Friday, September 02, 2005

Democracy Worth Fighting For

Home Office minister Baroness Scotland, is the latest lickspittle to trot out the government's completely spurious "defence" of their current position on Iraq and terrorism. It is, of course, more commonly presented by Jack Straw.
Baroness Scotland was responding to the suicide bomber's claim that the war in Iraq motivated him to launch his attack. I've listened to the interview online (it's near the bottom of the running order, should be available till Monday, I think) and the BBC summary is an accurate reflection of what she said.
Baroness Scotland told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I know he says that what happened in Iraq is responsible for these actions but I don't think it is. It is a terrorist act and we have to be really cautious about how to respond."
The Home Office minister said it might have been Khan's perception that the Iraq war was a motivating factor but terrorists had struck in Africa and across the world before the war.
"It's one of the most dreadful things that people have distorted issues for justification for acts of terrorism," she said.
It's the standard government response and it is, at best, irrational. They seem to operate based on the principle that repetition equals truth. And so, with my apologies, I'm going to repeat the reasons why this "argument" is a sham.

The accusation
The invasion of Iraq fuelled Islamic extremism in the UK and around the world. As a result, the UK now faces a greater threat from extremist terrorist attacks than had previously been the case. Given that we now know that Saddam was not a threat to our security, it is obvious that the invasion of Iraq has made the country less secure.

The government's position
The invasion of Iraq did not fuel Islamic extremism because the risk of terrorist attacks in the UK already existed before the invasion. Iraq has not made the country less secure.

If you are not paying full attention, it sounds as if there is at least a hint of plausibility to the government line. They aim to build on this hint through constant repetition of their key point. But the position is not plausible. It does not answer the accusation and it is anyway irrational.

Irrational how? Imagine an action which would definitely fuel extremism, something really provocative. Let's say if Blair announced, falsely, that he had evidence that a respected moderate Imam had had intimate relations with a dog. Now, substitute that event for the words "invasion of Iraq" in the government position above. You get:
The [extremely provocative act] did not fuel extremism because the risk of terrorist attacks already existed before the [extremely provocative act].
That is clearly a nonsense, although the facts in the sentence are just as true.

No-one is arguing that there was no threat before the invasion. We're arguing that there is a bigger threat because of it, that we are in greater danger because of it. The government refuses to discuss this in any meaningful way, even though it is now almost universally accepted. Instead, they repeat their hopelessly flawed position and continue to deny a truth which is painfully obvious to the entire country. They go to great lengths to avoid being challenged on their position, avoiding discussion on the subject whenever possible.

The thing is, if you think about it, isn't that just the sort of behaviour you'd expect from a tinpot authoritarian dictator? Presenting a position which is fundamentally illogical and insisting it is a rational approach? Denying facts which are undeniable to any sane person? Refusing to debate the issues with critics of the official policy? Avoiding awkward questions from journalists?

In a democracy we ought to be protected from such attitudes. We ought to be able to demand the truth from our government. We ought to be able to insist that the politicians who made the errors of judgement which led to an increased risk to UK citizens, take responsibility for their actions.

But our government does not accept that these are legitimate demands. That fact, more than any other, fills me with horror at the state of "democracy" in our country.

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