Sunday, February 08, 2004
If We Order Ice Cream, The Terrorists Will Have Won
If there's one cliché which has been flogged to death these last couple of years, then it's that one. Don't get me wrong, Blunkett bears watching at the best of times and the latest proposals are an atrocity. But, seeing as how Blunkett has not proposed mass conversion to Islam and a return to the fourteenth century, it's hard to see much for Al-Q to celebrate.
What it's all about, of course, is an attempt to shut down the debate rather than risk people realising that many of Blunkett's critics don't have any actual alternatives. The Left has either lapsed into full-on denial or actively lined up with the enemy, while the Libertarians generally support waging the war vigorously but differently, in some as yet undefined way. Horrible though Blunkett's measures are, at least he has recognised that things can't go on.
Still, the central problem remains. Trying to wage war within the confines of criminal law makes about as much sense as insisting that the Fire Brigade obtain search warrants before entering burning buildings. This isn't a theoretical objection: it was 1993 when Al-Q made their first attack on the WTC. Between 1993 and 2001 the US treated Al-Q as a law enforcement problem - even refusing a Sudanese offer to extradite Bin Laden since the US lacked enough evidence to charge him with anything. It's fair to say that the 'terrorists as criminals' approach got a fair old working out, with Sep 11 marking the failure of that experiment. Yet, still British policy remains stubbornly legalcentric.
The problem with the current British approach is perfectly summed up by the Gitmo farce. Here we have a number of British citizens captured on the battlefield while fighting for a terrorist organisation against our allies in time of war. You'd think that would justify a certain degree of jail time, but no, you see, there's no evidence: they might have been on holiday with Club Jihad, for example. Some of what the Islamofascists believe might strike us as strange, but insisting that no one can be classed as a traitor unless they've left a series of video diary entries speaking at length about how much they'll enjoy dropping anthrax over the FA Cup Final or the like - now that's really insane. Given that we're stuck with a legalistic approach to the war, it looks like our only option is the one Blunkett proposes: throwing out most of the basic assumptions of our legal system.
Against this background it is easy to see why the US has opted to rely on military tribunals. This measure avoids having to release scumbags because there are no eyewitness reports of the rat in question leaning over a map of central LA with a fistful of flags labelled 'bomb goes here'. Blunkett wants to go the other way: throwing out so many civil rights that every court may as well be military tribunal. This is the central paradox that the Left, mired in anti-Americanism, will not address. As Drake's Drum pointed out, military tribunals for illegal combatants serve to protect civil rights. By drawing a distinction between enemy combatants captured during operations and 'ordinary, decent criminals' the US has managed to resolve the tension between civil rights and national defence. When dealing with purely criminal incidents, there is no reason why the normal processes of law enforcement cannot take place. OTOH, within the very specialised situation of the battlefield (in the broadest sense), it is clearly ludicrous to expect combat soldiers to respect such legal niceties as 'chains of evidence' and the like.
Of course, if you've drank the full six-pack of Kool Aid, then you don't see the problem: there's no such thing as terrorism (except anything done by the West), everyone is innocent except for the Americans and Mossad blew up the WTC. For the rest though the central issue remains: our court system can't deal with Islamosfascism without significant changes. Blunkett has put before us his ideas, warped though they are, but the fact that so few others have been prepared to grasp the nettle exposes a deep flaw in our politics - their sheer lack of seriousness. We are faced with fanatics who want to impose an Islamic theocracy on the world and our political class are still throwing rotten tomatoes at each other.