allied ship as when they went down under the guns of a Hellcat, Corsair, or Seafire. In reality it is a big difference. One was a success, the other a flaming failure.

And the suicide or homicide bomber isn't poor or stupid. By and large, they are educated and come from a middle class or wealthy background. So say the reports on the 9/11 attackers. So were the London attackers. A dank hole may be fine for you, but I prefer a small unmarked hole, about six feet under in some potters field. Very little room for inspiration there.

Posted by: Mikey at July 15, 2005 9:36 AM

Brit: They want to kill as many civilians as possible and spread fear and terror, or have I missed something? If they just wanted death they'd do what cults have done every few years and drink the kool aid. If we kill them on our terms they'd not be so keen to die.

Besides, plenty of criminals sit in jail and even in solitary confinement and get lots of ongoing attention. Ted Bundy hardly ever comes up anymore but I still hear about Manson. And look at that cop killer in Boston. He gets a platform and an ongoing cause celebre that would die out with him if he were put to death.

Then of course, you get to the question of whether or not they are criminals or enemy combatants. Sure, they are mad and evil, but we do no favors to ourselves treating them like garden variety criminals who can be dealt with in the criminal justice system.

And a civilization that will not, utterly resists the need to assimilate, is at fault. How do you fight for anything when you don't believe its worth fighting for?

Posted by: Buttercup at July 15, 2005 9:41 AM

the british never did squat about the ira, as long as they didn't target top government officials. they knew all along who was in the ira and where they lived, but it suited the government's purposes to leave them in place -- all the better to scare the sheeple into voting tory.

we may get suicide bombers here, but at least we are proactive in expelling or imprisoning the hate spreaders, unlike in the uk.

the british were playing a double game and it blew up in their faces.

socialist countries will all succumb to the islamic jihad. good riddance.

Posted by: cjm at July 15, 2005 9:51 AM

First, we were talking specifically about the case of suicide bombers who happened to accidentally survive their attempt to martyr themselves. I have no problem with the military doing some preventative 'whacking', as you put it.

Second, if you abandon the justice system and all you stand for out of fear of your enemies, your enemies have just beaten you. The IRA didn't win, whatever cjm blathers about above. Nor will these people.

Third, martyrs don't get remembered? I know people are ignorant these days, but even the ones who don't remember MLK have heard of Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 9:53 AM

The British think they're geniuses at Intelligence and so leave known bad guys in place--it's why we out their terrorists.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 9:55 AM

What criminals want or don't want is irrelevant. Societies must decide what they need to do to protect themselves, do those things or simply curl up and die.

In modern Britain, that will require some open discussion without prejudicial ideology entering the field. Simply focus on what works and leave the nattering about 'civil liberties' to when things are less urgent. When America had a Civil War, Lincoln did away with habeas corpus and is known today as 'The Great Emancipator.'

All of my bluster aside, I have no doubt that the vast majority of British Muslims are just trying to make a go of things like everyone else. The problem is that Britain's legal system is so wimpy that they cave in to all manner of crazies whether it is Gerry Adams or the mullah with the hook. The cowardly behavior of British law enforcement towards the death threats against Salman Rushdie is an indicator of a serious societal problem. I can't imagine that ordinary folks in Britain approve of such molly-coddling.

Blunkett seems to have a fair sense of this, but the chattering classes will be undercutting him at every turn. Perhaps giving the chop to people like Mortimer, Pinter, Fisk and Piers Morgan might not be such a bad idea.

Posted by: bart at July 15, 2005 9:56 AM


It's the West's fault. A society that tolerates Galloway gets 7/07.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 10:05 AM


Mostly, bravo.

To his credit, Blair is already proposing legislation against "fermenting terrorism" etc, which effectively means targeting Abu Hamza ("the mullah with the hook") and his Finsbury Park mosque brethren.

I'll be first in line to wave off Pinter, Morgan, Galloway and anyone else who uses OJ's appalling argument above that these terrorists are our own fault, and we are effectively getting what we deserve. Send them to France, where they will be happily mainstream.


Check your facts. Galloway is about to embark on a highly lucrative speaking tour of the United States. He proved quite a hit in your wisely intolerant country.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 10:10 AM

Brit: You're missing half the point. We want to kill them. It's not a question of giving them what they want, it's a question of giving us what we want. Should we not do what we want to do just because our enemy might also want it?

In any event, it's not an issue of abandoning our justice system. Our justice system let's us kill them -- because we want to kill them.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 15, 2005 10:12 AM


Yes, our Left is rotten, your continent is.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 10:18 AM


I'm well aware of general public blood-lust. You'd have to be a Vulcan not to immediately wish these people dead.

That's just understandable hot-headedness.

But justice, like revenge, is best served cold.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 10:19 AM

Justice? How quaint.

The IRA and PLO stopped when they won.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 10:24 AM

The Continent quite clearly begins when you emerge, nosepeg at the ready, on the other side of the chunnel.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 10:25 AM

I don't see how execution for attempted suicide bombing is not just. I understand your argument that it doesn't accomplish much in terms of deterence, but deterence is not the only reason for the death penalty. For that matter, execution does effectively deter one potential suicide bomber.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 15, 2005 10:31 AM


So does solitary confinement.

Punishing a failed martyr with martyrdom is just the sort of dicky-dumb thing that gives you Americans a bad name.

I hope if I ever commit a crime in your country you do your worst and force me to spend the rest of my days sipping beer in front of the cricket in the company of Debbie Harry and Racquel Welch.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 10:39 AM


America has 300 million people. If you go on a speaking and book-selling tour and sell your book at $30/copy and make $3 on each copy. You can sell to 1/300th of the population and make $3 million.

You don't worry about what the prospective martyr wants when you punish him, you worry about what makes the society safer. If you determine that disemboweling a murderer will make the nation safer than mollycoddling him, you should disembowel him even if he sings the Ren & Stimpy 'Happy Happy Joy Joy' song while you're doing it. The individual suicide bomber may be a nutbar but there are a finite number of nutbars even in the Muslim World and if they are secure in the knowledge that they face capital punishment, some will think better of it.

Posted by: bart at July 15, 2005 10:56 AM


If they think they might die in a suicide attempt, they'll think better of it?

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 11:07 AM

Also, I understand that Galloway stands to speak to rather more people than the Muslims and loony left comprising the 35% of Bethnal Green who voted for him, but the point is that your oh-so-tough administration has yet to prevent him coming.


Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 11:12 AM

There's no real reason to prevent him from coming. He is so blatantly anti-American that he will alienate all but the extreme left here. Millions of Americans on the fence will hear Galloway and think 'If this is Bush's enemy, then Bush must be right.' It will have the same effect as the letter writing campaign to rural and small town Ohio did to elect President Kerry.

It's the same thinking that enables us to allow David Duke or Louis Farrakhan or Matthew Hale or Ernst Zundel or any of a thousand lesser lights to yammer on. We have two centuries of this, and we are confident that the average American can differentiate between sanity and lunacy.

If the prospective suicide bomber knows that if he doesn't blow himself up, but fails in the attempt that he will die anyway, it is likely that he will lose nerve. The Israelis have found that a fair amount of 'suicide bombers' lose their nerve take their bombs and go home.

Posted by: bart at July 15, 2005 11:31 AM

Oh, Bart. Those are pretty puny arguments by any standards, but by your normally high standards they're dismal. Tut tut.

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 11:34 AM

Brit: Even we couldn't be that cruel.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 15, 2005 11:46 AM


This beer is cold! Damn you, you heartless cruel and unusual bastards!

Posted by: Brit at July 15, 2005 11:53 AM

Suicide bombers do it for 2 reasons, 1) the perceived reward in the afterlife, and 2) the hope their sacrifice will lead to victory in this world.

Being stopped from succeeding in killing infidels does not count either way. There are not glorious celebrations by the Palestinians when the IDF kills one of them before they can set off their bomb. What is there to celebrate? Failure?

Executing them may not deter everyone, but defeat is a big deterrance. It's one thing to imagine sacrificing yourself for a glorious Hollywood style victory. It's another to die for a doomed cause. The first version gives meaning to your sacrifice. The second one makes you a chump.

The pool of eventual enlists in the Jihadi cause is fixed just as Nazi manpower was. For a long time, killing one Nazi simply meant another would take his place. But by 1944 attrition had set in. At some point, you reach a limit.

The jihadist pool is rather large and not completely tapped yet. However, any number of things can cause these people to actively volunteer. We can't possibly control when this happen, and we should not beat ourselves up. It's best just to continue killing them and eventually they'll run out of recruits. Many of these Jihadists have been dying in many wars for a very long time. They can't continue to feed people into Bosnia, Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria, the Philippines, Thailand, or India. They have much fewer reserves than we fear.

We need to recognize that a certain group has already been recruited, but not yet activated. These are the people the critics speak of when they speak of creating "new terrorists." They're really not new. All we need to know is not do something particularly stupid and provocative, say bomb Mecca, which would radicalize a different segment of the population.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at July 15, 2005 12:11 PM

Brit: Jesus and MLK are remembered for far more than their deaths.

Posted by: Buttercup at July 15, 2005 12:26 PM


Bad name? You have to only follow the MSM to think any Americans care what a bunch of Euros think of us.

Posted by: oj at July 15, 2005 12:55 PM

we should paralyze the terorists we catch, and send them back home. watching their men folk vegetate might change their thinking. better yet, when we catch a suicide bomber, we should send him to his family and detonate him there.

Posted by: cjm at July 15, 2005 1:28 PM