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Monday, May 28, 2007 

Derogating from the human race.

It's difficult to think of a darker weekend for civil liberties than the one this country has just experienced. It began with Reid informing us that he might well derogate from the ECHR to put a halt to his and future home secretaries' embarrassment, went further downhill with the news that the Home Office wants even those caught dropping litter to be placed on the DNA database, and fell into a trough with Blair's appalling article in the Sunday Times alongside the irredeemable plan to bring back the "sus" laws.

Blair's article itself is breathtaking, both in his apparent complete ignorance of civil liberties, which can only be described as willful, as we know full well that he is not an idiot, and in its delusional qualities. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is either Blair or his government's fault. He calls for consensus at the same time as he decries the opposition for daring to vote against his plans for 90 days, even though he offered a week-by-week court hearing throughout that time! How could they not agree with such a safeguard?

This and a closing comment though have to be the best/worst parts:

We have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first. I happen to believe this is misguided and wrong.

Blair appears to be suggesting that we ought to be especially suspicious of foreign nationals, as they seemingly don't deserve the same presumption of innocence until proven guilty as the rest of us. If Blair had used a similar method of reasoning when he first met George Bush then he might not now be quite possibly the most hated man in Britain, but that perhaps sums up the whole way he's gone about things. The other glaring point here is that anyone can be a suspect, and indeed, if the government has its way, then we probably all will be suspects rather than citizens. For the prime minister of this country to suggest that it's "misguided and wrong" to put the civil liberties of a suspect, not someone who's been convicted of any crime before anything else is frightening. While he talks of sending signals, something which Not Saussure expands upon, is he not putting a far more dangerous message across, one which suggests that we're moving beyond that old fashioned idea of everyone having the same rights as everyone else? It's the talk of someone who has no respect for the values which he and others in his party want to inculcate in the public, of fairness, of equality.

It's perhaps this though which explains exactly where Blair has reached in his retreat from reality:

I was stopped by someone the other week who said it was not surprising there was so much terrorism in the world when we invaded their countries (meaning Afghanistan and Iraq). No wonder Muslims felt angry.

When he had finished, I said to him: tell me exactly what they feel angry about. We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a United Nations-supervised democratic process and the Muslims in both countries get the chance to vote, which incidentally they take in very large numbers. And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims.


The myopia of which is pretty astonishing, although it's the usual argument from Blair of it all being the fault of terrorists. He'd rather not discuss the myriad of failures, the decision to disband the Iraqi army, the de-Ba'athification order, the looting, the brutality of Abu Ghraib, the horrifying sieges of Fallujah, the endemic corruption of the reconstruction contracts, the bloody disaster of being unable to impose security, the ignorance which meant that the possibility of sectarian conflict was dismissed, and most of all, the obeisance to American power without having any influence in how that power was actually wielded. All of that pales into insignificance in Blair's mind when compared to how the terrorists are the only ones who've stopped Iraq and Afghanistan from turning into democratic paradises envied the Middle East over.

It's really come to something when the Sun, of all papers, is urging caution over the proposed "stop and question" powers thought up in a blaze of brainstorming, either by Peter Hain, who suggested the powers currently in effect in Northern Ireland be extended or Tony McNulty, another exasperating Home Office minister, depending on who you believe. We're told that no one was apparently consulted about this at all, in typical leak to a Sunday newspaper fashion, but at least we can depend on Hazel Blears to instantly think it's a wonderful idea. How the sus laws could possibly be any use against terrorists isn't explained, in an age when "intelligence" is the all important factor, but it's the kind of thinking of a government that doesn't think that having a CCTV camera on every corner is intrusive, that having the largest number of DNA profiles on a database isn't something to be ashamed of but instead worth boasting about, and where civil liberties should come second to the rights of suspects. It's the image of a society where fear is winning over hope, where the government is just as guilty of perpetuating it as any tabloid or terrorist group.

Related post:
Nether-World - Ihre Papieren, Bitte!

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