In America, the onslaught of the right on freedom is continuing. The latest victim has been radical Ward Churchill who has been subject to a right-wing onslaught for daring to present an alternative perspective on 9/11. The attack itself is completely artificial, given that the offending article was written after the atrocity. It simply aims to limit free speech for those on the left, restricting the acceptable bounds of "debate" to that approved by the right. Combined with the Patriot acts and the domination of the media by the right, the future of freedom in the US looks bleak. Unsurprisingly, as according to capitalist ideology there is no freedom of speech on private property and now, after stealing two elections, the right thinks it owns America. A case of "theft is property," perhaps?
Over here, the Blair government has now overturned hundreds of years of tradition with its anti-terrorism legislation, which gives the Home Secretary sweeping powers to restrict the movement and behaviour of terrorist suspects (including house arrest without trial). The bill was forced through with little time for debate, with the Home Secretary cranking up the fear factor by recalling that "the Madrid atrocity took place during a general election... Such things can always be possible here, too."
Blair, too, used fear as the selling point of his authoritarian agenda, saying that there is "no greater civil liberty than to live free from terrorist attack." Does that mean if you live in a fascist dictatorship without the fear of (non-state) terrorism then you have more civil liberty than under a democracy with the possibility of (non-state) terrorism? Blair seems to forget that is why the greatest civil liberty is protection from the power of your own government and why we must restrict its attempts to extend its reach by claiming more arbitrary powers over its subjects.
And it is relevant to ask Blair why, exactly, do we face the possibility of such an attack? Could it be because of his own policies, principally the invasion and occupation of Iraq?
Talking of which, Porter Goss, CIA Director and by a strange coincidence Bush partisan, exposed the utter futility of Blair's policies by noting that Bush's Iraq was now a terrorist-producing machine. "The Iraq conflict," he stated, "while not a cause of extremism, has become a cause for extremists... These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in and focused on acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups, and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries."
So Blair is justifying his flawed, liberty destroying, policies by his previous, state terrorist, policies in Iraq. Policies, incidentally, which have resulted in at least 30 times more deaths than 911. But such state terrorism is never an issue.
Blair, needless to say, raised Bush's old nonsense that the terrorists' "war is not with governments or armed forces, but with our way of life." Ignoring the fact that the terrorists oppose the policies of US (and UK) imperialism rather than "our way of life" or "freedom", the obvious conclusion is that it is Blair who is undermining our way of life by his policies. Is there a difference between a terrorist scaring us into forsaking our freedom with the threat of violence and a government scaring us into doing the same with the threat of terrorism? So if, as Blair asserts, the terrorist's aim is to attack our freedoms then he has ensured that they have already won: our politicians are ready to abandon them at the drop of a hat.
And so, yet again, we are simply asked to give the state more power and trust it not to abuse it. That some people believe this nonsense suggests that some people have learned nothing from history. The UK state has just gone to war on the basis of secret "intelligence" too sensitive to share. As we all know, that "intelligence" was dodgy, sexed-up and plain wrong. Now the very same politicians want to trample civil liberties and imprison people in their homes on the same basis, using intelligence that would not be admissible in a court of law! Surely the fact that the government proclaimed "terrorists" in Belmarsh are to go free is clear proof that the imprisonment without trail is unsound. Secret evidence that cannot be challenged by a court is guaranteed to produce miscarriages of justice.
Nor should we forget that other "anti-terror" regulations have already been used to stop legitimate and peaceful antiwar and animal rights protests, so it is almost certain that these new laws will be abused by politicians, the state and the bosses to combat anyone they feel might be a threat to their power. Nor that it was the German coalition government under Brüning in the 1930s which passed the laws to grant executive powers to the Gestapo to arrest and detain without trial which the Nazis used to their utmost effect. So much for all the politicians platitudes about Auschwitz and why we must never let anything like that happen again. Nor that internment without trial was practiced in Northern Ireland between 1971 and 1975. It was proposed by Unionist politicians as the solution to the security situation. It failed to work, violence did not decrease. It did, however, increase sympathy for the IRA in Catholic areas. Why expect a different result within the Muslim community?
Combined with ID and a host of other measures, new Labour seems intent on completing the Thatcherite legacy in both neo-liberalism and attacks on civil liberties and in privatisation. The idea that the free market needs a strong state (in part, to quell opposition) has been confirmed yet again. We need to resist every attempt of the state to remove barriers to its actions. To not do so is to go down the slippery slope towards a police state.
Finally, it should also be noted that, as usual, Blair has done total turn around. In 1994, when he was shadow home secretary, he had argued that "the liberty of the subject should be taken away not by the act of a politician, but by a court of law." Thus the erosion of civil liberties has joined a long list of other policies which Blair opposed when out of office and wholeheartedly embraced when in government.
And people wonder why anarchists are opposed to governments and voting for politicians to do things for us?