More terrorism laws. Why?

I'd be delusional if I claimed to be an expert on current affairs, but surely I'm not the only one who finds the current British political obsession with "international terrorism" a bit odd. Today's main news is that Gordon Brown is determined to introduce more anti-terrorism laws when he becomes Prime Minister - the usual fun laws like arbitrary detention without trial, use of phone tapping evidence in court etc. etc., with a good dollop of haziness in case anyone tries to hold him to anything specific later. As far as I can remember, the last and only terrorist attack on the UK since 9/11 was the 7/7 London bombings. That's it. A variety of dodgy characters have plotted two-bit schemes that came to nothing, and well done to the security services for stopping them... but that's it. Now, I'm not so keen to play the I-come-from-Belfast terrorism superiority game, but for me one attack doesn't really justify 6 years of anti- terrorism obsession and Muslim-baiting. Especially not when much of said terror has been self-inflicted and our authorities have proven stunningly bad at actually making Islamic communities feel more integrated into British communities - in that respect we're really a long way behind where we were 10 years ago. (I should clarify that I'm so naive as to think that there isn't a genuine problem with Islamic extremism and its attitude to Western society - it'll take more than a few lefty-liberal-intellectual "hug a Mahmoud-ie" (sorry) blandishments to sort that out.)

So why is more surveillance, more draconian internment laws and more money for anti-terror squads actually a popular thing for Brown to say? After all, he's on a charm offensive at the moment - if this wasn't an accepted good strategy to win the hearts and souls of a significant chunk of the British population, he'd be keeping schtum about it. So we must like being scared, of being told perpetual stories about the International Islamic Terrorist Boogeymen, ten feet tall with flaming breath and beards full of anthrax... even when the public evidence is that we're not really as endangered as we're being told. Undoubtedly there's a lot that the we aren't being told, but based on the hard, factual evidence, there's very little reason for all this excitement and hurried re-writing of the pointy end of our criminal law system. That we're not complaining about this indicates a very sad state of affairs for British political life - I'd like to think that I'm not a rock hard cynic, but all this seems to indicate that our leading politicians must genuinely like a confused and scared population. Maybe not such an unpopular view among loony conspiracy theorists, but it worries me that current affairs are making me take it seriously.

Anyway, that's how these things look to me, and I get the feeling it's not a mainstream view at the moment. If someone well-informed and educated in modern history, with a talent for spotting wide political trends happens to read this, then please set me straight :-) Compare the modern threat in Britain of Islamic extremist terrorism to current day Iraq, or Palestine, or Sri Lanka, or even as close to home as Belfast from 1968 until the mid-90s: we are not really so badly off, are we? Certainly, it seems to me, major extensions of police powers should not be made until terrorist action becomes a real everyday threat rather than a smoke and mirrors game played on us by the media and our political masters. We should get informed, and we should ask our MPs what the hell is going on.


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