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Proletarian issue 14 (October 2006)
In place of security, the loss of civil liberties
Suspicious timing and media manipulation cast doubt on the veracity of claims surrounding the latest ‘foiled terror plot’ in London
On 10 August, John Reid announced that police had thwarted a planned terror attack on flights from London to the US. Destruction “on an unimaginable scale” had been averted. Airport security jumped to ‘critical’ and airports across London ground to a halt. Numerous high-profile police raids were conducted across London, resulting in 24 arrests under the Terrorism Act 2000. Suspects were detained at Paddington Green Police Station under new powers that allow detention for up to 28 days without charge.

More false bogeymen

As with so many previous claims of terror attacks averted – the ‘ricin plot’, the ‘Hogmanay’ plot, Forest Gate and the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes – once the dust has settled, emerging details reveal an entirely different situation to that asserted so boldly by police and government officials,and splashed across newspaper front pages.

In the days and weeks following the announcement of an alleged plot aimed at flights taking off from Heathrow, it was revealed that Rashid Rauf (an alleged Al-Qaeda member whose arrest in Pakistan was apparently the trigger for the London raids) had probably faced torture under interrogation, calling into serious doubt the weight and credibility of any information he may have provided.

Further, although his apparent claims were supposed to have sparked the entire operation on 10 August 2006, the British police were not particularly interested in his being brought to Britain to face questioning in connection with the investigation, since “after two weeks of interrogation, an inch by inch search of his house and analysis of his home computer, officials are now saying that his extradition is ‘a long way down the track, if it happens at all’” . (‘Fade to Black: another terror plot unravels’, www.informationclearinghouse.info, 21 August 2006)

It was further revealed that those arrested had been under close police surveillance for a considerable period of time and that some of those being monitored had not yet obtained passports, never mind setting a date for any ‘attack’. (NBC News, cited in ‘The truth about the “terror plot … and the new “pseudo-terrorism”’, www.craigmurray.co.uk, 14 August 2006)

If, as is suggested by some reports, security services had identified individuals who were planning an attack on British soil at some unknown future date, the willingness of police and government officials to undermine any successful investigation and/or prosecution by leaking key details of the result of the investigation suggests that the security of British people is not the primary motivating force for these arrests.

Quite the contrary: it is now abundantly clear that the high-profile raids, along with the bold pronouncements to the media about attacks ‘prevented’ were entirely politically driven. It is worth remembering that at the time the so-called ‘plot’ was ‘foiled’, Israel’s war against Lebanon was four weeks old and the Labour government’s open collusion with the zionist aggressors was arousing the wrath of the British people and helping to make the ‘war on terror’ more unpopular than ever.

Media manipulation and a climate of fear

As with previous arrests and charges under the Terrorism Act, a trial by media is preceding the actual prosecution, which could seriously undermine a fair trial for the accused. This is not an accident but a deliberate technique of the state, used extensively by imperialist governments.

For example, five days following the incidents of 10 August 2006, and prior to any charges being laid, John Reid announced that some of those detained in Paddington Green “would not face serious charges”. On 28 August, an extremely detailed account of the results of police surveillance prior to the arrests, along with the ‘evidence’ uncovered following numerous raids connected with the alleged London airport attack, was published in the New York Times.

It is not just the accused themselves who should be worried about receiving a fair trial. You would have thought that the authorities would be concerned to ensure that the accused could not use any loopholes to escape a conviction following trial for serious offences.

In fact, the state has no alternative but to try to exploit the details of ‘averted’ terrorist attacks in an attempt to sway public opinion to support the ‘war on terror’. Only by keeping the British public in fear and persuading them to think of themselves as the victims can the imperialist warmongers continue to paint their criminal exploits in Iraq and Afghanistan, designs of war on Iran and Syria and support for the fascist Israel against Lebanon and Palestine as a ‘war on terror’ and ‘war for our values and freedoms’.

In this respect, not much has changed since the days of US imperialist war against Korea, which caused General Douglas MacArthur (Commander of US troops in the Korean war) to state in 1957 that “our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear – kept us in continuous stampede of patriotic fervor – with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.” (Quoted in ‘Saved again, thank the lord, saved again’ by William Blum, www.informationclearinghouse.info, 19 August 2006)

Oppression breeds resistance

It is an unavoidable truth that the British people will never have security at home while the British state continues to bomb and kill and destroy the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. Unless and until British imperialism is forced to give up designs for war against Iran and Syria, end support for terrorist Israel and leave the people of the Middle East to develop their future and exploit their own natural resources for the good of their people, then future attacks on British soil will grow more likely with each passing day. Given developments in communications, transport and technology, it is no longer safe for the imperialists to assume that their war can be contained on distant shores. Nor can they expect to cross national boundaries and slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocents themselves and feel no repercussions on British soil.

Right-wing US academic, Associate Professor Robert Pape, University of Chicago has conducted an “an analysis of incidents of suicide-terrorist attacks worldwide from 1990–2004” . His book Dying to Win has become uncomfortable but increasingly sought-after reading for many in the US.

In an interview with the author published in The American Conservative, Professor Pape drew the following conclusions:

“[T]he central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military troops from the territory that the terrorists views as their homeland …

“If Islamic fundamentalism were the pivotal factor, then we should see some of the largest Islamic fundamentalist countries in the world, like Iran, which has 70 million people – three times the population of Iraq and three times the population of Saudi Arabia – with some of the most active groups in suicide terrorism against the United States. However there has never been an al-Qaeda suicide terrorist from Iran, and we have no evidence that there are any suicide terrorists in Iraq from Iran.

“… suicide terrorism is not a supply driven phenomenon, where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious … it is a demand driven phenomenon, this is, it is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland.”


Pape’s conclusion, of course, is not that the US should give up its designs of controlling the natural resources of other nations, but that it should, as in the past, “secure its interests in oil” through forming “an alliance with Iraq and Saudi Arabia” based on an agreement on far-from-equal terms backed up with the threat of military force: “we relied on numerous aircraft carriers off the coast of the Arabian Peninsular … we also built numerous military bases so that we could move large numbers of ground forces to the region quickly if a crisis emerged” .

The problem that Professor Pape does not seem to appreciate is that there is a current shortage of comprador regimes that are prepared, or able, to sell their countries’ assets and wealth to the imperialist profiteers in exchange for securing a fabulous life of luxury for themselves and a lifetime of poverty and servitude for their populations. Even those regimes that have for decades been only too willing to take part in such a relationship, such as Saudi Arabia, are increasingly finding themselves unable to retain their position without providing for their people and investing their countries’ national resources into the development and sustainability of their national economies.

All across Latin America, comprador regimes are being voted out by the masses of workers and peasants, who have had enough of enduring a lifetime of slavery while their countries’ bountiful natural wealth is stolen and siphoned off into the imperialist heartlands.

Intensified repression at home

And so, in place of security in Britain, we face continuing clampdowns on freedoms once taken for granted; the core of the ‘democratic British values’ that the ‘war on terror’ is supposed to be protecting. The climate of fear created by the frequent cries of ‘terror attack imminent’ is still highly successful in convincing sections of the population that restrictions on freedom are necessary.

The Telegraph reported on 17 August 2006 that “a majority of British people wants the government to adopt an even more ‘aggressive’ foreign policy to combat international terrorism according to an opinion poll conducted after the arrests of 24 terrorism suspects last week”. Some 73 percent of respondents apparently agreed with the statement that “the West is in a global war against Islamic terrorists who threaten our way of life” .

Further restrictions are on the way, aimed at stifling all protest, whether it be against wars abroad or attacks on workers’ living standards and services at home. This situation is mirrored across Europe and in the US, and developments there give an indication of what is to come in Britain.

An ‘informal’ meeting of EU interior ministers took place in London on 17 August 2006, one week after the ‘plane plot’ scare. On the agenda was the need to harmonise the approach of the European countries to tackling terrorism. Measures discussed apparently included:

-    Proposals to make the internet a ‘hostile environment’ for terrorists

-    Collection and sharing of data on airline passengers throughout Europe

-    ‘Positive profiling’ of passengers based on biometric and racial identifiers

(Information taken from ‘Reid looks at blocking websites in battle against terrorism’, Yorkshire Today, 17 August 2006)

In the US, ID cards are set to be introduced by 2008. A recent Associated Press report stated that “starting three years from now, if you live and work in the US, you’ll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect social security payments or take advantage of nearly any government service” . [Cited in ‘Fade to Black’, op cit]

There are fresh plans to increase the length of time suspects can be held in detention without charge to 90 days, and Home Secretary John Reid has hinted at further withdrawal of the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 in light of higher court decisions finding control orders unlawful: “sometimes we may have to modify some of our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms in the modern world” . (‘Anti terror critics just don’t get it, says Reid’, The Guardian, 10 August 2006)

Imperialism in crisis

British imperialism is in crisis. Having produced more goods than the world’s impoverished people can afford to buy, it is engaged in a ruthless and desperate struggle over access to the few remaining avenues of profitable investment. In their bid to survive by undercutting rivals, the imperialists are desperate to gain control of raw materials at rock-bottom prices (hence the wars for oil in the Middle East and elsewhere) and to cut down on all ‘unnecessary’ expenditure (hence attacks on wages, pensions and publicly-funded services in Britain).

But imperialists, as Mao famously said, lift rocks only to drop them on their own feet. The US and Britain may have gone to war in Iraq in order to ensure a flow of cheap oil, but they have ended only in pushing the price to previously unheard of highs, which, while it may suit the oil multinationals for a time, is quite against even the medium-term interests of the imperialists as a class. Meanwhile, ruthless suppression of peoples all over the world who try to resist the looting of their natural resources, privatisation of their essential services and superexploitation of their people only breeds stronger, more organised and more determined resistance movements, which, like the many-headed hydra of Greek mythology, are now popping up all over the globe much faster than imperialism can stamp them out.

Resistance to attacks on workers’ pay and working conditions, pensions and public services in Britain is bound to grow as the repercussions are felt more widely and more Britons fall deeper into poverty. It is in anticipation of such resistance, and not in response to any ‘threat from abroad’, that the British state has been busy whipping up as many workers as possible into a state of permanent hysterical fear and enacting ream after ream of draconian ‘anti-terror’ legislation. Racist scapegoating of muslims and immigrants is part of the ruling class’s strategy of keeping the workers divided and impotent, for the financial oligarchs understand, even if many British workers do not, that all their preparations will not be enough to keep them in power once the British workers are united and organised against them.


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