Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Addendum to "No Wrong Moves..."

A number of related items have come to my attention since my last post.

Police in New York City now apparently have the right to conduct random searches on the subways. Is this new, or newly discovered? I have the same question about the now-raging phoney debate on the "shoot to kill" policy of British police. New or old, it shouldn't matter; these are horrendous, authoritarian affronts to civil liberties and--most importantly--do not increase security.

Subway searches may make some New Yorkers feel safe. I suppose there are those who rest easy when they fly because some poorly-trained, disinterested security workers--who probably are not allowed to unionize, by the way--rummage through a few bags. As George Carlin has said of the absurdity of airline safety "You could kill a person with the Sunday New York Times." Indeed, and in more ways than one.

But seriously. Seriously.

To follow up on the BBC's web reporting of the situation in the UK: a recent headline indicates that Jean Charles de Menezes, murdered by undercover police on the London Underground, may have been in the UK on an expired visa. (UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has claimed otherwise.) What is disturbing here is not only that the BBC seems to be furthering mainstream media's adopted role as an apologist for the occassional accidents of an ostensibly benevolent society, but that they are laying the rhetorical framework for a round up of anyone with questionable residence papers.

I have read the BBC's articles over and over, but I haven't seen any acknowledgement of the fact, and it is a fact, that Menezes was murdered. Meanwhile, here's what Tony Blair had to say, according to the BBC: "We are all desperately sorry for the death of an innocent person. I understand entirely the feelings of the young man's family. But we also have to understand the police are doing their job in very, very difficult circumstances and it is important that we give them every support."

Yeah. Try saying this out loud: "An innocent man was murdered by over-zealous police. We must support them in this difficult work."

The BBC further reports: "The prime minister said the police would have been criticised for failing to act had the man turned out to be a terrorist." Actually, Tony Blair would have been rightly criticized for leading his country into an unnecessary war of aggression, fanning the flames of cross-cultural hate, and leading the children of muslim immigrants into further confusion and disillusionment about their place in British society, but no one would expect mainstream newspapers to fully report anything remotely similar, except perhaps when deriding "far-left" opinion.

Such criticism would not absolve criminals (such as suicide bombers) of guilt for their heinous acts, but it would correctly dispel the notion that the shooting of innocent people on the Tube, or the potential failure of police to prevent another bombing, was a "mistake". Dante reserved a ring in hell for those who knowingly make "mistakes" they plan to apologize for after the fact.

Maybe the Menezes story disturbs me so much because I have been a "foreigner" for six years. My friends and I have to arrange paperwork annually to secure our right to stay (this increases in difficulty every year since 9/11). I know plenty of people who could, for any number of reasons, run when approached by a group of heavily-armed unidentified men. Darker-skinned friends might have expired visas--as might I, though with my acceptable skin tone I am not likely to be suspected of blowing things up, unless it's from the comfort and safety of a warplane soaring over Iraq or Afghanistan.

I will not have police shooting my friends in the face on suspicion of terrorism that amounts to nothing more than racial profiling. If the police want to profile people for crimes, the most dangerous people on earth are grey-haired white men with dark suits. But I guess they don't ride the metro.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

No Wrong Moves. We Shoot To Kill.

I knew it.

I knew that poor guy was no terrorist the moment I saw the headline on Friday.

Lately, all it takes is reading the BBC's headlines to know how sinister the methods in which we--that is, the so-called western democracies--are sliding towards an open embrace of fascsism. In this I am elaborating on the viewpoint of Chicago-based political analyst Paul Street (see his recent blog entry here for details).

If you find the term "fascism" odious (don't we all) and impossible as a descriptive term of Anglo-American political culture, I wholeheartedly suggest reading Umberto Eco's 24-page essay entitled "Ur-Fascism" in his Five Moral Pieces. Get it here. See for yourself if fascism, as Eco experienced it as a child in 1930's Italy, isn't in an advanced stage in a self-righteous democracy near you.

Meanwhile, check this out: four operatives most likely connected to al-Qaeda blow themselves and nearly 60 other people up in London on July 7. Long predicted by US and UK intelligence sources, as well as by the mayor and police commissioner of London (and everyone I know), the only thing that surprised anyone was how relatively mild the attack was. Everyone knows, furthermore, that the attack was motivated by the same grievances behind the attacks in Madrid and New York, i.e. Western meddling in Middle Eastern affairs, including the pre-9/11 US military presence in Saudi Arabia, the wars of aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq, and continued support of Israel's occupation of Palestine in violation of international law.

The bombing in London, in the words of Paul Street, were "a gift to the jingoistic and regressive hard-state right and its police state agents." Instead of emulating last year's sane and appropriate response of Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who removed his country's 1,300 troops from Iraq following the bombing of Madrid's commuter trains (adhering to the will of the Spanish citizenry--fancy that), Blair and his government immediately began talking, well, bullshit self-righteous cowboy talk. This is at once offensive to the memories of the victims of the London attack and arrogant in the highest degree--consider Blair's (and Bush's) completely dishonest linking of the attacks to their rich boy pseudo-philanthropy meeting at Gleneagles.

First up--and this is just a BBC headline, no in-depth research here into the real goings-on of the empowerment of the fascist state--is the "UK global extremists list", designed to prevent entry to the UK of individuals accused of "unacceptable behaviours" including "preaching, running websites or writing articles which are intended to foment or provoke terrorism" in the words of home secretary Charles Clarke. Sounds benign and useful enough, until you stop to think about the extraordinarily narrow definition the West has for the word "terrorism" and the pointed way in which such powers are going to be abused.

Question: will Richard Perle, former chairman of the American Defense Policy Board and lifetime prince of darkness, ever be denied entry to the UK? Certainly his numerous articles and activities advance a policy intended to foment or provoke the official state terrorism--that is "premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets" (CIA) "calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons" (UN)--that the US and UK are presently enacting in Iraq.

Answer: of course not. "No known group self-identifies as 'terrorist'" says the Wikipedia entry on terrorism, and new laws aimed at preventing it, like the "Global extremists list" and the recently renewed US PATRIOT act, simply expand the racism, fanaticism, and fear-mongering of the responsible governments.

Next, then: two weeks to the day after four suicide bombers blow themselves and others up in London, four detonators explode in...London. No casualties, but you might think the British--ahem, English--government might get serious about the very real danger posed to its people. Listen, the grievances are valid, even if the tactics ain't. So what do the BBC headlines following the second--luckily unsuccessful--attack tell us? That Big Brother watched carefully via His myriad CCTV cameras and maybe at some point someone will know something about someone. Even London mayor "Red" Ken Livingstone joined the chorus following the first bombing.

CCTV cameras.
Laws that strip the populace of hard-won civil liberties.
What else?

Here we go: the day after the second bomb attack in London--this past Friday--undercover police officers follow an electrician from a house they are spying on to the underground in Stockwell. They approach him, he bolts for the train, and they plug him with five shots at point-blank range.

All the official bastards in London are so very very sorry for this really quite honest mistake at a difficult time. The media reports make much of the fact that the victim, Jean Charles de Menezes, was a Brazilian national. Are you getting this? A brown man, but not an Arab. And, don't you see? He ran to the station. That's a no-no in our particular fascist handbook. The BBC has repeated uncritically the position of the Metropolitan Police that the "shoot to kill" policy will remain in force.

I am not proposing a conspiracy theory here, but the fact is, there had to be an innocent person shot dead by undercover cops on the London Underground on Friday. Why? It gives the authorities the same air of unpredictability, mercilessness, and unaccountability that the US felt it was necessary to demonstrate when it bombed Serbia in 1999 (as just one example among many). This is the only way these blundering (and dangerous) idiots, after allowing two terrorist attacks and murdering a completely innocent man on the tube, can possibly continue their state terrorism abroad and fascism at home.

Stay off the grass. Or we'll blow your fucking head off.

Can anyone really believe that "fascism" is too strong a word for a government sending its severely traumatized population the message: No wrong moves. We shoot to kill.

Friday, July 22, 2005

It's Because of the Americans...

Overheard fragment of a conversation on the street in Grahamstown, South Africa, the night of July 7th:

WOMAN: But why did this happen?
MAN: It's because of the Americans.

Below, more on this subject and others. I hope to have reflections from my time in South Africa up soon.

John Pilger: These Were Blair's Bombs
Blair brought home to this country his and Bush's illegal, unprovoked and blood-soaked adventure in the Middle East. Were it not for his epic irresponsibility, the Londoners who died in the Tube and on the No 30 bus [on 7 July] almost certainly would be alive today.
Paul Street: Gifts to the Jingoistic Right
...Smiling turned Somber George Bush pretended not to welcome [July 7th's] all-too predictable attacks, which were certainly expected at some point by planners in the National Insecurity State. He seized the opportunity to say that “the contrast between what we’ve seen on the TV screens here, what’s taken place in London and what’s taking place here is incredibly vivid to me. On the one hand, we have people here who are working to alleviate poverty, to help rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS, working on ways to have a clean environment. And on the other hand, you’ve got people killing innocent people. And the contrast couldn’t be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill—those who have got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks.”

Insofar as anything is happening at the G8 summit to reduce poverty, save global ecology, or overcome AIDS, we can be sure it is in spite of the White House’s best efforts. The Bush administration is a zealous, dedicated proponent of militantly regressive, so-called “free-market” economics at home and abroad. The essence of Bush’s corporate-financed domestic and global policy agenda is massive state protection and subsidy for the already super-opulent combined with savage market discipline and coercive state punishment and regulation of the poor.
Christian Christensen: "... Objective Like Us?"

Doug Ireland: Remembering Herbert Marcuse