Is Britain Suffering From Paranoia?

Linda S. Heard

Britain?s David Blunkett ? arguably the most authoritarian Home Secretary that the country Americans call “quaint” has ever had ? is arming Britain to fight the menace of that fairly new-fangled concept “terrorism”. While M15 is scouring the land searching for up to 1,000 Arabic speakers to spy on their compatriots in mosques ? or rather “infiltrate overseas-sponsored terror networks” ? Blunkett does his bit by drafting new government powers between fending off criticisms of Belmarsh, his very own version of Guantanamo. There are now 14 foreign “disappeared” being held indefinitely at Belmarsh without charge and without even knowing why they?re there. If Blunkett has his way, there will be many more, including suspect British nationals.

Apart from Tony Blair himself, no-one epitomises the threat to freedom and accountability in the UK, than the man in charge of its justice and policing.

Apart from Tony Blair himself, no-one epitomises the threat to freedom and accountability in the UK, than the man in charge of its justice and policing.

Indeed, Blunkett wants convictions based on much lower standards of proof and even wants individuals locked up before they?ve actually committed a crime. Just the intent would suffice based on “evidence” gleaned from phone taps and e-mail monitoring. Let?s hope those newly recruited Arabic speakers and translators know their stuff. The Arabic language is rich with dialects and the same word can mean various things in different Arab countries. One expression, which in most of the Arab world means, “may God give you strength”, translates roughly to “may you be consumed by fire” in others.

The home secretary maintains the country is experiencing a public emergency, and naturally when one considers the tanks around Heathrow Airport last year, the repeated cancellations of British Airways flights to the US and Saudi Arabia, and the lurid Foreign Office travel advisories ? not to mention a host of warnings from Big Brother across the pond ? Britons could be forgiven for believing he?s right. But hang on a minute… Britain hasn?t been attacked. For those who missed that, I?ll say again: Britain has not come under attack.

Certainly there were traces of ricin poison found at a North London home in January 2003 but does that constitute “a national emergency”? What is going on here? Could this be a form of what psychobabble calls “projection”? This means accusing others of the very thing someone is doing himself. Following its aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq and its callous abandonment of the Palestinians ? going as far as to slam the International Court in The Hague over its jurisdiction concerning the Israeli apartheid wall ? does Britain believe it?s embroiled in an ideological war, “the war against terror” and, thus, is fair game for its enemies?

If David Blunkett was concerned about security in the UK, he would have opposed his government's support of laying waste to Iraq and Afghanistan.

If David Blunkett was concerned about security in the UK, he would have opposed his government’s support of laying waste to Iraq and Afghanistan.

After all, if we lived next door to someone who was spying on his own family and his neighbours, bricking up his windows and employing armed guards and sniffer dogs when he had never even been burgled, we might contemplate calling the little men in white coats. Isn?t this just what Britain is doing?

Naturally there is the “intelligence” to which we are never privy but then judging by the infamous British dossiers put out to bolster its case for war, neither is anyone else. In 2001 British intelligence warned of a nuclear, chemical or biological attack on the capital?s underground. In 2002, it warned of a possible attack against ferries, while “quick response” aircraft have been dotted around the country, their pilots having been psychologically primed to shoot down any suspicious civilian aircraft. Plans have been drawn up for the evacuation of key areas of London while pharmaceuticals countering the effects of anthrax, smallpox and radiation have been handed to the National Health Service, according to weekly newspaper The Observer.
With the heavy hand of a putative dictator, David Blunkett would rather beef up police, than address the causes of rising crime.
But Britain?s paranoia doesn?t extend only to foreign terrorists. It?s worried about elements within its own population as well. I grew up in London in the days when British Bobbies were still helping old ladies cross the road and handing out kindly reproofs to truants with ne?er a weapon in sight apart from the comparatively innocuous truncheon. What do we see today? Earlier this month, Prime Minister Tony Blair launched a copycat FBI, an agency to combat organized crime, called SOCA, which will employ more than 5,000 G-men to focus on drug trafficking, fraud and people smuggling. Blair said the new agency must be “ruthless” and suggested a lowering of the burden of proof to enable convictions. Should Britons now beware the knock in the night?

Blair has already began his quest to combat drugs beginning in schools where he wants to subject kiddies to spot-check drug testing and unleash sniffer dogs around the classrooms just in case.

If they carry on like this, they won?t have to worry about “people-smuggling”, those who came in will be clamouring to get out.

So who is responsible for the transformation of the Britain I once knew and loved into something approaching a police state with 4.5 million CCTV cameras monitoring its citizens? Blair and his alliance with the agenda-led neocons hasn?t helped and to be fair there are terrorists around but surely this is a worldwide problem, not specific to Britain and the US. It?s also true to say that violent crime in Britain is on the up-and-up but isn?t the British government in danger of overreacting?

As an old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for; it might just happen”. One thing?s for sure, Blunkett isn?t the right person to secure Britain. This is a man responsible for the well being of 73,075 British prisoners, who when he heard of the suicide of Dr. Harold Shipman, a killer incarcerated in his own system said: “You wake up and you receive a phone call ? Shipman?s topped himself. You have just got to think for a minute: Is it too early to open a bottle?” Enough said!

Published Tuesday, February 24th, 2004 - 11:33am GMT

Linda S Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback, and be contacted at

Article courtesy of Arab News

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Linda S. Heard

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