Britain's War in the Cause of Fear and Ignorance

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The British
lawyer Gareth Pierce, celebrated for her defense of miscarriage
of justice victims, wrote recently: "Over the years of the
conflict, every lawless action on the part of the British state
provoked a similar reaction: internment, u2018shoot to kill’, the use
of torture, brutally obtained false confessions and fabricated evidence.
This was registered by the community most affected, but the British
public, in whose name the actions were taken, remained ignorant."
Referring to the conflict in Northern Ireland, she was drawing a
comparison with "our new suspect community," people of
Muslim faith, against whom a vicious, sectarian and mostly unreported
war is well under way.

As Pierce points
out, "internment, discredited and abandoned in Northern Ireland"
now allows, not 42 days, but "indefinite detention without
trial of foreign nationals, the u2018evidence’ to be heard in secret
with the detainee’s lawyer not permitted to see the evidence against
him." Those snatched from their homes in Britain following
11 September, 2001 have all but vanished into an Anglo-American
gulag, which in this country joins Belmarsh prison, where people
are consigned to oblivion, with Broadmoor psychiatric prison, where
they are sent as they go mad, and with Kafkaesque versions of "home"
where others are interred under "control orders." One
of these home prisoners, wrote Pierce, "a man without arms,
was left alone and terrified, unable to leave the flat or to contact
anyone without committing a criminal offense, subject to a curfew
and allowed no visits unless approved in advance by the Home Office."
Going into the garden, arranging a plumber, speaking to a child’s
teacher all require permission. The families go mad, too.

"a quick death … to a slow death here," one man who took
a risk and returned to Algeria has been lost in the subcontracted
gulag, where his new torturers have given "assurances"
to the British government that they will do him no harm and while
they do him harm are themselves reassured by the presence of British
Petroleum, the ethical oil company, which has sunk 6 billion into
getting oil out of Algeria’s southern Sahara. Another subcontractor,
Jordan, is held economically afloat by the US so that George Bush’s
"renditions" and torture can proceed there. No British
court has found any of these people guilty of any crime. In Britain,
as Tony Blair, a genuine prima facie criminal, put it so well, "the
rules of the game have changed."

As in the Irish
conflict, it is again the ignorance of us, the public, upon which
the state relies. All propaganda is directed at honing this ignorance
and fabricating a fear. This is primarily the task of journalists.
The true fear is in Muslim communities. Visit them and find people
terrified by your knock on the door, and women who now never go
out and the children wrapped in nightmares. In effect, control orders
have been served on thousands of British citizens.

As Pierce reminds
us, the Irish had allies in the Catholic Church and the 40 million
Americans of Irish descent; Muslims are alone as they watch the
British state, with its "obstinate incomprehension" of
their faith, do to them as it would never do to those of other faiths.
Imagine Jews treated this way. You cannot imagine it; the profanity
is too great. The silence of British Jews, who have the history,
is also great.

the suppressed facts of "terrorism" show, Muslims are
by far the most numerous victims — up to a million Iraqis dead,
including 500,000 infants, during "sanctions" against
Iraq in the 1990s; perhaps another million dead when Blair and his
mentor ignited the current inferno; countless dead and maimed in
Afghanistan by weapons that include the British thermobaric bomb,
designed to suck the air out of human beings. And there is Palestine,
an entire nation under a permanent control order.

Reviewing this
monstrous record, it is no less than amazing that the world’s most
violent governments — Britain is now the world’s leading arms merchant
— have sustained only two retaliations on their home soil. With
every hypocritical act, they beckon another. Moreover, wrote Gareth
Pierce, "If our government continues on [this destructive]
path, we will ultimately have destroyed much of the moral and legal
fabric of the society that we claim to be protecting. The choice
and the responsibility are entirely ours."

26, 2008

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 in June.

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