Wednesday, March 09, 2005

There will not be any debate about civil liberties

Sorry for the multiple appearances of my last post. Blogger is really weird. To compound the weirdness, you saw 4 versions if using Internet Explorer or Firefox, but only 1 in Opera.

The Israeli army decides not to prosecute a soldier for the murder of a British cameraman two years ago, but impose “minor disciplinary charges.” The army gave 3 patently false versions of the incident at the time, and allowed the cover-up to continue. They are now saying they can’t prosecute for lack of ballistics evidence, but they waited more than a month before asking the soldiers’ for their guns. The cameraman’s widow points out that an entire unit knew the truth.

Seumas Milne has an interesting op-ed piece in the Guardian about the “fairy tale” of a democratic revolution in the Middle East. Milne points out that the anti-Syrian protesters Bush praised were actually calling for elections under a system weighted in favor of Christians (there hasn’t been a census since something like 1958, but the demographics have changed since then, one reason the Christian minority has blocked any new census).

Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions demonstrated just how much emphasis Tony Blair intends to put on looking tough on terrorism during the British elections. PMQ will only get more entertaining as the elections get closer; today’s will repeat Sunday night, 6 & 9 pm PT; new ones Wednesdays 4 am PT. The Times’s sketchwriter says of the exchanges between Blair & Michael Howard, “The relationship between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition has gone into the crockery-throwing stage. They are now saying what they really mean. It was like watching a fight on a busy train between a couple on the brink of divorce.” Click on the link to see how the issues of terrorism versus civil rights play out in British political culture.

My question is, when did being tough on terrorism consist entirely of destroying civil rights? Blair said to the Liberal Democratic leader, “Should any terrorist act occur there will not be any debate about civil liberties.” The government is rushing through Parliament a bill that includes house arrest for people suspected but not charged with anything, although after resistance from the supporters of freedom in the, um, House of Lords they have agreed to allow judges into the act, rather than leaving the issuing of “control orders” entirely to the home office. The Lords also wanted to raise the test for the issuing of such orders from “reasonable suspicion” to “the balance of probabilities.” The government rejected this, which means, literally, that it is happy to put under house arrest people who are probably not guilty of anything. Here’s a picture of a protestor from Liberty, the British ACLU, who has set up this lovely fake prison cell on a sidewalk, but honestly, what’s up with that lamp?

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