Press Release from Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Thursday 11 May 2006
London Bombings Report - Reid's response risks making new recruits for terrorism
Book critical of government "terror" policy to be launched in the Scottish Parliament next week
John Reid's speech today on the July bombings was deeply depressing. He rejected calls for an public inquiry into the bombings, which is clearly the only way that the facts of the tragedy can be established with any confidence. Instead we have only a "narrative" told by the police and the intelligence services. And he made it plain that there will be no change in the direction of the government's misguided counter-terrorism strategy, which is suppressing political discussion and putting minority communities under siege, and risks creating new recruits for terrorism.
The destructive character of the government's counter-terrorism strategy is discussed in a contribution to a book scheduled to be launched in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday 18 May. The book, called Whose Justice? The Law and the Left, is edited by Colin Fox MSP (Convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party), Professor Gregor Gall (Professor of Industrial Relations, University of Hertfordshire) and solicitor advocate John Scott. In a chapter on How Britain's Overseas Adventures Are Reshaping Justice In Scotland by Richard Haley (Scotland Against Criminalising Communities), it is argued that the government's counter-terrorism strategy is directed primarily at suppressing democratic opposition to it's foreign policy, and that protecting the public from attack comes a poor second best. The chapter also highlights the role played by Scottish institutions in creating and proselytising a manipulative and damaging counter-terrorism industry. Activities of the Centre for Studies in Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) at St Andrew University are cited as particular examples of this.
"In Britain, it seems, the road to fascism is paved with thoughtful parliamentary committee work." - Whose Justice? The Law and the Left
Today's report by the Intelligence and Security Committee is an example of this kind of woolly committee work. It presents some interesting background, but committee members clearly thought that it would be unwise to mention the war too much. So they don't discuss ways that the causes of terrorism could be removed. Instead they coyly suggest that "if more resources had been in place sooner the chances of preventing the July attacks could have increased." It could as easily be said that if a field of haystacks were to be searched by three people instead of two, the chances of finding a needle could be increased. It's no surprise that the report's final sentence reads "we believe that lessons have been learned."
John Reid said today that he wants to turn people away from terrorism and show that "engagement can bring about change for the better in Britain's society." Then he set out three key policies that will have exactly the opposite effect:
- The first is a charm offensive involving events like the government-sponsored "Empowering voices of mainstream Islam" roadshow. But everyone knows that these events are one side of a coin whose reverse is surveillance and intimidation; everyone know that they carry a message from a government that responded to the July bombings by blaming Islam, and everyone knows that the one thing that can't be said very loudly at events like this is "Troops Out of Iraq."
- Secondly, John Reid says that the security services are expanding "as fast as is organisationally possible". That's bad new for every innocent person that has been woken at dawn by an "intelligence-led operation;" for every parent that doesn't want their children to encounter Special Branch officers at school and for every mosque and Islamic Society that wants to carry on its business openly and publicly, but without the benefit of spies.
- Thirdly, John Reid says he wants the "closest possible law-enforcement and intelligence links with allies in the war against terror." That's bad news for people suffering at Guantanamo Bay, in CIA "ghost" prisons, or in the torture rooms of Morrocco, Jordan or Egypt; bad news for refugees in flight from horrors arranged by our "allies;" and bad news for every British citizen with a sense of shame.
Instead, SACC would like to propose three policies that would reduce the risk of terrorist attacks on the UK:
- Withdraw British troops from Iraq, and make it clear that Britain is opposed to any attack on Iran. It's the right policy regardless of it's effect on the safety of the British public. But it's a big bonus that it will do far more to reduce the risk of terrorist attack here than any other step.
- Ensure that the police don't confuse police work with whipping for the Labour Party. Our police forces have become far too deeply entangled with the counter-insurgency culture - they need to be de-policiticised.
- Incorporate into our legislation explicit safeguards acknowledging and protecting rights to dissent and rights to struggle against oppression and for self-determination. That way, it will be clear that Britain abhors politically motivated mass murder and other human rights abuses, and stands firmly against oppression. Our legal system will then be a beacon promoting engagement to bring about change for the better, as John Reid wishes. At present, our terrorism laws are recruitment leaflets for terrorists.
SACC advocates the repeal of all the UK's current "anti-terrorism" legislation and opposes any extension of anti-terror laws as an unjustified infringement upon civil liberties in this country.
Read our submission to Lord Carlile's review of the definition of terrorism.
We will be holding a public meeting in Edinburgh on Monday 5 June with the theme War on Terror - How Britain's overseas adventures are reshaping justice at home with speakers from the UK-wide Campaign Against Criminalising Communities and from the Scottish Muslim community - details to be announced.
The launch of the book "Whose Justice? The Law and the Left" (Ed Colin Fox MSP, Prof Gregor Gall and John Scott, published by Scottish Left Review Press, May 2006, price £6.99) will be held on Thursday 18 May 2005, 2pm-4pm, Room TG20/21 Scottish Parliament.