What happened in London must lead us to the realization that in the last few years we have witnessed the globalization of World War III.
After sporadic acts of terrorism, the war began in earnest with the heinous rush-hour attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that killed 3,000 people. But many saw that as a war launched on the United States, not on the world at large.
Then came the Bali bombings of Oct. 12, 2002, which killed 202 people, mostly young Australians, and injured more than 300. Next came the March 11, 2004, attacks on four commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, again at the height of rush hour, killing 191 people and injuring more than 1,800.
The barbarous rush-hour mass-transit attacks in London, killing more than three dozen and injuring more than 700, once again were timed to kill and injure as many innocent people as possible. Such cruelty must convince us that this is an all-out war on civilization by a faceless, chameleonic enemy motivated by hatred.
This latest terrorism, not even 24 hours after London’s joy at learning it will host the 2012 Olympic Games, prompted the always-eloquent Tony Blair to declare that this was an attack on every one of us. The prime minister must now deal with the aftermath of the worst attack on London since World War II.
In World War II, the suicide of Adolf Hitler ended any chance his Nazi party might be resurrected into a force that could again take Germany to war. But the war of the world of terrorists against the world of lawfulness cannot be stopped by the capture or killing of one man, not even Osama bin Laden.
We must now come to terms with the awful knowledge that our enemy is lacking in compassion and extremely cunning, with tentacles that reach even among us. While we were at war in Iraq, draining billions of dollars, stirring up the Middle East, making Iraq a welcoming beacon for new terrorists and generally puzzling the rest of the world about our goals, the enemy metamorphosed into a sci-fi kind of monster. It slithers among us, ready to attack in ever more ingenious and terrifying ways.
As once again the dreariness of increased security, bomb-sniffing dogs and lives less free sets in, we must combat the sad reality that far too many people will see this as a war of Islam against everyone else. That is not true _ a few thousand extremists who live by spewing chaos and death do not speak for a billion others. There is nothing in Islam that condones such evil.
But just as the excesses of the Patriot Act (now certain to be extended) were defended by too many as necessary, fear and enmity will spread among people who should be coming together in this new millennium. We seem to be going backward in time.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stressed that we need solidarity in this world war. She’s right. Perhaps as the eight leaders of the world’s richest nations talked face-to-face at the G-8 meeting in the aftermath of the shock of the devastation in London, some new ideas on how to fight terrorists came forth.
President Bush again insisted that terrorists would not win and that they will be found and brought to justice. But in the years since 2001, few have been found and even fewer have been brought to justice. There were overwhelming failures in intelligence that led to Sept. 11. And before the London carnage, once again neither British nor U.S. intelligence picked up any clues.
“We will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate,” Bush said. But even though the G-8 leaders insisted they would continue to work at their meeting on their priorities of joint aid for Africa and saving the world from global warming, everyone knew the energy and zest for such tasks had all but disappeared.
Still, surely these leaders realize that the parochialism and bickering of the past few years, because of Iraq, are luxuries that we cannot afford. No more food fights.
This is a dangerous period. Optimistic by nature, Americans now must guard against being overwhelmed by frustration. We like quick results. We like knowing exactly what must be done and that we have the means to do it (hence, the war in Iraq). But we can’t invade every country where terrorists are scheming against us _ there are too many. We must be careful our actions are measured, and we must learn to know the enemy, which, so far, we have not done.
We need a reinvigorated United Nations. We need our leaders to work together to catch terrorists and put them on trial. We need effective economic sanctions and unity of action when countries harbor terrorists. We need to restore our credibility and reputation as the fairest land on earth.
Lives are at stake and so is the globalization of democracy.
(Ann McFeatters is Washington bureau chief of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Toledo Blade. E-mail amcfeatters(at)nationalpress.com.)