[Paleopsych] New Statesman: John Pilger: The Rise of the Democratic Police State

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John Pilger: The Rise of the Democratic Police State
August 18, 2005
[Thanks to Laird for this.]

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 

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 of urgency.

First published in the _New Statesman_

Last updated  23/08/2005

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