Mike Davies, author of The City of Quartz and more recently of the Planet of Slums, among other works, investigates the history of the car bomb and traces its history from the first car bomb exploded by an anarchist in Wall Street in 1919. The next usage of the car bomb was much later in 1947 by an extremist Jewish outfit to blow up a British police station in Palestine.
“jihadists join a roiling crowd of less-than-peaceful car-bombers that has included Jews, Christians, Hindus, anarchists, French colonials, Mafiosos, members of the Irish Republican Army, and CIA operatives among others.”
(source Tom’s Dispatch)
The article brougt to mind Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American to which Davies alludes in this essay, and, on a slightly different note Josef Conrad’s The Secret Agent where an anarchist tries to blow up the the Greenwich Observatory in an attempt to destroy Time itself (no car bomb involved though.)
Here is Mr Vladimir, the First Secretary of a Central Asian country in London, explaining the reasons for selecting the target:
Madness alone is truly terrifying, inasmuch as you cannot placate it either by threats, persuasion, or bribes. Moreover, I am a civilized man. I would never dream of directing you to organize a mere butchery, even if I expected the best results from it. But I wouldn’t expect from a butchery the result I want. Murder is always with us. It is almost an institution. The demonstration must be against learning–science. But not every science will do. The attack must have all the shocking senselessness of gratuitous blasphemy. Since bombs are your means of expression, it would be really telling if one could throw a bomb into pure mathematics. But that is impossible. I have been trying to educate you; I have expounded to you the higher philosophy of your usefulness, and suggested to you some serviceable arguments. The practical application of my teaching interests you mostly. But from the moment I have undertaken to interview you I have also given some attention to the practical aspect of the question. What do you think of having a go at astronomy?”
(Source: The Secret Agent)
Link via Economist’s View.