Korean Studies saved my life
Perhaps a slightly unserious title for such a serious subject, but a bit of lightheartedness doesn't go amiss at times like this.
Let's just say that if I hadn't been at the AKSE conference in Sheffield last Thursday, it is possible that I would have been on a bus into central London (although coming from the opposite direction to the one that was blown up) , or possibly sitting working in the SOAS library as a bomb went off on a bus less than a hundred metres away, killing at least 13 people.
(Addendum: I've just checked the timing of the bus bombing and it was somewhat earlier than I believed, so to be honest, had I been in London I would probably have been saved from being in the vicinity of the explosion by my innate student laziness and inability to get to the library that early in the morning.)
So strange to think of the many times that I've sat at SOAS listening to the sounds of ambulance sirens, thinking "perhaps this is it now". And then of course when it does finally happen I'm not even in the city. To make it more surreal, of all the places to choose in this city, the bombers go for two targets in the close vicinity of London University and the area of Bloomsbury where I come every day.
My point is that we/I have been expecting this for a long time: really since Blair's involvement in the murderous invasion of Afghanistan and certainly since this government's decision to particpate in the Iraq catastrophe. This, and the strength of the anti-war movement in the UK, will undoubtedly have an effect on the nature of the response from British people toward this horrible terrorist attack. We will have to see how things work themselves out over the next few days and weeks, but there are already signs that people here have a very good understanding of the connections between people suffering in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine etc and now here in Britain.
Fortunately, it seems that everyone I know, has escaped this attack unscathed. But I think the sadness and anger that will be most acute for those most closely affected by this tragedy will also be felt to some extent by huge numbers of people in this diverse and tolerant city.
I hope to post a few pictures tomorrow, but in the meantime, some links on the London bombings:
The Independent's letters page, Friday July 8, 2005.
Raed Jarrar, a man who knows plenty about the innocent civilian victims in Iraq, gets to grips with the real options for solving the problem of terrorism.
Robert Fisk writes on the 'bombing of the Bush-Blair alliance'.
Dilip Hiro in the Independent.
Robin Cook in the Guardian.
Tak has provided a round up of interesting blog coverage on the bombings.
Finally, if you can bear it, the BBC is posting a very impressive, if harrowing, log by a survivor of the blast in the tube train that was travelling from Kings Cross to Russell Square.