Thomas Friedman is a famous columnist on the New York Times. He has been described
as "a guard dog of US foreign policy". Whatever America's warlords have
in mind for the rest of humanity, Friedman will bark it. He boasts that "the
hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist". He promotes
bombing countries and says world war three has begun.
Friedman's latest bark is about free speech, which his country's constitution
is said to safeguard. He wants the State Department to draw up a blacklist of
those who make "wrong" political statements. He is referring not only
to those who advocate violence, but those who believe American actions are the
root cause of the current terrorism. The latter group, which he describes as
"just one notch less despicable than the terrorists", includes most
Americans and Britons, according to the latest polls.
Friedman wants a "War of Ideas report" which names those who try
to understand and explain, for example, why London was bombed. These are "excuse
makers" who "deserve to be exposed". He borrows the term "excuse
makers" from James Rubin, who was Madeleine Albright's chief apologist
at the State Department. Albright, who rose to secretary of state under President
Clinton, said that the death of half a million Iraqi infants as a result of
an American-driven blockade was a "price" that was "worth it".
Of all the interviews I have filmed in official Washington, Rubin's defence
of this mass killing is unforgettable.
Farce is never far away in these matters. The "excuse makers" would
also include the CIA, which has warned that "Iraq [since the invasion]
has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of 'professionalised’
terrorists'." On to the Friedman/Rubin blacklist go the spooks!
Like so much else during the Blair era, this McCarthyite rubbish has floated
across the Atlantic and is now being recycled by the prime minister as proposed
police-state legislation, little different from the fascist yearnings of Friedman
and other extremists. For Friedman's blacklist, read Tony Blair's proposed database
of proscribed opinions, bookshops, websites.
The British human rights lawyer Linda Christian asks: "Are those who feel
a huge sense of injustice about the same causes as the terrorists - Iraq, Afghanistan,
the war on terrorism, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib - to be stopped from speaking
forthrightly about their anger? Because terrorism is now defined in our law
as actions abroad, will those who support liberation movements in, for example,
Kashmir or Chechnya be denied freedom of expression?" Any definition of
terrorism, she points out, should "encompass the actions of terrorist states
engaged in unlawful wars."
Of course, Blair is silent on western state terrorism in the Middle East and
elsewhere; and for him to moralise about "our values" insults the
fact of his blood-crime in Iraq. His budding police state will, he hopes, have
the totalitarian powers he has longed for since 2001 when he suspended habeas
corpus and introduced unlimited house arrest without trial. The Law Lords, Britain's
highest judiciary, have tried to stop this. Last December, Lord Hoffmann said
that Blair's attacks on human rights were a greater threat to freedom than terrorism.
On 26 July, Blair emoted that the entire British nation was under threat and
abused the judiciary in terms, as Simon Jenkins noted, "that would do credit
to his friend Vladimir Putin". What we are seeing in Britain is the rise
of the democratic police state.
Should you be tempted to dismiss all this as esoteric or merely mad, travel
to any Muslim community in Britain, especially in the north west and sense the
state of siege and fear. On 15 July, Blair's Britain of the future was glimpsed
when the police raided the Iqra Learning Centre and book store near Leeds. The
Iqra Trust is a well-known charity that promotes Islam worldwide as "a
peaceful religion which covers every walk of life." The police smashed
down the door, wrecked the shop and took away anti-war literature which they
described as "anti-western".
Among this was, reportedly, a DVD of the Respect Party MP George Galloway addressing
the US Senate and a New Statesman article of mine illustrated by a much-published
photograph of a Palestinian man in Gaza attempting to shield his son from Israeli
bullets before the boy was shot to death. The photograph was said to be "working
people up", meaning Muslim people. Clearly, David Gibbons, this journal's
esteemed art director, who chose this illustration, will be called before the
Blair Incitement Tribunal. One of my books, The New Rulers of the World, was
also apparently confiscated. It is not known whether the police have yet read
the chapter that documents how the Americans, with help from MI6 and the SAS,
created, armed and bankrolled the terrorists of the Islamic Mujahideen, not
least Osama Bin Laden.
The raid was deliberately theatrical, with the media tipped off. Two of the
alleged 7 July bombers had been volunteers in the shop almost four years ago.
"When they became hardliners", said a community youth worker. "They
left and have never been back and they’ve had nothing to do with the shop."
The raid was watched by horrified local people. who are now scared, angry and
bitter. I spoke to Muserat Sujawal, who has lived in the area for 31 years and
is respected widely for her management of the nearby Hamara Community Centre.
She told me, "There was no justification for the raid. The whole point
of the shop is to teach how Islam is a community-based religion. My family has
used the shop for years, buying, for example, the Arabic equivalent of Sesame
Street. They did it to put fear in our hearts." James Dean, a Bradford
secondary school teacher, said, "I am teaching myself Urdu because I have
multi-ethnic classes, and the shop has been very helpful with tapes."
The police have the right to pursue every lead in their hunt for bombers, but
scaremongering is not their right. Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner
who understands how the media can be used and spends a lot of time in television
studios, has yet to explain why he announced that the killing in the London
Underground of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes was "directly linked"
to terrorism, when he must have known the truth. Muslim people all over Britain
report the presence of police "video vans" cruising their streets,
filming everyone. "We have become like ghettoes under siege," said
one man too frightened to be named. "Do they know what this is doing to
our young people?"
The other day Blair said, "We are not having any of this nonsense about
[the bombings having anything] to do with what the British are doing in Iraq
or Afghanistan, or support for Israel, or support for America, or any of the
rest of it. It is nonsense and we have to confront it as that." This "raving",
as the American writer Mike Whitney observed, "is part of a broader strategy
to dismiss the obvious facts about terror and blame the victims of American-British
aggression. It's a tactic that was minted in Tel Aviv and perfected over 37
years of occupation. It is predicated on the assumption that terrorism emerges
from an amorphous, religious-based ideology that transforms its adherents into
Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago has examined every act of
suicide terrorism over the past 25 years. He refutes the assumption that suicide
bombers are mainly driven by "an evil ideology independent of other circumstances."
He said, "The facts are that since 1980, half the attacks have been secular.
Few of the terrorists fit the standard stereotype... Half of them are not religious
fanatics at all. In fact, over 95 per cent of suicide attacks around the world
[are not about] religion, but a specific strategic purpose - to compel the United
States and other western countries to abandon military commitments on the Arabian
Peninsula and in countries they view as their homeland or prize greatly... The
link between anger over American, British and western military [action] and
al-Qaeda's ability to recruit suicide terrorists to kill us could not be tighter."
So we have been warned, yet again. Terrorism is the logical consquence of American
and British "foreign policy" whose infinitely greater terrorism we
need to recognise, and debate, as a matter of urgency.