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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sounds Familiar

Britain's conservative leader, Michael Howard, is complaining that the country's human rights law is undermining the nation's effort to fight terrorism. Using an amazing but oft-used piece of propaganda, Howard writes:

"Aggressive judicial activism will not only undermine the public's confidence in the impartiality of our judiciary. It could also put our security at risk - and with it the freedoms the judges seek to defend. That would be a price we cannot be expected to pay."

We heard this repeatedly in the US when the Patriot Act was being debated – we must give up our freedoms in order to protect them. When and if we get those freedoms back is of course not defined and tied to our victory in the war on terror, which realistically means "never", especially is Bush and Blair have anything to do with it.

What really got Howard's ire was last year's ruling that the indefinite detention of foreign terror suspects without trial – allowed by the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act – violated the UK Human Rights Act.

Bummer, those human rights protections. Always getting in the way of denying human rights.

Howard is not claiming that the ruling allowed the suicide bombers of July 7 to accomplish their mission or that sans ruling Scotland Yard would have prevented the bombings. So why believe that his proposed course will make Britain any safer in the future?

In Iraq, soldiers are allowed to search every house and person at will, whenever they like, and yet they cannot slow the tide of suicide bombings. If people are motivated and willing to die for a cause, you simply cannot stop all of them.

Which is why I, like many people, have been saying for years that we must address the motivations of the bombers. Think of it as preventative medicine. Remove the hatred and you remove the inspiration for suicide.

Bush and company, with the compliant mainstream media, responds to this idea with silly claims that terrorists just hate our freedoms, or some such nonsense, when the terrorist leaders themselves say their effort is to get the US to leave Muslim holy lands and to stop meddling in the affairs of their governments.

I think many Americans actually believe we are in Iraq to spread democracy. Strange. We've been actively involved in that region for decades, overtly and covertly, overthrowing democratically elected regimes and bolstering totalitarian regimes that are willing to allow foreign companies to get rich off the oil wealth that lies beneath many Middle Eastern countries. We overthrew the Iranian government and installed the Shah. We support Saddam for years, through his most evil years. We keep the Saudi king in power. We prop up Israel with our financial and military resources, which Israel uses to mercilessly crush the Palestinians. And on and on and on.

These lessons are not lost on Muslims, who see the latest outrage (the invasion and occupation of Iraq), as a major threat and have responded by turning our invasion into a massive rebellion. Most of the foreign fighters are Muslims who say the US invasion has "radicalized" them – made them willing to die fighting the Americans.

Any notion that suspending the rights of prisoners in the UK will make Britain or any place else more safe is absurd, although I suppose if you believe that the terrorists just hate our freedoms, then getting rid of those freedoms might sound like a good plan.


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