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London Bombings — The U.S. Perspective

What lessons can the West learn from London’s encounter with terror?

July 11, 2005

What lessons can the West learn from London's encounter with terror?

London has become the most recent addition to the list of Western targets of terrorism in the 21st century — joining New York, Madrid and many others. Many Americans reacted to the latest attack with horror — but few were surprised. Our Read My Lips explores views in the aftermath of the London bombings.

What do the London attacks reveal about the evolution of jihadist terror?

“The bombings in London appear to further confirm the argument that Europe is now one of the foremost ‘fields of jihad’ for radical Islamists.”

(David Benjamin, author of “The Age of Sacred Terror,” July 2005)

Is the U.S. vulnerable to jihadists who travel on European passports?

“Al Qaeda faces a ‘travel problem’ — how can it move its mujahideen from hatchery to target? Europe’s mujahideen may represent a solution.”

(Robert S. Leiken, director of the Nixon Center's Immigration and National Security Program, July 2005)

How will the London bombings shape Europe?

“The timing of these attacks is likely to further reinforce both Tony Blair’s leadership position in the UK and in Europe at this pivotal time in its evolution.”

(Robin Niblett, director of the CSIS Europe Program, July 2005)

Why is the attack on London especially discomforting?

“London, with over a quarter of a century of dealing with terrorism, has more cameras, surveillance and experience fighting terrorists than perhaps any other city.”

(David Heyman, director of the CSIS Homeland Security Program, July 2005)

How have U.S. citizens come to a fuller appreciation of the UK’s history of terrorism?

“Americans not deeply moved by the IRA assaults of the past were more riveted by these attacks, quickly assuming a connection to the 9/11 devastation.”

(Los Angeles Times editorial, July 2005)

What key question does this attack raise about the United States' dedication to the war in Iraq?

“Many will wonder why the United States is mired in Iraq while al Qaeda’s leader still roams free.”

(New York Times editorial, July 2005)

Where does the United States lie on the threat spectrum?

“The good news for the United States is it seems pretty clear the al Qaeda presence that exists in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France and so forth is much higher than what exists here.”

(Stephen E. Flynn, homeland security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, July 2005)

And the bad news?

“Jihadis are part of the domestic fabric in every Western society.”

(Arnaud de Borchgrave, former editor-in-chief of the Washington Times, July 2005)

How are New Yorkers reacting to this tragic repetition of events?

“Just knowing the inevitability of it, it feels depressing and worrisome. I think we are all frustrated that this situation is continuing — now for four years — and we don't know what to do about it.”

(Carl Frankel, Manhattan clothes pattern maker, July 2005)

Is this the mood in all of New York?

“I’m not scared. I’m not frightened. New York is New York. As you can see, there is plenty of protection.”

(Dave Hoops, Long Island pension administrator, July 2005)

Is the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security providing useful guidance to smaller communities?

“Chertoff’s comments present a paradox for every jurisdiction. He specifically said there’s no credible threat to the United States, but then raised the issue of copycats. What a major or county commissioner outside the big coastal cities should do is not really clear.”

(Juliette Kayyem, counter-terrorism expert at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, July 2005)

Is there a message of hope to draw from this terrible tragedy?

“Terrorist acts are meant to show us how thin the veneer of order and decency in the world is — but they can demonstrate just the opposite if we use them to deepen our commitment to the richness and civility of our lives. That sends a message to the terrorists: You have failed again.”

(New York Times editorial, July 2005)