A Case of Misguided Duty?

 “Fighting terrorism is not unlike fighting a deadly cancer. It can’t be treated just where it’s visible – every diseased cell in the body must be destroyed.” David Hackworth

“Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” – Juvenal, “Satires” – (Satire VI, lines 347–8)

We live in awful, fractious times, the like of which very few of us have experienced before in our lives. Individuals, religious extremists and rogue factions of whatever belief and cause constantly blight our lives daily.

Consequently, I differ from the more liberal line of thought that to eradicate such purveyors of hatred and violence, to the exclusion of morality and basic humanity, we should continue to act in a democratic and “decent” manner following the rule of law. Terrorists, once found, and wherever they are, should be killed. I wouldn’t lose any sleep whatsoever in the knowledge of that.

Strong stuff, you may think. And I’m sure that many people can present many cogent arguments that differ greatly and seem to be stronger evidentially. I get that. And in the meantime, most governments state that they are strongly engaged in the war against terrorism; using every means at their disposal to counter threats and maintaining the security of their charges.

Rightly so. But as found with the underhand machinations of the Blair administration and the Iraq conflict, the thought that raises its head is, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”  Who watches the watchers?

It’s a disturbing concept, with terrible consequences once misused. And here in the UK, the potential for such an abuse of power is not only ever present (in terms of CCTV usage, the UK is already one of the most monitored countries in the world) but has a capability to expand dramatically in scope.

Using the excuse of terrorism, Home Secretary Theresa May’s Home Office is working on a new law which would attack free expression in this country as it has never been attacked before, with dangerous precedents already in place. The Civil Contingencies Act can be used to turn Britain into a dictatorship overnight, if politicians can find an excuse to activate it. Try reading “A Very British Coup” concerning the Harold Wilson administration and you’ll see what I mean.

But the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, now slipping quietly and quickly through Parliament, could be said to be even worse; dictating what opinions we should have, should not have, and as ever, terrorism is held up as the pretext. Yet despite there being is no concrete evidence to suggest that such an extreme situation currently exists here, one example of its content states that all kinds of institutions, from nursery schools to universities, are warned that they must be on the lookout for ‘extremists’. They are instructed to accept that they have a ”responsibility to exclude those promoting extremist views that support or are conducive to terrorism.” Words like ‘conducive to’ are so vague that they could include almost anybody with views outside the mainstream.

If you wish to engage in public debate or protest for example, two weeks’ advance notice of meetings must be given so that speakers can be vetted, and the meeting cancelled outright without any justification. Warning must also be given of the topic, ‘sight of any presentations, footage to be broadcast, etc’, and a ‘risk assessment’ must be made on whether the meeting should be cancelled altogether; compelled to include an opposing speaker or (especially perturbing) ‘someone in the audience to monitor the event’.

I don’t know what you make of this, but such proposals don’t strike me as being as evidence of a healthy political mindset, regardless of any inherent threat. However, we do now need to be protected more than ever before, and sometimes governments have to begin to throw the rule books and old, misguided conventions aside when dealing with these creatures.

But don’t use these principles as a false pretense to foist further policy, regardless of subject, content or actual need on citizens’ at a whim.

So, you getting all this, Dave? Oh, and while you’re at it, cc this to Theresa and Tony as well. Cheers.

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