- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 9, 2005

If heads of eight industrial nations gathered in Scotland were inclined to believe there had been progress because the war on terror was lately quiescent, that complacency was shattered Thursday morning by a series of lethal blasts in London’s public transportation network.

To Americans — and the Spanish, who experienced a similar attack in March 2004, and the Russians, weary of fatal hostage-takings — the scenes were horribly familiar: the stunned, dazed survivors stumbling through the smoke, the ambulances, the frantic rescuers. But this time there were important differences.

The attack came as a shock, but it didn’t come as a surprise. Terrorism experts of the various governments at risk have said all along another attack was not a question of if, but when. Inured by decades of bombings by the Irish Republican Army, the disciplined reaction of London’s first-responders and the orderly exodus from the bombing scenes showed terrorist acts can’t necessarily be prevented but can be prepared for.

Another difference was the absence of the reflexive chorus after September 11, 2001, saying the attacks were somehow the United States’ fault specifically and the West’s generally because the perpetrators must have come from the impoverished and dispossessed of the world, seething with resentment at our wealth and materialism.

We know the Islamic jihadists behind the earlier attacks were relatively well off and educated and generously availed themselves of the opportunities and benefits of the host countries they were intent on betraying.

We know one other thing. They are coldblooded killers. Like the other attacks, the London bombings were well coordinated, murderous and indiscriminately aimed at innocents. The bombs detonated at the height of London’s rush hour — four in tube stations and one on a bus — when ordinary working people were packed in jammed carriages commuting to their jobs.

And we can with reasonable confidence predict eventually the British authorities, backed by their U.S. and European counterparts, will figure out who did this. An outfit purporting to be a wing of al Qaeda claims responsibility, but at this stage, who knows? Later, we very likely will know.

Always eloquent British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on behalf of the other heads of government, “We shall prevail, and they shall not.” And indeed we shall.

Dale McFeatters is a columnist for Scripps Howard News Service.

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