Values under attack

A woman places flowers for the victims of the May 21 bombing at St Ann's Square in central Manchester, England, Friday, May 26, 2017.
A woman places flowers for the victims of the May 21 bombing at St Ann's Square in central Manchester, England, Friday, May 26, 2017. AP

This editorial appeared in the News & Record

The murderous terrorist bombing in Manchester, England, last week was an attack on all free people. While it shocks and frightens, it should also stiffen the resolve of Western nations to put an end to these threats while preserving liberty and justice.

Among the 22 dead and 64 wounded are children and teens. A performance by American singer Ariana Grande had just ended at Manchester Arena. As concertgoers, many of them young, were leaving, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a foyer. Police believe he was 22-year-old Salmon Abedi, a Manchester native whose parents came from Libya. He recently traveled to that country. His brother is one of several people arrested in the wake of the attack. The Islamic State claims an association with it – and its presence in Libya makes that plausible. Another brother and the suspect's father reportedly were arrested in Libya Wednesday.

Britain is in the highest state of alert, with thousands of military personnel joining police in the streets of major cities. Americans should consider this before visiting – although no country is safe from terrorism, as we all know.

What was positive in Manchester was the outpouring of support from ordinary people, who rushed to provide assistance and opened their homes to strangers – often with the promise of putting the kettle on. The Brits are known for stiff upper lips and their cups of tea.

They've seen this before. Manchester was the site of the most powerful bomb ever detonated in England by Irish Republican Army terrorists. It happened just 21 years ago, on June 15, 1996. More than 3,000 pounds of explosives were packed into a truck parked in the inner city. A warning phoned to a security guard led to the evacuation of 80,000 people before the blast, which caused extensive damage for blocks. It killed no one, but more than 200 people were injured by flying glass and other debris.

A smaller explosion had injured 65 three years earlier, and two other 1993 bombings in nearby Warrington killed two boys, ages 3 and 12. All were part of a long series of terrorist attacks by Irish nationalists.

People of Irish nationality or origin were not expelled or barred from England. Now the terrorists are Islamic extremists, whose actions are just as heinous or worse. Their targets aren't in one country but almost any country. Some, like the Manchester suspect, are born in the nations where they carry out their attacks, striking back at the societies that nurtured them and provided opportunities for a better life. Clearly, the recruitment power of extremist groups like the Islamic State poses a tremendous threat -- and that won't be eliminated by military success in Iraq and Syria.

President Donald Trump, speaking in Saudi Arabia May 21, urged Arab countries to drive out extremists and discredit their ideology. They should, but it's complicated. Saudi Arabia itself, while tolerating no challenges to its own government authority, fosters an extreme form of Islam called Wahhabism and funds its teaching in other countries.

Americans should remain on guard, and security measures should be reviewed for all major venues in U.S. cities. We also should remember that our freedoms are under attack, which is why we can never surrender our values as Americans.