by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
July 14, 2005
ROUND UP THE USUAL MASTERMINDS
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - What do you do when you have to do something? Well, the Brits stiffen their upper lips and remind themselves of the Blitz. For those of you who don't know what that is first hand, let me tell you it was what the Londoners called the intensive bombings Nazi Germany dropped over their city in 1940 and 1941.
The Brits prevailed. No doubt about it, they are a very civilized people - until, that is, they get riled up. Thursday's bomb attack on London's mass transit system, both underground and surface means of transportation, showed how strong the citizens resolve is to "carry on" and not let anything like 700 injured and 49 killed keep them from riding to work the next day in their usual way.
From what I gleaned through on-the-spot interviews and as reported in the media, the general public displayed a firm resolve to defy the terrorists by taking their usual places on the platforms, nonchalantly reading newspapers showing pictures of carnage with headlines reading "death count expected to rise."
I'm not sure I fully understand their having lived through the Blitz as being part of the way they conducted themselves Thursday. After all, I doubt if anyone in authority during this tragedy had any first hand experience with what happened 65 years ago. There was no panic then; there was no panic this time.
What I do see in the unfolding scenes is preparedness. If this ever happens, we do this; if that ever happens we do that. Be prepared, as the Boy Scouts of America, say. Have a fire drill. Keep calm, walk single file close to the wall. Whatever happens, do not panic. The general populace as well as the police and fire fighters in the UK last Thursday were a fine example to us all.
There is still something wrong with this picture. Although three suspects were nabbed at the airport, all Britons, later released, the anti-terrorism system is definitely at work; and, although the crew delving into the sooty underground searching for victims in and around mangled steel were clothed in white jumpsuits and face masks instantly available for their use, I find a great difference between being extremely prepared for disaster and being heavily skilled in preventing it.
Everybody wants to help. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: "We are trying to help the British in any way we can."Reports from all over the world were similar, often comparing these bombings to the Madrid Railway bombings in 2004. Did we learn any prevention measures from that attack?
From the blast on the double decker bus we learned not only that it was detonated by a suicide bomber, but exactly which seat had been occupied. We also learned the bomb was less than 10 pounds in weight but could (or was) carried in a backpack. We are very good at analyses.
In the wake of this attack, high ranking officials are giving warnings to be on the lookout for any changes in behavior of their friends or relatives. Nothing is too minor, they say, just phone in the tip and we'll decide if it has merit.
A former police chief in London said: "I'm afraid there's a sufficient number of people in this country willing to be Islamic terrorists that they don't have to be drafted from abroad."
All of this rhetoric is after the fact. I want to know what is being done to prevent an attack. More police, bigger guns, colors going from yellow to orange to red - this is not going to prevent a suicide bomber. We are trying to detect a person; we need to detect the bomb.
We have solidarity; we need a plan. The only hope on the horizon is that we can "prevail,"to use Prime Minister Tony Blair's word, long enough to have a generation grow up loving what we stand for and for what we're providing to and for them.
I'm an average commuter and I would feel very secure having an explosive detecting dog on my bus. In reports on the breeds used for their sniffing abilities, I learned that "bomb detecting dogs don't come in contact with the public"so bigger, more ferocious looking dogs are used. It's only their appearance, not their nature to be ferocious.
They are very good at what they do. Let's put them in close proximity to the general public. The K-9 corps has been effective in war and peace. At $475 per trained dog, it would be a bargain.
We constantly help the victims' families and look for ways to do more. In four states, there are associations of lawyers working on their own time writing a Last Will and Testament for "Heroes."These would be the Police, Firefighters, Paramedics, and any of the others whose jobs place them at risk at an age when most would leave wives and children behind.
We do care. We're wonderful at remembering and attending memorial services. In London, the police have doubled their efforts to make people feel safe again getting around town. And, as predicted, the death toll rose from 49 when I started writing this column to 52 … and still rising.
I've never been a worrier - especially when events are totally beyond my control. Que Sera Sera. Whatever will be, will be. That's my philosophy.
But I'm losing confidence, and we're losing ground.
Our efforts to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of our enemies is off course. They mastermind plans to kill the masses - us - but if they can't develop one weapon to destroy us all at once, they will still plod on toward their goal of killing the masses - us - one at a time.