Huge crowds lined the streets of central London today to celebrate the victory on the war on terror.
Well strictly speaking it was a parade for the athetes of Team GB and Paralympics GB to celebrate their success in the summer games of London 2012. Why then is it a victory over terrorism?
Quite simply because the aim of terrorism is to divide a country and provoke a disproportionate reaction against those who the attackers represent. In turn, this radicalizes more members of that group and diminishes the reputation of the country in the rest of the world.
Assymetrical wars are not won on the battlefield. A country wins by standing firm on the principles which are the bedrock of its society. Bush lost the moment he authorised detentions in Guantanamo Bay outside the rule of law. Tens of millions marched through the streets of major cities all over the world when he published lies about Iraq and prepared to let loose the dogs of war.
When the London transport system was attacked on 7/7/05, the day after the Olympics were awarded to the city, the object of the bombers was to provoke a reaction against the Muslim community. To some extent they succeeded with the Blair government proposing more and more laws to empower the police to be able to carry out things like a "stop and search" for no other reason than somebody looked "like they could be a terrorist" - otherwise known as the offence of "walking while brown". Thankfully these have been rolled back but a more important thing happened the day after the bombing. To his constant credit, the then London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, emphasised the unity of the city and Londoners - and the rest of the country - responded. Posters on the Underground emphasised that it was "10 million Londoners, 1 London"
In the intervening 7 years there have been some quite surprising and very welcome changes in the country, partly as a result of the all party campaigns against the extension of the War on Terra into Iraq. People also came to again understand the difference between those who falsify the teachings of a peaceful and tolerant religion to promote their own hatred. Something the British have had a rather long experience of since the 16th century and the turmoil of the Reformation. (There have been other quite profound changes in Britain over this period which I want to examine in a later diary) The Games have had two effects. The first to act as a catharsis following the bombings. This was caught in the speech by Lord Coe at the Paralympics closing ceremony when he said:
I was travelling on the tube when I met someone wearing the familiar purple uniform and a pass marked Medic. A Games maker. And the Games makers stand among the heroes of London 2012. We began talking.But perhaps the most concrete example of how those 7/7 bombers failed are way in which Britons have come together to support all the athletes wearing a Team/Paralympics GB uniform. Best exemplified by the words of a double gold medal winner in the 5,000 and 10,000m races, who was born outside the UK. When asked if he would have prefered to run for the country of his birth he responded:
His name was Andrew and he told me he was a doctor at St Mary's hospital on his way to help out at boxing.
But when I tried to thank him, he wouldn't let me. He said he was the one who wanted to do the thanking. And as we did a very British dance over who should thank who, he suddenly cut through all the politeness and said:
"I was on duty on 7/7, that awful day. For me this is closure. I wasn't sure I should come or whether I could face it. I'm so glad I did. For I've seen the worst of mankind and now I've seen the best of mankind."
Look mate, this is my country.
This is where I grew up, this is where I started life. This is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I'm proud. I'm very proud.
That particular athlete is one of the best known in Britain and even has his own victory salute like Usain Bolt, the "Mobot" - think the M from the Village People's "YMCA!". Mo Farrah was born in Somalia and joined his father in Britain at the age of 8. Mo is the affectionate shortening of "Mohammed" and, as you might guess, he just happens to be Muslim. He delayed his Ramadan fast to not loose form for the competition, a fact just treated as an interesting example of his dedication to his sport.