10 March 2005
First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me. – Pastor Martin Niemoller
What is amazing about the Zarqawi saga is how, over time, Western governments (with the able assistance of the media) have managed to keep the pot boiling regarding a man whose existence is far from actually being established as fact (although of late, he, along with Osama seems to have fallen off the front page, pointing to the limited life span of such archetypes).
The four photos above are the only distinctly different images allegedly of Zarqawi that have been published (the rest are versions of the above). Is this really Zarqawi? Does it matter who the hell it is?
They are from left to right, the earliest to the latest, the last two being reportedly taken from a recently acquired video tape of the ‘Bearded Pimpernel’.
No matter, whether he exists or not, he is, like Jack the Ripper, a handy cipher onto which the the fears of a jittery state can be fastened. Better indeed that he never is found, for his usefulness as the eternal Bogeyman that, like the one parents used to invoke to get their kids to obey, part of a substantial propaganda campaign used to put the frighteners on an uninformed population.
The Zarqawi saga takes on greater significance in the light of the information that has comes to light as a result of what looks like the attempted assassination of Guiliana Sgrena and the role of the CIA in the various and sundry ‘terrorist cells’ that come and go, apparently with the same ease that Zarqawi somehow manages to travel around the world without detection (this, I might add in spite of all the bullshit security systems that have made billions for a few companies but to which ‘Zarqawi’ is apparently immune).
Of course the bottom line is that the ‘war on terror’ is the biggest boondoggle of ’em all of which ‘Zarqawi’ is merely a convenient subset, to be hauled out at convenient times when things look decidedly dodgy for the imperium and its Machiavellian manoeuvrings.
“Terrorist related activity”
It is within this context that the government’s latest attempt to create a climate of endless fear of the unknown has to be viewed.
The ‘battle’ (such as it is) over the latest attempt to enslave the British population with its ‘preventive’ detention package purportedly aimed at only a ‘handful’ of would-be Zarqawis needs to be seen in the light of the overall crisis of the failure of the Iraq/Afghanistan ‘adventures’ in re-inventing the Empire. In order to justify the on-going slaughter of the innocents, it is absolutely necessary to keep the temperature at boiling point.
Central to the ‘war on terror’ are the media, for without their active collaboration there could be no such animal. The debate (again, such as it is) surrounding the latest attempt to make every last one of us potential supporters of ‘terror’ with the catch all “terrorist related activity”, a phrase that has no real meaning as it is nowhere defined, is at the heart of the issue, especially when you put it together with the word ‘preventive’.
So what is “terrorist related activity” and why is it such an important phrase. Perhaps a perusal of how the media deals with the phrase (when it cares to) is worth looking at.
Using the phrase “terrorist related activity” returned only one story on the BBC’s Web site, (without the quotes, over 14,000 stories but these include all the stories with one or more of the three words) and on doing a subsequent search of the story, the phrase did NOT appear.
No matter, onward and upward. Using the phrase “preventive detention” was slightly more fruitful yielding the following:
Too many arrests, too few charges?
Since 2001 hundreds of people have been held under anti-terror laws, but few charged. Are police going too far?
Blunkett hails anti-terror laws
David Blunkett has defended the government’s use of laws which allow indefinite detention of terror suspects.
Terror detention move under way
A bid to make a legal shift and allow the detention without trial of suspected terrorists begins in Parliament.
I then did a search with the phrase “anti-terror laws” and came up with 137 stories of which 79 were to do with the UK. The key issue however is how many of these stories actually dealt with the meaning of the phrase “terrorist related activity” and its implication for civil liberties in this ‘bastion of democracy’? So I embarked on searching each of the 79 stories looking for “terrorist related activity” using my browser’s search facility (a damn sight better than the BBC’s!).
It probably won‘t surprise you that the phrase didn’t occur once in any of the stories, hence it’s safe to conclude that the key element in the government’s ‘war on terror’ legislation has not come under any kind of scrutiny by the BBC. Instead, the BBC has focused on the purely legal aspects of the proposed legislation whilst studiously avoiding the central principle. The one story which purportedly deals with the key issues is one titled “Q and A: Terror laws explained BBC News explains the basics behind anti-terrorism laws – and why some people say they are controversial.” 25 January 2005. The piece contains not a single reference to “terrorist related activity” nor do any of the other stories I checked.
Significantly, the phrase has not been questioned by any of those in the opposition parties who are opposed to the legislation. In fact all support the idea of the “war on terror”, their gripe being the legality (or lack thereof) of the proposed legislation and if push comes to shove, will go along with whatever version of the Bill is eventually passed with the key phrase “terrorist related activity” being retained intact.
For make no mistake that the ‘devil lives in the details’ of this kind of legislation, that is after all, the objective of any kind of legislation that attempts to predict a person’s future behaviour, for in reality it has more to do with firstly, what a person thinks and secondly with the insidious notion of guilt by association.
For proof of this, one need only look at the kinds of reasoning behind the imprisonment without trial of the 17 unfortunates in Belmarsh Prison.
Ironically, one of the three to be released from Belmarsh was described as follows:
A Siac judge said
was “at the centre in the UK of terrorist activities associated with al-Qaeda. He is a truly dangerous individual”.
Whilst those still detained appear to be a rag, tag and bobtail assortment of individuals whose worst ‘crime’ seems to be supporting the aims of a variety of groups none of which are actually active in the UK (with the possible exception al-Qa’eda, assuming there is such a group, itself an unproven assertion):
Abu Rideh, detained in December 2001. In a letter to him, Mr Blunkett said: “You are an active supporter of various international terrorist groups, including those with links to Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist network. Your activities on their behalf include fund raising.”
A, detained under special powers in December 2001, accused of actively supporting GSPC, an Algerian group said to have terrorist intentions. Suspect A “broadly supported” the aims of Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda …. He was also accused of supplying satellite phones to extremists and of giving a sleeping bag and a pair of boots to Chechen rebels.
Detainee B: He was jailed twice for driving while disqualified and then detained under the anti-terrorism powers when the home secretary said he belonged to the Algerian GSPC.
The intelligence services believe he sent communications equipment to Islamist groups fighting Russian forces in Chechnya.
E … was detained in December 2001. Mr Blunkett told him: “You are an active supporter of the Tunisian Fighting Group, a terrorist organisation with close links to al-Qaeda. You have provided direct assistance to a number of active terrorists.”
Detainee H is a supporter of the FIS, the Islamist Algerian group that won the country’s 1991 elections, prompting a military coup.
Arrested in 2002, the Home Office said he posed a terrorist threat and was fundraising and distributing propaganda for banned groups.
I was detained in April 2002, accused of supporting and raising funds for terrorist groups.
K … is accused of providing “active support for a network of extreme Islamists planning to carry out attacks in the UK and Western Europe including the use of toxic poisons”. He is alleged to be linked to north African extremist groups.
P, an Algerian who reportedly has no hands, arrived in Britain in 1999 and was charged with terrorist offences in 2001. Those charges were dropped but he remains certified for detention, accused of being an associate of Algerian terror groups.
S … is accused of providing support for terrorist groups, including involvement in attacks alleged to have been planned for Canada and Los Angeles.
Note that the nature of the accusations are vague including everything from supplying boots to “support”, though the nature of the “support” is nowhere defined. And this goes to the heart of this kind of catchall legislation, especially when you consider that the ‘evidence’ is never revealed to the accused let alone the public, enabling the government to create the impression of a ‘threat’ without being encumbered with the tedious business of actually proving one. Note also that only one of the detained has actually been accused of anything to do with activities in the UK.
Every repressive regime in the world that have bothered with the ‘niceties’ of legislation, have used comparable laws that are open-ended and so vague as to be applied to virtually anyone should the need arise.
So does “support” include giving ‘aid and comfort to the enemy’ and could this column fall under such a heading? After all, Blair in another one of his scaremongering speeches yesterday (9/3/05) accused those who opposed the legislation of being “irresponsible”, so clearly I am being irresponsible by getting worked up over the idea that I could be locked up in my own house for who I know and associate with (or even knowing somebody who knows somebody who is a “terrorist”) is sufficient to throw me in jail and toss away the key even if it is my own house that becomes the jail. And should I step outside I risk being thrown in Belmarsh or, and this is where such a vague and insidious laws come into their own, on the say so of some spook, anxious for a promotion, who knowing that he needn’t be bothered with the details of proof, can accuse me of “terrorist related activity”.
And trust me when I say this, as someone who has experienced first hand the power of the state over the individual, there’s not a damn thing you can do about it! It is a truly terrifying experience to be totally powerless in the face of the overwhelming power of the state to simply ‘disappear’ you into the bowels of an institution.
And, it should be remembered (and also conveniently overlooked by the BBC), that the principle objection of the Law Lords to the ‘preventive detention’ laws was that it discriminated against foreigners, that such a law should apply to all of us! Perhaps when the first Brit gets ‘banned’ by this or some future government, people will wake up to the reality of what is being done but by then, it will be too late as they’ll be coming for you last.
Note: Read the Home Office handout on ‘terrorist related activity’ and the associated BS
1. PAPER ONE INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM: THE THREAT
2. PAPER 2 INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM: THE GOVERNMENT’S STRATEGY
3. PAPER THREE INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM: RECONCILING LIBERTY AND SECURITY – THE GOVERNMENT’S STRATEGY TO REDUCE THE THREAT