Whenever a New Labour mouthpiece pronounces in public, one can almost see the think balloon over their head with cartoon character Sid Snake hissing "trusssst me...". Financial Times editor John Lloyd's piece in the UK Guardian of August 10th in defense of British government plans to reinforce the country's already tough anti-terror legislation is a fine example of Sid Snake apologetics. Lloyd's piece is entitled "The British did not have it coming," a title that immediately targets a straw man hardly any of Blair's critics have set up. He writes in a context in which the UK government has warned the judiciary not to interfere with the implementation of proposed new courts.
As editor of the Financial Times, Lloyd is well used to marketing corporate-friendly myths. In this case he attempts to sell the UK government's red herring that the terror attacks in London were principally the result of Islamic extremism. What most critics of Tony Blair and his Cabinet contend, on the contrary, is that the terror attacks resulted principally from the Blair government's participation in an illegal war of aggression against Iraq and their collusion in the appalling series of war crimes committed during the subsequent occupation.
Lloyd wants to defend Tony Blair's repressive new package of proposed measures ostensibly intended to curtail inflammatory propaganda by supporters of terrorism. From the start his arguments are at best obtuse, veering hard towards the disingenuous. He makes five points with a tone of "enough of this nonsense." But instead of strengthening Tony Blair's case, he shows up its fundamental falsity.
Clear as Euphrates Mud
"Firstly", writes Lloyd "the proposed measures are clearly aimed at those who preach violence." But clarity is significantly absent from government announcements on the proposed measures that talk vaguely about targeting people and organizations who "condone terror," a phrase that could include many non-violent people, including human rights defenders. Lloyd goes on "in so far as there would be, in practice, confusion, then that should form part of the normal arguments between the state and the courts." But he omits that the courts will be special courts with judges and lawyers specially picked according to government "security" criteria. There is nothing "normal" about that.
Lloyd goes on to talk about proposed migratory control measures "to screen more carefully those who enter the UK and expel those who abuse their welcome by advocating violence against it, or against other democratic governments". That catchall codicil at the end is a classic weasel-wriggle. Presumably we are to assume that terrorism against "undemocratic" governments is ok by Lloyd.
Tacit Acceptance of Torture
Reading Lloyd's piece at this point, one hears the unmistakable crumpling of moral high ground. It was papier-mâché after all. In fact, the migratory control measures Lloyd mentions are obviously going to conflict at some point with UK obligations under the UN Convention against Torture. Article 3 of the Convention states, "No State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." (1)
That issue will be of little concern to Tony Blair and his Cabinet colleagues who have persistently violated the spirit and probably the letter of that Convention. Torture and abuse by British troops in Iraq could not have occurred unless sanctioned at a high level by the British government and military. Apart from that, the UK authorities have collaborated enthusiastically in the use of torture by the US and other governments both directly at bases in Guantanamo, Bagram, Diego Garcia and elsewhere and also in the practice of handing over suspects to third countries knowing for certain that the individuals concerned will be tortured.
Goodbye "British Way of Life"
In his third point Lloyd refers to Britain's experience during the long war in Ireland, "the experience of this country, faced with a terrorist threat, has not been to use a restriction of civil and human rights as a ratchet whereby these rights, once lost, are never reinstated. The history of the challenge to the state of IRA terrorism over nearly four decades has told the opposite story. There are dark pages, but the measures taken to restrict rights of movement and expression, and to limit trials by jury, have not remained, while a series of reforms to end discriminatory practices have."
The crazy self-congratulatory logic of this is vertiginous. Lloyd seems to think the British government deserves a prize for finally resolving a disaster that would never have started or endured so long without persistent British government perfidy and folly. The very reason the Provisional IRA originally went to war against Britain was to force the British government into a political settlement opening the way to Irish independence, because successive British governments permitted their local Unionist proxies to subject Irish people to undemocratic oppression.
British troops murdered Irish civilians engaged in peaceful protest. British security forces colluded in the murder of Irish human rights defenders. The Irish war was precisely about securing fundamental rights for Irish people under British rule. Ultimately, in relation to the proposed new UK security measures Lloyd's point is a dud. The Diplock Courts only ever operated in Northern Ireland, anyway. While the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act on the British mainland never really went away in terms of the security forces' routine practice.
In fact the anti-terror legislative legacy of the Irish war persisted and is now to be reinforced and consolidated with the new legislation. What does this mean except that the terrorists have won? They have, in fact, changed Blair's beloved chimera the British "way of life" that the war-criminal-in-chief swears to the British people will never be changed by terror.
The Race Card
For his fourth point, the editor of the Financial Times warns of a backlash against Muslims in Britain. He returns to the shaky proposition that the Blair government only wants to clamp down on incendiary Islamic zealots who promote terror. Incitement to racial hatred and or incitement to murder are already very serious crimes in the UK. It is hard to understand why extra legislation should be necessary if the intention is simply to eliminate extremist fanatical behavior and murderous propaganda.
Lloyd writes, "Constant and violent imprecations against the British government and people will cause anger to grow. Anger and fear require outlets: and we have already seen, in the so-far relatively minor attacks on mosques and innocent Muslims, what outlets these would be." Somehow people like Lloyd never ever seemed to need to make similar warnings to non-Muslim people in Britain with regard to the constant racist vilification and attacks British Muslims have had to tolerate on a constant basis for decades from vile UK organizations who openly campaign on racist platforms. One wonders why that should be. This media spokesperson for Blair's New Labour seems not far from suggesting to British Muslims that they abstain from too overt criticism of UK policy in Iraq.
The "Extremist" -- Joker or Trump?
Almost as if he saw that criticism coming, Lloyd immediately goes on to write, "Leaders and opinion formers among Muslims who oppose extremism require a firm base on which to stand. If they are to support democratic politics -- including protest and opposition -- they need to see that bolstered by the state." Now the ground has shifted slightly. Lloyd is not now talking specifically about people who incite to murder. Now he produces that handy jack-of-all-smears, the "extremist".
If someone supports the Iraqi resistance in their struggle to rid their country of the murderous barbarians who have invaded them, are they "extremist"? At what point does one become an "extremist"? If Blair has his way, a special court will decide. Lloyd continues, "To see instead the state extend a welcome and benefits to those whose main aim is to call down violence on the population is to give the moderates little help: it is to signal an indifference between their opinion and that of the extremists."
This is classic Blairism. First set up a statement everyone agrees with. "Gosh, that sounds reasonable..." Then, spin it a bit, slip in a word that slightly shifts the ground, like "extremist". One glances up the page of Lloyd's article to note again "to screen more carefully those who enter the UK and expel those who abuse their welcome by advocating violence against it, or against other democratic governments". What is the significance of "or against other democratic governments."?
Various speakers on behalf of Iraqi groups openly resisting the illegal occupation of their country were invited recently to speak in Italy. (2) The Italian government refused visas to those individuals following pressure from US politicians. That is exactly what can be expected from the proposed new British government anti-terror measures. Legitimate criticism of the illegal occupation in Iraq will be censored in the UK under the pretext of national security. But the legislation will be used to censor dissent on other conflicts too.
Would someone like Ken Saro-Wiwa, the executed Nigerian dissident, qualify as an "extremist" if they managed to escape Saro-Wiwa's fate and get to the UK? Once the legislation is in place it will be used for anything that it suits the government to catch. Government officials work like that, "The legislation's there, why not use it?...."
Leaving aside the obvious example of Israeli-occupied Palestine, is Colombia a democratic government when narco-paramilitaries openly boast that they have bought over 30% of the country's deputies? Is Egypt a democracy when legitimate demonstrations against President Mubarak are ruthlessly dispersed using the most extreme violence? Is Turkey a democracy, when its Kurdish population is still subject to continuing gross violations of their most basic rights? But all these countries have elections, so they must be democracies -- so runs the absurd QED. There are many kinds of democracy, some with incomparably worse human rights records than countries accused of being undemocratic.
Blairism Embodied -- Denial, Spin, Shifty Atavism
These are not oversights. John Lloyd knows all this the same as any other senior national newspaper editor does. As editor of the Financial Times, Lloyd writes with the authority of a leading Pharisee of the New Labour sect of the corporate global elite. He winds up his piece insisting that the UK government's repressive new measures should be supported for the sake of guaranteeing consensus in a society experiencing significant immigration of people from other cultures.
At his back, hurrying near, is not Time's winged chariot but the venomous prophecy of archetypal racist Enoch Powell about Britain become a Tiber foaming with blood as a result of non-white immigration. It's almost as though Lloyd wants to shift the blame for the London bombings onto immigrants. Lloyd's point evades the central issue - the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.
He writes that the Guardian has "...been host to several pieces arguing, in essence, that we British had it coming (it being terrorist attacks by those acting in the name of extreme Islamism). Such arguments blur, at the very least, the essential nature of democratic societies. That is, that opposition is necessary to their health and it is that which must carry the burden of anger and protest. As long as that is the case, we don't have to accept terrorism as our guilty due; we have to entertain argument as our responsibility, our privilege and our patrimony."
Again, the shifty New Labour spin. "It" was not an attack from people acting principally in the name of "extreme Islamism". The attacks in London were principally in response to the British government's role in Iraq. Lloyd's final guff about "argument as our responsibility, our privilege and our patrimony" skims glibly over the downright deceit of Tony Blair and his colleagues.
How can there be meaningful argument when the facts are "fixed around the policy" as Richard Dearlove's notorious memorandum put it? The facts were invented and then the fact of their invention was dissembled. On that basis millions of people in Iraq have had their lives ruined, hundreds of thousands have been killed or gravely injured. The suffering inflicted is inconceivable.
The Undeniable -- Aggression, War Crimes
Tony Blair and his war-criminal colleagues are confirming again that the role of the powerful in Britain's "way of life" is as rotten and bogus as it has always been. It is Blair, Straw, Brown, Prescott, Reid and Clarke and the rest, who have lied and deceived and tricked the British people and parliament. It is they who are cynically sacrificing British troops for their shabby corporate-dominated political ends.
They are the ones who have colluded in the massacre of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians by the barbarian US invading horde. It is Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Gordon Brown who have complacently permitted the pillage of Iraq's resources by the throng of corporate carrion-creatures ripping off what they can in Iraq with the approval of malignant mega-gangsters like George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. John Lloyd seems to want us to believe that the only people who violently object to all that are people loyal to "extreme Islamism". Does he think universal norms of basic morality have suddenly been suspended?
Available reports indicate that the London bombers were primarily motivated by anger at the illegal invasion and barbaric occupation of Iraq. They were terribly wrong to inflict mass murder on civilians in London. It was incomparably more terribly wrong of Tony Blair and his colleagues to lie cynically and systematically to facilitate the illegal invasion and criminal occupation of Iraq.
It is absolutely certain that the British government will abuse their proposed new security measures. They will target supporters of political organizations in legitimate resistance to tyrannical governments loyal to the global agenda promoted by the US government and its allies. That has nothing to do with protecting the British people.
By simply complying unequivocally with international law and refraining from the attack on Iraq, Tony Blair could have dramatically diminished the terrorist threat to Britain. Instead of spurious, irrelevant legislation, the British government should pull out of Iraq and make reparations. For everyone's sake they should encourage the US government to do the same.
toni solo is an activist based in Central America. Contact via: www.tonisolo.net.
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