Thursday, July 28, 2005

Three Crazy Days

Sunday 24th July: He Was Innocent
the Vigil for Jean Charles de Menezes

We got down to Stockwell tube around 10:30 in the morning. The crowd was a strange mix of 30-40 people: some familiar faces from the South London scene; a number of Brazilians, grieved and angry, wearing yellow and green; a Palestinian guy with a megaphone. And other people, just ordinary people, who seemed shocked.

The hot fumes coming from the tube station were mixing with the drizzle, giving that particular smell of the London underground. Even after three years in London, this smell brings me the exciting news that I am abroad, in a strange and foreign land: the exotic England of my childhood, of Sherlock Holmes and Mary Poppins.

I looked at the ticket barriers. I kept trying to imagine him jumping them. Tube barriers are quite high, it’s not very easy. He must have been desperate. He was running for his life.

We stood there in the drizzle, with small candles that tried to burn not very successfully. Someone hanged his picture on the wall. A few cops were standing near by. Their faces were indifferent. Some of them chatted and laughed. It didn’t seem like they’re feeling too bad about what happened.

There was a pile of bags in the corner. “Whose bags are these? Please carry your bags with you” said the police. Nobody responded. “If you don’t take your bags we might have to evacuate this place”. Some people came and took their bags, whinging. It pissed me off. Leaving unattended bags right now is just stupid and disrespectful. Bombs are going off. People are scared. Don’t you understand? Things have changed.

I saw a number of TV crews: Brazilian, Arab. But no major British one – Sky TV, BBC – where were they? Are they not interested? Don’t they understand the consequences?

The Palestinian guy started a rant on the megaphone, about unfair coverage of the Palestinian issue on the BBC. After 10 minutes of this I had enough.

At home, I put on Berry Sakharof’s L’autre. I started preparing the stuffed vine leaves. Berry sang:

The barrier will break

the word will mediate

the enemy is a friend

that you’ve forsaken

So have no fear

and don’t just stand there and stare

No, you’re not alone

Face the other

and discover yourself

Face the other

de Menezes last moments flashed in my imagination, like in a movie, and I saw the Stockwell tube barriers again in front of my eyes. A wave of emotion ebbed inside me, overwhelming me with sadness and grief. I did not expect this to affect me so much. I didn't know this man, and I come from a place where civilians are killed all the time. But I found this story horrifying.

* * *

To reiterate the facts of the matter: a man was followed from an apartment bloc by plainclothes police, on the bus, and only when he entered the tube station, they started chasing him, and gunned him down on the floor of the tube. It’s not clear yet if he understood they were police. Did they identify themselves properly? Did he understand? I have my doubts. Apparently his visa ran out so he had reasons to fear the police. But this is no reason for execution. And suppose he had been a bomber - why did they allow him to get all the way from his house to the tube itself? That’s not really reassuring. Their behaviour seems amateurish and panicky.

In 11 years of suicide bombing in Israel, I could not think of a single case like this. Of course innocent Palestinians get shot all the time in the West Bank and Gaza. But a man chased on public transport and shot… there were many cases where security recognized suicide bombers and tried to disarm them – by physical force. A few bombings were prevented this way, but most suicide bombers will set off the bomb immediately when challenged – and then the security guys are almost always killed. If de Menezes had been a bomber, he would have set it off as well.

The closet thing to this in Palestine/Israel is the assassinations policy, the ‘targeted killings’ of hundreds of Palestinian suspects by the Israeli Army; a policy which the UK condemned in the past. And this can serve as a warning: because about a THIRD of the people killed in ‘targeted killings’ are innocent civilians who had nothing to do with bombers – neighbours, bystanders etc. This is seen by many (including myself) as a war crime (the Israeli Civil Rights Association petitioned to the Israeli high court to stop this, but the court – as usual - dodged the question). Is this the way the UK wants to go?

What really scares me is the British public’s apathetic response. The ‘Shoot to Kill’ policy was endorsed by Ken Livingstone, the ‘Liberty’ civil rights group and the Guardian, to name a few. But the consequences are horrifying: it gives the police a license to shoot practically anyone – say, if you look like one of the suspects caught on CCTV, and you’re carrying a bag. No need of warnings even. How is it that a society with tradition of vigilant protection of civil liberties – from ‘right of way’ public footpaths to the staunch opposition of ID cards – can put up with this insane policy? The only explanation is an atmosphere of panic and fear.

* * *

But there were other things on my mind: we might be facing imminent eviction. The house owners warned us that we will be served with eviction papers on Monday.

Before I came to England, I thought the verb ‘to serve’ meant to provide something politely. Like serving a main dish with salad. But here I realized that you ‘serve’ also eviction notice.

In our case it was going to be a PIO – an especially nasty procedure that requires the occupiers to vacate immediately, or within 24 hours. It’s not used very often: the eviction process usually takes between 10 days to three months; on average it’s six weeks.

But the owners, after telling us we could stay ‘as long as we wished’, informed us that their solicitor had advised them to use this blitz eviction. They refused to negotiate. We had to wait for the legal papers before we could do anything. And anyway, I had more important things to think about: I was cooking for 80 people the next day, in the benefit café for Emergency Medical Aid for Civilian Victims in Iraq, something which I was preparing for all week.

Monday 25th July: Benefit Café, Papers and Champagne

9.30am: I start cooking at the Bonnington Cafe. I've cooked there before, but not for so many people. And this time I'm the main chef. I’m stressed, about cooking, about the night. It takes my mind off the eviction.

This is the information sheet that we put on all the tables:

Medical Aid for Civilian Victims in Iraq

This night has been organized as a benefit night, to raise money towards medical aid for civilian victims in Iraq.

The Emergency Aid for Civilian Victims was started as a grassroots campaign by a group of Iraqis in Jordan and Baghdad in October 2004, aiming to send medical supplies to hospitals in Iraq, to treat the many civilians victims hurt as a result of the war and the occupation. The first batches were sent to the area of Falluja, in the aftermath of the devastating attack on this city. A recent batch was sent to hospitals treating the victims of a suicide attack on a petrol station.

This campaign is organized and run by volunteers who buy the supplies and ship them. This means that practically 97% of the money donated is used to buy medications.

The horrible experiences of the last two weeks in London are a daily reality for Iraqis in the last three years, since the start of the war. We feel it is important at this time reach out to civilian victims in Iraq who are paying the price of a senseless war, the ongoing occupation, and the civil strife.

For more information see – the website of Raed Jarrar, who initiated this campaign.

The menu:

1pm: news come from the house: the PIO documents have arrived. We have to vacate within 24 hours. E + G took house documents and cycled to ASS, the Advisory Service for Squatters, to seek legal advice. We keep cooking.

: S comes from the house. ‘Bad news, ASS think the papers are legit. We have no case and we should leave’.

‘No way. ’ I can’t believe it. ‘Can you finish making this salad? I’ll go and call them’.

On the phone to ASS. I explain the situation again. The guy is not sure. ‘Let me check it again’ he says. He then finds the subsection of the law which might save our case. I write down the exact wording. ‘It might work. Give it a try’.

‘What happens if we choose to resist?’

‘Well, in this case the police will probably arrest you all.’

I go back to the café. I cook for another hour, and then sit down with the friends who have come.

10.30pm: The night is nearly over, and it’s been successful. We raised £375. I managed to chill out a bit and chat with friends. Suddenly S calls me outside. ‘Would you like to come and talk with Nigella and Larry (the house owners that are evicting us) over a glass of wine? They’re here’.

S, Pete and me stand in the entrance to the café. Nigella and Larry are there. They’re tipsy. ‘I just feel so uncomfortable about the whole thing. I’m so sorry. I wanted to say I’m so sorry. And I’m not saying this because I had a drink’ she says. Larry's giving me a glass of French champagne. I look in dismay.

‘How can we help?’ she says. ‘We can’t give you more time. But is there any way we can help?’

‘The skips are coming on Wednesday’ he says. ‘You will be out until 1pm tomorrow. We can’t allow you to stay’.

‘Can we vacate the house and stay in the yard for a few weeks?’

‘No, that’s impossible’.

‘Then there’s nothing you can do’.

‘We might be able to store your stuff’ she says.

‘But we have no room’ he says ‘and we’re doing the carpets next week’.

‘I just hate this animosity’ she says. ‘We’re not bad people. We don’t want to do it. We like squatters’.

The whole situation is extremely bizarre. I don’t know what to say.

‘What if we manage to stay tomorrow?’ I ask.

‘You won’t. No way. The police have been informed. It’s all legal. Unless you come up with something our solicitor hadn’t thought about. But we have the poshest solicitor’.

Finally, it’s Pete who finds the right words, in his succinct and eloquent way: ‘It’s alright’ he says, waving his hand over his face. ‘Whatever happens, it’s not personal. It’s just law. Law and business. It’s not personal.’

Larry leaves.

‘And if you really have no place to stay, you can come stay in our house’ She half-whispers. ‘But then he might divorce me’.

We say good night and go back into the Cafe.
'What was that about?' I ask S.
'They must have been drinking to celebrate our eviction, and then they started feeling bad about it'.

Tuesday 26th July: PIPI fights the PIO

6am: I wake up, my head buzzing with legal words and sentences. Somebody would have to talk with the police, and this time it’s me. I think I’m ready for this. I feel unusually whole and focussed. I have a long bath, get dressed, and take our vegetable compost bin to the compost in the community garden. Then I sit down to write a letter to the Sergeant dealing with our case (we’ve been given the name by the owners). I work through a few drafts until I’m happy with it. My hands are shaking but somehow my mind keeps calm. I think about packing an emergency backpack – with my laptop and library books – in case we have to leave. But that would be to admit defeat. I decide not to.

9.30am: I wake up E and ask her if she wants to come with me to the police. She’s happy to do it. We set off on our bikes to Oval Police station, but we can’t find it. We end up at another station. The sergeant is not there, but they get him on the phone. The receptionist hands me the phone.

When you live in a squat, there always comes a time when you have to talk with owners or the police. Sometimes it’s confrontational, other times it’s negotiation, but you have to do it to protect your home. I always shy from doing the talking. I don't like it and usually let S do it. S is very good at it. I’m not: I don’t feel confident enough. I know I give up too quickly. My assertiveness is lacking. I think slowly and I’m no good in coming up with good arguments on the spot.

But on Tuesday morning I knew I had no choice. If I didn’t do it, we would be on the street in three hours.

Sergeant Britney?


I’m from Vine Lodge, in Vauxhall, we are threatened with eviction today, I think you know the details.


We believe this eviction is illegal.

When you’re inside these legal squatting stories, the details are fascinating. However if it’s not your story the details can get very technical, tedious and boring. So I won’t go into that. The English property law is like a strange game. Sometimes it makes sense, other times it’s quite arbitrary. I’ve been playing this game a few years now.

Very briefly, the 24 hour procedure was made for cases such as when people go on holiday and their house gets squatted, or when tenants are just about to move in and the house gets squatted. Our case was different because we were here for three months and we had verbal agreement from the previous and current owners that we can stay. So legally, we had a license, and we were not squatting. We couldn’t be kicked out in such short notice. I explained this on the phone. He said he will check the legal situation and get back to me.

At home, I found everybody in the kitchen. V+C came round to give us moral and emotional support. C was sitting on the armchair with Pipi in his lap. I think she came to give us moral support as well.

Pipi used to live in Vine Lodge. Now she’s more like a neighbourhood cat. Each night she chooses another house to sleep in. She’s a bit of a slut. Almost everybody loves her, lets her in and feed her. When we just moved in she would come everyday and mieaou on the kitchen window sill until we let her in. She’s not been here for a while. Maybe she felt we were facing eviction and came back.

A note was slipped through the door.


-Go inside a safe building

-Stay inside until you are advised to do otherwise

-Tune into local radio or TV for more information

If you find yourself in the middle of an emergency, your common sense and instincts will usually tell you what to do. However, it is important to:

-Make sure 999 has been called if people are injured or if there is a threat to life

-Do not put yourself or others in danger

-Follow the advice of the emergency services

-Try to remain calm and think before action, and try to reassure others

Together we are safe, together we are strong

Lambeth Council and the Metropolitan Police

Indeed, invaluable advice. Go in, Stay in, Tune in. In the 1960s it was ‘Turn on, Tune in, Drop out’. But things have changed.

Three years ago, I heard a program on Radio 4 about the Foot and Mouth epidemic. It broke out in the UK in the year 2000 and was dealt with complete incompetence by the authorities. They ended up having to slaughter half the animals in the country and close the countryside off for the whole summer. I then realized that in a real emergency, they would probably not have a clue what to do, and will totally lose it. As we see right now. And these are just a few suicide bombers. I don’t want to think of a more serious attack.

In the meantime we had our own little emergency to deal with. And it wasn’t clear if we could ‘stay in’ for much longer. Will the police let us stay? Or will they just decide to enforce the eviction?

2.30 pm: after three more phone calls, a number of faxes sent, the police sergeant informed me that they were not going to do anything about it. ‘I have my doubts about the situation and I don’t want to be doing anything illegal. Anyway, I’ve spent too much time on this, and we’ve got more important things to do, as you can imagine’.

It took me a few hours to realize: we’re safe, for the time being. The owners might have the poshest lawyers, but we’ve won the day. We won’t stay here for more than a few weeks; but that’s all we wanted. We defended our home, we didn’t let them throw us to the street.

It takes me another day for the adrenaline rush to pass.

Monday, July 25, 2005

I want to write about how London feels right now. But I’m tired, I’ve been cooking all day for the benefit café we’re doing - I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow.

I’ll just say this: the shooting of the Brazilian kid on the tube really shocked me. I’m used to bombs and buses blowing up. I’m used to racist public response to such events. I’m used to fear, I’m used to atmosphere of hate. I’m not used to policemen gunning down an innocent person on public transport. I find it truly shocking. I know that innocent civilians die in Israel/Palestine all the time but i couldn't think of anything like this: a helpless man chased and gunned down only because somebody thought he looked like a blurry cctv image. What I find more shocking is the British public response. The initial response to the shooting was so complascent, so ‘well lucky they got him’. The newspapers headlines were ‘Suicide Bomber Shot in Stockwell Tube’ (Evening Standard) and ‘One Down, Three to Go’ (the Sun). Even now there doesn’t seem to be a public reckoning of ‘god what have they done?’ I find it so scary, how a society can go in two weeks from ‘defend civil liberties’ to ‘shoot them down’. And then ‘oh it was a mistake.. how tragic. But what can you do’.

We went down to Stockwell tube for a vigil in memory of this guy.

I’ll write more soon

Friday, July 22, 2005

London felt on holiday today. All the roads were jammed, the traffic hardly moved. Most of the underground didn’t work either. So everybody were walking, I’ve never seen the streets so busy with people. It felt much more lively than usual.

It’s beginning to sink in: this is a campaign, said the man on the radio. That is, not one time thing, but a sustained attack.

Well what did you expect?

If somebody had any illusions that you can have a globalized world and keep all the problems and violence localized in some distant foreign land, they are heading for some unpleasant surprises. You can’t have free flow of commodities, information, and people, and still keep yourself in some fortress well protected from the rest of the world. It just doesn’t go together.

And more to the point, since in Iraq hundreds of people die every week, as a result of the war and the occupation – and we all know the UK has played an instrumental role in both – you can’t expect London to be the la-di-da never-never-land where the worst thing that can happen is a few rocks thrown at a McDonnalds. Maybe a 150 years ago, you could have an empire and kick the shit out of the indigenous population in all corners of the world while you were safe and sound reading the Times and sipping your tea and talking about how dreadful things happen in Khartoum. But those times are over. Unfortunately the people who are going to suffer are the poor commuters on the bus to Hackney. For fuck sake why Hackney (it's the second bus to Hackney which gets targeted).

I have no idea why people put those bombs today, or two weeks ago. It’s probably many reasons which make people take such actions. Since they are not interested in communicating it’s hard to say. But everybody knows that it is about Iraq in some sense. I’m sure there are other issues. But Iraq is the best recruiting banner.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

oval tube is 5 minutes walk from my house... i hope this is just a scare.
sirens, and choppers in the sky.. not sure what happened - rumors spreading - but i'm alright

Sunday, July 17, 2005

They found his body. Not the kind of news you want to get first thing in the morning. The text didn’t say anything more.

It’s been two weeks since he disappeared in the mountains. They found his car, but he never made it to the first lodge. I tried to tell myself that he might have changed his plans, maybe he met some beautiful stranger and they both set off on a mysterious adventure. K was always playing the unexpected: he enjoyed that. It was part of his image. But I knew I was fooling myself. His spontaneity was always carefully planned. And this time… the guest house reservations, the phone calls he promised to make. Something bad must have happened.

It’s been almost four years since I last saw him. We had a goodbye dinner in our side of the yard. That last dinner was all wrong: he said all the wrong things, talked about the wrong things. I was too busy saying goodbye to stop him. But his words sunk in, and on each of my visits, when I thought of calling him, something held me back. “He was good for you there and then, when you lived in R street, when you were next door neighbours” said A “why mull over it. Look at it this way: it was good while it lasted.” I knew she was right, I should let it go. Yet something in me now wants to embrace him, one last time.

S thought I was attracted to him. This comment caught me by surprise one evening, as we were coming back from his side of the yard, after tea with ginger wine. But I had to admit that it was an infatuation of some sort. There was something of a cat about him. I remember the day he told me, in an astonished tone, that Louise – a majestic grey kitten, one of the many street cats we were feeding at the back yard– had come back to the yard, and had turned out to be a male. “And a real man she is”.

The yard we have here, in Vine Lodge, reminds me sometimes of that open back yard of R. street, where all the neighbours would chat to each other over their fences. From April to November we would all be hanging out in the back gardens: S and me had a little sofa and table outside and we would have all our meals there; K often joined us. Silently, in the dim light coming through our kitchen window, we would watch the slugs take their slow paths on the stone fence; after long moments K would sigh and say: ‘what fun’.

Now, on a sunny London morning, as I finished my passion fruit tea, I heard myself say it after him, against my will: what fun.

Friday, July 15, 2005

I'm trying to log into a website i used to use, but i've long forgotten the passwords. People didn't use to have so many passwords in the past. You'd have your cash card code, maybe, and that's about it. Now everybody has dozens: email accounts, mobile phone codes, etc etc.
Anyway no worries, because this website prompted me with my reminder question:
Where do you live?
now that's very clever of me, isn't it. to pick the address as a reminder question, when i'm moving house every three months.
I guess i took too seriously my squatters' auto-suggestion. It's a well known syndrom. Squatting is really impossible without the self persuasion: don't worry, you're gonna stay here forever. just get on with your life. Courts, owners, bailiffs... they don't exist. this is your home. It's a fairy tale we tell ourselves every night before we go to bed. Otherwise who could live like this, under the constant threat of eviction.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Well the emergency state is apparently off, because the flight path is back in its place, above our house. The average pause of quiet between airplanes is about 3 seconds. But then you have the police helicopters noise, so it wouldn’t get too boring.

There will come a day when air travel will be banned, or at least made hideously expensive. This form of transport is the most polluting; airplanes are the best construction workers of the global greenhouse, because they release their emissions high up in the sky, where it stays. But governments do their best to encourage air travel: airplanes fuel is not taxed, and new airports are being built all the time.

One website I was looking at yesterday contemplated the schizophrenic behaviour of humans: they ban smoking on flights, yet they allow airplanes to litter the atmosphere with the equivalent of billions of cigarettes. Of course, no chance of anything changing soon: not only the oil companies, the airlines and the aviation industry make a fortune from the crazy increase in flying during the last two decades; global commerce and tourism are totally dependant on flights being so cheap. Just imagine our lives without these three days breaks in Budapest, or imported figs from Turkey. How could we carry on living?

Smell the fumes of Waste Culture, the odours of Fossil-Fuel Age: so heavy and sweet, like a crate of rotting mangos in a London skip. I’m sure even Exxon chiefs know it will not last forever. Change is unthinkable but inevitable. The question is, will it come too late. Come to think of it, Stone Age doesn’t seem so bad in retrospect: they didn’t have mp3 players, but at least they didn’t make the planet uninhabitable.

On the last day of the Mapping Festival, we watched short films at 56a. This familiar space, usually stacked top to bottom with books, zines, fliers and latest cry of punk high-street fashion, was turned into a strange cave or spaceship; the walls were all covered with cardboard. One of the films was Pete’s dreamlike airplane film. The images were grained, rough and dirty, they looked like out of a comics strip, or ancient WWI footage. It showed a light aircraft descending into flames, in slow motion. The image flickered and faltered. This short sequence of crash/descent was showed again and again, to the howling soundtrack of red and black nightmares. It was hypnotic. Pete’s obsessed with airplanes, he always films them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

my way out

i've just realized I can connect to an anonymous wireless network from my desk at the yard. Which means i can get internet at home... which is quite bad news for my research.
Things with the house are not good - the new owners decided they want us out asap, after all, even though it's unlikely that anyone is going to move in soon (the house needs major renovations). We'll tell them we need a few weeks to move out. Probably by end of august we'll be out.
but we're not going to open a new squat. P is going to NZ. J is going home to Sweden then to Columbia. E+G will start renting. S and me are also craving some stability. Seven houses in three years... it's tiring.

Monday, July 11, 2005

It has been remarkably quiet over the last few days. I was surprised to find that I can hear the bells of the Big Ben ringing four times an hour: I’ve heard them before from our house but not very often. Then S said something which explained it: have you noticed there are no airplanes in the sky?

They must have diverted the flight path for commercial flights after Thursday’s bombings, so it wouldn’t go near to central London. In normal times every 7 seconds there’s an airplane passing over our house, on the way to Heathrow. It is a terrible noise, but one that you get used to, and eventually can’t hear anymore, until someone draws your attention, or when it’s missing.

Helicopters still go over the house – probably police ones – but it’s not like this constant grinding ugly noise of big airplanes.

Today at the entrance to my college I saw a notice: Have you seen this man? … missing since Thursday’s bombings.. tattoo on left shoulder…

The desperate tone of the notice sent a shiver down my spine. So far I’ve been quite blasé about the bombings: living through so many of them in Israel made me develop a thick skin. In the mid-1990s, when it was still shocking and new, I used to listen to the news for days. But during the last few years, like many people, I detached myself emotionally, and developed a practical routine. Whenever I’d heard of a bombing, I would try to find out the location, and assess if there’s any chance someone I knew had been hurt. Sometimes I would make some phone calls to make sure everybody’s OK. And then I would move on.

But I’ve never seen notices like this in Jerusalem. Israel is such a small place that always, within hours, all the casualties were identified. Here it was different. London is so huge and anonymous. They haven’t retrieved all the bodies from the tube yet. And there are so many hospitals where somebody may be lying unconscious. I thought of the agony of the family, waiting for days for any bit of information, searching the hospitals again and again, hoping that against all odds... he wasn’t on that tube.

My first thought was what a relief all my friends use bikes, so I shouldn’t worry. But then I realized the bus blew up in Tavistock place – 50 meters from my college, and very close the British Library.

I had narrower escapes in the past. March 1996, the Diziengoff Centre in Tel Aviv, I was supposed to be there exactly when the guy blew himself up on the pedestrian crossing; I changed my mind in the last minute. And November 1998, the Jerusalem market. S and Me heard the blast, we were 500 meters away. But I was never closer than this.

On Friday, when I arrived at King’s Cross from Scotland, the station was packed with reporters from all over the world. Bloomsbury area was still cordoned off by the police, and they even had big scaffoldings blocking the view. I guess the bus is still there at Tavistock, and they don’t want people to photograph it. But why is it still there? In Jerusalem they tow the bus after two hours, clean the place up, collect all the body bits and carry on.

I know it might sound harsh. But it’s important to remember that in Iraq these things happen three times a week and they get a small column in the Guardian. Everybody knew this was going to happen – all the security chiefs have been saying that an attack on London is inevitable. And it could have been much worse. The fact that these were probably not suicide bombers explains the low number of casualties (considering these were 4 attacks). I hope it won’t happen again but to be honest, I would be surprised if it didn’t, because sadly, such bombings seem to be a preferred form of 21st century political violence.

Two years ago, perturbed by what seemed a reluctance on behalf of the ISM (the international solidarity movement with Palestine) to speak out clearly against suicide bombings, I tried to think why these things are wrong. I tried to distance myself from my own position, as someone whose friends and family are at constant risk of getting hurt in such attacks. I tried to forget for a minute the anxiety I felt so many times when someone next to me on the bus had this big bag and a strange look on his face. I reminded myself that political violence against civilians is not the monopoly of ‘terrorists’, and it is constantly used by states, perhaps in a different way, but to no less devastating effect. I put aside my preference for non-violent struggle. And I reminded myself that I don’t believe this is a fight of good and evil; that I don’t believe all suicide bombers are pathological monsters or fanatical fundamentalists.

So after all this, why do I still think are these attacks so wrong? First, most simply, they are wrong because they target civilians and not governments: the dividing line between states and peoples, soldiers and civilians, is something that should be kept at all costs; Second, they are wrong because they almost always hit the weaker segments of society – people on busses, people in markets, security guards (the shittiest job on earth, getting blown up to save other people, for minimum wage) – the rich and the powerful, who hide in their cars and gated malls, are rarely hurt. Third, they are wrong because they create an atmosphere of fear and panic, in which reason is not listened to; such atmosphere makes it easier for rightwing warmongers to argue that this is a war of us against them, a clash of civilizations, a fight to the end, all that bullshit. Four, they are wrong because they are anonymous spectacles of bloodshed, with no clear agenda that can be of any help to anybody. Old school 20th century underground political violence ('terror' or 'armed struggle', depends on one’s perspective), e.g. the IRA bombings or the Palestinian attacks in the 1960s, attempted to draw the attention of the media and to put forward specific issues or demands. Whatever one thinks, e.g., of the 1972 attack on the Israeli team to the Olympics, the target was a symbol of the Israeli state, and the hijackers made clear demands and ultimatum (release of prisoners and so on). They were not suicidal. The emphasis of 21st century terror is not on clear agenda as on carnival of destruction. Their anonymity is what enables Tony Blair to claim today that the attacks were not caused by British involvement in Iraq: “these things could have happened anyway”. It’s hard to prove him wrong because the people behind the attacks are not interested, so it seems, to communicate their motives to the Western public.

What will be the reaction of British public opinion? Probably not a patriotic wave like in the US after 9/11. I simply can’t see the British putting Union Jacks on every house. It’s not their style. And sooner or later questions about the War will be asked. The War was never popular here. So will it go the way it did in Spain? It’s hard to tell yet. At the moment it seems like everybody’s in denial. They even try to avoid the word ‘attack’ or ‘bombings’. They call it "the incidents" or "the events in central london". You can always trust the English to use euphemisms.

The British should pull out from Iraq, regardless of what happened on Thursday. But it will be depressing to think that a few cowardly attacks on innocent people made them do it, while a resolute majority against the war, and a march of one million people (February 2002) could not stop it in the first place. Not the best way to promote confidence in Western democracy, is it?

Sorry I didn’t mean this to be a long political spill.

I will soon write about my experiences in the G8 protest.