How long the silence? How long the roll call of those whose life we have ended? How may flowers, how many wreaths, how many tears and rivers of blood?

Felicity Arbuthnot

Mosaics of flowers in London’s ancient Regent’s Park, flowers and wreaths from London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone, Minister of ‘Culture’ Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell (who flew the St George flag, Crusaders’ flag, from her Ministerial limo until England, mercifully, lost at the World Cup) at King’s Cross Station. Prime Minister Blair barely visible at the paying of respect to those who lost their lives in the bombings of the underground and the number thirty bus just a year ago. Inquiry? ‘Too costly.’ Iraq war, attack of Afghanistan, the Balkans, all mostly Muslim countries, having some bearing? No link says Downing Street denial machine. Two minutes silence, reading of the fifty two names and a few flowers. Far cheaper and less embarrassing. Shades of 9/11, ceremonies at ‘Ground Zero’. Blair as always following dutifully in his master’s footsteps. Life is cheap from the bunkers of planet Washington and Whitehall.

Serious doubts worth addressing have been uncovered as to what forces may have been behind last year’s bombing but Whitehall plows doggedly on. July 6th saw celebrations in Trafalgar Square, Admiral Lord Nelson on his column looking down (who famously literally turned a blind eye) a year after Britain’s unworthy winning of the Olympics. Tasteless. Ms Jowell in celebratory mood, next day bearing a wreath and declaring any Inquiry in to the bombings :’..a distraction.’ Nelson wasn’t the only one to turn a blind eye. Further, when Iraq was illegally invaded in 2003 the Olympic stadium was trashed and turned into a trailer park for US vehicles. No where is the Olympic spirit less worthy than the UK or US.

Days before July 7th, I sat in the Square where the number thirty bus was blown apart, with an Egyptian friend visiting London, an Editor with We sat in the sun and exchanged gifts. (Her’s to me exquisite, golden miniature pyramids.) When we parted, she caught the underground to Edgeware Road, a site of one of the bombings and I caught the number thirty bus home from Kings Cross station, to become the site of the first bombing. The thirty, on numerous occasions has dropped me at Kings Cross, on route to Heathrow Airport and Iraq. Drivers have laughed, asking if I was not frightened of going to Iraq, I always said my problems started when I got back to East London’s Hackney late at night, never in Iraq. Often the same driver that dropped me would pick me up : ‘back home safely again, then, love?’ It was the thirty that became the target, the driver sobbing on his mobile to his wife from Tavistock Square: ‘All my passengers are dead.’

On this 7th July, I wonder how long it would take ( and how many flowers laid) to read the names of the US and UK’s victims where ever they are: thirteen years of illegal bombings of Iraq, unsanctioned by the UN. The child shepherds killed with their sheep, the possibly one and a half million silently killed by the embargo (the unborn, new born and under fives, the most vulnerable.) The victims of a radioactive wasteland poisoned by depleted uranium (nuclear waste) used in ‘allied’ bombs, bullets and missiles. The current unquantifiable dying – a July 7th daily in towns, villages and cities across Iraq. In Afghanistan no one counts any more, where are those names? The Balkans long forgotten, where are those? Every one a life, unique, who woke, anticipating a day, at work, at school, a trip to the market, a visit to friends. Planning a gift, an outfit, an evening treat. The ‘only democratic country in the Middle East’, US, UK ally Israel, slaughters Gaza as this is written ‘targeting terrorists’ as schools, homes, cars are bombed with abandon. Where are the names? Where are the screams of rage, the commitment and condemnation from world bodies?

For all, how long the silence? How long the roll call of those whose life we have ended? How may flowers, how many wreaths, how many tears and rivers of blood? How many are asking where responsibility lies? It lies at Washington and Whitehall’s doors, from King’s Cross to Kabul, from Edgeware Road to the Euphrates.

‘The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven …’ wrote Shakespeare. From Abu Ghraib to Guatanamo, mercy has died.

Shakespeare also wrote: ‘ O God! That men should put an enemy in their mouths, to steal away their brains.’ Indeed.

Felicity Arbuthnot lives in London. She has written and broadcast widely on Iraq, one of the few journalists to cover Iraq extensively even in the mid-1990’s during the sanctions. She with Denis Halliday was senior researcher for John Pilger’s Award winning documentary: Paying the Price – Killing the Children of Iraq. She is also the author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of recently published ‘Baghdad’ in the educational Great Cities Series for World Almanac Library.