Thursday, July 14, 2005


by Daphne Liddle

HOME SECRETARY Charles Clarke last Thursday, a few hours after the bombs that rocked London, admitted that identity cards could not have prevented the tragedy. In the shock of the moment, he was being honest.
But by this Wednesday he was urging the emergency European counter-terrorism summit adopt a plan to compulsorily fingerprint all European Union citizens who have identity cards – bringing their ID card systems up to the biometric detail level of those proposed for Britain.
Tony Blair’s ID card proposals were in deep trouble before the terrorist attacks and losing popularity every day through soaring costs and a growing realisation of the loss of civil liberties involved.
Now, it will be a very brave backbench MP who will stand up to Blair when he insists that, in the light of the attacks, ID cards and other “anti-terrorist” measures are essential.
And recent history has shown we do not have enough very brave backbench MPs.
More to the point, Tory leader Michael Howard has been praising Blair as “calm, resolute and statesmanlike” in the wake of the bombings. There is a possibility that the Tories could drop their opposition to ID cards and the Bill could sail through.


It hardly matters that Blair’s position is totally illogical if his real aim is to prevent terrorism. A raft of anti-terrorist measures passed in the aftermath of 11th September 2001 led to the imprisonment of innocent men in Belmarsh without charge or trial for over two years. Many of them, though now released are still effectively under house arrest.
In the United States the “war on terror” led to similar breaches of human rights culminating in the setting up of the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, the invasion of Afghanistan and eventually to the illegal invasion of Iraq.
None of these “anti-terrorist” measures did anything to end terrorism. They did the opposite. They created fear, anger and desperation in many places that helped the terrorist organisations recruit thousands. They increased the likelihood of terrorism.
The young men who blew themselves up – along with dozens of ordinary Londoners – last Thursday were carrying plenty of things to identify them. They were not trying to hide their identity. If ID cards had been compulsory, they would have had them and it would not have made the slightest difference to what happened.
Blair knows this and so does Clarke. Anti-terrorism is not their real goal – tighter control of the working class is – but they will use the issue of the London bombings as an excuse to force in ID cards and many other breaches of our civil liberties.


Last Wednesday Clarke and Blair presented their European Union counterparts with a 10-point anti-terrorism package that includes the retention of email and telephone records for up to three years.
It also includes all ID cards in Europe carrying an electronic fingerprint. A Home Office official explained: “Identity cards are valid travel documents. We cannot afford to have them be a weak link in international travel.
“A really significant amount of travel within Europe is done not on a passport but on an identity card which is just a piece of cardboard with a photograph attached. It is a weak link. We need to have a standard.”
Tony Bunyan of the civil liberties group Statewatch said: “This proposal, with the others, means that everyone living in the EU and their details are held on an EU-wide database.
“At a time of great tragedy it is all the more important that we act with care and do not bequeath to future generations a society where every movement and every communication is under surveillance.”
Just in case other European countries had any doubts about the proposals, Gordon Brown warned a meeting of EU finance ministers that any country that fails to crack down on “terrorist money laundering” will face the threat of sanctions.
Meanwhile Blair is promising a new draft Counter Terrorism Bill for this autumn.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Bush is also preparing to ratchet up “anti-terrorist” measures, further reducing civil liberties in the US.
Some political analysts believe that last Thursday’s bombings have helped Bush and Blair to lift their failing popularity and remove the focus or world attention from the catastrophe of the occupation of Iraq.
It seems likely now that the bombings were carried out by a group linked to Al Qaeda. That organisation was created and fostered by US imperialism to undermine the socialist government of Najibullah in Afghanistan.
It seems that it is still – indirectly and perhaps inadvertently – helping to strengthen US imperialism.
Britain has, in the last week, celebrated the end of the war to defeat Nazi fascism. Britain suffered heavy bombing in that war, far in excess of anything Al Qaeda could manage. But the British people were not asked or expected to surrender their civil liberties for ever in order to defeat Nazism. There is no logical reason to surrender them now.