By Craig Murray
What is most worrying about the sad death of the Brazilian Mr Jean Charles de Menezes, shot to death by police on the tube, is that it is used by the government to further ratchet up the climate of fear. While regretting the death, Jack Straw tells us that the “Shoot to kill” policy must remain, while Sir Ian Blair says that more innocent deaths cannot be ruled out. All this boosts the politics of fear, talking up the perpetual war scenario that justifies increased government authoritarianism.
Our tactics for dealing with potential suicide bombers are apparently borrowed from the Israelis. This is appalling. It is not so long ago that the UK was horrified by pictures of a fourteen year old girl being shot down at an Israeli checkpoint, and an Israeli officer emptying a magazine into her head. Now we are adopting precisely the same tactics ourselves ‘ the unarmed Mr Menezes took eight bullets to the head, not the five originally reported.
What is more, we are now adopting Israeli rhetoric. Any attempt to explain or understand the phenomenon of terrorism is dismissed as “justifying” or “excusing” it. Blair rants that Muslim anger has nothing to do with Iraq, or Guantanamo Bay, or Abu Ghraib, or our support for torturers of Muslims like Karimov. It is rather a spontaneous development, sufficient unto itself, arising in a vacuum from the evil teachings of Wahibbism.
But the truth is that Muslim hatred feeds on some very real injustices. That in no way justifies or excuses acts of terror, which are warped and evil. But the growth of that evil is not, as Blair and Bush appear to believe, the spontaneous work of the devil. There are a few masterminds of terror who are simply psychopaths. But by removing injustice we can remove their ability to recruit, and to operate within a sympathetic community milieu. Announcing a firm intention to withdraw troops soon from Iraq would be a start. Announcing an end to all government to government co-operation with the Uzbek regime would be another good move. We need to reduce the causes of tension.
What will not help is the Blair proposal to introduce detention without charge for three months for terrorist suspects. Over 1200 people have been arrested under government anti-terrorism legislation. Only 18 have actually been convicted ‘ and only a handful of them on anything to do with terrorism. Most were found to have some minor criminal involvement.
Almost all of these were Muslims. Nearly all were innocent and released after the current fourteen days. Holding large quantities of innocent Muslims now for three months is hardly going to reduce tension. Let us not forget that one of the first reactions to the 7 July bombings was to arrange the arrest by Egyptian authorities of a Leeds chemist on holiday there. This was trumpeted on the front pages by our press as a great example of international intelligence co-operation against terror. There has been much less ‘ indeed almost no ‘ coverage of the fact he was found to have no connection at all to the bombs. He just happened to be a Muslim, from Leeds, a pharmacist (Aha! Potential Bomb Maker!) and to have gone on holiday at the time of the bombings. His was one of hundreds of British Muslim names falsely publicised in the UK media in the last three years as part of Al-Qaida.
Do not forget that on the afternoon of poor Mr Menezes’ death, the Evening Standard carried the massive triumphalist headline “LONDON BOMBER SHOT DEAD”. The Standard has not apologised.
There is another point that has not been made about Mr Menezes’ death. He died because of his skin colour. As a Brazilian, his skin tone was not so different from that of the average British Muslim. Had someone with a complexion as white as mine been running around on the underground, they would not have been gunned down by the police.
Of course, Mr Menezes almost certainly died in terror having absolutely no idea who was chasing him. He was not asked to stop by uniformed police. He was suddenly chased by men in plainclothes waving guns. Is it surprising he ran? An eyewitness said that the police did not pull on Baseball caps saying “Police” until after he started running from them. At which point, chased by men with guns, he probably did not spend much time looking back and admiring his pursuers’ headgear. He jumped on a tube, tripped and they shot him dead.
It is time we pulled back from this. To declare this part of an unending war, and the new normality we should live with, shows what a failed and irresponsible government we now have.