Saturday, August 19, 2006 

Sun-watch: The "house of horrors", that err, wasn't.

Right from the beginning, the Sun was certain that police were going to find unimaginable horrors beneath the topsoil of 107 Walton Green, New Addington in Croydon, Surrey. A convicted paedophile, Leslie Ford-Thrussell, had lived at the property for 17 years prior to his imprisonment in 2004. A letter sent to the house 12 months ago, written according to the Sun by the brother of a man it alleges helped Ford-Thrussell run a paedophile ring from the property, claimed that two children had been buried there 35 years ago.

If there's one thing that the Sun newspaper loves, it's a crime involving children and sex, with a nice splash of death thrown in. Coming in the middle of the silly season, hacks at the paper were no doubt rubbing their hands with glee at the possibility that they might well have something meaty to sink their teeth into, as well as helping with their constant war against the sick, evil paedo-perverts that lurk around every street corner. It seems that the paper has learned very little from the case of
Rochelle Holness, which led to her parents calling the Sun's behaviour as inhumane as that of her killer.

The Sun wasted no time in drawing grim parallels with their exclusive, once they had revealed that the house was at the centre of what they called a "murder probe".
Fred West, the serial killer who lived at 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester, notoriously burying 9 of his victims beneath the cellar and patio garden of his house, was quickly brought in to the frame, reminding readers of what police might find once they started digging. A "local source", in an article by the Sun's crime editor Mike Sullivan, said “It’ll be the talk of the estate for days and years to come.” That seems quite likely, but not for the reasons the Sun and "the source" were thinking. A follow-up article referred to the property directly as the "house of horrors", the same expression which came to be used when referring to the home of Fred and Rosemary West.

Even the announcement by detective chief inspector Mark Stockford, who was heading the inquiry, that they had established that Ford-Thrussell had not been living at the address at the time when the murders were said to be committed didn't dampen the Sun's enthusiasm for its exclusive. The police had also trawled through records of children that had gone missing at the time, without finding any that could have been linked to the "House of Horrors". This might have sent alarm bells ringing at any other newspaper, but apparently not at the Sun. That Stockford seemed uncertain before even ordering the digging of the garden as to whether any crime had been committed ought to have perhaps signaled that a toning down in the hysteria of the coverage might be necessary. None was forthcoming.

It may then have come as something of a shock to the Sun journos covering the story and to the wider public
that the police yesterday abandoned the search, saying they were satisfied there are no human remains there, and that they would not be returning to the garden. The house may have once been the base of a paedophile ring, and in that sense can be described as a "house of horrors"; the garden however has no such sickening secrets.

The Guardian today reported the end of the dig with a small item from the Press Association on the 10th page. As for the Sun, it appears that there was no room in the newspaper for the truth about the non-existent garden of horrors. If they were pressed for space, or if the news came too late for the newspaper itself, there's also no mention of the apparent end of the inquiry on the Sun's website. Surely some mistake?

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Friday, August 18, 2006 

Sun-watch: You knew it was coming.

Less than a week after the alleged terror plot was foiled, the Sun is already calling for the legislation that proposed up to 90 days detention for terror suspects to be reintroduced:

TONY BLAIR’s first act on returning from holiday must be to reopen his battle for 90-day detention orders.

More than two-out-of-three voters back his view that terror suspects should be held for up to three months while inquiries are under way.

The absurdity of the present 28-day limit is clear as police race against the clock to amass evidence on the Heathrow suspects.

Detectives have to shuttle between London and Lahore to unravel a complex web with links to al-Qaeda.

Computer wizards are sifting through a mountain of encrypted programmes. And two dozen contradictory statements must be checked and re-checked before charges can be laid.

Parliament’s perverse rejection of 90-day orders MUST be reversed.

And the sooner the better.

The Sun mentioning that two-thirds of the population apparently support up to 90-day detention without charge is based on the survey that was in yesterday's Spectator, and also lead its sister publication the Torygraph. BSSC has already had a look through it, and found that it contains some seriously leading questions, loaded towards harsh action against both terrorist suspects and "terrorist" nations. This increasingly reflects the Spectator's own political outlook, which has changed from the one-nation Toryism which it advocated under previous editor Boris Johnson, to more of a neo-conservative agenda under its new editor Matthew D'Ancona.

Besides, the men currently held have only been in the police cells so far for a week and a day.
A judge has already given police another week to question the majority of those held, with police being given 5 more days for another 2. There are also another 2 weeks available after that, with permission of a judge needed to be sought again. The whole system is something approaching a farce: no judge is going to release men that police lawyers suggest are involved in terrorism in any way if they say that they haven't yet finished their inquiries. The Sun's panic that the police are racing against time is clearly rubbish. Some of those previously held, as well as their lawyers, have even suggested in the past that the police have just left suspects to stew in the cells for up to a week before they were even questioned, which gives the lie to the need for even longer detention.

The problem for the police may be that they have found little actual evidence so far that there was a plot about to be put into action, or at least that we have been told of so far.
The suitcase supposedly found yesterday is the only major find, and even that hasn't be confirmed. As it is, we have to take the Sun's words at face value when they state that "computer wizards" are trying to crack encrypted programs. There's already a law that gives the police the power to demand encryption keys, as David Davis has pointed out. If they refuse, they can be instantly charged, something which hasn't happened yet. PGP itself, the encryption standard most often used, is already assumed to have been broken by top-level government agencies, although some think that only the original algorithms have been cracked.

The links with Lahore are also starting to be questioned. The arrest of Rashid Rauf, with the information apparently coming from him and others detained at the same time or in the aftermath, is looking increasingly like the desperate singing of a canary having its wings slowly broken.
That the Pakistani authorities are by the day revealing more and more sensational details of the alleged al-Qaida links with the plot, details which still have never been confirmed over the 7/7 bombings, suggests that it's all part of a media frenzy designed to show that the men held in both countries are clearly guilty, even when not yet charged with anything. That every single terror attack or plot ever exposed is linked almost immediately to al-Qaida is absurd; the organisation was nearly destroyed by the attack on Afghanistan, but has since re-emerged more as a common idea than as a network. Autonomous operating cells with aims similar to those of al-Qaida now appear to litter the globe. It is these that pose the real threat to the west, through their shared jihadist ideology, not a tiny actual organisation led by two men perceived to be sheltering along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. We seem to be determined to give bin Laden and Zawahiri more credit than they deserve.

What's most unnerving about the Sun's demands for 90 days to be reintroduced though is that it seems unlikely they would have already gone ahead in calling for it if they didn't already have some insider information that it is exactly what the government intends to do. The Sun always wants to be on the "winning" side of the argument, whether it's on prisons, terrorism, or even Big Brother. The real perversity is not those who rejected the Scum and government's sensational demands,
but rather that the newspaper called those who voted against "traitors". The true traitors are the ginger ninja and the Australian-born tax avoiding American megalomaniac, who'd rather that they were in power than the democratically elected representatives of the people.

Those who oppose the ever increasing attacks on civil liberties therefore need to perform a pre-emptive strike on the governments plans, making clear that 90 days is completely unacceptable in any situation. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest, despite the Sun's increasingly hysterical pleading, that anything longer than 28 days is needed.
As Craig Murray has pointed out, only 12% of the over 1,000 British Muslims arrested under anti-legislation have been charged, and of that 12%, only 20% were convicted. If other new laws are necessary, we need to demand that we get intercept evidence made admissible in British courts, however much the spooks complain. The security services also desperately need a watchdog, as the "war on terror" results in intelligence agencies worldwide indulging in unethical and immoral methods that are simply unacceptable and counterproductive. It's only then that we should accept that yet more restrictions of liberty may be needed.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006 

Is this a joke?

Some days, and today is just one of legions, you have to wonder whether the news is being made up by a better satire writer than the likes of Inigo Wilson. (I'll come to him later.)

The BBC tonight is going into the collective orgasm of managing to get something approaching a "scoop". Officers searching woods in High Wycombe have apparently found a suitcase, "containing items which could be used to construct a bomb". A police source mutters sweet nothings into the ear of a BBC journalist, informing them "the case contained everything you would need to make an improvised device". The police themselves are refusing to comment further, only saying a "suitcase" has been found.

Assuming the police source is telling the truth, this would be the first major find in a week of searching, apart from the "firearms" apparently found, and the "martyrdom video" which may or may not have led to the police acting, according to which reports you believe. Let's also assume that the suitcase contains explosive materials which the politicians, media and police have been telling us were going to be mixed in mid-air. It might then be worth reading Thomas C Greene, who thoroughly debunks the idea that someone would be able to create TATP aboard a flight without either be detected, or without the mixture blowing up in the evil one's face. Even if the terrorist managed to against all the odds get a decent mixture of TATP, it seems unlikely that it would be able to bring a plane down, as Ramzi Yousef comprehensively failed to do in his test run. Craig Murray has had similar thoughts to Greene.

Not that this stops the media from reporting ever more dubious links between those arrested and the higher ranks of the al-Qaida leadership. "Staff and agencies" on the Grauniad website are reporting that Ayman al-Zawahiri, who certainly is a dangerous man, had probably cleared the plot. Where did this come from? From the interrogation of suspects, who it seems unlikely have yet to have lawyers made available to them. It also seems increasingly obvious that the suspects are being tortured, and are agreeing with any old crap which the men with cattle prods are putting into their heads. This doesn't warrant a mention, because it may just render the story to being the nonsense it almost undoubtedly is.

Away from the shock and awe of fear, today's Independent reported that John Prescott had called the Bush administration "crap." A few hours later, and Prescott denied doing so. That the man denies what's probably the most intelligent thing to leave his lips in months, if not years, pretty much sums up the current irony which is underpinning everything.

The annual outcry that exams are getting easier is also here once again. This year 24.1% achieved maximum A grades, while 96.6% passed. That somehow the press cannot imagine that either students are being better drilled and taught to the exam, which is most likely the reason, or that those growing up now are genuinely more intelligent, despite all the evidence which modern culture throws up to suggest the opposite, seems beyond them. (It's also down to how those who didn't want to learn and who were disruptive leave at 16 and leave those who want to get on with their studies in peace.) Exams are obviously getting easier! The claims that students are insulted and offended by this happening every year are also wide of the mark - they're more interested in getting drunk on the day of results, or sorting out clearing if they have to, than worrying about what the increasingly reactionary old fogies think. Still, at least we can look forward to tomorrow's Mail, Express and Telegraph having lots of photos of fruity 18-year-old girls leaping for joy and exposing their midriffs on discovering their results.

And so we come to poor old Inigo Wilson, the man suspended from his job as the err, "community affairs" manager for Orange. Let's start by examining what his likes, dislikes, turn ons and turn offs are:

Inigo Wilson manages community affairs for a large telecoms company. He lives with his wife and young daughter in Fulham. His favourite blogs are ‘the Belmont club’ and ConservativeHome. He is a regular reader of Commentary, National Review and The Spectator.

In other words, he's a regular bundle of laughs, as his article proves. Another question I'd like to have asked is whether he prefers pink or brown, which may challenge him judging by his obvious distaste for both the Palestinians and Muslims, even when it comes to sex acts.

Here's a small sample of his hilarious attacks on lefty jargon:

Critique - media, academia: same as 'rebuttal'. When a Lefty alleges that someone's writing is 'riddled with factual inaccuracies' then mysteriously fails to identify any.

Disproportionate - foreign affairs: Describes any act by USA or Israel.

Egalitarian - “if I can’t have one, then neither can you”. Shared misery much better than unevenly scattered joy.

Fascism/Nazism - apparently the 'opposite' of Socialism - despite sharing party members, ideology and - in National Socialism - the name.

Palestinians - archetype 'victims' no matter how many teenagers they murder in bars and fast food outlets. Never responsible for anything they do – or done in their name - because of 'root causes' or ‘legitimate grievances’.

And so it goes on, very boringly, for quite a while. The thing is that Wilson does have something of a point: New Labour has introduced a whole dictionary worth of jargon which strangles the English language and stops it from being something that can be endlessly beautiful and inventive (Text/internet slang perform much the same function). Private Eye and parliamentary sketch writers have focused on this for a long time, and they've done it while actually being funny and not stupidly right-wing. Any idiot that genuinely thinks socialism shares the same members and ideology as National Socialism wouldn't pass GCSE History, let alone A Level, dumbed down exams or not.

Normally Wilson would only have attracted his fawning right-wing chums, as his article did to start with. Then those on the boards of the MPAC spotted it, and decided to complain to Orange. Cue the "community affairs" manager probably getting the sack. It's rather sad that those over at the MPAC thought it better to complain than tackling Wilson's easy to debunk and stupidly hostile article, but internet communities often go for low blows and vigilante action than working things out. Even so, there's no justification for Wilson being suspended. There's nothing in the post which suggests he's unsuitable for his job, just that's he a London-based right-wing snob, and there's just as many of those as there are left-wing snobs. As such, I thoroughly agree with Chicken Yogurt, as this shows just what type of Tory still dwells below the Cameron retint. It also highlights the major disagreement at the Tory grassroots over the position of Cameron and Hague in calling the Israeli military action in Lebanon "disproportionate".

Then there's the biggest joke of the day. Graham Norton, possibly the least funny and least talented man to ever possess a job on the television, is having his contract renewed by the BBC, who seem to be gluttons for punishment in their attitude to light entertainment. More reality shows! More people getting humiliated! More money for these idiots to keep coming up with these crap shows!

Nurse! The screens!

Update: Pickled Politics suggests that Inigo Wilson may have been suspended over other aspects of his article, namely the "Consultation" part:

Counsultation - a formal system for ignoring public views while patronising them at the same time. London’s Congestion Charge for instance.

Wilson's job is.... to consult local communities on the positioning of mobile phone masts. Doh!

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006 

David Cameron: still an idiot.

One of the few things that Obsolete is proud of is that this blog is within the top 5 results on Google when you search for "David Cameron+idiot". I don't have any idea how that came about, but it's still one of the main searches that brings people here.

I digress. Cameron yesterday, fresh from wherever he's been on holiday, decided to open his big trap to say that "I do not believe the government is doing enough to fight Islamist extremism at home, or to protect our security."

Whoops! Within seconds John Prescott appeared out of the locked room he's been kept in, frothing at the mouth like a English sheepdog with rabies, yelping that Cameron's comments "were almost beyond belief." A Home Office minister popped up to say the Tories "talked tough but voted soft", and today John Reid said "I think David Cameron's remarks are disappointing and ill-judged. At a time when we need the maximum unity in this country and throughout Europe, I think they were unhelpful."

The trouble with what Cameron said isn't that he's wrong on the actual details of what he suggested should be done; that the Muslim taskforce set-up after 7/7 was almost entirely ignored, and that intercept evidence needs to be made admissible in the court system; on both points he's entirely right. It's just that his main rhetorical flourish was a load of crap, and he walked straight into a huge trap.

The Home Office minister was shrewd enough to realise that the Tories voted against what the Prime Minister and police/security services felt were desperately needed powers to hold terrorist suspects for up to 90 days. Their opposition, before Cameron had ascended to the leadership, resulted in the Sun calling a huge number of MPs 'traitors'.

This isn't to say that the Labour ministers aren't huge hypocrites. For Prescott and Reid to suggest that Cameron's remarks threaten the unity of the country is nonsense. There is no unity in this country, as anyone other than a Labour apologist could have told you. Any unity that may have developed in the aftermath of 7/7 was demolished on two fronts; firstly with the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, and secondly when Blair decided to make his "the rules of the game are changing" speech. "The unity" certainly hasn't redeveloped since then, and the Forest Gate raid meant that a large proportion of the population are now sceptical about the huge threat that John Reid wants to convince us we're facing.

Even so, Cameron should have kept his mouth shut, at least until parliament is either recalled or reopens, or the government makes it known whether it is going to introduce yet another anti-terror bill. After all, the government's main media sponsors, the Scum and News of the World have already started to question whether the current legislation is tough enough. That the Sun did so the day after the plane plot was apparently foiled suggests that they've already been briefed as to what Downing Street plans to do.

Rather than being opportunistic, as they were accused of being in the aftermath of the terror vote, the Tories stand against the very worst aspects of last year's legislation was highly principled and a politically difficult decision. They knew they'd be criticised, and might even strain the support of their typical devotees, but it meant that this country was not thrown into the disgrace of having laws that would shame a dictatorship. Thankfully, Cameron's speech yesterday suggested that there's unlikely to be a change in policy; instead he suggested that there should be "a more hard-nosed defence of liberty."

Even more humourous were the suggestions from Labour that Cameron was "playing politics with terror", which coming from the government which played up the non-existent ricin plot, the non-existent threat to Manchester United's ground and sent tanks to Heathrow is just slightly rich. What should also be watched is just how similar UK and US rhetoric on the war on terror is now becoming: while Bush spoke of "Islamic fascists", Reid today talked of an "intolerant and violent totalitarianism", which pretty much sums up plenty of the regimes which the UK and US are propping up, both in Central Asia and in the Middle East. The move to compare the threat currently faced to that from Nazism in the 30s is something which governments over previous decades have tried to do to the other contemporary "daily hate" figure: the Soviets, Saddam Hussein, Libya, etc etc.

Really though, there's plenty of ways that Cameron could have gone about attacking the mostly bogus threat level. BlairWatch details a number of ways he could have gone about it, and Simon Jenkins' article in the Grauniad today makes good points about real risk levels and general hysteria. Cameron could have suggested that this government is increasingly using fear to sell its policies: why else would sections of the police be so insistent on having new "instant justice" powers? Because "yobs" threaten us just as much as terrorists do, duh. He would have been attacked, but he'd have less damage done to the credibility of his position.

There we have it. Cameron's still an idiot, mainly because he hasn't quite yet worked out how to spin like Blair and his cronies have for years. He's still a vacuum, as evidenced by the mini-manifesto launched today, which is the same re-hashed Tory policies of old, just with a kind, gentler, greener face. The only decent ideas are the drug rehabilitation schemes, binding targets for emissions and scrapping ID cards. A genuine Labour movement would have all three of those, but this Labour government is increasingly to the right of the Tories. The choice though, remains the same as ever. Either evil, the lesser of the evils, or a wasted vote. The only hope remains the hung parliament and Tory-Lib Dem coalition that brings in PR. We can but dream.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006 

Sun-watch: Dirty Harry. Again.

Apparently unable to make up/get another exclusive leak about the terror plot, today's Sun splashes on a photograph of Prince Harry groping and kissing a gorgeous pouting young blonde.

Firstly, the subs at the paper are obviously suffering from silly season fatigue. The Sun led back in April with the story that Harry had visited a lap-dancing club with the very same headline. Secondly, the photographs are, err, three years old, and have been published without the permission of the young woman, Natalie Pinkham. The Scum's claims that Harry was cheating on his girlfriend are therefore complete and utter bullshit.

As with its calling Harry "dirty" for his visit to the lap dancing club, could this be the same newspaper that today has Keeley without any clothes on her top half on its third page? Oh, and then there's the pictures of Alex Best groping herself that are also in today's newspaper, although rather than being dirty, she's doing "her breast". Obsolete attempted to contact Rebekah Filth to try and get her comments, but she was out of the office looking for a new kettle, after the old one had been painted black by the pot.

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Monday, August 14, 2006 


And my job in the city won't matter no more / When the network is down and my flesh is all torn... -- The Rakes.

According to a Press Association article filed at 2:13am on Sunday morning, the government has issued what it calls a "stark warning" to the media not to "put the probe into the alleged terror plot at risk by publishing information about suspects."

That would explain today's Mirror super splash then. "MY LOVE FOR TERROR SUSPECT" the front page screams, with the girl declaring her lust for Don Stewart-Whyte, one of those arrested who had recently converted to Islam. With a hefty cheque bulging out of her jeans pocket, the teenager also hands over a handwritten card from Whyte, suggesting he is going down a lonely dark path. The Mirror calls it "chilling". The Sunday Mirror led on the suggestion that one of the bombers had intended to use his wife and child as decoys, even hiding explosives in milk for the baby. The dehumanisation of the suspects is one of the first steps towards assuming their obvious guilt.

Similarly, the stark warning also doesn't apply to the usual suspects in the police/security services who have been leaking to the Sun. "GUNS AT 'TERROR' HOUSE" the splash roars. The article only suggests that "firearms" have been found. They could quite easily be air guns, or blank shooting pistols, as the story doesn't elaborate any further. What sort of person has a gun in their house though? Certainly not someone innocent, obviously. The report also alleges that "£19,000" in cash has been found. The Sun doesn't seem to have learned its lesson from smearing the Koyair brothers, as it reported that £38,000 had been found at their house, without bothering to ask the family for an explanation. Their beliefs regarding bank accounts paying interest meant that they had kept it there. Whether it will turn out to be a similar story in this case we shall have to wait and see. The article goes on to say that bottles filled with explosive were also found yesterday near a bottle bank in High Wycombe, but as yet there has been no confirmation of any of the Sun's "exclusives".

Even the broadsheets aren't free from wild speculation. The Grauniad, usually more level headed, reports unquestionably the statements given by the Pakistan interior minister, Aftab Sherpao, regarding Rashid Rauf, already nicknamed the "Talibrum" by the Scum. Only later in the article does it give credence to the possibility that Rauf may have been tortured. Human Rights Watch has reported on two US citizens of Pakistani origin, arrested in the country on suspected terrorism offences, who were tortured by the security services. There seems little reason to think that Rauf would have been treated differently. The paper also reports that "suspected terrorists have mounted training exercises in some of the most popular areas of the national parks of England and Wales." Scary, no? Only later in the article comes the rather less than frightening bombshell: "The group, unaware it has been under surveillance, was not undergoing weapons or explosives training." In other words, it seems some dark people may have been camping out in the woods, who may or may not be terrorist suspects.

As yet, we still know very little about the supposed plot for mass murder on a grand scale. While as Andrew Gilligan pointed out on Newsnight on Friday, there doesn't seem to be the huge amount of off-the-record briefing going on as there was after the Forest Gate raid, the whispers to the press appear to be starting up again, if anything because there is little to show except leaks to the press for the days of searching of properties. Some reports suggest some of those arrested didn't even have passports. As the Guardian leader on Friday mentioned, the story of the boy who cried wolf ends with there actually being a wolf. Healthy scepticism should be welcomed, but we should also be careful not to dismiss everything out of hand, however convenient these plots seem to be.

Yet it was this "huge and growing threat" that John Reid scaremongered about on Sunday, despite having called for calm and solidarity amongst communities. His motive seemed purely to attack those who don't share the government's view on the threat to the country. He said "4 terror plots had been foiled since 7/7", then decided to neither confirm or deny a story most likely leaked to the Observer by his own department, which suggested there were up to 24 investigations into terror cells that were currently in operation. He also mentioned that there had been an al-Qaida plot in Birmingham in 2000, as if to prove that the threat existed before 9/11. That he neither stated whether those involved were brought to justice, in jail or now in places unknown doesn't inspire confidence that he was telling the full truth. He then wildly missed the point of the letter signed by 3 Muslim MPs, 3 peers and 38 different groups which suggested there may be a link between the country's foreign policy and how the level of threat to Britain has increased, saying "No government worth its salt would stay in power in my view, and no government worth its salt, would be supported by the British people if our foreign policy or any other aspect of policy was being dictated by terrorists."

This is the view that is becoming common currency among the right. The Sun devotes its leader to the subject, saying "once again leading Muslims are intent on excusing Muslim violence rather than condemning it". Both Michael Howard and David Davis also criticised the letter, in differing terms of strength.

This completely ignores what the letter actually says. This paragraph from it destroys the entire basis of the Sun's leader:

Attacking civilians is never justified. This message is a global one. We urge the Prime Minister to redouble his efforts to tackle terror and extremism and change our foreign policy to show the world that we value the lives of civilians wherever they live and whatever their religion.

The letter doesn't suggest that we appease fanatics who threaten mass murder. It condemns violence against civilians, and instead asks the prime minister to change foreign policy because it simply isn't working. Our position on Lebanon meant that the conflict raged on for 4 weeks, with at least 1000 killed as a result. Our hypocrisy and craven attitude towards the United States favoured policy on the Middle East was exemplified by Blair's continued standing shoulder to shoulder with America, no matter how many die in the process. The war in Iraq, supposedly a war that was meant to free the country from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and free us from the threat posed by Saddam's weapons of mass destruction has not only destroyed that country, but also left us even more insecure, as Iraq becomes an almost safe haven for terrorists and jihadis to learn their craft. Reid's remarks also seem to forget how this war on terror started, with the attack on Afghanistan that was meant to destroy al-Qaida. If that isn't our foreign policy being shaped by terrorists, what is?

While Reid and others have been making fools of themselves, Ruth Kelly has been sent in to meet a number of Muslim leaders in London. Apart from the bizarre thinking behind Kelly being appointed to do this, what with her membership of Opus Dei somehow not making her a religious extremist, the BBC reports that the leaders were angry with the way the letter had been dismissed by ministers. You can't exactly blame them. What seems to be going on, shockingly, is the government's attempts to make the whole Muslim community responsible for the machinations of a tiny part of it. While the government is by no means going as far as Lord Stevens, ex-Knacker of the Yard, his rhetoric yesterday in the News of the Screws pretty much sums up what some think, and it's this that is the real danger:

WHEN will the Muslims of Britain stand up to be counted?

When will they declare, loud and clear, with no qualifications or quibbles about Britain's foreign policy, that Islamic terrorism is WRONG?

Most of all, when will the Muslim community in this country accept an absolute, undeniable, total truth: that Islamic terrorism is THEIR problem? THEY own it. And it is THEIR duty to face it and eradicate it.

The first thing that hits you is that it's no wonder the Met was/is institutionally racist when there's executives with this kind of mindset. Secondly, all you need to expose the fallacy of Stevens' argument is to change one word: Muslim to Catholic. Suddenly the whole set-up is laughable, and fundamentally dishonest. Nearly all Muslim groups accept that there is a tiny, tiny minority in this country which have extremist views. All of them accept that they need to do more to tackle it. Yet the government has to perform its own share of the bargain. It rejected out of hand many of the recommendations made by a panel of Muslim groups in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings, showing in general how much faith they put in their dealings with them. That the government continuously denies that the way our foreign policy has been pursued has led to some being led into extremism who otherwise wouldn't have done is just as fundamentally dishonest as Lord Stevens rant. While the letter writers suggested a change of foreign policy, this is no way gives extremists a veto over what Britain as a nation does; rather it is reflecting on the actual views of the population in this great democracy of ours.

The other danger of Stevens' is apparent. The exact message going out to the Muslim communities should be that we do not regard every single one of them as a threat, or that it's their fault that this is happening. Instead some newspapers and commentators seem to be conjuring up an image of an enemy within, which is exactly what the extremists on both sides want. The likes of al-Qaida don't want communities to integrate and stand together; they want to divide and rule. The far-right and yes, even some on the far-left (Yvonne Ridley's stupid remarks that Muslims shouldn't co-operate with the police come to mind) would like the same thing to happen.

What becomes obvious is the government is prepared for all this to take place in order for the larger issue to once again come to the fore. Yep, their plans for 90 days detention and even more anti-terror laws. The softening up for such has already happened in the supportive Murdoch press, and despite Reid's claims he will not push legislation through on the hoof, you can bet that once Blair is back that it will be on the agenda again proper. Quite why the police and security services need even more draconian measures when Britain is already turning into a surveillance state is unclear, but the government seem absolutely determined to force it through. There's also no respite in the shape of Gordon Brown: he's fully behind the plans as well.

We should wait and see what happens. We should listen if there is any genuine new reasons why longer detention is necessary. At the moment however, such plans should be rejected just as forcefully, if not more so, then they were last year. Our handing over of liberties has so far left us both less safe and with fewer rights. The government needs to prove they geniunely have all our best interests at heart, rather than both short-term political gain for them with certain sections of the media and public.

Related posts:
BSSC - Messenger Shoot
Nether-World - Playing Politics with Terror

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Rosa - 2003 - 2006 - RIP

So. Farewell
Then Rosa
The Gerbil.

"Squeak squeak

Yes. That was
Your catchphrase.

Now you are
Part of a dumb
Private Eye
Style poem.

E.J. Obsolete (17½ months)

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