The Rise of the Democratic Police State

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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 defense 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 ‘professionalized’ 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 moralize 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 antiwar 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 multiethnic 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 consequence
of American and British “foreign policy” whose infinitely greater
terrorism we need to recognize, and debate, as a matter of urgency.

August
19, 2005

John
Pilger
was born and educated in Sydney, Australia. He has been
a war correspondent, filmmaker and playwright. Based in London,
he has written from many countries and has twice won British journalism’s
highest award, that of "Journalist of the Year," for his
work in Vietnam and Cambodia. His new book, Tell
Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and Its Triumphs
, is
published by Jonathan Cape next month. This article was first published
in the New Statesman.

©
John Pilger 2005

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Pilger Archives

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