Terrorism in the UK - The Plot Thickens

Image - Raising the state of alert has... shifted focus away from the domestic crisis

There can be no doubt that the actions of the Labour government in taking Britain into war in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as it’s policy in the Middle East have heightened the chances of a terrorist attack in the UK. The recent terror alert which brought chaos to airports over the summer is said to have been in response to a plot to hijack and then crash several passenger planes bound for the US, with a potentially catastrophic loss of life. A little bit of disruption is undoubtedly a price worth paying for greater security. Cynics, however, point out that the high profile security alert came at a time when Britain and the US were under pressure internationally for their support for the Israeli onslaught in the Lebanon. They say that the terror plots came conveniently at a time to remind the world about 9/11, on the eve of it’s fifth anniversary. They say that fear is being used to manipulate people into supporting draconian laws which increasingly hack away at human rights. And they’re right.

The Latest Plot

A closer look at the hijack plots reveal some interesting facts. Despite wide ranging surveillance, (and we are living under historically unprecedented levels of surveillance, not only through ‘phone taps, e-mail monitoring and text message interception but also through a growing CCTV system where the average person is caught on camera 300 times a day) the plots weren’t uncovered through surveillance methods. They only came to light after someone under arrest in Pakistan, a man on the run and wanted for questioning after the death of his uncle, confessed to knowing the details. Given the fact that Pakistan is not best known for its human rights record, and given the fact it is keen to keep the US on board (as General Musharraf said in September, Pakistan was eager to help the US all it could after September 11th otherwise it feared it would be bombed), it is not altogether surprising that the plots were ‘foiled’ with the help of Pakistan. In fact there is no evidence that any of the alleged terror suspects had made a bomb. Not only did none of them have plane tickets, many of them didn’t even have passports. So airports throughout the country were theatrically brought to a standstill over the busiest months of the summer, attention was turned once again to a 9/11 type attack and the ever increasing ebbing away of human rights was once more justified by angry politicians.

Guilty as Charged?

Were those arrested guilty of plotting a terrorist attack? John Reid the Home Secretary told press that the police had caught the “main players”, thus prejudicing immediately any future trial. This being said, the new Prevention of Terrorism Act passed last year means that certain suspects can be held indefinitely without charge or trail as the Home Secretary sees fit, so the fact that he’s ruined any chance they may have had of a fair trial is pretty academic anyway. Since ‘glorifying terrorism’ is also a new crime, even if they didn’t do anything but were alleged to have thought about it out loud means they are guilty as charged. John Reid is an interesting example of how democratic politicians operate in the new climate. An ex-Stalinist and friend of the Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic, Reid has a long history of personal violence and political opportunism1. He stayed up all night to direct the arrests, personally ensuring the arrest of a mother with a six-week-old baby. He followed the arrests with a call for new measures that would allow him to bypass human rights legislation and to widen existing legislation to include British citizens. If those arrested were thinking of appealing to his liberalism they can think again. In Nazi Germany many of those arrested for crimes against the state were released by the judiciary once their cases came to trial. In modern Britain, given the fact that the Labour Party has over the years chipped away at the independence of the judiciary and passed laws to ensure trails are no longer even necessarily held, those charged will have no such luxury. Because the Government didn’t have sufficient evidence recently to charge many of the suspects, a new weapon of Control Orders was introduced, basically putting people under house arrest. When a High Court judge ruled them ‘conspicuously unfair’, saying that the safeguards to protect the rights of suspects was little more than a ‘thin veneer of legality’, the Government denounced him. He’s not the only judge to denounce the orders and moves are under way to challenge their legality, but he was unable to lift them and so far they remain a plank of the government’s anti-terror strategy.

The argument of course goes that if the choice is between legislative rights and saving lives, then lives come first. Under this premise over one thousand British Muslims have been arrested under anti-terrorist legislation. Of these, only twelve percent have been charged with anything. Of those charged, 80% were acquitted. Of those found guilty, a sizeable proportion were not convicted of anything to do with terrorism but with some minor offence police came across during the investigation. Combined with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and with a pro-Israel policy in the Middle East, there can be no more efficient way to lay the seeds for the ‘home grown terrorism’ the Government fears, and for which they constantly barrack the Muslim community for creating.

High Profile Failure

The shooting dead of an innocent man, Charles de Menezes, on the tube after the July 2005 bombings, was an act by the State to show it was firmly in control. In fact what it showed was a state badly prepared, ill informed and trigger-happy. High profile raids on Muslim homes followed in a kind of moral chess game where the police and government swooped down on an area in the full glare of the media to smash terror cells. Roads were sealed off, houses ransacked and people carted off to police stations. Nothing was found. In June this year a desperate police force raided a house in Forest Gate, London, where they forced their way in in the middle of the night to look for a device containing cyanide which was reportedly being built there. They arrested one man and shot his terrified brother. Forest Gate became an air exclusion zone for civilian aircraft and the media excitedly waited for the story of how police had foiled a terrorist plot. They never got it. Once again police had shot an innocent man. Once the brothers were released, the backlash which followed led to people in the community, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to demonstrate against police brutality and the war in Iraq. When the brothers linked up with the bereaved family of Charles de Menezes the police and the government looked dangerously like loosing the game. They were miraculously saved by the shock allegation that one of the brothers had been looking at child porn on his computer. Checkmate.

The police hope to save face with the latest anti-terror raids, but in any case raising the state of alert has already served it’s purpose. It shifted focus away from the domestic crisis Blair and Bush were in, shifted the world’s gaze from the sickening abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan and from the appalling violence in the Lebanon. It has allowed politicians to wave the flag of patriotism and call for further attacks on ever dwindling civil liberties. It has contributed to the climate of fear which binds people ideologically even further to the bourgeoisie.

The Real Cause of Terrorism

According to the United Nations, torture is worse now in Iraq than it was under Saddam, both from insurgents and from US and UK troops. Terror bombings are a daily fact of life, and the whole country is slipping into barbarism under the guise of democracy. Meanwhile details of torture camps are seeping from Guantanamo Bay and other, secret locations the US uses to hide people away. And the horror we saw in the Summer in the Lebanon was nothing if not state controlled terror. In the UK the harassment of Muslims is creating the very climate terrorist organisations capitalise on for recruitment, becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy for the British bourgeoisie. All terrorist acts are acts against the working class both politically and physically. It is workers who suffer the greatest loss of life and loss of rights in the resulting state backlash. Islamic terrorism is a particularly nasty anti-working class breed, murdering anyone and everyone, from children at school, as in Beslan, to working class commuters on their way to work, as in Madrid and London. But the terrorists are nothing other than the illegal expression of a faction of the bourgeoisie who don’t have state power.

As we have seen throughout history, yesterdays terrorists can become tomorrow’s rulers. In Israel, for example, almost every prime minister was at one time wanted for terrorism by the British. Once in power, the ex-terrorists did not hesitate to denounce any resistance to their rule as terrorism. Islamic factions of the capitalist class could conceivably come to power somewhere in the Middle East as they have done in Iran. The struggle against Islamic terror remains a struggle between sections of the ruling class. It is, however, a struggle which is being used to ratchet up the repressive machinery of the bourgeois state. The repressive measures now being enacted will, when the time comes, be used against the working class struggle. It is for this reason, and not for any regard for Islamic terrorism, that we denounce the measures our rulers are enacting and the manoeuvres they are carrying out to get us to accept them. The desperate condition of the capitalist system is reflected, not only in its barbaric foreign wars, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in the repressive measures it takes at home. The only way out of the sickening spiral of violence and war into which capitalism is descending is through the struggle of the working class. It is a struggle whose aim can only be the overthrow of capitalist economic and social relations, and the establishment of socialism. The repressive measures now being introduced represent one more barricade on the road to this goal.


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