Thursday, July 7, 2005

As they once did here in America, terrorists struck icons of the British nation yesterday. The bombs that ripped through London’s storied subway system and a doubledecker bus were designed to destroy more than lives; they were to rattle the spirit of a proud country.

The Western world now stands with the British people as we mourn the victims and their families. We also remember and mourn the thousands of victims who have fallen due to the sick ideology of madmen in places like New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, Bali, Jakarta, Madrid and now London. Nor must we forget coalition troops, the innocent Iraqis and Afghans and the dozens of civilians who have given their lives to make a world without terror.

Yet while we mourn, we must also hope that July 7, 2005, will live in the hearts of Britons as September 11 has lived in the hearts of Americans: A moment of calling. Currently, Western resolve against terror has experienced a period of complacency. While G-8 leaders debate global warming in Gleneagles, Scotland, they forget that which truly threatens the civilized world — Islamofascism, the one thing not even on the G-8 agenda.

Indeed, the Western world’s capacity for denial continues to impress as much as confound. Even when we are debating terrorism here in the United States, the argument in recent months has not focused on how to wage a better war on terror. Instead, we dither over proper handling of the Koran; whether terrorists should be treated like normal criminals; or if Iraq is a central front. Responsible Americans must wonder now if the present debate is moving us farther away from security.

Meanwhile, the terrorists continue to plot. The London attacks, like the train bombings last year in Madrid, required a high degree of coordination and detail, suggesting a plot planned well in advance. And yet here we are arguing whether to dismantle key provisions in the Patriot Act. Our hope is that July 7 will return Washington to the focus it had following September 11. If they can hit them there; they can hit us here.

Another key question remains: Will Britain react like Spain and withdraw from the war on terror? Judging by a thousand years of British history and the response of Prime Minister Tony Blair immediately following the attacks, we can assume it will not. Britain, and London in particular, is no stranger to misfortune. It endured Hitler’s blitz with heroic fortitude. More recently, the 1970s and ‘80s were marked with terrorist attacks by the IRA. Britain shares with America a tradition of stubborn defiance — a tradition Winston Churchill once recalled as he rallied the spirit of his countrymen: “We arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”

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