The London Mirror
We should all be able to see ourselves in those affected by the attack in London today. Coming just one day after the announcement of the 2012 Olympics decision, I can't help but remember the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bomb. I didn't hear about it until the next day, but I had been strolling on the street not far from the park a few hours before it went off. Not even remotely the same, of course, but a reminder that nothing immutable separates me from one of the innocents killed, injured or otherwise bereft by such an attack.
The bombs in London today have set a different tone for the G8 summit, so it seems. I would be heartened by the show of solidarity among the nations represented at the session were it not for President Bush's comment that "the war on terror goes on."
Although Bush is often accused of using language imprecisely, I've always thought that his preference for "terror" over "terrorism" or even "terrorists" had a very precise meaning. To me, it indicates that Bush's grand vision for American use of force abroad and safety at home is dedicated to a specific form of institutional security, because only absolute security can replace the generalized concept of "terror." George Lakoff says the "war on terror" language is intended to support perpetual conservative political dominance, but I don't see it as quite so instrumental. A war on terrorists, identifiable enemy combatants, is probably the least ambitious phrasing. I could get behind a war on terrorism, the political use of violence, as long as that definition weren't itself subject to political manipulation. I think Bush sees a war on terror as won only when all sources of disorder and concern are quashed, a radical notion of international hegemony.
FDR's first inaugural address stated his belief that the only thing to be feared was "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." His ambitions, broad as they were, were limited to combating unjustified fears. Confrontations and uncertainties, perhaps even pronounced ones, were to be expected. In foreign affairs, Roosevelt endorsed the role of the good neighbor, language that would do us some good now.
I hope we can fulfill our responsibility to be a good neighbor to the United Kingdom, Europe and the rest of the world.