Thursday, my Mom and I watched the news of the attacks in London just before each heading off for out-of-state trips, by airplane and train respectively. Four days later, the Times reports on the limited progress of the intelligence investigation, and the Guardian offers an account of the limited progress of the recovery effort:
They could only begin to guess the full horror of the work going on in the tunnels directly underneath them as teams endeavoured to retrieve the bodies or the remains of those who still lie among the mangled wreckage of the Piccadilly line tube train. Rescue workers battled with temperatures which were rising above 60C (140F) in their attempt to retrieve all those who had fallen victim to Thursday’s bombs within 48 hours. As well as the heat, rats, dust and the risk of contamination from asbestos have all hampered the operation. Besides this, there was initial concern that the tunnel might collapse. Refrigeration units stood near the scene to store the bodies – and body parts – before they were taken to a temporary mortuary at the barracks of the Honourable Artillery Company in the City. Scotland Yard’s senior identification manager, Detective Superintendent Jim Dickie, said the extreme heat was a “significant factor” in the recovery operation between King’s Cross and Russell Square tube stations. The affected carriage is about 100ft below the surface. The space is so small that only a limited number of rescuers can work inside the tunnel at any time and teams have to return to the surface periodically, so harrowing are the conditions, which one rescue worker described as “hell on earth”. Deputy Chief Constable Andy Trotter, of British Transport police, warned that it would be some time before the “methodical and meticulous” but “extremely difficult” recovery operation was finished.
In the wake of the murders in London, the burning question, as Ivo Daalder reminds us, is not how we best exact retribution but how we reach the point which our current leadership has done so much to further distance – the defeat of Al Qaeda:
What the bombing did is to remind anyone who needed to be reminded that the job of destroying Al Qaeda remains undone. The Iraq War is a major reason why we have not succeeded — it has been a giant distraction (in terms of manpower, intelligence, energy, money, and high-level attention) from this essential task…When the right advocates “retaliation” it has in mind not Al Qaeda, but a state (Iran and Syria, mostly)…Even after London, they still don’t get the threat we face — which is why they call for retaliation whereas we call for getting back to the main business of destroying Al Qaeda.
But as Nathan observes, a full commitment to peace and security demands a longer-term perspective:
The best way to fight terrorism is to drain the pool of public support. Supporting the victims of the Tsunami in Indonesia was one of the best ways possible to improve the image of the US in that country. A serious commitment to aid in Africa, aside from being the right thing to do, is the best use of money to fight terrorism as well. If we took the money wasted in Iraq, we could build global support and allies around the world through a crusade to end poverty, even as we’d have additional money to secure our vulnerable facilities against the crazies left over. London shows our current strategy has failed. Let’s try a new one build on global justice abroad and intelligent security at home.