Fortress Britain

“The public has to be more alert”, warned one “international terrorism expert” in the Daily Mail late last year, because Scotland “is set to become another Israel within five years”. “[A]nti-terror measures will soon become a common feature of life”, he assured the audience, and called for “routine arming of police officers” and increasing children’s “awareness of the dangers of terrorism” and for them to be “encouraged” to report anything “out of the ordinary”.

The oracle of doom was one Amnon Maor, identified as the head instructor of counter-terrorism for the IDF and Israeli border police.Might he be the same Amnon Maor of the squad of six Israeli border policemen who back in 1994 were sentenced to six months in prison with one year suspended sentences and a fine of NIS 1,000 each, for brutally assaulting an Arab in a supermarket whose cart had accidentally knocked one. ‘The six also arrested a passerby who witnessed the beating, and had asked them to stop and to show identification’, the Jerusalem Post reported. The Judge castigated them for abuse of authority and violating ‘all norms of acceptable behaviour’. (Jerusalem Post, 8 December 1994) Maor is working with security firm 360 Defence, based near Glasgow, which is “training Scottish police, military and civilians in security techniques”. This wouldn’t be the first time the British police benefits from Israeli anti-terror expertise. The police squad that carried out the extrajudicial execution of the young Brazilian electrician Jean-Charles de Menezes in the London underground had received similar training.

In the post-September 11 world, Naomi Klein writes, Israel has pitched its “uprooting, occupation and containment of the Palestinian people as a half-century head start in the ‘global war on terror'”. Britain has since been furnished with its own unpopular occupation of Arab land — and the lessons from Israel are not lost on its architects. In disaster lies opportunity — and the only thing more useful than a thing to fear is fear itself. The give away line in Maor’s prescription above is his offer to increase children’s awareness of the dangers of terrorism — absent the real thing, fear should suffice. The Prime Minister may not have many achievements to his name, but he can claim patents to ‘Fortress Britain’, whose battlements sit on a foundation of fear.

The Power of Nightmares

In October 2001 it was revealed that the Pentagon was consulting Hollywood writers and producers specializing in spy thrillers and disaster flicks to imagine future attacks in order to best prepare for them. Developments such as the colour-coded threat alerts that change hue at the Department of Homeland Security’s caprice have alarmed even cold war hawks like Zbigniew Brzezinski enough to lament this ‘culture of fear’:

Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue… Such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum.

In Britain each of the New Labour government’s political missteps has been accompanied by similar fear-mongering. While a terrorist threat does exist, its magnitude is wildly exaggerated. The European Police Office (Europol) released its first report on terrorism last year which listed 498 terrorist attacks for Europe in 2006; only one was attributed to Muslims. The majority — 136 — were carried out by the Basque separatist group ETA; only one of them deadly. When it came to the arrests on terrorism related charges, however, a good half were Muslims.European Terrorism Situation and Trend Report 2007; David Miller, ‘The statistical invisibility of Islamist “terrorism” in Europe’, Spinwatch, 23 May 2007.

It began with the ‘Ricin plot’: the highly publicized arrests, national hysteria and front page headlines. There was no Ricin, or a plot. It wouldn’t be until 2005, well after Colin Powell had used it in his case to sell the Iraq war to the UN, that the ban on reporting on the case was finally lifted and the public apprised of the truth. The February 2003 ‘terror alert’ had Blair scrambling tanks to Heathrow, timed conveniently to coincide with the large scale demonstrations against the coming war. Notable support in the media came from BBC propagandist Fred Gardner, long suspected of ties to the intelligence services,While Gardner admits MI6 tried to recruit him while stationed in Cairo, he insists he turned them down. See David Rowan, ‘Interview: Frank Gardner’, Evening Standard, 15 June 2005. themselves busy fanning the fire. Simon Jenkins, the conservative columnist noted, “In 2002-03, before the Iraq war, the security service supplied the Cabinet Office with a weekly catalogue of ‘terror fears’ — anthrax, smallpox, sarin, dirty nuclear devices and a Christmas bombing campaign — to soften public opinion for the war.”

In June 2006, 250 heavily armed police men acting on ‘specific intelligence’ raided a home in Forest Gate arresting two young Muslims, shooting one in the process. The chemical weapons that they were alleged to have possessed were never found. Both were acquitted without charge. The police apologized. On August 10th, 2006, a day after then Home Secretary John Reid had hinted that new anti-terror measures were in order, the Deputy Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, Paul Stephenson, announced that the police had foiled a plot to commit “mass murder on an unimaginable scale”. Officials were soon conceding that the immediacy and scale of the threat may have been “exaggerated”; however, the scare succeeded in deflecting attention from Blair’s widely-denounced manoeuvres preventing a ceasefire in Lebanon. From Beirut, an outraged Robert Fisk wrote:

Stephenson’s job is to frighten the British people, not to stop the crimes that are the real reason for the British to be frightened … I’m all for arresting criminals… But I don’t think Paul Stephenson is. I think he huffs and he puffs but I do not think he stands for law and order. He works for the Ministry of Fear which, by its very nature, is not interested in motives or injustice.

In November 2006, the MI5 director general Eliza Manningham-Buller warned of a violent threat from 1,600 suspects in 200 groups that could last “more than a generation”. Although she identified government policy towards Iraq as the main factor contributing to the rising radicalism, Blair endorsed the statement. He continued his scapegoating of Muslims with the periodic reiterations of the ‘Islamic threat’ to rationalize the fear, repression, lies and resentment brought in on the heels of the Iraq war. When Blair announced that “the rule of the game have changed”, no one took it more seriously than the tabloid press; they demonstrated just how toxic things could get when gloves come off with government sanction. Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian confessed: “I try to imagine how I would feel if this rainstorm of headlines substituted the word ‘Jew’ for ‘Muslim’ — I wouldn’t just feel frightened. I would be looking for my passport.”

One can’t miss the Islamophobic nature of much of the hysteria when one compares the difference in the treatment of the cases of Robert Cottage and David Bolus Jackson of the BNP with that of Mohammed Atif Siddique. The case of the former two, arrested for the possession of rocket launchers, a “record haul of chemicals used in making home-made bombs”, extremist literature, and bomb-making information, barely got covered in national media; the latter, a 20 year old, received front page attention and eight years in prison for merely downloading extremist literature, and his attorney Aamer Anwer, got charged with ‘contempt of court’ for calling the trial a “tragedy for justice”.

The new MI5 chief, Jonathan Evan, raised the fear factor a year on with the warning that 15-year-olds were being “groomed” for terror and that there were up to 2,000 people involved in “terrorist-related activity”. Recalling Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknown’s”, the man appointed by John Reid with Tony Blair’s approval, bizarrely added “there are as many again that we don’t yet know of”. Described variously as “lurid”, “inflammatory”, “highly ideological”, “playing Halloween”, it came on the eve of the Queen’s address calling for yet another terror bill. The institutional imperative of self-preservation may also have been at play: MI5 has already expanded by 50% with eight new regional offices, and will have doubled in size by 2011. Eyebrows have been raised at these very public interventions by the heads of a clandestine service. Simon Jenkins noted that chiefs of the secret service have long feared that the absence of a public profile may diminish funding appropriation. “The answer of both MI5’s Evans and MI6’s John Scarlett is to join the fear factory.”

Taking Liberties

The assault on constitutional rights that started in the US with Clinton’s Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty law of 1996 was replicated in Britain with the Terrorism Act 2000. Section 41 of the Act granted police the right to detain terror suspects for up to one week without charge (criminal law on the other hand requires that suspects be charged within the first 24 hours of arrest, or be released). Section 44 granted police stop and search rights all across Britain (it has since been used against: Kevin Gillan and Pennie Quinto for protesting outside Europe’s biggest arms fair in London, the 82-year-old Walter Wolfgang for heckling Jack Straw at the Labour Conference, Sally Cameron for walking on a cycle-path in Dundee, the 80-year-old John Catt for being caught on CCTV passing a demonstration in Brighton;, the 11-year-old Isabelle Ellis-Cockcroft for accompanying her parents to an anti-nuclear protest, and a cricketer on his way to a match over his possession of a bat).

In the United States, September 11 occasioned the most robust assault yet on civil liberties in the form of Bush’s ‘USA Patriot Act’ leading eminent constitutional law professor Sanford Levinson to describe Carl Schmitt, the leading Nazi legal authority, as “the true éminence grise of the Bush administration” to the extent that the Administration (advised by Dick Cheney’s lawyer, David Addington) espoused a view of presidential authority “that is all too close to the power that Schmitt was willing to accord his own Führer”.Sanford Levinson, ‘Torture in Iraq & the rule of law in America’, Daedalus, Summer 2004. The respected lawyer Gareth Peirce noted equally worrying tendencies in the UK:

Blair bulldozed through Parliament a new brand of internment. This allowed for the indefinite detention without trial of foreign nationals, the ‘evidence’ to be heard in secret with the detainee’s lawyer not permitted to see the evidence against him and an auxiliary lawyer appointed by the attorney general who, having seen it, was not allowed to see the detainee. The most useful device of the executive is its ability to claim that secrecy is necessary for national security.Gareth Peirce, ‘Was it like this for the Irish?’, London Review of Books, 10 April 2008.

The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 succeeded in ramming through measures that had been rejected in the 2000 Act. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 doubled the period of detention without charge to 14 days. Although the government suffered a significant setback when the Law Lords swept aside the indefinite detention ruling since it broke European human rights legislation (described by the Law Lords as “draconian” and “anathema” to the rule of law, it was seen by Lord Hoffmann as a bigger threat to the nation than terrorism). Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, immediately made clear his intention to undermine it. The government obliged by subsequently passing the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 which gave the Home Secretary the right to use Control Orders and opt out of human rights laws.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in London on July 7, the government upped the ante with the Terrorism Act 2006, which doubled — yet again — the detention period to 28 days, a period far longer than any other state in the western world. The bill marked the first parliamentary defeat for Tony Blair, whose original proposal was for 90 days detention without charge.

Blair’s determination to deflect attention from the failures of his scandal-ridden government by turning the war on terror into a permanent undeclared state of emergency seemed to have come up against a wall. However, despite a noticeably prudent start, Brown’s multiplying political problems soon had him reaching for Blairite nostrums. He renewed the case for doubling the period of detention without charge subsequently settling for an arbitrary 42 days which the supine parliament duly passed.Interestingly, this led to the first resignation on principle from the the British parliament in nearly half a century, of David Davies, a Tory former SAS man. By contrast voting for the bill were Labour MPs such as Muhammad Sarwar, the bovine cipher who represents Glasgow with its large Muslim population. This despite the fact that the newly appointed Home Secretary Jacqui Smith had conceded that circumstances had not yet arisen where it had been necessary “to go beyond 28 days”. Seumas Milne reported in The Guardian that “it’s widely acknowledged in Westminster that a key motivation for this latest assault on long-established rights and freedoms is Brown’s determination to wrong-foot the Tories tactically and portray them as soft on terror”.

The deleterious effects of a creeping surveillance state cannot be discounted. While the public may have little enthusiasm for an ID card scheme after discs containing personal details of 25 million individuals were lost by the government, Brown remains adamant. Given the government’s record for handling personal data, proposals for a universal register of citizen’s DNA samples is very worrying. So are Tony Blair’s remarks about identifying problem children who may grow up to pose a menace to society by intervening before they were born. A new plan under the government’s e-borders scheme would require each person entering or leaving UK to answer 53 questions including “credit card details, holiday contact numbers, travel plans, email addresses, car numbers and even any previous missed flights”. Taken when a ticket is bought, the information, it was reported, “will be shared among police, customs, immigration and the security services for at least 24 hours before a journey is due to take place.” When popular shows bear names like Big Brother, the appurtenances of mass surveillance society, such as the 4.2 million CCTV cameras, become an acceptable, even desired, part of the scenery. While the terrorist threat today has nowhere near the intensity of the IRA campaign, police are using military aircraft such as the Britten-Norman Islander used previously only in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Reaper robot drones of the type being used in Afghanistan will also be in operation during the Olympics.

Reign of the Terrorologist

Riding the back of the raft of anti-terror legislations are the terrorologists and the “security” entrepreneurs; and they have found green pastures in Fortress Britain. With governments unwilling to address political causes, the trend is increasingly one of framing the subject in cultural terms: ‘they hate our way of life’, ‘they hate our freedoms’, etc. This clears the way for the terrorologist to step in and sell a toxic brew of cultural stereotypes and pop psychology packaged in pseudo-academic jargon as expertise. In his study of the trade, James Petras detects the following “eerily predictable patterns”:

They use a common language to describe their subjects and their environment; they are extremely ideological under a thin veneer of scientific jargon; they possess a keen sense of selective observation; they always pretend to possess a psychological understanding though few if any have dealt close up with their subjects in any clinical sense except perhaps under conditions of incarceration and interrogation.

Their style… slippery with euphemisms when it comes to dealing with the violence of their partisan states… Psychobabble provides a ‘legitimate’ sounding channel for… assuming a state of civilized superiority in the face of their dehumanized subjects. Indeed, the dehumanization process is central to the whole terrorist-political-academic enterprise…

One consequence of earning an elevated place in official demonology is that the bar for those passing judgement drops radically. When it comes to Islam, Muslims and their alleged links to terrorism, any shoddy indictment passes muster. Doom-laden sensationalism makes for good copy; it makes no demands on rigour and scepticism, and a stable of ‘experts’ is readily at hand to amplify fear. The degree to which this has penetrated public discourse was demonstrated by the Big Issue — a publication generally about as provocative as a phonebook — with a front page story on ‘cyber terror’ and ‘online vigilantes’. Trotting out a stable of ‘terror experts’ the story served as a platform for several tendentious claims (“There are no longer clear boundaries between real-world cells and ‘amateurs’ assisting terror plots via their computers”; “al-Qaeda is equal in the media war”). Rather than question why a dubious source such as Evan Kohlmann — the man used as a ‘expert witness’ in the Atif Siddique trial who, according to sociologist David Miller, “has no expertise beyond an undergraduate law degree and an internship at a dubious think-tank” — should be consulted by the Scotland Yard, the story served as a puff piece for three Israel lobby hacks with an ideological axe to grind. Rita Katz has served in the Israeli military; Aaron Weisburd runs Internet Haganah (Hebrew name for the paramilitary that later became the IDF) a project of the Society for Internet Research that works with the Mossad-linked Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center; and both Katz and Kohlmann are protégés of Steve Emerson whose own expertise includes having seen “the hallmarks of Middle Eastern terror” in the Oklahoma bombing (actually carried out by Timothy McVeigh, a decorated white Christian war-hero).

The trade of the terrorologist is not new: incubated in the Reagan administration’s earlier ‘war on terror’, its proponents had been exposed and elegantly debunked by Edward Herman. September 11 ushered in a new breed – ubiquitous, ideological, and relentless. Some, such as Rohan Gunaratna of the St. Andrews-based Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), reinvented themselves over night as ‘experts on al-Qaeda’. Gunaratna’s book Inside Al Qaeda became an instant best-seller, even though before the date his expertise was limited to South Asian groups, such as the Tamil Tigers. In the book he claimed he was the “principal investigator of the United Nations’ Terrorism Prevention Branch”. However, after a Sunday Age investigation, he admitted that no such position existed. Intelligence services have been generally dismissive of his claims. However, despite all this, he keeps making appearances as an ‘expert witness’ at various UK prosecutions and in media reports.

CSTPV itself bears some scrutiny. Established by an alumni of the RAND Corporation (a US think-tank which played a key role during the Cold War; satirized as the ‘Bland Corporation’ in Dr. Strangelove, it was an enthusiastic supporter of the arms race), the Centre has links to the government and intelligence agencies. Shaping discourse on terrorism through its two influential academic journals, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, and Terrorism and Political Violence, CSTPV emphasises terror directed against states, while mostly ignoring violence by states, excluding however those not allied to the West (‘Hell is other people’, Sartre might say). Reports by the Centre have been used by the government to rationalize permanent anti-terror legislation. The RAND-CSTPV nexus also has stakes in the Iraq conflict through its links to mercenary firms operating in the country. However, despite the conflicts of interest, the Centre’s embedded expertise remains much in demand.J. Burnett and Dave Whyte, ‘Embedded expertise and the “War on Terror”‘, Journal for Crime, Conflict and the Media, 2005, 1(4): 1-18.

CSTPV’s output may be ideological; but it still retains a degree of sophistication. With the low demands on rigour, joining the fray now are some actors less restrained. In early 2006 it was revealed that authorities at several universities, including this writer’s own, were co-operating with Special Branch as a result of a recently published study by the right wing Social Affairs Unit. Conducted by Anthony Glees, the Director of Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, the study claimed to find evidence of Islamist, animal liberation and British National Party recruitment on UK campuses. The evidence comprised of the fact that people who have been arrested under anti-terrorism legislation attended universities at some point. It castigated Universities for teaching students “theoretical tools for understanding the world”, such as Marxism, which could lead to further radicalization when students moved “from campus to Mosque”. Policy Exchange, another dubious neoconservative outfit, shouldered its way into the debate with an Islamophobic report on extremist literature allegedly being promoted through various Mosques which, to the BBC’s credit, was publicly debunked by a Newsnight investigation. This, however, did not deter Policy Exchange members from using the report to lobby the EU.

Hero and Horse

On November 18, 1822, the Observer reported that nearly “a million bushels of human and inhuman bones” had been imported in the previous year from Europe into the port of Hull. Battlefields swept alike of the “bones of the hero and the horse which he rode” delivered their haul to Yorkshire bone grinders who reduced them to granulary state. “In this condition they are sold to the farmers to manure their lands.”Quoted by veteran correspondent Chris Hedges in his incisive study of the social consequences of conflict, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning. Two centuries on, the gap between the ‘support our troops’ rhetoric and reality has yet to be bridged.

An internal report into the state of the British Military obtained by The Independent on May 11 reveals that soldiers are living in such poverty that they can’t even afford food, with many living on emergency food voucher schemes set up by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). “Commanders are attempting to tackle the problem through ‘Hungry Soldier’ schemes, under which destitute soldiers are given loans to enable them to eat” the paper reported. With its proclivity for market solutions, the tradition of soldiers getting three square meals a day for free has been replaced with a controversial Pay as You Dine (PAYD) regime, which charges soldiers not on active duty for their meals, leading many into debt.

Likewise, slightly more than a year back on March 11, 2007, the Observer had revealed the shocking picture of neglect and poor treatment of wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. It reported, for example, that “the youngest British soldier wounded in Iraq, Jamie Cooper, was forced to spend a night lying in his own faeces after staff at Birmingham’s Selly Oak Hospital allowed his colostomy bag to overflow. On another occasion his medical air mattress was allowed to deflate, leaving him in ‘considerable pain’ overnight despite an alarm going off.” Another complaint alleged that one soldier “suffered more than 14 hours in agony without pain relief because no relevant staff were on duty”. (This, of course, is as much a reflection of the chronic lack of surplus within the health system as it is of the wider militarised draw on public resources.) The MoD has already revealed a serious shortage of medical staff in the armed forces: “There was a 50% shortfall in the number of surgeons required by the army, an 80% shortfall of radiologists and a 46% shortfall of anaesthetists.”

Soldiers in the field haven’t fared any better: for example, both Reg Keys and Rose Gentle lost sons in Iraq due to the lack of proper equipment. Iraq has taken its toll on an overstretched military. Due to “continuing high level of operational commitment” an MoD report has revealed, “more than 1 in 10 soldiers were not getting the rest between operations they needed.” The report also referred to a “continuing difficult environment for army recruitment and retention”. With a high number of officers and other ranks going over voluntarily with another 2,000 awaiting approval of their applications to quit, the armed forces as a whole are nearly 7,000 under strength, the report revealed.

The crisis has caused the military to redouble its recruitment efforts with visits to Scottish schools up by more than 180% in the last three years, The Herald revealed. The news comes only weeks after the National Union of Teachers voted to block future military careers’ presentations “to pupils as young as 14” in England and Wales. “Despite the outlay of almost £500m, in 2006-07 the field army – the frontline operational part of UK ground forces – missed its ‘gains to strength’ (GTS) recruitment goal by 12%. In 2007-08, it achieved only 63% of its target.” (In the US, the military has been reduced to enlisting former convicts and the mentally ill.) The degree of desperation is also evident in the recent advertising campaign for military recruitment: the military experience is presented as a sanitized adventure, an adrenaline-soaked escape from ennui. High-minded calls of duty and honour have been replaced with ones such as “for the travel, for the action, for the adventure”; “for the fun, for the friendship, for the Friday nights”.

The MoD caused much consternation among the National Union of Teachers when it distributed materials on the Iraq war for use in schools. The ministry was accused of “misleading propaganda” which “unethically” targeted recruitment materials at schools in disadvantaged areas. One worksheet described the purpose of the UK mission in Iraq as “helping the Iraqis to rebuild their country after the conflict and years of neglect”. Touting “achievements” in “security and reconstruction” it failed to mention the US-led invasion, its legality, Iraqi civilian deaths or the absence of WMDs. This is not the MoD’s only advance on the classroom. Another example is the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) outreach programme, which sends DSTL scientists to talk to university and school students to encourage them to think about a career at the lab. According to Frances Saunders, the chief executive, DSTL sponsors “year-in-industry students, and are working with the MoD to develop school lesson texts to get people interested in the science behind defence.” Although DSTL already has strong links with universities including Southampton, Imperial, Oxford and Cambridge, Saunders plans to broaden this network.

Not since Suez has the military suffered a greater loss of prestige. RAF airmen in Cambridgeshire were recently advised against wearing uniforms in public in order to avoid being “verbally abused” for their participation in Afghanistan and Iraq. With the demoralizing effect of ill-conceived interventions abroad, the struggle for politicians is then of rehabilitating the myth of the military, rather that the military itself. What interests policy makers is not so much the military, but the cult of military. Plans are also underway to introduce US-style citizenship ceremonies for children and a new public holiday to celebrate ‘Britishness’ by 2012, as part of “wide-ranging proposals to strengthen British citizenship.”

In sharp contrast to the decrepit military stands the fortunes of the private military industry. The preference of recent governments for market solutions has facilitated the transfer of most military R&D to the private sector, with giants like QinetiQ and BAe Systems securing plum deals. When the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (Dera) was split in two in 2001, QinetiQ, a British company with links to the US-based Carlyle Group, absorbed the majority of its activities. Along with a raft of other lucrative PFIs, the private military industry is set to benefit from the largest to date, involving at least £14 billion of taxpayers’ money, for a privatised Military ‘Academy’ at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan to train all-service personnel and private ‘security services’. The corporate bonanza in Iraq has had Private Military Contractors — mercenaries — reaping windfalls profits for investors with stakes in the businesses, such as Frederick Forsyth and former Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind (of Aegis and ArmorGroup respectively). The lure of salaries, at times reaching as high as £1,000 a day, may be one reason why the military is losing so many of its men to the mercenary business.

While the defence establishment has long complained of funding shortages for the forces, the R&D budget remains secure. The MoD, it was reported, has promised not to raid the R&D budget to pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, this injunction doesn’t apply in the reverse, as it has been revealed that the Conflict Prevention Fund set aside for clearing landmines and removing arms from conflict zones was being raided to pay BAe Systems to subsidise the £5m-£10m servicing cost of six Tornado jets in Iraq. The measure was needed because the MoD has closed its own state-of-the-art facility for servicing Tornado jets as a way of saving £500m over 10 years.

Sensing opportunity as the war on terror grinds on, its neoconservative architects have swooped in from across the Atlantic to establish their presence in Britain. With ties to the arms industry and the neoconservative wing of the Israel lobby, the Henry Jackson Society seems to be assuming the role that the Committee on Present Danger played in the United States. Its Israel-centric worldview, as exhibited by its roster of speakers, predisposes it towards perpetual conflict. The support for a militarized ethnocracy is not the natural inclination of a liberal-democratic Britain; it can only be sustained in a context where Israel can be seen aligned with Britain in an overarching conflict against a common enemy. So it is that the Israel lobby has contrived to pass its enemies off as those of the ‘West’. HJS appears well placed to sustain this state of conflict should the Tories get in as its supporters include two of David Cameron’s key advisers. There is a dangerous confluence of interests here. Fortress Britain is as much a consequence of ill-conceived alliances as it is a response to the neoliberal order’s need for distraction from its inherent contradictions. While not nearly as unscrupulous as his predecessor, Gordon Brown’s growing travails may lead him to seek the politician’s time-tested remedy: scare the hell out of the population. One only hopes that Fortress Britain is the apogee of what Tony Blair had set in motion with his promise to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with George W. Bush in his so-called ‘war on terror’, because things could always be worse.

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad is a Glasgow-based sociologist and the co-founder of He can be reached at: Read other articles by Muhammad, or visit Muhammad's website.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. DiamondDog said on June 27th, 2008 at 5:53am #

    Excellent article!!

    For it was only last week did I hear on BBC radio that “terrorists are now planning to use small light aircrafts to bomb people”

    ‘Bomb people’……. well that’s a bit vague : /

  2. hp said on June 27th, 2008 at 8:48am #

    Yep. We’re all Israelis now.

  3. catherine said on June 27th, 2008 at 10:37am #

    “The public has to be more alert”, warned one “international terrorism expert” in the Daily Mail late last year, because Scotland “is set to become another Israel within five years.”

    When I read this, I thought at first you were suggesting that Scotland was going to become a terrorist nation. Yikes, WTF have I missed, I thought, do they even have a military, let alone an F-16? But of course you were referring to the perception that Israel is the victim.

    Yes, this is scary, but Israel has been doing this for many decades, no? Didn’t they help the racist South Africa fight the ANC? Aren’t they involved in training counter-progressive forces all over Latin America, Asia, and Africa?