comments by Gary Younge
extracted from his article in the Guardian, 4th. January 2010
"To galvanise the nation for war abroad and sedate it for repression at home, the previous (Bush) administration constructed a terror threat that was ubiquitous in character, apocalyptic in scale and imminent in nature. Only then could they counterpose human rights against security as though they were not only contradictory but mutually exclusive.
Al-Qaida was only too happy to oblige. In such a state of perpetual crisis both terrorists and reactionaries thrive. Terrorists successfully create a climate of fear; governments successfully exploit that fear to extend their own powers.
"I'm absolutely convinced that the threat we face now, the idea of a terrorist in the middle of one of our cities with a nuclear weapon, is very real and that we have to use extraordinary measures to deal with it," said former vice-president Dick Cheney.
The trouble is that even by their own shabby standards, none of these "extraordinary measures" have ever worked. No new laws were necessary to stop 9/11. If the immigration services, the FBI and the CIA had been doing their jobs properly, the attacks could have been prevented.
Nonetheless, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the US government undertook the "preventative detention" of about 5,000 men on the basis of their birthplace and later sought a further 19,000 "voluntary interviews". Over the next year, more than 170,000 men from 24 predominantly Muslim countries and North Korea were fingerprinted and interviewed in a programme of "special registration". None of these (measures) produced a single terrorism conviction.
This set the pattern for the years to come: wiretapping, rendition, torture, secrecy. Those who otherwise rail against the inefficiency of government argued for more extensive, intrusive state power even as it produced little in the way of results. When confronted with this lamentable record, their only defence was the threat of the next attack. "The next time, the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud" said Condoleezza Rice, adding. "They only have to be right once. We have to be right every time." Over the last week even once in a while would have looked good."