The Rise Of The Democratic Police
by John Pilger
ZNet, August 18, 2005
Thomas Friedman is a famous columnist
on the New York Times. He has been described as "a guard
dog of US foreign policy". Whatever America's warlords have
in mind for the rest of humanity, Friedman will bark it. He boasts
that "the hidden hand of the market will never work without
a hidden fist". He promotes bombing countries and says world
war three has begun.
Friedman's latest bark is about free speech, which his country's
constitution is said to safeguard. He wants the State Department
to draw up a blacklist of those who make "wrong" political
statements. He is referring not only to those who advocate violence,
but those who believe American actions are the root cause of the
current terrorism. The latter group, which he describes as "just
one notch less despicable than the terrorists", includes
most Americans and Britons, according to the latest polls.
Friedman wants a "War of Ideas report" which names those
who try to understand and explain, for example, why London was
bombed. These are "excuse makers" who "deserve
to be exposed". He borrows the term "excuse makers"
from James Rubin, who was Madeleine Albright's chief apologist
at the State Department. Albright, who rose to secretary of state
under President Clinton, said that the death of half a million
Iraqi infants as a result of an American-driven blockade was a
"price" that was "worth it". Of all the interviews
I have filmed in official Washington, Rubin's defence of this
mass killing is unforgettable.
Farce is never far away in these matters. The "excuse makers"
would also include the CIA, which has warned that "Iraq [since
the invasion] has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground
for the next generation of 'professionalised' terrorists'."
On to the Friedman/Rubin blacklist go the spooks!
Like so much else during the Blair era, this McCarthyite rubbish
has floated across the Atlantic and is now being recycled by the
prime minister as proposed police-state legislation, little different
from the fascist yearnings of Friedman and other extremists. For
Friedman's blacklist, read Tony Blair's proposed database of proscribed
opinions, bookshops, websites.
The British human rights lawyer Linda Christian asks: "Are
those who feel a huge sense of injustice about the same causes
as the terrorists - Iraq, Afghanistan, the war on terrorism, Guantanamo
Bay, Abu Ghraib - to be stopped from speaking forthrightly about
their anger? Because terrorism is now defined in our law as actions
abroad, will those who support liberation movements in, for example,
Kashmir or Chechnya be denied freedom of expression?" Any
definition of terrorism, she points out, should "encompass
the actions of terrorist states engaged in unlawful wars."
Of course, Blair is silent on western state terrorism in the Middle
East and elsewhere; and for him to moralise about "our values"
insults the fact of his blood-crime in Iraq. His budding police
state will, he hopes, have the totalitarian powers he has longed
for since 2001 when he suspended habeas corpus and introduced
unlimited house arrest without trial. The Law Lords, Britain's
highest judiciary, have tried to stop this. Last December, Lord
Hoffmann said that Blair's attacks on human rights were a greater
threat to freedom than terrorism. On 26 July, Blair emoted that
the entire British nation was under threat and abused the judiciary
in terms, as Simon Jenkins noted, "that would do credit to
his friend Vladimir Putin". What we are seeing in Britain
is the rise of the democratic police state.
Should you be tempted to dismiss all this as esoteric or merely
mad, travel to any Muslim community in Britain, especially in
the north west and sense the state of siege and fear. On 15 July,
Blair's Britain of the future was glimpsed when the police raided
the Iqra Learning Centre and book store near Leeds. The Iqra Trust
is a well-known charity that promotes Islam worldwide as "a
peaceful religion which covers every walk of life." The police
smashed down the door, wrecked the shop and took away anti-war
literature which they described as "anti-western".
Among this was, reportedly, a DVD of the Respect Party MP George
Galloway addressing the US Senate and a New Statesman article
of mine illustrated by a much-published photograph of a Palestinian
man in Gaza attempting to shield his son from Israeli bullets
before the boy was shot to death. The photograph was said to be
"working people up", meaning Muslim people. Clearly,
David Gibbons, this journal's esteemed art director, who chose
this illustration, will be called before the Blair Incitement
Tribunal. One of my books, The New Rulers of the World, was also
apparently confiscated. It is not known whether the police have
yet read the chapter that documents how the Americans, with help
from MI6 and the SAS, created, armed and bankrolled the terrorists
of the Islamic Mujahideen, not least Osama Bin Laden.
The raid was deliberately theatrical, with the media tipped off.
Two of the alleged 7 July bombers had been volunteers in the shop
almost four years ago. "When they became hardliners",
said a community youth worker. "They left and have never
been back and they've had nothing to do with the shop." The
raid was watched by horrified local people. who are now scared,
angry and bitter. I spoke to Muserat Sujawal, who has lived in
the area for 31 years and is respected widely for her management
of the nearby Hamara Community Centre. She told me, "There
was no justification for the raid. The whole point of the shop
is to teach how Islam is a community-based religion. My family
has used the shop for years, buying, for example, the Arabic equivalent
of Sesame Street. They did it to put fear in our hearts."
James Dean, a Bradford secondary school teacher, said, "I
am teaching myself Urdu because I have multi-ethnic classes, and
the shop has been very helpful with tapes."
The police have the right to pursue every lead in their hunt for
bombers, but scaremongering is not their right. Sir Ian Blair,
the Metropolitan Police Commissioner who understands how the media
can be used and spends a lot of time in television studios, has
yet to explain why he announced that the killing in the London
Underground of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes was "directly
linked" to terrorism, when he must have known the truth.
Muslim people all over Britain report the presence of police "video
vans" cruising their streets, filming everyone. "We
have become like ghettoes under siege," said one man too
frightened to be named. "Do they know what this is doing
to our young people?"
The other day Blair said, "We are not having any of this
nonsense about [the bombings having anything] to do with what
the British are doing in Iraq or Afghanistan, or support for Israel,
or support for America, or any of the rest of it. It is nonsense
and we have to confront it as that." This "raving",
as the American writer Mike Whitney observed, "is part of
a broader strategy to dismiss the obvious facts about terror and
blame the victims of American-British aggression. It's a tactic
that was minted in Tel Aviv and perfected over 37 years of occupation.
It is predicated on the assumption that terrorism emerges from
an amorphous, religious-based ideology that transforms its adherents
into ruthless butchers."
Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago has examined
every act of suicide terrorism over the past 25 years. He refutes
the assumption that suicide bombers are mainly driven by "an
evil ideology independent of other circumstances." He said,
"The facts are that since 1980, half the attacks have been
secular. Few of the terrorists fit the standard stereotype...
Half of them are not religious fanatics at all. In fact, over
95 per cent of suicide attacks around the world [are not about]
religion, but a specific strategic purpose - to compel the United
States and other western countries to abandon military commitments
on the Arabian Peninsula and in countries they view as their homeland
or prize greatly... The link between anger over American, British
and western military [action] and al-Qaeda's ability to recruit
suicide terrorists to kill us could not be tighter."
So we have been warned, yet again. Terrorism is the logical consquence
of American and British "foreign policy" whose infinitely
greater terrorism we need to recognise, and debate, as a matter
First published in the New Statesman -
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