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July 7, 2005

London Later on 7.7.05

July 7, 2005 | By | 24 Comments

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I have a lot to tell you about the events of this last week. My plan today was to write up my notes on the George Clooney appearance qua briefing; yesterday’s afternoon protests in Edinburgh; the Wolfowitz speech on trade to the German Marshall Fund; and the mixed reaction I had to last night’s Murrayfield Geldof/Bono concert. I will yet do those posts, but priorities suddenly shifted today.

As I strolled toward the departure gate at Edinburgh airport this morning with two hours to spare before our scheduled departure to Heathrow, I was engrossed in thinking about how best to convey the wild ride of the last few days.

And then I glanced up at a television monitor and my heart sank. Bombs, multiple bombs, in London. People dead.

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As I got to the gate area, everyone was crowded around, watching the television in stunned silence, while policeman with machine guns soberly stood guard nearby. It suddenly felt like 9/11.

Early reports had 90 dead. The latest numbers I’m hearing here are 38 dead; 50 in critical condition; and 700 wounded to some degree.

When we finally did reach London much later in the afternoon, a group of us jumped in a cab to try to reach the city, despite warnings that the roads were impassable. We sped toward the city on the M4 and the A40, however, without any difficulty. Those trying to get out of the city were not so lucky and faced bumper to bumper traffic.

Our driver did his best to accomodate his anxious American journalist passengers who kept asking him to turn the radio up louder. Jon, a journalist with KOMO Radio, filed two posts on the phone from the cab. We listened for awhile to a local news call-in show where the female host in her most soothing voice kept trying to steer the conversation toward group consolation.

A caller named Colin was having none of it. “If it weren’t for Tony Blair and George Bush,” he said angrily, “we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

We were going to hear a lot of this sentiment in the hours ahead.

Still, we sped past a soccer field on our left, a group of shirtless little boy played soccer happily. Life as usual.

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Finally, we reached the Queen Elizabeth the Mother Hospital in Paddington where some of the victims had been taken. It was quiet and calm, but definitely not life as usual, with police guarding the entrance and a gaggle of reporters camped out across from the entrance.

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The Edgware Underground Tube station was only a few blocks away, so we set off on foot. As we neared the site, the police presence was strong, as expected. The crowds were not.

A steady stream of observers did stop to look and photograph the barricaded street. But mostly, the feel in the air was one of stoic calm.

Greg Beals, of New York Newsday and I decided to try the Hilton across the street from the barricades to see what the day had wrought for them. In today’s only (extremely) hostile encounter, a manager summarily kicked me out. As I left, a security agent crossed the lobby and said, “I understand you’ve been taking pictures,” and appeared ready to take my camera. I hastened to show him that I had not, in fact, taken any photographs of the Hilton. Hooray for digital.

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Directly outside I saw Davy D, a hip-hop DJ from Oakland. Together we went over to interview a group of young men standing together by the barricades. After they recognized Davey, they were happy to speak right up. We asked them why everyone seemed to be reacting so calmly and they all just shrugged. One said: “I was expecting this — sooner or later it was going to happen. I knew something was going to happen.” Then he continued: “Everyone thinks they know why it happened. . .”

Why?

Well, because George Bush and Tony Blair need to make it easier to go to war.

Davey and I glanced at each other. The interview moved on to other topics. Finally, as we wrapped up, I stopped the young man, just to clarify his comment. Did he mean, I asked, to imply that there was some sort of conspiracy by the government involved in today’s attacks? Just to generate support for the war?

“Definitely,” he said. “Definitely.”

These young men told us something that we heard reported nowhere else: in the aftermath of the attacks, the government shut down the cell phone towers and no one was able to communicate with their phones. This, they said, was “terrifying.” For some time at least, no one was able to find out where their loved ones were.

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Next Davey spied two attractive young black women and asked for their reactions. They eyed him warily, but one of them couldn’t resist and blurted out aggressively, “It’s Tony Blair’s fault! They’ve killed 100,000 people — it’s like a boomerang.” Later she repeated this, talking about “killing innocent people” and “invading other peoples’ country . . .”

When we asked her the question about the calm, she shrugged too. “We’re used to it,” she replied. “Americans get patriotic over anything silly.”

We were starting to see a pattern.

I spotted a young woman about my own age and asked if she would talk with me. After initial hesitation, she got warmed up, and ended up repeating many of the same themes the young men had given us, without the conspiracy theories.

She, too, had been expecting to be attacked and was almost relieved. “We were so going to happen,” she said.

As to the calm? Again: “We’re used to it.”

When I first asked her about Tony Blair she was hesitant to assign blame. But as we talked, she became more animated, and finally blurted out: “This is the price we’re paying [for the war in Iraq]. Yes, I guess I do blame [Blair] — makes you bloody angry. . . we’ve killed all those people in Iraq; all those civilians . . . ”

I started to wonder if someone had handed out talking points for the day. But how was it that a group of young, male English Muslims, a trendy black woman in her late 20’s, and a 30-something white woman interior designer, were all saying the same thing?

I decided I needed to expand my demographic sample and started looking for the quintessential English gentleman businessman.

Spied him talking on the phone near the barricade and moved in. Warily, he agreed to talk.

No, he wasn’t surprised. “It’s been due to happen. Sooner or later.” He got the talking points, too.

Bu then he pointed out something very interesting that I had noticed only on a subconscious level. “This is the heart of Little Beirut” he said. We were indeed surrounded by people, like the young men, who appeared to be Arab. A strange and exceptionally cold-blooded choice of targets for Al Quaida, even by terrorist standards.

Finally, I asked him the Tony Blair question. He looked at me puzzled: “How can you blame Tony Blair?”

I told him he was the only one all day I’d found who didn’t.

He frowned. “Interesting,” he said. And walked off.

As our group re-assembled and walked back toward the hospital in a sudden grey London rain, we compared notes. We all agreed that we were observing a striking difference between English and American reactions to this kind of disaster. Perhaps later the impromptu teddy-bear memorials that characterize our American communal grief in the wake of tragedy will appear.

But, for now, the English we met were putting on the stiff upper lip.

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LaShawn Barber’s Corner is asking for ideas.

Jolly Blogger has a ‘thanksgiving’ message.

Evangelical Outpost suggests a Day of Mourning

Captain’s Quarters has insight on London’s Muslims

Crooked Timber has thoughful Open Thread

Wonkette on the “stiff upper lip”

MaxedOutMama has “Isreal Slander”

Small Dead Animals has it right on “community involvement.”

Little Green Footballs: Terrorism Works.

Ever vigilant Mudville Gazette at Open Post.

The Washington Monthly has NON-LESSONS FROM LONDON.

Outside The Beltway quotes MP Galloway ” Bombings Price of Iraq and Afghanistan.”

ProLife Blogs Supporting our friends in London

Bling has more at The Day After


Following is original posting from London as I called it into husband, Jack, in USA when the site went down. Any inconsistencies may be due to transcription overload.

This is Jack, the husband: Charmaine called. Her site is still down, but she wanted to file a report to powerline.

“Flew into Heathrow airport and took a $150 cab ride into north London to conduct interviews and document the bombsites. Bobbies cordoned off area around the sites sealing the scene of the explosions. I got to within a block or so of Edgware Tube station entrance with Londoners sitting calmly, relaxing in pubs. Everything is strangely calm, business as usual. I interviewed a woman, an interior designer, expecting some emotional display. There was none. “We don’t do a lot of group hugging in England,” she said, making me think of the stiff-upper lip. “We are not sentimental.”

And she seemed to reflect the mood of the London population. Not for what they were doing but for what they were not doing: No candles, no out-pouring of grief, no hoards of gawkers milling around police tape, no teddy bears, no bouquets of flowers. No movement. No tears. Everything normal, except, maybe for that bus with the top blown off. Workers cleared and cleaned up the area real well. Spiffy. And got back to their pints.

I visited hospitals and learned that ‘only’ 37 were confirmed dead at that time. More confirmations were expected.

There were no moms with little children in downtown London. I interviewed middle-aged businessmen on cell phones and kids with Mohawks, none who were surprised.

Londoners gently reproached me about my concern over the bloodshed, “You Americans get sentimental over silly things. We’re used to getting bombed.” The IRA Troubles had hardened hearts as well as the London infrastructure.

I expected some grief, at least as much as there was when Lady Di died. And grief I got. I interviewed three very ordinary, normal teenaged English Muslims, one with short spiky hair (dressed not unlike my 10 year-old-dude). All three seems to be parroting Muslim talking points. “The bombings were a conspiracy by Blair to generate support for the war,” they recited in a charming British accent.

The bombers were quite indiscriminate. Edgware is not far from the heart of Little Beirut, a Muslim ethnic neighborhood.

A young British black woman told me, “The bombings are Tony Blair’s fault – they killed a 100 thousand Iraqis – and it’s like a boomerang [coming back at the British].” Most everyone I talked to believed that the British caused the bombing or had it coming.

Of the dozen or so people I interviewed only white males in business attire expressed surprise that anyone would think the British were at fault in anyway.

But these gentlemen were the minority. Most felt that the Brits were complicit. The people at London’s ground zero were sounding like the “wobbly” Spanish after their train bombings.

The day is a cloudy, cold, rainy 7.7.”

Charmaine is still out on the streets – 9pm local London time and will be sending pictures soon.

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Comments

  1. ss

    Hmph. They’re senslessly squandering my goodwill.

  2. Larry

    Concerning the survey of local folks (and readers) —

    has anyone pointed out that murderous attacks by various Muslim or Arab groups have occurred throughout the past century, and certainly prior to the forceful actions taken in Afghanistan and Iraq?

    Let’s talk about blame shifting, which is the unfortunate syndrome that we are fighting along with trying to thwart the murders. Appeasement is the worst possible outcome.

  3. Crazy and Sad

    This in from an excellent blog report by Charmaine Yoest in London, interviewing people on the street about the terrorist attack. From the post: ….I saw Davy D, a hip-hop DJ from Oakland. Together we went over to interview a

  4. Breakfast: 7/8/2005

    Try one of these specials with your breakfast: Charmaine Yoest, in the London, spoke with Britons in the aftermath. The LLama Butchers have another comarison of Willie and Michael. Interested Participant looks at Iran and North Korea’s connection. Life of

  5. Arty
  6. Sabba Hillel

    I would say that the idiotic comments that you mention are due to the constant hammering of the press. When all you hearis proterrorist propaganda, as from the Guardian, then the talking points sink in and will automatically come out.

    I am surprised that they did not blame Israel and the Jews.

  7. London Blogging

    Charmaine Yoest gets a few “man in the street” reactions on the London bombings; mostly it sounds like an interview with the crowd at a Michael Moore film.

  8. On the Scene of the Bombings With Charmaine

    One of Cotillion’s own, Charmaine Yoest of Reasoned Audacity, was in Edinburgh Airport yesterday when the bombs went off. She quickly made her way to London and interviewed many people on the scene.

  9. London Calling

    CHARMAINE YOST is in London, sampling reactions to yesterday’s bombings. “It’s Tony Blair’s fault! They’ve killed 100,000 people — it’s like a boomerang.” Later she repeated this, talking about “killing innocent people” and “invading other peoples’ co…

  10. London Calling

    CHARMAINE YOST is in London, sampling reactions to yesterday’s bombings. “It’s Tony Blair’s fault! They’ve killed 100,000 people — it’s like a boomerang.” Later she repeated this, talking about “killing innocent people” and “invading other peoples’ co…

  11. The Heart Of Little Beirut

    From the comments section of this post; Born in ’66 and living in Vancouver. Probably the only person I know in my age group around these leftist parts that supports an aggressive war on terrorism, here and abroad. Of course,…

  12. Ruth

    This is an example of the aid and comfort given to Islamist fanatics living in London. Unbelievable!

    You reap what you sow London!!!

    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/londonnews/articles/10329634?version=1

  13. Reap what you sow? Come on now Ruth, you can’t possibly suggest that the Londoners “deserved” this attack? That is about as crazy as suggesting that America deserved 9/11. Yes. It is sad and disheartening to hear the views of these Londoners but Charmaine makes it clear that this is a specific neighborhood in London and it certainly does not reflect every attitude in the city…and even if it did, it would not mean that they deserved to be attacked. The only ones to blame for the attacks themselves are the terrorists. Please stop trying to find reasons why it happened or who else should be blamed for the attacks. Look toward the true problem and get rid of it.

  14. IS THIS MY FATHER’S ENGLAND?

    Charmaine Yoest has been “Janey on the Spot” this week, first blogging the G8 Summit and then becoming an eyewitness to history as she arrived in London immediately after the bombs had gone off. Her nose for a story had her interviewing …

  15. Today’s links 2005 07 08 Friday

    Repeat visitors may notice a bit of a new look to the site today. I’ve moved the categories around a bit, and renamed a few, to emphasize some things and de-emphasize others, but everything is still here.

    **********

  16. From London – We deserved it !?!?

    Do the people in the UK think that somehow they got served their “just desserts” yesterday when the bombs killed 50 people there? I wonder. One of the biggest contrasts that hit me yesterday was the stark difference between the “official response” an…

  17. Nahanni

    Ruth,

    You would hear the same BS out of New Yorkers, Los Angelenos, San Franciscans, Seattleites if the same thing happened there. Why? Because they are areas with a heavy LLL/Mooreon population.

    Does that mean they represent the rest of the country in attitude? Does that mean that everyone else is just as clueless as them? No.

    Just remember this, hun. The LLL/MSM/Hollywood Music biz types have tried their damndest to get rid of John Howard, Tony Blair and GW Bush in the last election cycle. They are 0 for 3 in that respect. Why? Because the vast majority of people have a little something called common sense.

  18. Where Is This Britain?

    i wonder, where is the Britain celebrated in this poem by James Thomson and set to music in 1740 by Thomas Augustine Arne? Rule Britannia! When Britain first at Heav’n’s command, Arose from out the azure main; This was the…

  19. Blog roundup and more comments on the London bombings

    Web/Blog roundup UK blogger Charmaine Yoest interviewed a number of passers-by yesterday in London. Almost all of them singled out Bush and Blair and the military engagement of terrorists in Iraq as the reason for the bombings. A few even

  20. Dawn Patrol

    IRAQ Saturday, July 09, 2005 [Sgt. Humphries World – in Iraq] (pics) The scarriest wake-up call in Iraq. A rocket landed too close for comfort. Thank God and KBR for these barriers. Can you tell they work? Marines ‘ dog…

  21. Who do you blame?

    Really. Another attack by terrorists who’s only aim in life is to destroy yours. Because of who you are, what color your skin is, what you believe and where you live. Radical vile beings who have absolutely no respect for…

  22. In the heart of little Beirut…

    They eyed him warily, but one of them couldn’t resist and blurted out aggressively, “It’s Tony Blair’s fault! They’ve killed 100,000 people — it’s like a boomerang.” Later she repeated this, talking about “killing innocent people” and “invading other…

  23. Live from London

    Charmaine Yoest, blogging from London this week reports on the aftermath of the terrorist attack there:

  24. On The Scene of the Bombings With Charmaine

    One of Cotillion’s own, Charmaine Yoest of Reasoned Audacity, was in Edinburgh Airport yesterday when the bombs went off. She quickly made her way to London and interviewed many people on the scene. I spotted a young woman about my…

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