LONDON, July 7 (UPI) -- While al-Qaida showed their customary ruthless skill in planning the London bombings, their choice of target may become a major strategic mistake.
London was not the only victim of the spate of bombings of the trains and buses of the London transit system. The bombers clearly meant to sow not only panic but financial disruption, hitting stations in the heart of the city of London, where most of world's daily $1.5 trillion trades in currency are made. That plan failed. The London markets -- which did not close -- quickly sank 3 percent, but then recovered.
The other symbolic target of the bombers, the G8 summit, may have been taking place 400 miles to the north, but the presence of U.S. President George W. Bush as a guest of Tony Blair, the twin authors of the war and the occupation of Iraq, made the Gleneagles summit into an event worth disrupting for al-Qaida.
Or did it? By attacking the country currently hosting the G8 summit, al-Qaida has once again made it clear that its enemy is the West as a whole, all the advanced industrialized nations, including the next G8 invitees such as India, China and Brazil. And when the G8 leaders declared Thursday that the attack on London was an attack on them all, the real isolation of al-Qaida, and the utter emptiness of their political agenda, became brutally clear.
But this G8 was rather different. By bombing Britain at this time, al-Qaida also made it clear that it did not give a hoot about world poverty, about Africa, about the relief of debt, or about global warming.
Al-Qaida's bombers also spat in the face of the millions of young people who turned up or tuned in to the Live 8 concerts over the weekend, who were moved by the appeals of the artists and singers to make a difference and use their voices and their votes and their civic pressure to urge their political leaders to tackle poverty and climate change.
To his credit, and despite formidable opposition in the Bush White House and the central banks of the world, Tony Blair tried to make this G8 summit stand for something different, for some serious commitments to issue that engage the passions of tens of millions of voters in Europe, Japan, North America and around the world. Blair went as far as a serious political leader can go to support the Live 8 campaigners, and to give Bono and Bob Geldof the blessing the British government on their political endeavors.
And now, thanks to al-Qaida, this G8 summit at Gleneagles will be remembered not for what it did for Africa (which was a very great deal, in securing debt relief), and not for what it achieved in bridging the gap between the rhetoric of the Bush White House and the Kyoto protocol, but for the London bombings.
There is a contrast, if not a clash of civilizations. The West's leaders try to help Africa, and Islam's extremists try to explode their efforts by killing London commuters.
The al-Qaida website claims that "Britain is burning with terror and fear and panic." Not so. The world's TV audience can see that London is coping just as it did with Hitler's blitz, with the same stiff upper lip with which is greeted the bombs of the Irish Republican Army. It will take more than a few Islamist fascists, however vicious and ruthless, to make Londoners show fear and panic.
More ironic still, the West is trying to help Africa clamber out of poverty; the sheikhs of Araby are plunging Africa deeper into penury. The oil bill for sub-Saharan Africa is this year going to be $10 billion higher than it was a year ago -- and most of that money is heading for the coffers of the country that produced most of the 9/11 terrorists.
These ironies will not be lost on a new generation of Westerners, of Japanese and Russians and Brazilians, and quite possibly of Indians and Chinese, just coming of age. The Live 8 concerts will probably make this G8 summit the first political event in which these young people took a serious interest, and they have seen it blown out of the headlines by bombers who view the grander goals of Live 8 with contempt and as an opportunity for the most bloodily vicious form of exploitation.
Some of them might even have agreed with Chris Martin of Coldplay, probably the hottest band in the world these days, who described the Live 8 concerts as "the biggest thing that's ever been organized, probably in the history of the world."
Not really, not when al-Qaida has a new act to put on stage; not when it's time for another of Osama bin Laden's greatest hits.
Of course, the London bombings may have nothing to do Osama. Al-Qaida is now the McDonalds of terrorism, a franchise operation in which the name and the uniforms and product do not vary, but get delivered by a host of different operators and franchisees. Al-Qaida is the ultimate virtual corporation, a brand name for a media-savvy entity that exists in cyberspace.
And doubtless al-Qaida's London franchisees thought they were being really clever in hitting not just against Blair's Britain, as one of 'Crusader countries" with troops in Iraq, but also hitting the G8 as a whole when all the world's media was gathered to watch it grapple with the real issues of poverty and climate change that Blair had laid before it.
What they hit instead was the sense of idealism and hope that millions of young people had invested in this G8, and they are likely to remember who spoiled their party.