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Blair's New Authoritarianism: Terror and Democracy

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By Tariq Al

In the face of terror attacks Anglo-Saxon politicians mouth the same rhetoric. One sentence in particular--shrouded in layers of untruth--is constantly repeated: 'We shall not permit these attacks to change our way of life.' It is a
multi-purpose mantra. The first aim is to convince the public that the terrorists are crazed Muslims who are bombing modernity/democracy/freedom/ 'our values', etc.

This is the first lie. The terror attacks, however misguided and criminal, are a result of the Western military presence in the Arab world. If all the foreign troops and bases were withdrawn, the attacks would cease. This is essentially a post-First Gulf war syndrome.

Israel/Palestine is another issue, but that has been simmering for fifty years and was not the main reason for the bombings in New York, Madrid and London. It has now been added to the repertoire, but the struggle to force Israel back to the 1967 frontiers is one waged by the Palestinians themselves. They have received little support from elsewhere.

The sentence itself is a falsehood, because the attacks have changed 'our way of life'. The Patriot Act in the United States and the measures being proposed by Tony Blair in Britain demonstrate this quite clearly. What is being proposed in Britain is the indefinite suspension of habeas corpus. Worried by the recent judicial activism
with senior Judges in Britain expressing a real concern at the growing attack on civil liberties, Tony Blair warned them in public that he would brook no dissent:

"Should legal obstacles arise, we will legislate further, including, if necessary amending the Human Rights Act, in respect of the interpretation of the ECHR. In any event, we will consult on legislating specifically for a non-suspensive appeal process in respect of deportations. One other point on deportations. Once the new
grounds take effect, there will be a list drawn up of specific extremist websites, bookshops, centres, networks and particular organisations of concern. Active engagement with any of these will be a trigger for the home secretary to consider the deportation of any foreign national. As has been stated already, there will be new anti-terrorism legislation in the autumn. This will include an offence of condoning or glorifying terrorism. The sort of remarks made in recent days should be covered by such laws. But this will also be applied to justifying or glorifying terrorism anywhere, not just in the UK."

Will the British Parliament accept this view and legislate in favour of the new authoritarianism? Probably. It is a parliament dominated by cons and neo-cons. If Blair is a second-rate politician with a third-rate mind, his Conservative opponent, Michael Howard is a third-rate politician with a second-rate mind. He has both accused
Blair of inconsistencies and demanded even tougher measures. In reality he is Blair's echo-chamber.

In a recent article in the Daily Telegraph, Howard denounced the law lords'(Britain's equivalent of the Supreme Court) decision last year. The judges had stated that the indefinite detention without trial of foreign terror suspects under the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act contravened the Human Rights Act, and referred to the difficulties the latter act creates for deporting extremists to countries where they may face persecution or torture. Wrote Howard:

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