Little Red Blogger

This blog looks at radical politics(with a libertarian socialist slant), music and culture. Marx to Mises, Girls Aloud to Steve Reich...

Location: Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Undemocracy: Why the Glorification of Terrorism Law is a Bad Idea

The latest refusal by the Lords to endorse the new offence of ‘glorifying’ acts of terrorism is an example of Blair’s native political cunning in denying the Lords any real political legitimacy. Like many ‘new’ labour reforms the keeping of the Lords as appointed preserves the old style power patronage and ‘modernises’ the process of appointing members to the Lords. So ‘new’ Labour keeps the appearance of having a check on it’s political power while in reality having no legitimate check at all. Still for all this the Lords is trying its best to quash or modify this current piece of very illiberal legislation presented by the ‘new’ Labour government.

The key idea behind this legislation is that if anyone is found to be glorifying the nebulous offence of terrorism then under this new law they can prosecuted and ultimately gaoled for this. This legislation then contravenes the basic right of free speech and could affect anyone in UK who might offer support to national liberation movements, revolutionaries etc.. Indeed it is quite possible if these laws had been brought in during the seventies then UK born supporters of the ANC might have been prosecuted. This exposes a key weakness with the legislation in that no-one can really agree exactly what terrorism; there is really no legally watertight way of defining it. One can objectively describe it as acts of violence that cause terror to a wider civilian population, but that would encompass much of modern warfare and leave governments open to prosecution themselves, a definite challenge to their legitimacy. So this law has at its heart a vaguely defined idea to stop people, maybe possibly being inspired by statements supposedly supporting ‘terrorism’. From the amount of equivocating in the above sentence it’s easy to see how a team of skilled defence lawyers could drive a coach and horses through any attempt to prosecute a person under these laws.

The government is trying to legislate on the idea of preventing probable harm based on some very weak potential causal links between those supporting terrorist actions and those carrying out the actions. The great danger of this law is of course the potential suppression of free speech by any government using this legislation. Posit the following hypothetical scenario: another 7/7 style bombing happens in London, the police comb through the bombers internet records, regular websites he visits. The police find that the bomber regularly read for example Lenin’s Tomb frequently. Lenin is an SWP member and is ardently anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist. The government remembers Lenin’s publishing of the Craig Murray torture documents and uses the above law to prosecute Lenin and shut down his blog. Even if the prosecution was to fall apart the damage done to potential critics of the government could be quite substantial. Bloggers would be very reluctant to post anything controversial that might support say the Palestinians, rebels in Aceh amongst other resistance movements worldwide.

What then will happen when this legislation gets punted back to the Commons? Since Howard’s departure the political calculus within the Common’s has changed. Cameron is tilting the Tories towards a ‘Blue’ Labour vaguely libertarian middle ground in it seems a last throw of the dice to win the next election. Cameron’s instincts may make him oppose the bill, which alongside the Lib Dems opposition and Labour rebels visceral hatred of Blair and principled opposition may defeat the bill or force serious watering down of the putative ‘glorification’ offence itself. Whatever the actual outcome of this legislation Liberals, Libertarians and Libertarian Socialists must fight every attempt by the organisational Leninists of ‘new’ Labour to restrict free speech in this country any further, this means organising across party and ideological lines to stop anymore assaults on our liberty. Remember the government doesn’t give you rights, these rights already exist, the government will try to take these rights away don’t let them do it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Fear and Loathing in Tehran, Persians Play Politics with the West

While watching the news it seems that the public is being pre-prepared for some kind of military action against Iran. The tenor and tone of the news stories are all slanted towards the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons being unthinkable. Iran is being painted as an alien, alienated other all hints of the ordinary Iranians humanity and complexity being leeched from the discussion. Like much of the media coverage of the crisis it does (as ever) serve to obscure the brutal statist realpolitik of the underlying issues behind the current round of brinksmanship.

There are a number of factors pushing towards a military confrontation with Iran, the Israeli insistence that it be the only nuclear power in the Middle East, American calculations concerning security of oil supply and leverage over neighbouring friendly regimes. Russia also has large commercial interests in Iran, alongside large Chinese investments in Iran’s energy supply. Iran brings to the fore major international tensions concerning security of energy supply and the corresponding influence of the great powers over the Middle East. The coming confrontation and strikes on Iran may lead to ever greater and more deadly confrontations in future.

Aside from the wider geopolitical picture there is the question of what kind of response the US will have to Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions. The Iranians having learnt from Iraq’s reactor being bombed in 1981 by the Israeli air force have secreted their nuclear facilities deep underground to guard against easy air strikes and beyond the reach of most conventional weapons. The US has rather conveniently developed a new class of sub-kiloton level nuclear weapons specially designed for penetrating and destroying well hidden targets. In addition to this the majority of US ground forces are tied up next door in Iraq and thus a perceived threat from Iranian nuclear weapons would under new US strategic doctrine compel a pre-emptive strike.  The logical endpoint of all these developments is then the use of these newly developed nuclear weapons against the Iranian targets.

This would of course be a horrifying development; the breaking of the international taboo against using nuclear weapons would unleash horrifying new developments with the bar against their use being perilously low. Once one kind of nuclear weapon has been used then it becomes very hard not to justify using them in other circumstances as long as the cost benefit analysis sticks….It is to be hoped that some soft of compromise with the Iranians is cobbled together by those in positions of power and influence otherwise our children may come to regret the dalliance with delusion indulged in by those wishing for a final, deadly reckoning.