Ours is Good Terror

  The above is a quote from Australian comedian Steve Hughes. If you’re not familiar with him, I urge you to rectify that as soon as possible. As a political satirist, virtually no-one dares go as far. In the particular routine I reference, he points out the hypocrisy of the US-led ‘War on Terror’ – an exercise which, its futility aside, creates just as much terror as it eradicates. If not far more. Nevertheless, George Bush’s ill-omened attempt to wipe out global terrorism, regardless of the cost, has been with us more than twelve years and counting. And the consequences for individual freedoms have been huge.

  The most well-publicised example of the erosion of our liberty has been the mass surveillance undertaken by the NSA – the USA’s National Security Agency – and its UK equivalent, GCHQ. These agencies are a subsection of the two nations’ security services but, unlike MI5, MI6, the CIA or the FBI, they do not participate actively in maintaining national ‘security’. Instead, they monitor public communications and feed this information to the other services. The amount of information these agencies have access to is astonishing. Between them, they can access the online and telecommunications of every US and UK citizen, as well as any foreign national using US- or UK-based websites and many international telecommunication lines into the bargain. Although GCHQ is checked to a degree by UK privacy laws, the NSA is under no such burdens – and as the two agencies share most of their data, this means that UK as well as US security services have access to YOUR personal data. The scale of this information-gathering is equally astounding – Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower, has revealed that the NSA acquired over 97 billion internet data items and nearly 125 billion telephone data items in just one month (8th Feb-8th March 2013). This represents an unacceptable intrusion into what is, in both the USA and the UK, legally protected privacy.

  The security agencies claim that this information is necessary to protect us from terror threats. However, since this information in obtained indiscriminately, without warrants, and can be stored indefinitely and passed to third parties as the agencies see fit, it represents a far greater threat to individual freedom than any terrorist organisation the world over. At least al-Qaeda have the good grace to admit that they intend to deprive the world of its civil liberties. The UK and US governments do so on a daily basis, in secret, whilst pretending to uphold democracy.

  And the surveillance state is not the limit of human rights abuses by Western governments. Not by a long way. The continued existence of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, proven to play host to scenes of torture and other human rights breaches and illegal under international law, is perhaps the single greatest affront to the pretense of liberal democracy in the Western world. Despite Barack Obama’s stated commitment to abolish the camp by the end of 2010, it still exists today – along with its 155 detainees, at least 18 of whom are children and against none of whom any kind of legally prosecutable case exists. It is a disgrace, for which no justification has or can be made.

  Here in the UK, too, the government is far from innocent. Anti-terror legislation in the wake of 9/11 became quickly and increasingly hysterical, as Blair and his successors used the golden opportunity of mass tragedy to tighten their grip on the country. Having been told their original plan to lock up all terror suspects indefinitely without trial was a breach of their own human rights act, the Blair administration instead created control orders which allow them to place foreign terror suspects under 16-hour-a-day house arrest, relocate them tens or even hundreds of miles from their family and friends and place them under electronic tagging, for two full years. All this without a shred of evidence that would be admitted to any court. And now Theresa May, as Home Secretary, has begun the practise of stripping British terror suspects of their citizenship – without any kind of trial, of course. 37 individuals have suffered this fate since the government came to power, twenty of these in the last two months.

  All of this is set against a backdrop of the continuing US-led Western occupation of Afghanistan and accompanying operations across the Middle East and North Africa. The governments involved don’t seem to realise that their actions have helped cause the current crisis, and are certainly unlikely to alleviate it. Aggressive Western neo-imperialism is one of the main reasons behind the growing wave of Islamic fundamentalism, and ending such unwanted interference in the internal affairs of foreign countries is the only way to bring about an end to the chaos that has engulfed the region. The UK and USA should by all means support democracy, but illegal wars and secretive military strikes on the sovereign territory of other nations is hardly conducive to such an aim.

  The simple fact of the matter is this – the War on Terror is doomed to fail, if we take as its objective the eradication of all major terrorist organisations worldwide. It simply cannot be achieved, not by Western military aggression at any rate. If, however, the objective of the exercise is to give the political and administrative leaders of our countries unprecedented control of the populace, then it has already succeeded. And that is something we should be profoundly concerned about.

  As ex-Liberal Democrat minister Chris Huhne ironically once said, 1984 was a warning, not a blueprint.

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4 thoughts on “Ours is Good Terror

  1. I do agree with what you say 100%, as many al qeada leaders say that “it only takes my half an hour to brainwash a young man to becoming a sucide bomber, as their hatred for the west makes them commit to do such killing.” Whilst the US can spend billions of dollars on a war they will leave in 2014, when that could have been given to invest in poorer countries

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  2. As I say, the quote originally comes from Chris Huhne. I would interpret it to mean that the extreme levels of surveillance and political repression and the endemic warfare described in George Orwell's '1984' were intended as a warning of what might happen to the world. I fear that they now are

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