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

March 23, 2017
Chip Gibbons
Crusader-in-Chief: the Strange Rehabilitation of George W. Bush
Michael J. Sainato
Cybersecurity Firm That Attributed DNC Hacks to Russia May Have Fabricated Russia Hacking in Ukraine
Chuck Collins
Underwater Nation: As the Rich Thrive, the Rest of Us Sink
CJ Hopkins
The United States of Cognitive Dissonance
Howard Lisnoff
BDS, Women’s Rights, Human Rights and the Failings of Security States
Mike Whitney
Will Washington Risk WW3 to Block an Emerging EU-Russia Superstate
John Wight
Martin McGuinness: Man of War who Fought for Peace in Ireland
Linn Washington Jr.
Ryancare Wreckage
Eileen Appelbaum
What We Learned From Just Two Pages of Trump’s Tax Returns
Mark Weisbrot
Ecuador’s Elections: Why National Sovereignty Matters
Thomas Knapp
It’s Time to End America’s Longest War
Chris Zinda
Aggregate Journalism at Salon
David Welsh
Bay Area Rallies Against Trump’s Muslim Ban II
March 22, 2017
Paul Street
Russiagate and the Democratic Party are for Chumps
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer, the Progressive Caucus and the Cuban Revolution
Gavin Lewis
McCarthyite Anti-Semitism Smears and Racism at the Guardian/Observer
Kathy Kelly
Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen
Kim C. Domenico
Ending Our Secret Alliance with Victimhood: Toward an Adult Politics
L. Ali Khan
Profiling Islamophobes
Calvin Priest
May Day: Seattle Educators Moving Closer to Strike
David Swanson
Jimmy Breslin on How to Impeach Trump
Dave Lindorff
There Won’t Be Another Jimmy Breslin
Jonathan Latham
The Meaning of Life
Robert Fisk
Martin McGuinness: From “Super-Terrorist” to Super Statesman
Steve Horn
Architect of Federal Fracking Loophole May Head Trump Environmental Council
Binoy Kampmark
Grief, Loss and Losing a Father
Jim Tull
Will the Poor Always Be With Us?
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s “March Massacre” Budget
Joe Emersberger
Rafael Correa and the Future of Ecuador: a Response to James McEnteer
March 21, 2017
Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt
On Being the “Right Kind of Brown”
Kenneth Surin
God, Guns, Gays, Gummint: the Career of Rep. Bad Bob Goodlatte
David Rosen
Popular Insurgencies: Reshaping the Political Landscape
Ryan LaMothe
The Totalitarian Strain in American Democracy
Eric Sommer
The House Intelligence Committee: Evidence Not Required
Mike Hastie
My Lai Massacre, 49 Years Later
James McEnteer
An Era Ends in Ecuador: Forward or Back?
Evan Jones
Beyond the Pale
Stansfield Smith
First Two Months in Power: Hitler vs. Trump
Dulce Morales
A Movement for ‘Sanctuary Campuses’ Takes Shape
Pepe Escobar
Could Great Wall of Iron become New Silk Roadblock?
Olivia Alperstein
Trump Could Start a Nuclear War, Right Now
David Macaray
Norwegians Are the Happiest People on Earth
March 20, 2017
Michael Schwalbe
Tears of Solidarity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit, Nationalism and the Damage Done
Peter Stone Brown
Chuck Berry: the First Poet of Rock and Roll
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail