Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Bombing Manchester...Revisited

If 22-year-old Salman Abedi had taken the trouble to look at the history of World War II he might have changed his mind about bombing Manchester's Arena.

From his point of view he succeeded in killing 22 and injuring at least 59 infidels - age makes no difference to Islamic suicide bombers. For him martyrdom meant killing others. For us, meaning non-Islamic believers or non-believers, self-sacrifice means saving the lives of others. He must have come to think of himself as a man with a mission and as such above the consequences of his actions.

But let this difference - cultural, religious or otherwise - pass. As I have pointed out before, post-1945 the British people have been subjected to bomb attacks here and all over the world by sundry groups of fanatics. Probably, Salman Abedi had heard of this. I suspect he knew less about what happened between 1940 and 1945 to his home town of Manchester and other British cities. He would have done, of course, if modern British history was still taught in schools or even university. The BBC say he attended Salford University, so he wasn't one of the wretched of the earth; more like one of those misguided educated people besotted by nihilism that you find in 19th century Russian novels by Turgenev and Dostoyevsky: wanting to sweep everything away, blow up everything, to clear the way for a puritanical future.

In summary: More than 48,000 people were killed by Nazi bombs dropped from aircraft and V1 and V2 ballistic missiles launched from sites in Northern Europe. The maimed and wounded numbered many thousands. London alone had a million houses smashed or badly damaged. Coventry, Liverpool, Plymouth, Glasgow, Swansea and many other towns and cities all suffered loss of life and refuge.

Salman Abedi would have learned that more than 1,400 Manchester people were killed by Nazi bombs, in Collyhurst, Salford, Stretford, all over. The Old Trafford football ground was so badly damaged that after the war Manchester United was obliged to share Manchester City's Maine Road stadium.

But beyond these facts and figures Abedi would also have learned that the Nazis lost the war in spite of all the civilians they killed and injured; their bombers made no difference to their ultimate fate: they were crushed. Murdering and shredding children at a pop concert is not only disgusting, it's a waste of life and time. In this respect US President Donald Trump was right to categorise suicide bombers as life-hating 'losers'. They love death the way most people love life.

Far from frightening ordinary people and cowing national leaders the bombing of Britain during World War II resulted in black humour and a desire to hit back even harder. People adapted and carried on. And, such is the national habit of self-deprecation, carrying on gave rise to a series of comedy films after the war, the Carry-on series. All that Salman Abedi achieved was to bring together hundreds of people, probably thousands, who had little to do with one another before he detonated his nail bomb.

Taxi-firms offered free rides to people who escaped from Manchester Arena. Hotels offered rooms and food. Countless individuals reportedly did the same on social media. Off-duty NHS staff went into work. People queued at blood-banks. I am told that a couple of homeless men offered their help as well.  Everybody in old Mad-chester, as it used to be known in the 1980s, wanted to help. This touched me more deeply than the official voices expressing the usual post-outrage platitudes.

With armed policemen and armed soldiers patrolling busy public places, Salman Abedi has succeeded in making an impact beyond the families of the killed and injured.The understable emotion this has generated is only now starting to clear a little from news reporting so that more questioning voices can be heard.

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