TWO COOL AMERICAN UNIVERSITY CHICAS got to meet some of the cast of West Wing last night in Dupont Circle. Here's the evidence.
SO I'VE BEEN HERE IN LONDON for almost two weeks now, and I'm beginning to get a good feel of the place. There's a much more class-conscious culture here; my internship, which poses itself as a thinktank, is rather an exclusive club filled with lords and earls that put on a "debate" in the House of Commons twice a year. Among my professors here, there is definitely a smug anti-Bush sentiment, yet the Brits love American culture. American movies, from classics to also-rans, are shown nightly on British TV. The morning news shows are patterned after the US. And there is a near-obsession over Hollywood actors. Los Angeles is quite the glamorous place in the eyes of Britain.
Anyhow, here's my column -- scheduled to be published in American University's newspaper The Eagle next Monday. You guys get an advanced look at it -- it's about England and the upcoming war against Iraq.
During my first week of my semester-long stay in London, one of the most impressionable moments came during a plumber’s visit to our flat. “You Americans learned what it’s like on 9/11. Until then, you hadn’t experienced what we have,” he opined while fixing our clogged sink, recalling Britain’s tenacity during the German blitz on London and the spate of Ireland’s terrorist bombings in London over the last three decades. As a child, the plumber recalled the terror he experienced when a local pub was bombed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and he narrowly escaped death. He was familiar with terror firsthand, and understood the incalculable damage terrorists cause, whether by regime (Hitler’s Germany) or by terrorist group (the IRA). Heightened awareness is prevalent throughout England’s capital city. Unattended packages on the London Underground subway can cause massive delays, as police send their bomb squads for inspection.
Indeed, upon our arrival, scores of arrests were reported across Europe – in France, Spain and here in England – of Islamist terrorists attempting to poison British food supplies and spray the deadly chemical risin in London. British police stormed into the notorious Finsbury Park mosque, where hate-inciting cleric Abu Hamza recruits Islamic terrorists and incites violence from the pulpit. British police stormed the mosque, finding stun guns, chemical warfare protection suits and a CS gas canister – hardly material necessary for Friday prayers.
Yet even while the threat of terrorism hits home here in Britain, public opinion here leans against a war against Saddam Hussein – a maniacal dictator who has accumulated incalculable amounts of chemical and biological weaponry and threatens to become the first Arab state in the Middle East to acquire a nuclear weapon. Despite Hussein’s threat, the television satires here mock American leadership, the archbishop of Canterbury deemed a war on Iraq “illegal and immoral” and even some Tory MPs have adopted anti-war stances. “I was stunned to realize that people here seem more fearful of American power than they are of oppressiveness and hideousness of Saddam’s regime,” professor Melvyn Leffler said in a Washington Post article.
British prime minister Tony Blair understands the threat Saddam poses. His government issued a lengthy dossier of Saddam’s horrific human rights violations, including the cutting off of political dissidents’ tongues. That’s one of the less severe punishments issued by Saddam. Without the patrolling of the “no-fly zones” as part of the sanctions imposed by the US and Britain, thousands of Kurds to the north would likely be massacred and become part of the over 1 million murdered by the Iraqi madman. And with his acquisition of chemical and biological weapons, it’s not a stretch to believe that Saddam would hand off some of the deadly substances to a sub-national terrorist group like al Qaeda. British intelligence believes that the recent discovery of risin in London is connected to Abu Musaab al-Zarqaqi, an al-Qaeda lieutenant who received treatment at a Baghdad hospital.
With the discovery of a plot to unleash the deadly chemical risin here in Britain, there’s little doubt that Saddam and al Qaeda’s goals are much the same. They both loathe America and the West, and employ terrorist means to accomplish their goals. Already over 200 arrests have been made here of members of Islamist terrorist cells who seek to wreak havoc locally. And as liberal a society Britain is, they do not afford their citizens with the same rights we take for granted back home. Left-wing interest groups labeled Attorney General John Aschroft as a fanatic for his detainment of suspected terrorists. Here in Britain, mosques are wiretapped and stormed into with hardly a peep of protest from the Labor-led government here. Ashcroft’s controversial Patriot Act has been the law here for decades, and embraced by the liberal political establishment. In 1974, the parliament passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act which exiled any suspected IRA terrorist – regardless of evidence – out of the country to Northern Ireland. If Ashcroft is a fascist, I shudder to think of how the left in the US portrays the British (and the rest of Europe’s) leadership – namely MI5, a domestic version of the U.S.’s Central Intelligence Agency.
Fortunately, Blair realizes the threat Saddam poses and, along with President Bush, has shown extraordinary leadership. While the French and Russians currently object to war for their own unilateral means – they both have oil contracts with Saddam – they will likely eventually follow the American and British example to get concessions in a post-war Iraq. All of the Eastern European countries, who have experienced totalitarianism firsthand, are steadfastly with the US-led coalition.
September 11th served as a wake-up call for the United States to realize the vast harm that terrorist groups or terrorist states can inflict on countries that treasure freedom and liberty. Until 9-11, the US had not suffered an attack on the continental 48 states since the Civil War. In contrast, London experienced intensive bombings throughout the sustained German blitz of 1940. Terrorism is indeed a real threat, and the United States could learn a lot from the British experience. Both al-Qaeda and Saddam’s terrorist regime both identify the West as the great Satan, and share the same disregard for international codes of conduct. Pacifist members of parliament and elitist celebrities fail to understand the potential danger posed by Saddam. But here in Britain, both a principled prime minister and a plumber know the moral imperative to fight terrorism first-hand.