FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Terror Mania in Britannia

by

We could be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean bordering a Nato state.
-David Cameron, Aug 29, 2014

Mischief in response to mischief may seem like sound arithmetic. But ethics, morality and political sensibility are not matters of mathematical calculation. The response to the beheading of US journalist James Foley by what may well have been a British radical fighter has seen a mix of hysteria and incoherence. It has seen Parliamentarians beats the drums of war. It has seen the Prime Minister, David Cameron, reach for the repressive law book.

This book involves seizing passports, imposing more control orders, and being particularly vigilant about particular Britons travelling out and into the country. Judges are getting ready to hand down convictions. But it also means keeping the British security forces busy by crowding various key sites wishing that a threat would materialise. Emergencies, even if unproved ones, tend to give more employment and urgency to the policing arm of government.

After a time, such regulatory frameworks become matters of dictation. There is no need for evidence. There is no need for an empirical framework, even if the tradition of verification is very much a British one. All the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has to claim is that there are dangers posed by Britons and foreign fighters engaged in hostilities in Syria and Iraq.

For Cameron, it is incumbent that the threats posed in the Middle East are, in fact, threats to the UK. There was “clear evidence that this is not some foreign conflict thousands of miles from home that we can hope to ignore. The ambition to create an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and Syria is a threat to our own security here in the UK.”

This language on meddling in the affairs of other countries, notably those in the Middle East, has been touched up. The public relations outfits that went to war with George W. Bush and Tony Blair in 2003, attempting to paint Saddam Hussein as worthy of a good kick, overthrow and ultimate execution, have been given another brief: Justify a modern range of measures against a new “terror” threat.

Gone is the fantasy of a dictator with his finger on the WMD trigger able to fire weapons against targets in London; in his place is a motley crew of fundamentalists high on utopia and rather strained readings of the Koran. Terrorism is viral: very hard to contain, and needing to be struck at its source. For that reason, Cameron feels that any terror alert concerning followers of Allah needs to be globalised. The international is local.

The consequence of such a globalisation doesn’t mean that terrorism becomes a problem in Britain. It means that citizens in Britain may well face the curious prospect of being convicted for conduct that might have occurred in another country. Bringing the war home turns the legal system inside out.

This seems to have happened in the context of Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed, two Britons who were convicted in July on terrorism charges. There was no evidence that they had committed any acts against British lives or property. Any relevant activity had taken place in Syria (Guardian, Jul 10).

The report by the group Cage responding to the latest fashion of targeting British “Jihadis” warns that Cameron’s policy is “confused and dangerous.” It notes that, “If it wasn’t for the narrow defeat of a government motion in the House of Commons on 30 August 2013, Britain could feasibly have been currently engaged in Syria on the same side as those it now seeks to criminalise upon their return to the UK.”

The imprecision behind such policies should land law makers on the chopping block. The very idea of categorising a threat on gradations of “severe” or “critical” is an exercise in immeasurable nonsense. (A “critical” alert level suggests an imminent attack, while a “severe” threat is presumably less imminent.) Cameron, however, is doing his best in giving the impression that he is engaged in a serious, objective assessment.

Instead, Cameron has executed something of a sleight of hand here – I did not make the decision to declare an emergency; a committee suggested he do so after making a sound assessment of it. This is behaviour typical of a manager in power. When you need a soft cushion to rest your feet upon, by all means, blame other managers or assessors for giving you the report to act upon.

The language has to move into hyperbole and bombast. Why do it otherwise? At a Downing Street press conference, Cameron explained that, “What we’re facing in Iraq now with Isil (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before.” Everything regarding a terrorist threat is graver than the previous one. Like the cost of living, the ratings only seem to go up. Modesty is unbecoming for the terror monger.

According to Cameron Isil poses a threat that will last for “decades” by a terrorist force “on the shores of the Mediterranean.” Emergency Britain, then, is here to stay, just as the terrorist threat it supposedly combats is here to stay. The prospects of abuse for such an approach should be all too evident. At present, they are being ignored.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com  

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 24, 2017
Anthony DiMaggio
Reflections on DC: Promises and Pitfalls in the Anti-Trump Uprising
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Developer Welfare: Trump’s Infrastructure Plan
Melvin Goodman
Trump at the CIA: the Orwellian World of Alternative Facts
Sam Mitrani – Chad Pearson
A Short History of Liberal Myths and Anti-Labor Politics
Kristine Mattis
Democracy is Not a Team Sport
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Mexico, Neo-Nationalism and the Capitalist World-System
Ted Rall
The Women’s March Was a Dismal Failure and a Hopeful Sign
Norman Pollack
Woman’s March: Halt at the Water’s Edge
Pepe Escobar
Will Trump Hop on an American Silk Road?
Franklin Lamb
Trump’s “Syria “Minus Iran” Overture to Putin and Assad May Restore Washington-Damascus Relations
Kenneth R. Culton
Violence By Any Other Name
David Swanson
Why Impeach Donald Trump
Christopher Brauchli
Trump’s Contempt
January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail