Sunday, August 20, 2006

State of Fear

Are you frightened? Do you live in fear of your life? Do you see pseudo-nihilist fanatics hiding in every city, waiting and planning for the chance to deal death on an unimaginable scale? Do you see a war between civilizations? Is there an arch of extremism waiting to plunge the world into anarchy? Does an axis of evil control a global conspiracy of terror?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then it’s hardly surprising. After all we have two sides who agree only that you should be in a constant state of fear. Frightened people don’t react in a rational way, but they can be manipulated and they can be trusted not to stop and think about what is going on. Frightened people want reassurance and are willing to overlook a government’s failings in other areas, so long as they promise to keep them safe.

If you’ve read this far, you may think that I’m going continue by claiming that 9/11, 7th July, Madrid, Bali and the Beslan school where government inspired conspiracies and Al Qaeda doesn’t exist. Well they happened, just as we told, with all the horrific lose of life we saw. And Al Qaeda does exits, only not exactly as many people believe. Al Qaeda is not a many armed octopus sitting on top of and controlling a global terror network. Al Qaeda is one of many terror organizations. It became famous mostly because Bill Clinton wanted something other than his sexual indescressions to make the news for a change. After that, lazy media labeled every Islamic terrorist group and terrorist attack as Al Qaeda or an affiliate and numerous terrorist groups who want you to believe that there is a powerful global network of terror, claimed allegiance to Al Qaeda. Thus a myth was born: The myth of the War on Terror.

Sadly terrorists do exist. They strike daily in Iraq and bring a terrible death toll. They fire rockets in Israel, kidnap children in Uganda, run the drugs trade in Colombia, fight the Russians in ChechnyaSri Lanka. But none of these wars has anything to do with a global War on Terror. These wars are local wars of liberation, insurgency or terror, which have almost nothing to do with Al Qaeda or a wider struggle. Even in Iraq the vast majority of the violence is by home grown terrorists killing along sectarian lines. and stage attacks in Sri Lanka.

What we see today is a series of bloody Wars of Terror, which pose no danger to our nation or way of life in themselves. They do pose a limited danger to our lives by creating home grown terrorists who, enraged by the suffering of innocents abroad seek to inflict the same horrors upon innocents at home. This is lunacy I don’t in any way seek to justify, and I very much don’t underestimate the suffering of the victims of last year’s terrible day in London, but these fanatics pose no more danger to us as a country than the IRA did for thirty years.

The biggest danger to our way of live comes from a sensationalist media and a reactionary government feeding off each other in a cycle of hyperbole. A few weeks ago the papers had lurid headlines about a suicide vest in Forrest Gate. We now know this to be nonsense. Before that we had The Sun running a sting operation to trap terrorists, which centered around Red Mercury (a non-existent substance) and was rightly thrown our of court. We’ve the papers printing pages of details on the famous rycin plot, but as we now know, no rycin was found and no plot existed.

And now we have the Airliner Plot, for which we get ever more graphic details on how the terrorists planned to create and use liquid explosives onboard ten planes, using common household products and bring about the deaths of three thousand people. Well the terrorists and the plot may have been real (some would argue that there was a real plot to kidnap Euan Blair) and the chemicals, being house hold chemicals, probably did existed, but the odds of success were so small as to be effectively zero (read Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible? ) but that doesn't stop the media from trying to give you nightmares.

The government is happy for this hyperbole to continue. Actually they’re keen for it to continue, because as long as we perceive a threat to our lives, a threat they are dealing with, they know we will be willing to trust them. And they know that a threat to an airplane will keep the incredible facts about PFI, the NHS IT system fiasco, the coming cutbacks and a hundred other failings off the front page and out of the public eye.

This hyperbole and government subterfuge is creating the real threat to our way of life. More and more draconian laws are being introduced. After 9/11 detention prior to charge went from seven days to fourteen days. After 7th July, despite the police never needing more than fourteen days, it increased to twenty eight days and now there are hints that there will be a new attempt to increase it again to ninety days. The government has the power to put anyone under house arrest, indefinitely, with no right of appeal and without telling them what the charge or the evidence is. When the House of Lords tried to make the level of proof required be balance of probabilities the government forced through the weaker level of reasonable grounds. This means that you can be detained indefinitely even if the evidence indicates that you are probably innocent. After heckeling Jack Straw, Walter Wolfgang was detained by police under The Prevention of Terrorism Act. And he wasn’t alone, 600 people were detained under anti terrorism legislation prior to the conference and all were released without charge.

There are terrorists in this country and they will make attempts to kill innocent civilians. Should they succeed, the loss will be on an unimaginable scale to the victims, but the loss will not threaten our way of life or the values we should hold dear. Smoking kills 1,600 people every week in this country, 3,000 dies on our roads each and every year and eight thousand die from an alcohol related causes. Terrorists will not kill on this scale, but we don’t enact sweeping legislation and give the police draconian powers to halt these deaths; Deaths that wreck lives as effectively as any bomb. We haven’t even banned the biggest killer of all, smoking, believing it to be a matter of choice. Instead we have limited where people are allowed to smoke.

If the terrorists get very very lucky they may mange to kill several hundred people, which is about as many as are murdered every year by criminals in the UK. And this is how the terrorists (those that exist) should be treated: As criminals. None of the draconian terrorism laws are required to apprehend criminals and we do not need our freedoms curtailed to apprehend them. The laws that exist are able to deal with the real threat and the panic, which causes planes to be diverted by the presence of a bottle of liquid, needs to stop.


At Sunday, August 20, 2006 7:00:00 am, Blogger David Brewer said...

Hi HGI, thanks for that. It's an interesting read. Have you had this published elsewhere? If not, it might be worth offering it to one of the newsdesk in order to reach a wider audience?



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