More, or rather, less on the ‘Civil Contingencies Bill’ By William Bowles

27 November 2003

Amazing isn’t it, a bill which if passed, that along with the 2000 Terrorism Act, pretty well entrenches total state control over the citizen, barely gets a mention in the media. The BBC in its News at One programme yesterday (25/11/03) didn’t even mention it as being included in Queenie’s speech. Later, on PM News at 5, it got a passing mention as something that might be of concern to civil liberties groups, but that was about it. Talk about the sin of omission!

In today’s Independent (26/11/03), the proposed bill was described on its front page as follows:

“Other measures include plans to strengthen Britain’s ability to cope with a terrorist attack.”

A far cry from Sunday’s edition of the Independent (23/11/03) that described it thus, “Sweeping new emergency laws to counter UK terror” on its front page. What changed between Sunday and Thursday I wonder?

Finally, on page 16 under the heading “Terrorism” we get the following innocuous description of the proposed Bill:

“Ministers and senior police officers are to be given new powers to respond to terrorist attacks and other disasters.”

So now ‘terrorism’ is subsumed under the heading of “other disasters” that I presume are natural in origin. It goes on to say “that in the event of an atrocity, “sensitive areas” could be evacuated and the public moved into makeshift camps.” No mention of course of what constitutes a ‘sensitive area’, for example where a demonstration is to occur? The story also doesn’t mention that under the proposed Bill, the moving would be forcible in nature. Consider that just as with the endless announcements of impending ‘terrorist outrages’ that never happen, such a Bill can be used to great propaganda advantage by the state to ‘persuade’ its citizens that curbs on our rights are for ‘our own good.’

The same story also refers, again innocuously, to the Bill’s proposal to prevent the movement of people “traveling or joining large groups” and that “the police can seize and destroy property”. What’s a large group and what do they mean by traveling? To a demonstration for example? And under what circumstance can property be destroyed?

And in a really bizarre and utterly irrational comment, the Cabinet Office “said it [the proposed Bill] was designed to modernise laws for the age of the Internet”, though I fail to see what the Internet has to do with it, unless of course, we’re talking about ‘virtual’ emergencies. More double-speak from the corporate state that seeks to link entirely unrelated issues under the umbrella of the ‘war on terror’.

Note also, that the description of the Civil Contingencies Bill has also changed radically to one that focuses on the ‘emergency’ aspect of its provisions, the implication being that it’s really all about clearing up the mess of either a man-made or natural disaster (a bit like FEMA or the US Federal Emergency Administration).

The Independent also carried a front page piece by Robin Cook, former foreign secretary who didn’t mention the bill at all. Instead, he got really worked up about the proposal for the House of Lords to be all appointed, calling it an “outrageous plan” which it is, but it seems to me that he’s got his priorities all arse backward.

And consider the following not unrelated story of intimidation of opponents of Blah’s imperialist war who have come under the hammer of the British state. Dr Abdul Haq al-ani who is an Iraqi lawyer representing the former foreign minister of Iraq, Tariq Azis has been arrested accused of breaking UN sanctions in the 1990s! Two of his friends had their houses raided and property confiscated. Dr Ani left Iraq in 1986 and was actively opposed to the Hussein regime.

Dr Ani is involved in investigating alleged abuses of civil rights by US occupation forces on behalf of Lawyers Against the War and had recently returned from Iraq where had also (unsuccessfully) tried to meet with his client, Tariq Aziz. Dr Ani said “I find it very odd that my friends’ homes were raided the day before I got the letter from the Attorney-General.” Dr Ani maintains, not without basis, that he is the victim of political persecution by the British government.

And isn’t it rich that the British government that sold Saddam Hussein millions of dollars-worth of weapons matériel throughout the 1980s, should now prosecute an opponent of the war allegedly for breaking sanctions. Coincidence? If you believe that then you also believe that the USUK invaded Iraq out of pure benevolence.

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