11 September 2001: War, Terror and Judgement

By Bulent Gokay; R. B.J.Walker | Go to book overview

8

The Response of the British Government to the Attack on America

DAN KEOHANE

This chapter's review of the response by the British government to the attack on the USA starts by setting out how the UK administration and other British politicians depicted the attack and what causes they identified. Second, it provides a context, embracing British foreign and security policy before the event, to explain why the UK responded in the way it has. Third, the paper briefly discusses the diplomatic, political and security aspects of the Britain's reaction. And, finally it considers the coherence of the UK response.


THE INITIAL VIEW OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL PARTIES

In the hours and days immediately after the attack of 11 September, the British government and other UK political actors were at one in articulating responses of great horror at the scale and nature of the attack, deep sympathy with the victims and solidarity with the American people and government. 1 The attack also aroused profound concerns about further onslaughts by networks such as the al-Qaida. These anxieties were based on the gross underestimation by UK and US intelligence agencies before 11 September of the capacity of al-Qaida group to organise an attack as complex and destructive as that on the USA, involving the willingness of those involved to sacrifice their own lives.

In the first few days after the event, it was depicted by British political leaders as a wicked, indefensible and barbaric attack by fanatical terrorists on 'basic democratic values…and on the civilised world'. 2 The event was usually portrayed as a unique adventure rather than as the culmination of a series of well-planned attacks on US targets throughout the world going back a decade. Mr Blair observed that the terrorists had no respect for human life or for liberal values and on the contrary inflicted great damage

-110-

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