26 February 2007
‘When politicians wave abstractions around like flags—abstractions like ‘security’ or for that matter ‘freedom’—citizens should be immediately suspicious.”
There is one thing we can be certain of; the capitalist state is in disarray and in crisis. With every passing day its legitimacy crumbles further. Much of its prior claim to any kind of legitimacy depended in large part on ‘defending’ its citizens against an evil foe which for almost three-quarters of a century had been Communism. And like the ‘Red Menace’ the current enemy, ‘Islamic Fundamentalism’, allegedly also possesses ruthless and cunning powers to subvert democracy and penetrate right into the heart of our ‘democracy’. But unlike the enemies of yore, so fiendish is the ‘international Islamic conspiracy’ that our civil and legal rights have to be all but abrogated in yet another ‘war’ to defend these very freedoms!
An awful irony when you consider that for over fifty years, the ‘free world’ waged a war that almost destroyed us in order, we were told, to defend us. But now, in order to justify this frontal assault on ‘democracy’ an enemy like none ever seen before, had to be created.
“It’s possible that through a tyranny of small decisions, we could make a nightmare society”.
This new ‘enemy’ like the former vanquished one was not created overnight, an entire edifice had to be constructed, one piece at a time with the ‘alien’ at its heart. ‘Un-British’ in appearance and allegedly also possessing ‘un-British values’, that it to say, non-Christian and by default non-white, the Muslim fits the role perfectly. Moreover, for over a century, the Arab (read Muslim), cunning, devious and utterly alien in culture and values, has formed the basis for a mythology that found it echoed first in popular fiction and later in movies. Thus a handy ‘hook’ already existed on which to hang the current scapegoat.
There is no doubt that the corporate and state media played a pivotal role in the creation of this ‘enemy within’ but without a physical expression such as bomb plots and other increasingly outlandish acts, or more precisely, threats of attacks, convincing a public which had lived through three decades of REAL IRA bombings without feeling so threatened, it required a new strategy based upon the existence of seemingly irrational individuals, the ‘suicide bomber’, against which the only defence is, we are told, an almost complete ‘lock-down’ of the population through the use of arbitrary arrests and detentions and the use of scare tactics including alleged gas attacks, alleged home-made nuclear weapons, alleged biological agents, indeed an entire armoury of the most outlandish devices against which the only defence is, we are told, is the creation of the total surveillance state.
The media’s role in this state-inspired conspiracy was to demonise a convenient, that is to say, easily recognisable section of society, the Muslim, the new ‘alien within’. Bearded and be-robed and already ghettoised by an institutionally racist society, they became the focus of a hate campaign that has ominous echoes of an earlier period in European history. Over the past year, almost 23,000 people have been stopped and searched under ‘anti-terror’ laws, specifically Section 44 of the infamous 2000 Terrorism Act. No reason is required, merely a policeman’s whim is sufficient cause. Only 27 individuals have been charged under anti-terror laws as a result but the impact on the Asian community has been devastating, further alienating an already alienated section of society. And, as even the police themselves admit, the results have been totally counter-productive.
Even assuming that the country is crawling with terrorists bent on destroying ‘Western civilisation’ (although how setting off a few home-made bombs achieves this end is never explained), the contradictions of the state’s deliberately engineered hysterical response to this alleged threat to ‘civilisation’ makes no sense unless there is a hidden agenda about which we are not informed.
If a country like the former Soviet Union, armed to the teeth and with the massive resources of the state could not achieve the alleged objective of overthrowing capitalism after seventy-five years, it is reasonable to ask the question, why has the British state embarked on a policy of creating a de facto police state replete with laws which have more than a passing similarity to those passed by both Hitler and Mussolini? Enter “fear-based security”.
“Security’ is not something we can have more or less of because it is not a thing at all…[it is] the name we use for a temporally extended state of affairs characterized by the calculability and predictability of the future… The impossibility of guaranteeing security is rooted in the fact that like justice, and like democracy, ‘security’ is not so much an empirical state of affairs but an ideal—an ideal in the name of which a vast number of procedures, gadgets, social relations, and political institutions are designed and deployed”.
To answer this question we have to look elsewhere than a cave in Afghanistan or a council flat in Birmingham or Bolton.
The history of capitalism is full of examples of ‘conspiracies’ allegedly hatched by fanatical groups bent on overthrowing the status quo, from the early trade unionists through to the ‘anarchists’ of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and beyond, all of which required that the full wrath of the state be brought to bear on the unfortunate individuals involved. Importantly, these ‘conspiracies’ were used as an excuse to increase the power of the state’s control over its citizens through the passing of various statutes that limited our democratic ‘rights’ to demonstrate and protest and now, it is even a crime to think about overthrowing the state.
Just as importantly, these ‘conspiracies’ were used to justify various and sundry wars of aggression, whether against Communism or under the cover of fighting Communism, against just wars of national liberation. History is littered with imperialist conspiracies invented to justify these wars including the Tonkin Gulf Incident which led to the war in Vietnam, or the mythical Soviet MiG jets allegedly supplied to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua as well as the non-existent WMDs of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
‘Withdrawing to the sidelines of international debate, as some advocate, or isolating ourselves from the international scene as a way of avoiding the effects of global change, would simply undermine the way we cope and adapt to that change and undermine vital British interests. Withdrawal and isolation is not the road to national liberation but to national ruin.’ ‘PURSUING AN ACTIVE AND ENGAGED FOREIGN POLICY’. Speech by Jack Straw to the House of Commons, (27/11/03)
Dig beneath the propaganda and we come across a phrase which speaks reams about the real reasons for the invention of a ‘terrorist threat’, ‘vital British interests’. But what is meant by ‘vital British interests’? Add another oft-repeated phrase, ‘energy security’, indeed once you start looking, the media and state’s public pronouncements are littered with these phrases, ‘Britain’s national security interests’, recently used to quash the police’s investigation into bribes and kickbacks by BAE Systems in Saudi Arabia.
‘Conspiracy theories abound … Others claim it [the invasion of Iraq] was inspired by oil … [This] theor[y is] largely nonsense.” – The London Independent, April 16, 2003.
Behind the rhetoric lies the real reason for the creation of the ‘terrorist threat’, the mundane world of economics, for ultimately it all comes down to filthy lucre. For five hundred years Western capitalism has ridden roughshod across the planet, plundering and enslaving entire continents, exterminating entire cultures and peoples’ in the pursuit of profit. It has done this, until the 20th century with virtual impunity by virtue of overwhelming military power and control of international trade, itself protected by overwhelming military force.
But following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Western capitalism was stripped of its justification for continuing its pillage of the planet. It needed a new enemy behind which it could continue its operations and one effectively impossible to defeat simply because it not only has no centre, but also because ‘international terror’ simply doesn’t exist except as a propaganda message.
Thus under the guise of fighting the ‘war on terror’, new wars of acquisition were undertaken. However, these wars had to be conducted in these new circumstances largely without the support of the domestic populations.
A new climate of fear had to be engineered to justify imperialist wars of conquest. Above all therefore, what was needed were actual deeds with corpses and culprits, and what better than four ‘Islamic fundamentalists’ who conveniently perished in the carnage of 7 July 2005.
The contradictions and unanswered questions concerning the events of 7 July, 2005 are addressed elsewhere, suffice to say, there are so many holes in the official story that it’s no wonder the government has resisted all demands for a public inquiry, although if the Hutton Report is any measure of what an inquiry under the Blair government is worth, we would learn little of consequence from one and indeed, it can be argued that ‘public inquiries’ effectively quash further investigations by creating the illusion of an ‘independent investigation’.
But whether the four ‘suicide bombers’ were patsies or not (my own take on the events of 7 July), they served their purpose, namely the justification for the creation of a fear-based security state, under which even more repressive laws would be enacted and by extension the continuation of foreign wars of aggression.
It should be obvious therefore, that the ‘war at home’ and the wars conducted in foreign lands are intimately connected. In fact they are the twin components of a vicious circle, this is why the Blair government was so adamant in resisting the connection between the invasion of Iraq and the rise of ‘Islamic radicalism’, though even here it has never been established whether it’s Islam or nationalism that has fueled the rise in activism within the Asian community in the UK. And furthermore, the demonisation of Islam in and of itself is surely a major source of anger and resentment especially amongst young Asians who now suffer the multiple assaults of racism, poverty and a carefully engineered xenophobia.
Ultimately, the capitalist system thrives on the creation of crises, or what Naomi Klein mistakenly calls ‘disaster capitalism’, a new description of an old disease, for in an age of global, electronic surveillance, the business of creating the security state is itself really big business and as ever, so is war. This is good ol’ imperialism just like it used to be back when Brittania ruled the waves.
But even more important than what is in reality the privatisation of state activities, is the fact that the ‘war on terror’ represents a desperate attempt to deal with the vast over-accumulation of capital that has taken place since the fall of the Soviet Union. So great is the volume generated since the fall of ‘communism’ that even wholesale privatisation of great swathes of the ‘global commons’ cannot absorb it all.
As always, war is the ‘solution’, no matter what form it takes, and in order to justify such vast expenditures, just as Bush and Blair openly state, a war without end is required. Figures of fifty years are bandied about lest we don’t get the message.
It is within this crisis that we find the source of the ‘war on terror’ and hence the need for 9/11 and 7/7, for without such invisible ‘enemies’ how can one justify the slaughter let alone the expenditure and the creation of a vast global, electronic, corporate security state?
1. “Governing Security, Governing Through Security”, in: R.J.Daniels, P. Macklem and Kent Roach (2002), Security of Freedom: Essays on Canada’s Anti-terrorism Bill, , U of T Press, p. 85.
2. “Privacy in an Age of Terror”, by Mike France and Heather Green, Business Week, November 5, 2001.
3. According to a Metropolitan Police Report in the year before last September 2006, the Metropolitan Police performed 22,672 stop-and-searches under section 44. It led to just 27 terror arrests, the Met’s report says. “Its effectiveness … is in serious doubt.” The Ealing Times, 22 February, 2007.
4. ‘Fear-based Security: The Political Economy of ‘Threat’’ By Margaret Beare, Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime and Corruption
5. “Governing Security, Governing Through Security”
7. ‘AHMED CHALABI – OIL MAN IN BAGHDAD’, William Bowles (18/04/03)