This column was written by Roger Bate.
The Head of London's Metropolitan Police said that the final grizzly tally for yesterday's bombing will be between 50 and 100 dead. Sir Ian Blair said there were several bodies still in the train at Russell Square, so accuracy would not be forthcoming yet, but he added that there would be an "implacable resolve" to track down those responsible. The blasts at three underground locations and a double-decker bus left 700 hurt, with 100 held overnight in hospital and 22 in serious or critical condition.
A massive intelligence investigation is under way to find those responsible, with Sir Ian Blair saying it was "blindingly obvious" that a terrorist cell was operating in Britain. According to the BBC, police anti-terrorist branch boss Andy Hayman claimed that each device had less than 10 lbs. of high explosive in it and could be carried in a rucksack. In the Tube trains these devices were on the floor. In the bus, the device may have been on the seat or the floor. Early speculation that the bus attack was the work of a suicide bomber is being dismissed.
It is fairly easy to get around the city today, with most transport systems back to normal (although much of the Tube network is still down). My sojourn to the U.S. Embassy to renew my visa went without a hitch. I had to park my newly purchased bicycle some distance from the Embassy's 24 Grosvenor Square location, and the first place I tried to tie it up was objected to by one owner -- the entire block seems to be skittish. And I cannot recall ever seeing so many machine guns in London. Half a block around the embassy was cordoned off, but there was the kind of solidarity, a kinship in suffering, that I noted with admiration. An embassy staffer, Scott, had been in Washington D.C. near the Pentagon on September 11. I had been on the 8:00 a.m. shuttle from D.C. to New York City, and we agreed about the similarities in the way Americans and Brits dealt with these kinds of crises; with resolve, and just about enough tolerance.
The resolve is obvious: strong leadership, a talented and committed military, and an economic system, built on freedom and the rule of law, which can afford to sustain hostilities and defense of the realm. But the tolerance is harder to sustain because it often involves doing nothing -- not reacting. Radio shows are already playing coverage from other parts of the world. You know the kind of thing -- "as an imperial nation, and having bombed Iraq, we deserved this." I sent out emails surveying friends and colleagues around the world and asked for summaries of radio and TV show reporting; in Africa in particular, half the talk radio callers apparently believed that yesterday's atrocities were "deserved." One wonders what they think of the help being offered by the Western leaders in Gleneagles. But no matter, they are entitled to their opinion, I just don't have to listen to it for too long -- but I am happy to know that I can indeed hear it. Were they to be so lucky as to live in a country where criticism of their own government was so easy.
Londoners have been very tolerant of Muslim organizations and one hopes that this can be maintained amid the search for the evil-doers. Perhaps this tragedy will spur the leaders in Gleneagles to some good agreements and a new commitment to fight terrorism. But I am not entirely hopeful. We have had suitable commiserations, but where are the really strong statements on fighting terrorism from either Chancellor Schröder or President Chirac? They have an opportunity to show solidarity and they shouldn't blow it.
Roger Bate is a Resident Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute.
By Roger Bate