Like the US, Britain has lost its moral authority in the War of Terror

Britain’s new anti-terror bill is another step to strengthen its ‘Police State’ for the Muslim community, writes Abdul Wahid.

Let us be clear – torture is wrong, torture is always wrong. For those of us who want to see a safer more secure world who want to see this extremism defeated, we won’t succeed if we lose our moral authority.’ These were David Cameron’s words after the release of a Senate report detailing the CIA’s use of torture in its ‘war of terror’.

So, where does the UK stand in terms of moral authority? If one were to believe the Open Society Foundations, it lies in between the UAE and Uzbekistan – for that is where they sit on their list of countries that have been complicit in CIA torture.

Waterboarding was one of the torture methods used by the CIA
Waterboarding was one of the torture methods used by the CIA

The CIA tortured people by waterboarding, sleep deprivation for over a week, shackling, “rectal rehydration”, mock executions, beatings and threats to sexually abuse family members – and by transporting them for others to torture on their behalf.

Sadly, Britain facilitated this transportation and also allowed its intelligence officials to watch and ‘profit’ (in intelligence terms) from this torture.

The moral authority of the UK can be compared to those who facilitate the transportation or who profit indirectly from the drug trafficking – except that torture is a much worse crime to have supported.

So it is unsurprising, when one reflects on this recent history, that the UK has prepared another round of draconian laws and policies targeting the Muslim minority in Britain.

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‘Anti-Terror’ laws – A Never-ending Story

When the Blair government proposed its first ‘Terror Bill’ some said Britain already had more anti-terror laws than most other Western states.

By the time it was passed the Terrorism Act 2000 was said to be a robust piece of legislation expected to deal with future threats for the next 20-30 years – though probably breaching people’s rights.

Yet since that act there have been about seven additional draconian statutes passed – the latest proposal, the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill 2014 – being the eighth – with more ‘counter-extremism’ policy measures will follow in the months to come.

Britain’s ‘Thought-Police’

Interviewed in the Guardian on 5th December 2014 Greater Manchester Police Chief Sir Peter Fahy admitted that in executing the government’s counter-extremism strategy, ‘Prevent’, the police had become ‘thought police’.

British Muslims are targeted under the government's anti-terror PREVENT strategy.
British Muslims are targeted under the government’s anti-terror PREVENT strategy.

He described how, in leaving the definition of ‘extremism’ vague, ‘securocrats’ were left to define it themselves.

Commenting on this point, Professor Peter Scott of the Institute of Education, said “These definitions will not only, and inevitably, be politicised but are also likely to be expandable and open-ended”.

This is Britain under Cameron, seeking to uphold its moral authority – in coalition with the Liberal Democrats and with the full support of the Labour Party – manipulating the law and judiciary for political ends.

Doctors, Nurses, Teachers and Universities will be expected to police thoughts

The new bill before parliament will take pass on the policing of thoughts to doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers amongst others. For, by putting ‘Prevent’ on a statutory basis, the Home Secretary will be able to put a legal responsibility upon these professions to monitor, judge and act upon people’s beliefs and values – whether political or religious. Under this bill, universities will be forced to take measures to prevent people from voicing (arbitrarily defined) arguments on campus. Under this bill, even more monitoring of personal communications will be allowed.

This will do nothing to change the way Muslims think, but many may simply not express their views and beliefs for fear of the bullying they face – similar to life under Stalin, or indeed in many of the world’s dictatorships today.

It will, however, damage the trust that professionals such as doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers rely upon to carry out their daily work – just as it has undoubtedly undermined the trust in police and those council officials who carried the dirty flag of Prevent until now.

Travel and Surveillance

The surveillance of personal communications will affect many in society but the travel restrictions and citizenships are singling out Britain’s Muslim minority.

Home Secretary, Theresa May
Home Secretary, Theresa May

In particular, it is targeting those who have travelled to Syria to join the struggle against Assad.

For unlike those who travelled to Libya to fight Gaddafi – or those who have gone to fight with the Kurds against ISIS – or those who go to fight with the IDF against Palestinians – this group has joined a struggle that Britain has belatedly labeled ‘terrorism’.

The unprecedented travel restrictions and curtailment on citizenship will affect humanitarian workers every bit as much as ‘ISIS-supporters’.

They will face the punishment-without-trial, called TPIMs – similar to the control orders that drove some former detainees to near-madness, since they were not even allowed to see the evidence for why they were being punished.

Does the West believe in their own system?

Any political system, such as that in Britain or America, that champions its way of life around the world as the gold standard for humanity to follow but then bullies its minorities into silence, punishes without trial, tortures people or facilitates and profits from that torture, is simply proving it doesn’t actually believe in its own way of life.

Any system that changes its goalposts on security every couple of years by arguing there is a never-ending ‘war on terror’ and that has radicalized its own population against its Muslim population deserves at the very least suspicion – and at most derision.

If MPs expenses and the broken promises of politicians caused confidence in Britain’s political system haemorrhage, these counter-terror and counter-extremism policies will undermine it even more.

A statue representing the scales of justice is seen on the roof of the Old Bailey courts in central LondonIf the economic crisis eroded confidence in capitalism, historians will look back on these laws as eroding any semblance of belief in rights and justice on the part of the British State.

If the false intelligence justifying the war in Iraq has been the undoing of the intelligence services and military top brass, the latest bill may well be the start of the undoing of the impartiality and trustworthiness of the judiciary, schools inspectors and the health service – all of whom will be expected to be part of the ‘thought police’.

There is nothing moral, nor authoritative in what parliament plans to pass in the coming weeks. And Mr. Cameron ought to learn, as the CIA has learned, the past eventually returns to haunt you!

Abdul Wahid is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy and Prospect magazine.


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