Friday, August 11, 2006

Sang Froid, Please

In relation to the post below I thought I'd post this from Simon Carr (political columnist and parliamentary sketch writer for The Independent). It neatly sums up the way we should probably approach the challenges of terrorism in the modern west:

"In a speech to Demos, Dr "Demento" Reid said just now, "we may have to modify some of our freedoms in the short-term in order to prevent their misuse and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy our freedoms and values in the long-term".

One of our fundamental values – perhaps the most important - is stoicism. Over the years, Britain has prided itself on courage under fire, steady nerve, a refusal to panic, or indeed to surrender. The idea that these loony-tunes, jihad-jumping nutcases are a threat to "our freedoms and values" is absurd. Sooner or later they will succeed again with more bombs. Our task is to suffer. Our task is to take it. As we always have before."


Anonymous said...

I agree with the first paragraph and disagree with the second

weasel said...


Why should a statistically improbable event cause us to have to roll back freedoms people fought and died to protect? The population of the US is what- 300 million? 3,000 died on 9/11. The death of 0.0000001% of the population and we have to change our way of life? The London tube bombings killed about 60 people out of a population of 60 million: 0.000001% of the population. Same deal.

I'm the complete opposite, by the way. If they "hate us for our freedoms" don't we help them win by restricting them? Its a childish, egotistical over-reaction on the part of our political leaders. Protect us, sure, fight for our rights to be preserved, absolutely. Show the world there is a better way. The rest is all pathetic bullshit and unworthy of Britons and Americans.

If we keep this crap up we are going to go down in history as the most infantile and weak societies ever to walk the earth.

Joe said...

If the government doesn't restrict your freedom, and the terrorists do, won't the terrorists have won?

weasel said...

I'm confused; is this still all the fault of the French or is that so 2002?

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to think anymore does not giving in to the terrorism by way of being more careful make me a coward and unpatriotic?
Does not minding to toss my water bottle in the bin at the airport make me an idiot?
I know that's not what your saying but with all the blogs I am reading and the comments I feel that my desire to protect my family and home and give up a few civil liberties here and there makes me anti-freedom.
I'm not making sense.
I know this is a touchy subject.

I know, I don't want anyone breaking down my door and checking the hard drive on my computer and going through the papers in my home or tapping my phones , that to me is taking away my civil liberties but tossing lotion and make up is more tolerable.

I suppose that's where it starts huh first the face cream, then what?

weasel said...

Ms Dee, Dr. Reid was talking the day before the attack plan was revealed. He wasn't talking about lotion or water. He's talking about compulsory ID cards for British citizens, increased police search powers, and "control orders"- court orders that allow the authorities to restrict the movements and speech of people not charged with any crime.

Tipping out your evian is a security measure. A pretty pointless and unfocussed security measure to be sure, but not a civil liberties issue. What are leaders are seeking our frightened consent for is something much more profound. They intend to sieze upon this thwarted attack and use it as an anchor for these much more misguided schemes.

The paranoid would argue that they want to do this as some sort of precursor to fascism, much like the Reichtag fire allowed Hitler to impose draconian laws in the name of "security". I don't buy that. I think they are acting from a place of good intent but as with most decisions since 9/11 are screwing up due to a lack of perspective.

weasel said...

I'd like to point out too that as Simon Carr notes, these most recent arrests were carried out without "ID cards or 90 day detentions" in place.

When faced with knee jerk reactions we should really apply the "will it truly make us safer?" test, or else you wind up with crap like Gitmo and massive homeland security grants for Iowa.

Bill Norris said...

The paranoid would argue that they want to do this as some sort of precursor to fascism, much like the Reichtag fire allowed Hitler to impose draconian laws in the name of "security". I don't buy that. I think they are acting from a place of good intent...

You are more charitable than I. I don't think it's from a place of good intent, especially on these shores. There comes a point where the purpose of power is to maintain power, and I think we're there.

We've got this strange brew of theocracy and politics, but it's pretty clear to me that after 1996, the people currently in charge of the Republican party determined to win at all costs, now and forever, and one of their strategies has been to develop a unitary executive at the expense of indvidual freedoms.

More importantly though, people who agree to cede freedoms in the name of security only play into the unprecedented power grab.

The true irony is that, in any "terror" situation in history, government action that limits freedoms has only made the situation worse. The British should have learned this lesson from their long, expensive and largely fruitless efforts to comabt the IRA. I lived in Kilburn in the early 90s and watched people being arrested under the Prevention of Terror Act every time an IRA bomb exploded in London.

At the time, one could be held for 48 hours without charge or access to counsel on terror related suspicion. The grim joke was that each time a bomb went off, people would be held for "possesion of an Irish accent."

The reality was that each time the police rounded up, harrased and detained people with no connection to terror, those arrested were ususally the under or the unemployed and the under or uneducated. The government was using power to subjugate the powerless, and in the process managed to make militants out of people who'd never before had a political thought, let alone a penchant for politicaly motivated violence.

The same cycle is repeating itself today, and the PTA, reprehensible in a free society then is even more draconian now.

At the time, I could be self righteous in my disaproval because the American system, with its promise of due process in all cases was clearly superior. But that's changed--we have an Executive branch that makes policy without regard for the lauded American system of checks and balances--and in fact knowingly and willfully disregards the intent and will of the judiciary and legislative branches whenever it pleases.

It uses "military tribunals" and immigration proceedings to hold suspects without charge or due process. It uses illegal wiretaps and electronic monitoring to subjugate dissent and kidnapping and torture in the name of "freedom."

And we, the public, are complicit in all of this if we let it continue. It's been established, beyond any shred of doubt, that our foreign policy helps to create militants rather than deter them. But the civil liberties we, as a nation, have ceded since 2001 should be as chilling to anyone who values "freedom" as any terror "plot." As you've noted, we can not preserve our "way of life" by destroying its very fabric. Sadly, that's what's happening on both sides of the "special relationship."

In a democracy, civil liberties give power to the people at the expense of the government. When they are surrendered, the central government gains more strength than it should have. That power creates a hunger for more power and the cycle continues slowly and inexorably until the democracy itself is gone.

I fear we're pretty far down that road already, father than anyone could have imagined six years ago.

Bill Norris said...

At the time, one could be held for 48 hours without charge or access to counsel on terror related suspicion.

EDIT--48 hours or seven days on "approval of the Home Secretary," who routinely granted requests for longer detainment. I'd have to go back into my research to verify the numbers, but I recall that the number of times that members of the Thatcher or Major governments denied requests for longer detainment under the PTA was close to nil.

weasel said...

There's 6 men in Birmingham, in Guilford there's 4; who were picked up and tortured and framed by the law. The the filth get promotion but they're still doing time, for being Irish in the wrong place and at the wrong time...

Of course under Thatcher's PTA boradcast of that Pogues' song (and the words of interlocutors like Gerry Adams) on the public airwaves were illegal. The Labour Party- my old Labour Party- used to protest that sort of shit. And now they try and legislate it.

Bill, I had no idea you lived in "County Kilburn". I saw one off my favorite bits of graffiti there: "Give us back Belfast, and We'll give you back Kilburn".

Bill Norris said...

Did a spell in Kilburn while attending the LSE in '92 where I wrote a massive paper on the PTA and got to know some terrific people in a group called the Kilburn Defence Association. It's probably my favorite place I've ever lived; it actually had quite a lot in common with Brooklyn. Though I gather creeping hipsteritis has also gripped Kilburn in the last five years or so.

Lived right at the juncture of Kilburn Park and Kilburn High that year, got locked into the Black Lion on Kilburn High more than once whilst smoking hash and drinking until the sun rose.

That was quite a year. Had a literal drink with Shane McGowan (on my tab) one night at a place called The Victoria on Holloway Road and spent more than a few confused, bleary hours trying to figure out how to get back to Kilburn from the Robie in Finsbury Park way after hours.

And, once, during a set by the best Trad. Irish band I've ever seen, witnessed a packed room turn its back on Martin McGuinness en masse.

Was back in London in '95, living more centrally amidst a horde of loud, drunk Aussies (that's redudant, isn't it?) near South Ken, pulling drinks in Fulham and later on the Kings Road.

Anonymous said...

A Belfast for a Kilburn does not seem like a fair deal to me, I would expect half a Luton thrown in as well.

I have a Carrickfergus I'm willing to swap for Cricklewood if anyone is interested.

weasel said...

I pick Ballynahinch, and offer Corby in return.

Weasel's little bruva said...

Apologies for the previous anonymous entry, I never have got the hang of these computer thingies...

I will see your Corby and raise you a Brindisi for a Bedford, which I will double to a Palermo if you throw Dunstable in as well.

I am convinced I could get elected as the SNP member for Corby next election...might need to borrow your kilt.