The Magazine

Yes, London Can Take It

From the July 18, 2005 issue: Pluck vs. defeatism after the bombs.

Jul 18, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 41 • By CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
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Galloway is an open supporter of the other side in this war, and at least doesn't try very hard to conceal the fact. Far more depressing are the insincere and inauthentic statements made by more "mainstream" types. The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone--another Blair-hater and another flirter with any local Imam who can bring him a few quick votes--managed to say that the murders were directed at "the working class," not the "powerful." That's true enough, but it doesn't avoid the implication that a jihadist bomb in, say, the Stock Exchange would have been less reprehensible. Another dismal statement, issued by the Muslim Council of Britain in concert with something called "Churches Together in Britain and Ireland," got as far as proclaiming that "no good purpose can be achieved by such an indiscriminate and cruel use of terror." This is to say too much and too little. It still hints that the purpose might be ill-served by the means. Further, it fails as an ecumenical statement in that it was evidently not submitted to Britain's large Jewish community for ratification. Why do I think that there were some in both the Muslim and Christian leaderships who thought that, in their proud "inclusiveness," they didn't need to go quite that far?

On the other hand, I must say that the leadership of "Imaan," a "social support group for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Muslims," managed to issue a condemnation that was not shaded or angled in any way, and consisted of a simple, unequivocal denunciation and a statement of solidarity with the victims. That's the stuff. At last, the Churchill touch!

"London can take it!" That's what the patriotic proles are supposed to have yelled from the bomb-sites when Churchill toured the battered East End. London can indeed take it. It is a huge and resilient city, and if there were ten thousand jihadist guerrillas operating full time within its precincts, they could scarcely make a dent before they were utterly defeated. Once I had guiltily assured myself of the safety of my own daughter, I allowed myself to think that the long-awaited attack had not been as bad as many of us had expected. It was planned to be worse, and the next assault may be worse still. The tube stations selected for the mayhem show beyond doubt that the perpetrators must have expected to kill quite a number of Muslims, just as their co-thinkers have been doing in Kabul and Baghdad.

But another reflection now deposes the preceding one. In 2001 there was an enemy to hit back at, and some business to conclude with the Taliban. Since then, there has been unfinished business with Saddam Hussein and his notorious fedayeen. But from now on, we must increasingly confront the fact that the war within Islam is also a war within Europe. It's highly probable that the assassins of 7 July are British born, as were several Taliban fighters in the first round in Afghanistan. And the mirror image also exists. Many Muslims take the side of civilization and many European fascists and Communists are sympathetic to jihad.

These are not the bright, clear lines that many people fondly imagine to be heritable from a heroic past. But the nature of the enemy is somewhat similar. Like the fascists that they are, the murderers boast that they love death more than we love life. They imagine that this yell of unreason is intimidating and impressive. We shall undoubtedly go forward and put these grave matters to the proof but, meanwhile: Death to them and Long Live London!

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book is Thomas Jefferson: Author of America.