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The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Posts Tagged ‘terrorism

Israel, Gaza conflict affects us all

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I rarely allow myself to comment on world politics principally because I am no expert on local issues and conflicts. However, in the case of the war in the Gaza Strip, I am prepared to make an exception. From the outset, I would make clear that whilst I have read about the principals, I am no expert, but then, neither are the vast majority of other people and therefore, it is likely that they will hold similar, equally uninformed views, whatever their political divide. Therefore, the opinions of the uninitiated must be considered alongside those that can or do claim to fully understand the history.

I have long sympathised with Israel, positioned as it is, in the middle of a hostile area, surrounded by countries that believe they should not be there and one or two, who believe that they have no right to exist at all. Moreover, I have always held that they are right to remain strong within the region and defend themselves against those who would do them, rather than wish them harm. From a personal perspective, I also tend to take a hard-line on any people or organisations that act in an aggressive manner.

That notwithstanding, I firmly believe that any defensive actions should be proportionate. Israel is right to want to defend itself against indiscriminate rockets being fired at their citizens. However, I cannot see the use of rockets, tanks and phosphorousbombs as a measured or proportionate response, particularly when fired into a built up area such as Gaza. Two wrongs do not make a right. It would not have taken a genius to work out that such bombardments in a built up area would inevitably lead to a very large number of civilian casualties, which would include, non-combatants, women and children. Israel is experienced at war and therefore they, more than anyone, would have known that the civilian population of the Gaza Strip would have to pay a very high price as a consequence of Israel’s decision to use bombs and rockets. Yet they embarked on this course of action regardless. To me this is akin to the schoolyard bully that, having been hit with a stone, responds with an AK47 and keeps shooting until the entire schoolyard is cleared and the threat neutralised.

Israel had, at the very least, a moral obligation to consider how their actions would be considered on the world stage. Every day for nearly 3 weeks, people from around the world have witnessed the suffering of the Palestinian people, not soldiers on the battlefield, but women and children in, or close to their own homes. Few people, however removed from the politics, could fail to be touched by their plight, but imagine if you will, how this plays into the hands of those that sympathise with the Palestinians, even if they don’t agree with Hamas tactics. Truth be told, the families of the victims could end up being the “martyrs” or suicide bombers of tomorrow, surely Israel would have known that a high civilian casualty rate could lead to more extremism, not less. And, how does Israel believe this is being played out on the world stage, extremists and sympathisers are going to be very angry at the sight of women and children suffering at the hands of the Israelis. I am not an extremist and no-one would describe me as a pacifist or apologist, but I am angry, very angry. Surely, no-one watching this on their television screens could or would argue that the end justifies the means?

On top of this, the world has been impotent in their attempts to stop the Israelis bombardment of Gaza. As a consequence, weak words, rather than strong condemnation may imply that ‘we’ don’t care. How long before the people of this country or Europe pay the price for the actions of Israel? A constant wringing of hands, a few weak words and a furrowed brow does not deliver the right message to Israel, in fact, we almost look complicit. Had Israel targeted terrorists with ground troops, instead of indiscriminate bombing, I would have understood their aim, but to bomb built up areas which are full of women and children is quite frankly despicable. In doing so, Israel is stirring up a hornets nest and, there is every likelihood that we in the UK will end up, one way or another, paying a price for Israel’s actions.

Invariably, when countries use bombs instead of ground troops, it is to minimise casualties on their own side. In its way, this is completely understandable. However, when it ignores the fact that a disproportionate number of the victims will be non-combatants, women and children, it is to suggest that one innocent life is less valuable than another. How can that sit with anyone? I for one do not believe a Palestinian life is worth more or less than an Israeli one. I recognise Israel’s right to defend itself with, if necessary, pre-emptive action, but I believe it must always be proportionate. However, I would condemn the government of Israel and for that matter, any other country, that would consider such a high percentage of non-combatants, women and children as an acceptable price to pay to eliminate the threat. Particularly when ground troops or special forces could have been used with considerably fewer innocent casualties and arguably, more effect. Governments around the world have, at the very least, a moral obligation to protect innocent people from dying as a direct consequence of their actions.

Only United Nations officials on the ground have had the courage to loudly and universally condemn Israel, not for their motives, but for the consequences of their actions. Our government must do likewise and now, for whilst many people may sympathise with Israel’s plight, Israel has lost a great deal of credibility and support as a direct consequence of their readiness to slaughter innocent women and children in this indiscriminate way. I for one, will never view Israel the same way, for me, they have lost much of the moral high ground. By using this level of force, Israel has condemned the world to a be a less safe place than it was 3 weeks ago and who gave them the right to act, albeit by proxy, in our name?


Written by British Politics

16 January, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Democracy has already disappeared

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Much has been said over the weekend regarding the Damian Green affair, with most commentators suggesting that our democracy is damaged, at stake or in peril. I would not argue with any of these descriptives other than to say our democracy was under threat a good deal earlier than this high profile incident.

Whether it is detention without charge, law officers being able to store telephone call details, text messages, email content and web browsing habits, or the ability of the police to take DNA off a subject even if they haven’t been charged. All of these new laws have been brought in, ostensibly to aid the fight against crime and terrorism, but as we have already witnessed, neither the police nor the government are shy of using anti-terror laws in completely inappropriate circumstances. As each new piece of legislation has been passed, so we have had to wave a fond farewell to some of the fundamental rights that we have lost in the process. Rights that we have enjoyed for hundreds of years. Yet crime is not falling and terrorism remains the same threat as it was before.

The government has become the ‘bitch’ of the police service, giving them have whatever they want, whether it be detention without charge, 30,000 taser guns or the ability to monitor telephone calls on the say so of a senior officer rather than a judge. Opposition parties, by contrast, have acted like the governments lapdogs, providing a less than spirited defence of the rights of the individual. In an effort to preen themselves in front of the TV cameras, or gain a few column inches from a compliant newspaper, members of parliament have forgotten that they are responsible for upholding the rights and liberties of the citizens of this country. They have failed miserably….look at how many departments that have been labeled “not fit for purpose”, now consider how this label could be identified with most of the government and a large number of other MP’s!

As a consequence of this governments preoccupation with gaining more and more state control, we as a people have become all the poorer. Not in economic terms (that was for different reasons), but in terms of freedom. Our right to privacy has gone forever, because this government has allowed nearly every aspect of our lives to be monitored and/or recorded and then allowed upwards of 800 agencies, both public and private, access to that information. It is an outrage. Worst of all, every MP that failed to speak up for the people of this country on this issue have been complicit in our demise, further, every newspaper editor that has failed to raise these issues for fear of losing scoops from a minister have failed their readership.

Of course you can’t get the genie back into the bottle, but members of parliament on all sides should seek to use the Damian Green affair as a signal that a complete review is now needed of all legislation passed that has provided government and the police service with unprecedented powers over the people of this country. British citizens are supposed to be the masters, not the servants, New Labour policies have dispensed with this long held tradition. Purists may say I am wrong, but it is my contention that when so much power has been passed to government and the tools or agents of government, such as the police service, security services and so on, the people of this country become the servants of state, not the other way around.

We may retain the vote, but little else and if we allow further removal of our rights, we could end up being a basket case like Zimbabwe, with question marks over our entire electoral system. Melodramatic maybe, possible most certainly, after all, Hazel Blears has already indicated that she wants the legal power to prevent publication of certain stories in the mainstream media and has pointed out that she is not in favour of bloggers. Who 20 years ago would have guessed that we could lock people up for a month with no charge, seize the assets of another country using anti-terror laws, monitor and store every telephone call, text message and email, force identity cards on a reluctant public? The list goes on, but you get the picture, it isn’t just possible, we are already well on our way.

If ever there was a justification for a public enquiry, something I do not normally advocate, it is now. It should be wide ranging and concentrate on the legislation that has been drafted by this government which as a consequence of its introduction, has removed, reduced or eroded the civil liberties and rights of the people of this country. Further, they must look at what the original intention was and find out how these laws have been used, abused or mis-used. This enquiry must then have the power to order that government introduce legislation to allow either an amendment to, or the repeal of any legislation that is not as intended or has simply gone too far.

David Cameron could lead this charge and I suspect he will have a great deal of support, certainly from the public and most likely from the LibDems and a few Labour backbenchers. Or, he could let the opportunity pass by and be picked up by Nick Clegg. For as sure as night follows day, there will be a massive public backlash when it starts to sink in just how many of our rights have been sacrificed in a fight against terrorism, something, incidentally that this country has faced for most of its existence.

If as a consequence of the Damian Green affair members of parliament only seek an exemption for MP’s, then I think the public will have a very good idea who our elected members look out for and it would most certainly not be us. They could be reminded of this at the ballot box assuming we manage to retain that right. Don’t laugh, it could happen, just look at our ruling elite!

UK government seek more control over citizens

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I have decided to take up the offer of fellow UK Politics blogger, Power to the People and copy, verbatim, his article in relation to the latest Data Communications Bill, due to be debated in parliament and supported by Jacqui Smith. This Bill seeks to further erode our right to privacy and to be free from state interference, with sweeping new laws regarding the storage of all email, internet browsing habits, telephone calls and text messages of the British Public. This government has spent 11 years, introducing law after law, permitting more state inteference, less privacy and causing blatant infringments to our civil liberties.

I wholeheartedly support the views of PttP and would also urge people to view his proposed letter, vary it, personalise it and then send it to your MP. Maybe we can have a voice after all?

Enough is enough, the UK is becoming a police state by our control obsessed government and we are sitting back and allowing it to happen. It makes me angry to see such lethargy. Everytime a new act is brought in, far more sinister aspects are buried in the detail, which further curtail our civil liberties, freedom and privacy. This has got to stop and now, state should not be permitted to control the people, it should be the other way around. As it stands, just 650 members of parliament are pushing some 65m people around, yes, I mean 650, because whilst this government may have a majority, the MP’s from other parties are not making enough noise about this massive intrusion into our lives, they should be fired, the lot of them. We are quick to condemn the bankers (rightly so in many cases), but we do nothing about the MP’s that have consistently introduced or supported Acts of Parliament that intrude into our lives, in a way that will affect us for many years to come. We must put a stop to it.

It is expected that plans to collect more data on people’s phone, e-mail and web-browsing habits will be included in the innocuouslysounding “Communications Data Bill”, due to be introduced in the Queen’s Speech in November. By all accounts, these proposals are supported by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Gordon Brown and much of the Labour government. Once again, the government is expected to justify this gross intrusion into the personal lives of 65m people under the auspices of ‘counter-terrorism’, this is utter garbage, they know it and we know it. Yes, there are terrorists out there and they don’t wear badges, but this country has faced terrorism before and the security forces managed to investigate and prosecute without such laws.

I don’t know how many terrorists are out there, but it is not 65m and is probably less that a couple of thousand, why should the privacy and personal of 65m people be invaded by this government because of a few people that mean us harm? This whole thing needs to be put in perspective, more people in the UK die on the roads than as a result of terrorism, more soldiers are killed abroad, that in the UK as a result of terrorism, in fact, more people are killed in farming accidents that as a consequence of terrorism. This government have invested massively in the security services, allowing them to go on a substantial recruitment drive, there should be no need for a massive Big Brother surveillance operation of the entire population of the UK. Before some smart-arse suggests that it is this surveillance and investment in the security services that has reduced the number of terrorist incidents in the UK, I would ask them to provide further evidence that this is the case and then to put it into perspective. For example, it is well know that the airline industry work out whether safety mechanisms are worth introducing on their planes on the basis of a cost/benefit analysis. In other words, will the costs associated with an accident outweigh the cost of implementing the safety programmes. Fact of life, they all do it, they just rarely tell us!

Of course the government will issue the usual platitudes and assurances that they will not misuse this information, but can we believe them. The Icelandic authorities had their assets frozen using anti-terror laws, in spite of the fact that there were other laws that could have been used and would have been just as effective. A local council used anti-terror legislation to spy on the parents of a child that they throught was in the wrong ‘catchment area’. This list, trust me, goes on and on. We also know that this government ant it’s private sector partners are incapable of securing data, which means our personal lives could be open to all and sundry. Some will argue that if you have nothing to hide, then there is nothing to hide, these same people probably still believe in Father Christmas. As we know information, any information can be used in different ways, depending on the the intepretation of the recipient, how many times have we said or done something that was completely misrepresented?

I have nothing to hide, but I object strongly to my personal calls, web browsing habits and email being monitored and invaded by the state. Government’s could even misuse this information to find out how we intend to vote! It is an appalling proposal and it is high time the British public called time on the control obsessed government and it’s supporters, irrespective of which party they represent. This goes beyond party politics, it is a direct attack on the very fabric of our society and no-one will be safe from government interference if it is allowed to pass into law. If the government believe that this act is so important, then they should allow the British people to vote on it through a referendum, I believe they will get a resounding No…and they know it!

People often tell me that there is “not much we can do”, but there is. Our members of parliament are worried sick that they may lose their seat at the next election, we must emphasise to them that if they support this attack on our civil liberties that we guarantee they will. We must demonstrate to our MP’s that they should be more in fear of the wrath of the British public that the Chief Whip of their own parties. Opposition MP’s should do their jobs and oppose this draconian piece of legislation. We must also warn our local members of parliament that if they vote for this Act, that we will not vote for them, we must make it clear, that we have a voice, not once every 5 years, but throughout their tenure and that we will have it heard. Everyone that feels this Act is a direct infringement of our civil liberties, right to privacy and an attack on the very fabric of our society, should write to their MP and tell them so. I have provided a ‘draft letter’ which can be viewed, personalised and sent to your MP. Draft Letter to MP

I would also invite all fellow bloggers that feel as strongly as I do on this issue to reproduce this article in part or full, topped and tailed if they wish, to publicise this issue to as many people as possible. Let us all stand up and fight in this issue, and remind this government who is actually in charge.

Full Article: Power to the People



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