LONDON — Following criticism by British officials and the media, the U.S. government said Tuesday it had reversed course and lifted a post-bombing ban on military personnel from visiting London.
The order, issued soon after the bombings last Thursday, caused indignation in London after it was reported by the media.
The order had applied to Navy personnel as well as the 10,000 Air Force personnel at two major bases in eastern England; the Navy rescinded the order earlier, David Johnson, U.S. embassy’s charge d’affaires, told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
The order contrasted with the advice British officials gave to Londoners after Thursday’s bombings on three subway trains and a bus. The government urged Londoners to get on with their lives and not let themselves be overcome by fear.
'A little more courage' expected
“I would have hoped our American allies could show a little more courage,” said Andrew Robathan, a Conservative member of Parliament.
The Daily Mail newspaper said in an editorial: “We trust the 4 million Americans who come to London each year are made of sterner stuff than the U.S. Air Force.”
Shortly before the U.S. announcement, Britain’s defense chief, John Reid, said his department had taken up the matter with the American Embassy in London and that the U.S. military was reviewing the orders.
“You will not be surprised to know that my people have been in touch already with the American embassy,” Reid said in an interview with GMTV news. “I understand this is being urgently reviewed. It was a local decision taken locally.”
The order had applied to the area inside the M25 motorway encircling London, but travel on official business was permitted, said Matt Tulis, a spokesman at the Mildenhall Air Force base.
“The main reason is for the security and safety of our military folks,” he said.
'Out of harm's way' rationale
Staff Sgt. Jeff Hamm at Lakenheath said the Air Force wanted to “ensure its personnel are as vigilant and as safe as possible.”
“While it’s important for some to carry on business as usual, the interests in keeping the Air Force out of harm’s way until we have a bit more knowledge about what has happened is greater than the need to send them back into the city,” Hamm said.
Reid told British Broadcasting Corp. radio that the original decision was “perfectly sensible.”
He noted that the first call he received following confirmation of the attack was from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offering “all possible assistance including people coming to London, and some people have done that.”
“So it isn’t the case that Americans are somehow running away from this,” Reid said.
Londoners won praise from leaders around the world for the stoic resolve they displayed last week, with some likening it to the courage the city showed during the blitz in World War II.
© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.