2 Apr. 2008

Great Quotes From The Past

Ever wondered how Islamic fundamentalists came to be labeled "Islamofascists"? The desperate linguistic contortion was at least partly derived from the White House's desperate legal contortions. This is from a speech by then US Home Secretary, John Reid, in August 2006:
We are in some ways attempting to fight a 21st century struggle with a framework of thought, culture and international legality which was provided for the mid-20th century. The European Convention, for example, drawn up by British lawyers, of which we are immensely proud, drawn up by British lawyers in the aftermath of the second world war was shaped inevitably by that war and by what was happening, not only during that war in places like Germany but across the iron curtain. And from the struggle to defeat fascism and the fascist state, and stand up to Stalinism, came an understandable focus on protecting the individual from the overweening evil power of the fascist state. That is why we formed those conventions.

So protections from unlawful detention, from forced labour, from torture, from punishment without trial came centre stage, as they should have done - rightly so, given what had gone before. But the emphasis was on the protection of the individual and the individual's rights in the face of a challenge from the state, from the community entrenched in a state structure with fascist inclinations...

But now we are faced with a slightly different challenge, you see, perhaps greater than any faced in the last 50 years. And it's a challenge for this new consensus, it's a challenge for discussion and debate around the core values of a free society - and the challenge is this: what happens when the threat to the nation and hence to all of us as a community, represented by the state in a particular sense, comes not from the tendencies of a fascist totalitarian state, but from what might be called fascist individuals?
In other words, Bush's lawyers were trying to manipulate post-WWII laws into a framework that let them treat Islamic terrorists as a threat on a par with Nazi Germany. The fact that there was no logical parallel made no difference to them: you go to war with the laws you've got, I guess!

It's the old problem that DIY-reality ideologues always face, trying to fit existing realities into their preconceived concepts rather than vice versa. Things get Orwellian pretty fast. I know my friend WP will like this little bit:
And from our point of view, I believe that the biggest achievement of democratic socialism, social democracy, progressive politics, whatever you want to call it [not "conservatism" obviously - gandhi], is not just a legal framework for human rights, though that is important, but the fact that real power and opportunity is now exercised by the many in this country, the vast majority, not just the few, in a way that our forefathers could not have imagined.
Well, he got that last little bit right, at least.