13 July 2005
UK Presidency proposes that all ID cards have biometrics – everyone to be fingerprinted.
“This proposal, with others, means that everyone living in the EU is going to be finger-printed and their details held on an EU-wide database. At a time of great tragedy it is all the more important that we act with care and do not bequeath to future generations a society where every movement and every communication is under surveillance. Whether a democratic way of life could survive in such a climate is doubtful.”
This is a moment to seize. The Kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us – Tony Blair, Labour Party Conference, October 2nd 2001
In the light of the increasingly orchestrated hysteria surrounding the slaughter in London last week, it’s worth taking a deep breath and a step back and look at the history of the ‘war on terror’ and how the concept came to be and its inevitable and horrific consequences, consequences that rarely, if ever target the ‘terrorist’ but civilians.
‘Wars’ on this and that have been a feature of contemporary capitalism for more than two decades. The major advantage of designating something – drugs, commies, criminals, illegal immigrants, terrorists – as a war, is that it ups the anté, ramps up the dread, the urgency and moreover inflates the capability of the enemy. That a handful of people can be said to be holding the most powerful nation on earth to some kind of ransom, is of course, ridiculous. At the most, a handpicked team of FBI/MI6 agents plus the intelligence agencies could track down a few men who apparently do everything via cellphone and email without much trouble. After all, we know who they are, even their various pseudonyms, where they hang out. Many have at one time or another been on the payroll of Western intelligence agencies, so tracking them down should actually be a piece of cake. Conveniently of course, the nightmare is allowed to wander at will.
First of all, it’s no good pretending that the situation is simple – good versus evil – although that’s how the corporate/state media presents it, stripped of history, vested interests. Vast forces are reduced, ad absurdum to a fuzzy photo of a bearded man or a mistranslated phrase and a handful of fanatics who make public utterances designed conveniently to put the fear of ‘god’ into people. So how to make sense of it all? Are we all so gullible that we can led by the nose toward Armageddon? Apparently so but what makes it possible?
The genesis of the contemporary concept of terror as an ideology – but in reality deprived of any kind of realisable objective – rests on the idea of ‘prime evil’, very much a Judeo-Christian concept, one that as I’ve demonstrated here before, is used to great effect by both Bush and Blair, using a host of religious and even medical metaphors – even Shakespearean references, with which to first invent and then demonise the enemy.
It is because it was in March 2003 and remains my fervent view that the nature of the global threat we face in Britain and round the world is real and existential and it is the task of leadership to expose it and fight it, whatever the political cost; and that the true danger is not to any single politician’s reputation, but to our country if we now ignore this threat or erase it from the agenda in embarrassment at the difficulties it causes – Tony Blair, Sedgefield, 5 March 2004
‘Prime evil’, in the guise of ‘Islamic fundamentalism’, aside from the ludicrous idea of a handful of men overthrowing Western society and replacing it with some throwback to a reactionary medieval theocracy, is a useful abstraction, useful as it can be moulded to fit almost any situation. Yet in their utterances both Bush and Blair contend that this exactly what so-called Islamic fundamentalists intend to do, demonstrating that the use of these phrases is intended to evoke fear and loathing of the ‘alien’, exploiting yet again, the centuries of conditioning that has given shape to this ‘island nation’.
This is why a similiar concept was used by Ronald Reagan in the 1970s but then it was the ‘evil empire’ – ‘atheistic communism’, laughably the complete antithesis of the alleged philosophy of ‘al-Qu’eda’ and moreover, it was these self-same terrorists who were armed and supported by the US to first fight the ‘evil empire’. It is not far-fetched to describe the ‘terrorist’ as in every sense a creation of imperialism, a nightmare created first and foremost to visit retribution on the enemies of imperialism but a truly Frankenstein monster that once unleashed by the policies of Bush/Blair, sets in motion a series of events that assume a perverted ‘logic’ all their own.
Consider that even if the bombings in London were actually carried out by a group of ‘home-grown’ fanatics (as in now being alleged), whatever their alleged religious persuasion or even their, again alleged objective of overthrowing Western ‘civilisation’, the response of the state and its partner in crime, the media have gone over the top in their response. We have to ask ourselves why such a reaction.
With over 100,000 horrific deaths in Iraq in just the past two years, directly attributable to the terrorist actions of Bush and Blair (and every day, many more than died last week in London) and over the decades, many millions more by the leaders of the Western ‘democracies’, does it not strike you as odd that not a single headline is to be found that even mention the deaths of so many people in Iraq as having any connection to the 50-plus who died last week in London?
September 11th was for me a revelation. What had seemed inchoate came together. The point about September 11th was not its detailed planning; not its devilish execution; not even, simply, that it happened in America, on the streets of New York. All of this made it an astonishing, terrible and wicked tragedy, a barbaric murder of innocent people. But what galvanised me was that it was a declaration of war by religious fanatics who were prepared to wage that war without limit. They killed 3000. But if they could have killed 30,000 or 300,000 they would have rejoiced in it. The purpose was to cause such hatred between Moslems and the West that a religious jihad became reality; and the world engulfed by it – Tony Blair, Sedgefield, March 5 2004
How are they able to carry off such a complete illusion? I think that there are two related forces at work here that find their roots in the use of a racist ideology that is intimately connected to the role of religion in Western society. Hence the concept ‘prime evil’ which is a uniquely Judeo-Christian concept, a concept I might add, that doesn’t exist in any of the other major religions of the world, not in Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism, is rooted in the idea of the superiority of Christianity and hence of Western culture as being the pinnacle of human achievement. All other religions and cultures are essentially inferior, ‘exotic’, clever, ‘cunning’, ‘ingenious’ perhaps but still inferior.
After all, slavery and colonialism was justified because those we enslaved and colonised were neither Christian nor white, ergo less than human. The ‘logic’ is frightening and inexorable for it shows why we can drop napalm, white phosphorus, cluster bombs and 1000lb bombs on women and children in Iraq and call it ‘collateral damage’ because essentially, they are less than human. The ‘rules’ by which we live do not apply to those who are ‘darker than blue’.
The terrible irony of Blair evoking religious imagery in a country as secular as Britain, with only around 2% of the population actually attending a church, is not lost on me but of course, the use of such imagery does not depend directly on one’s belief in a particular deity but on being immersed in a culture that has successfully inculcated the idea of it being superior to all others.
Now this all may seem as if it’s light-years away from the quest for oil and economic power but without being able to justify their barbaric actions by an appeal to a ‘higher’ force, that has literally sanctified their actions, it’s hard to justify why we operate such an outrageous double standard. It explains why the barbaric actions of Israel in its treatment of Palestinians can be tolerated and even condoned, for by removing their humanity they can hence forth be placed beyond the ‘pale’ (an ironic phrase given its origins). It explains why Africans can be starved to death through the direct economic policies of the West and justified because ‘they’ don’t experience life like ‘we’ do.
In fact, ‘prime evil’, the personification of everything that is not Western is the underlying rationale for the ‘war on terror’ just as the ‘war on drugs’ could be justified because it was waged largely against black people, just as the ‘war on crime and anti-social behaviour’ is being waged on the ‘underclass’ who are, not surprisingly largely non-white.
Why is it important to understand these concepts that seem so far removed from the war on terror and the stampeding of entire populations that is already seeing attacks on mosques and Muslims increase? Because it shows that the rise of Fascism is not something confined to any particular nation or even ‘race’ but that it is an organic product of capitalism, for Fascism is capitalism minus the luxury of the vote and the niceties of civil liberties but plus the horror of any convenient scapegoat that comes to hand that can carry the can for capitalism’s failures.
The real danger therefore comes not from a handful of terrorists who although able to inflict death on a small number of individuals, can’t hold a candle to the power of the state to inflict extermination on entire cultures, on entire countries as is the case with Iraq.
Those who argue that the London bombings are a result of the occupation of Iraq, payback if you like, miss the point entirely, for those genuinely struggling to free themselves from colonial occupation in Iraq I am sure hold no animosity toward ordinary people in London anymore than the Vietnamese did against ordinary Americans even though they suffered somewhere between 2 and 3 million deaths at the hands of the US war machine in a liberation struggle that lasted a total of almost fifty years if one includes the French and Japanese occupation of which the US onslaught was the final, horrific culmination.
An occupied population, when faced with overwhelming military force such as that in Iraq or in Palestine, has little option but to resist by any means necessary including so-called suicide bombers. However, consider that one person’s suicide bomber is another one’s patriot. It all hinges on how such events are presented and interpreted. The situation is complicated by the fact that distinguishing between genuine patriots and provocateurs is all but impossible in an environment where the media has no intention of making clear the difference or even recognising that such differences exist.
For what we are witnessing today in the UK and the US is part of a continuum, a seamless process that has its genesis in the nature of the economic system that has for five hundred years enslaved the planet. Regardless that it has no viable political opposition (as yet) does not alter the reality of a class that would risk even its own survival in order to maintain its power over our lives. It’s why we need to take that deep breath before we get dragged even further into its murderous grasp. Before we start committing acts such as those we saw unfold in a dismembered Yugoslavia, acts that can be traced directly to the policies of the US and the EU.
And frankly, I think we’re running out of time. Beyond a certain line, events become inexorable, a historical inertia sets in that sweeps us along and before you know it, ‘perpetual war’ includes all of us. We all become the enemy. I fear we are on the edge of just such a situation, especially as the reality of the quagmire that is Iraq sinks in. Abandoning the people of Iraq to their fate and moving on to ‘greener pastures’ is all too possible, especially as the domestic populations (us) will, in the cause of the ‘war on terror’ have no say in the decision. We will gladly enslave ourselves for a class that regards each and every one of us as expendible, for this is the thinking that enables them to send our young men and women off to wage war in distant lands and on their peoples.
The barbarians are all too real and they are led by George Bush and Tony Blair.