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The terrorist bombs that hit London’s mass transit system on July 7 presented U.K. life insurers with a scenario that has become familiar in recent years: a highly public event and a number of potential claims involving yet-to-be-identified victims (Bombers target London, 2007).
The identification of victims in the London bombings was hampered by the location of the Piccadilly Line train in which a large number of the victims died. Not only was the tunnel containing the train deep underground, but it had a very narrow clearance on each side. Flyers describing the missing were posted near King’s Cross Station (Bombers target London, 2007).
The Oklahoma Bombing
It was morning, around 9:30 am, 19th of April 1995 when the people in Oklahoma City were left dumbfounded because of the explosion that was heard in one of the business districts of the city. The explosion started from a rental truck parked near a 9-story building. The impact was so strong that a major part of the said building collapsed.
Hundreds of deaths were recorded – young and old, males and females. A significantly high number of people were sent to hospitals because of severe burns and injuries caused by the explosion. Based on series of investigations conducted, the truck that exploded contained varied forms of chemicals, which are actually used by any normal civilian. The chemicals found in the truck includes some “5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer, and nitromethane, a highly volatile motor-racing fuel—a mixture also known as Kinepak or ANFO (ammonium nitrate/fuel oil)” (Oklahoma City Bombing, n. d.).
The said explosion was viewed as a form of terrorist attack in the US. Based on the reports provided, the convicted person has been planning the said attack several months prior to the explosion. He was seen buying the above-stated chemicals as if it was just for a normal farm or household use. The effect and pain of the said bombing are still being remembered by the Americans until now, even after it has been more than a decade since it happened.
What Went Wrong? – A Comparative Analysis
The 1995 Oklahoma City bombing is one of the firsts that can be considered as a form of terrorist attack in the United States. Like the Oklahoma bombing, the London bombing is also one of the firsts in the history of the UK, or much specifically in London. It should be noted that terrorism is now one of the biggest problems of many countries around the globe. However, there had been many lapses as to how both the UK and the US governments treated the terrorism attacks, such as what happened in Oklahoma and in London. These lapses, when corrected, are believed to be capable of preventing more attacks in the US, in the UK or to any other country for that matter.
As far as the word terrorism and bombing had been overly used in every context, there is no exact definition as yet regarding the term. Even the United Nations had not been able to clearly define the word. This problem was deemed to be the reason why until at this moment, combating terrorism and terrorist attacks, like bombings, had been the hardest task for every nation including the United States.
The first step in dealing with any problem is to make sure that it is understood properly. Unless the problem of identifying what terrorism actions truly means, the reality of combating this problem is too bleak. Terrorism is a complex issue that needs to address first the identification of who the enemies are before doing a single move against it. During the early years of terrorism, there had not been enough attention given to this globally alarming problem.
However, there had been myths presented regarding terrorism. Academics, media, government officials, and others had tried their best to contribute to leading the policies of countering terrorism yet nothing seems to be effective. Numerous first steps had been developed as anti-terrorism strategies, but all had failed – because all of the information was just mythical. (Jackson, 2002)
Although both the US and the UK State Departments had its annual list of terrorist groups and at the same time the state supporter of terrorism is the most widely accepted formulation in countering terrorism, there is yet consistency from both governments that remains lacking in dealing with terrorism. The list had been changing on a regular basis according to prevailing policies. This situation only creates as much confusion to the community as the word terrorism had been confusing to them as well.
For example, when McVeigh of the Oklahoma bombing was still buying the items he needed to make the bomb, nobody suspected him capable of plotting a terrorist attack, much more of killing hundreds of people. When Osama bin Laden was fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan with CIA support, he was nowhere to be seen on that list. But now, he, of course, is number one. At one time or another, both the IRA and the ANC were on the list. Iraq was on it as a terror-supporting state, then off during the war against Iran, and then went back on the list after the 1991 Gulf War (Jackson, 2002)
Another error is the present insistence on designating the collective enemy as ‘international terrorism, as if such a phenomenon actually exists. While there are terrorist organizations that operate across borders – giving them the ‘international’ context, they are all unique groups that have to be understood in terms of their own history, ideology, and social and political contexts.
Acts of terrorism can come in different forms. It is, in fact, a misnomer to assume that Palestinian ‘terrorism’, Irish ‘terrorism’, Basque ‘terrorism’, Tamil ‘terrorism’, Islamic ‘terrorism’, ‘narco-terrorism or anti-abortion ‘terrorism’ in the United States have anything more than superficial similarities. In the same context, it is false to assume that there is no difference between revolutionary terrorism and nationalist terrorism, as well as the difference between ideological terrorism and religious terrorism (Jackson, 2002).
A significant problem that exists on this issue is that an act of terrorism is only considered when it happens. If no attacks happen, terrorism does not exist. Like what happened to both the London and the Oklahoma bombing.
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Needless to say, it is only when various terrorist groups started pestering the country that the government had thought it existed. Americans and the British people tend to perceive it as a one-off event (Jackson, 2002).
Moreover, the media plays a significant role as well in recognizing terrorism. Due to the media tendencies of quickly abandoning the story once it had lost its drama, issues on terrorism becomes any other news story that could be just thrown away and be forgotten. Thus, it is not surprising then that people fail to appreciate its context, or see it as one part of a long-running historical struggle. (Jackson, 2002).
Aside from these all, there seems to be wrong allocation of resources and focus of the government. Admittedly, one of the hardest parts in combating any terrorist behaviors like bombings and massive killings is that it had become a part of a political issue. It had become a political issue because politicians begin to make statements about it, and a national political issue when Presidents make statements about it. Only when there were already men who had been direct victims of terrorism that the politicians had tried to address the issues of terrorism. (Hewitt, 2002)
The negligence on the part of the government and the police officials of both countries (the US and the UK) regarding bombings and other forms of terrorist attacks could be pointed out as the main cause of its inability to prevent it. However, according to Jackson (2002), terrorism can never be totally defeated. It can never be eliminated or suppressed by any society. Terrorism is similar to an organized crime that can never be overcome. No other measure can ever stop it, however it can be lessened (Jackson, 2002).
There are two general points that should be made about the London bombing, the Oklahoma bombing and all other forms of deadly attacks. First, counterterrorism policy should not overemphasize weapons of mass destruction and spectacular events. Most terrorism is small-scale, carried out by a handful of people or even a single individual. Most terrorist attacks result in minor damage, and usually cause no fatalities. Bombing casualties overall are minor compared with those caused by other natural and social disasters. Second, although the Oklahoma City bombing was followed by a resolve to crush terrorism wherever it existed, history suggests that complete victory is unlikely (Hewitt, 2002)
The more that the country insists on finding measures of totally suppressing terrorism, the more that the country might be neglecting other areas that could have at least prepared itself from being once again a victim of small-time yet produce larger scale impact of bombings. With all the listed preventive and counter-terrorism measures that all concerned citizen has now been using, there seems to be one that has not given much attention – and that is the easy access to various chemicals that are in fact important factors to making bombs (that are used for terrorist attacks).
Looking closely at what McVeigh did in the Oklahoma bombing, it should be noted that he acted just like a normal civilian. He was able to buy huge amounts of the chemicals which enable him to create the bombs he needed for his planned bombing.
His plan and actions were so simple yet very effective. Why is that no one have ever questioned why these chemicals can be easily be bought by anyone? Why is that nobody has proposed of imposing authorized and/or limited access to chemicals that are known to be capable of exploding? This is one very simple idea yet the effect will surely be profound.
Had there been strict and limited access to chemicals, the bombings will surely not have become feasible.
Indeed, various forms of terrorism could attack all countries around the world. The only way to fight against it would be to make the country prepared of any kind of terrorist attack that the “terrorists” might impose on the country. Preparedness is yet but the key to fighting against terrorism.
Gareau, F. 2004. State Terrorism and the United States: From Counterinsurgency to the War on Terrorism. Clarity Press, Atlanta. Publication.
Hewitt, C. 2002. Understanding Terrorism in America: From the Klan to Al Qaeda. Routledge, New York. p. 1.
“Homeland Security Technology.” 2006. Web.
Jackson, R. 2002. The Discourses of Terrorism: Myths and Misconceptions Richard Jackson Discusses the Nature of Terror and Questions the Likelihood of Success in the Present.
Library Factfiles. 2003. “The Oklahoma City Bombing”. Web.
“Bombers Target London” 2007. CNN.com. Web.
Oklahoma City bombing: What Really Happened?”. Web.
United States, Counter-Terrorism Policy. 2006. Web.