In the Cause of Fear and Ignorance

The British lawyer Gareth Peirce, 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, ‘shoot 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 these 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 Peirce points out, “internment, discredited and abandoned in Northern Ireland”, now allows, not 42 days, but 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”. 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 such home prisoner, wrote Peirce, “a man without arms, was left alone and terrified, unable to leave the flat or to contact anyone without committing a criminal offence, 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.

Preferring “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 the British government “assurances” and are themselves reassured by the fact that BP, the ethical oil company, has sunk £6bn into getting oil out of Algeria’s southern Sahara. Jordan, another subcontractor, is held economically afloat by the US so George W Bush’s “renditions” and torture can proceed there. No British court has found any of these people guilty of any crime, but 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. True fear is in Muslim communities. Visit them and you will find people terrified by your knock on the door, and women who now never go out. In effect, control orders have been served on thousands of British citizens.

As Peirce 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. You can’t imagine Jews treated this way; the profanity is too great. The silence of British Jews, who have the history, is also great.

As 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 killed 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 Peirce, “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.”

John Pilger is an internationally renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest film is The War on Democracy. His most recent book is Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (2006). Read other articles by John, or visit John's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar balkas said on July 1st, 2008 at 6:46am #

    some muslim lands r marked for the final sol’n. with EU/US now slightly to the right of old-fashioned fascism of franco/mussolini we can expect destruction of lebanon, palestine, syria, iraq, iran in order to make lebensraum for those people who might be forced to accept judaism or christianity.
    in any case, final sol’n is coming. we may be struck by a comet or global warming might saute us to ‘heaven’.
    we also may have a good nuclear war. thank u

  2. evie said on July 1st, 2008 at 12:10pm #

    I don’t know why US and Brits, predominantly white folks, talk as if their countries ever had moral fabric, although they did stop public disembowelment and picnic lynchings.

    The game hasn’t changed – it’s just more in your face.

  3. brian said on July 1st, 2008 at 3:50pm #

    fear and ignorance and both cause and effect. In the case of Zimbabwe, the fear and ignorance created in the public by the media, arise from fear and ignorance IN the media. Fear of an independent black leader, ignorance of the real history of Zimbabwe.

    People may recall how leading up to the war against iraq, there were stories of saddam feet shredders, this sent a collective shudder thru the gullible masses, who trust their media would never lie, and so helped launch the war. The same tactics are evident in the war against Zimbabwe

    FYI on the saddam feet shredder story…pity it was investigated to late to prevent > 1 million people being killed by the ‘Democracy (regd TM) Promoters’:

    ‘In the buildup to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein had created new torture methods and he used industrial shredding machines to do away with his enemies. The leading supporter of this allegation was British Labour MP Ann Clwyd. On March 18, 2003, days before the military actions began, the British newspaper The Times ran an article written by her that was titled, “See men shredded, then you say you don’t back war.”

    Three days before the invasion, Clwyd spoke in the House of Commons and described how male prisoners in Iraq were dropped into a machine “designed for shredding plastic,” and their minced remains were “placed in plastic bags” and later used as “fish food.” She alleged that sometimes, the victims were dropped in the machines feet-first so they could briefly view their own mutilation before death.

    Australian Prime Minister Howard used the story to his great advantage. He supported the war and was about to send troops, despite overwhelming opposition from his public. After the story appeared in The Times, he addressed his nation and said he wanted to stop the ongoing crimes of the Ba’athist regime in Iraq including the “human shredding machine” that was used “as a vehicle for putting to death critics of Saddam Hussein.”

    Others used this story for anti-Saddam fodder. Andrew Sullivan of the Sunday Times of Great Britain stated that Clwyd’s report showed “clearly, unforgettably, indelibly” that “the Saddam regime is evil.” Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips described the shredder in which “bodies got chewed up from foot to head.” In The Telegraph, Mark Steyn criticized the anti-war movement with these words:

    If it’s a choice between letting some carbonated beverage crony of Dick Cheney get a piece of the Nasiriyah soft-drinks market or allowing Saddam to go on feeding his subjects feet-first into the industrial shredder for another decade or three, then the “peace” activists will take the lesser of two evils — i.e., crank up the shredder.

    ‘When Ann Clwyd was asked about her sources of information, she said that she had interviewed an Iraqi in northern Iraq. She was eventually asked who the person was and if he was telling the truth. Clwyd told journalist Brendan O’Neill of The Spectator, “We heard it from a victim; we heard it and we believed it.” When O’Neill asked her if anything was done to check the victim’s statement against other witness statements or other evidence for a shredding machine, she replied, “Well, no.”

    The incidents supposedly took place at Abu Ghraib Prison, an institution made world famous by prisoner torture; torture perpetrated by the U.S. against Iraqi inmates. When all was said and done, the shredding incidents that received worldwide publicity amounted to the uncorroborated story of one person interviewed in northern Iraq. This, in itself, is hardly evidence to use to send a country to war.

    O’Neill began to track down people who could either corroborate or deny the legitimacy of shredders being used to kill prisoners. He found an Iraqi doctor who worked at the hospital attached to the prison at Abu Ghraib in 1997 and 1998. The doctor’s job was to attend to those prisoners who had been executed. He told O’Neill, “We had to see the dead prisoners to make sure that they were dead. Then we would write a death certificate for them.”

    This doctor refuted any stories about the shredding machines. O’Neill asked him if he ever attended or heard of prisoners who had been shredded. He replied, “No.” Then, he was asked if any of the other doctors at the prison spoke of a shredding machine used to execute prisoners. The doctor responded, “No, no, never. The method of execution was hanging; as far as I know, that was the only form of execution used at Abu Ghraib.”

  4. Brian Koontz said on July 1st, 2008 at 5:32pm #

    Muslims in Western countries should be forming defense organizations to protect themselves.

  5. bozhidar balkas said on July 3rd, 2008 at 11:47am #

    but even if saddam/his gov’t shredded people the best way was still not to wage war but issue warrants for arresting alleged criminals and issuing ransom of bns on their heads.
    after all saddam had only ab 6.5 bn enemies.
    US/UK/NATO/ISRAE l don’t shred people but hunt them. and, of course, hunting is much more exciting sport than shredding meat.
    the problem w. hunting people is that hunters r not allowed to film the hunt and thus make bns from paying viewers.
    thank u

  6. bozhidar balkas said on July 3rd, 2008 at 11:52am #

    my wife asked me to write to al-bushi and put dwn this advice to him:
    george! u’r 60yrs old. u have the right not to listen anymore; u have the right not to learn a thing anymore; u have the right to be stupid?

  7. bozhidar balkas said on July 3rd, 2008 at 11:55am #

    correction: “u have the right to be stupid!” and not “stupid?”

  8. Just Gimme Some Truth said on July 6th, 2008 at 3:26pm #

    Brian, please stop bringing Mugabe into this. I have lived there and know many Zimbabweans, all colours of the rainbow. Beautiful country but the poor are dying bad my man. Tortured and starved. The US & UK are multiple assassins but do not belittle those in Zim who are dying for the right to basic necessities.