Neither paranoia nor Israelization

If the quality of research and questionable imperatives for South Africa and the continent to urgently "elevate" counterterrorism measures is the best that Greg Mills and Kurt Shillinger are able to produce; it is essential that horror be expressed at their "shock and awe" approach [Business Day 23/08/05].

London’s Underground attacks have unleashed frantic calls by many well-meaning people to root out terrorism. But unlike Mills and Shillinger, many have also called on the British and American governments in particular, to ensure that in dealing with it, its root causes not be ignored.

A clear divide between these demands illustrates the vexed question of terrorism. A case in point is the current row between the Vatican and Israel.

Hardly three months into his papacy, Pope Benedict XVI faced his first diplomatic row fuelled by an irate Jewish state for omitting it from his papal message condemning terror attacks in various countries.

In defense, the Vatican sharply rebuked Israel, accusing it of trying to "willingly deform" the pope’s condemnation of terrorism.

The pressure exerted on the pope by the Sharon regime to condemn a legitimate freedom struggle as "terrorist" is, apart from being brazenly arrogant, an assault on his pontificate. Also it tells us much more about the "War on Terror" than the rhetoric emanating from the Pentagon.

As pressure is mounted on South Africa by Mills and Shillinger, an equally vigorous demand is placed on more countries by Israel to castigate and criminalise Palestinian resistance. Though silent as they are on the horrors inflicted upon innocent people by state terrorism, more people will comprehend how and why the question of terrorism is being equated with Muslims and Islam.

Worse than the linkage is the remedy: "Israelisation". Britain’s security apparatus is quickly learning the hazard of "Israelising" its intelligence and police. The untimely death of a young Brazilian lad killed in cold-blood by over zealous police, is a sad and tragic consequence of this.

By adopting Israeli policies of "pre-emptive strikes" which justifies the killing of suspected "terrorists", Tony Blair’s government displays gross disregard for core principles which underpin civilised values.

Britain’s illegal involvement in decades of aggression in Iraq which finally saw it joining forces with the United States in a full blown war and subsequent occupation of that country under blatantly false pretence has now turned full circle with the domestication of this discredited external conduct.

Since 9/11 the intensity whereby the Bush administration, goaded by right-wing likudniks, has pursued the "war on terror", remains an alarming prospect for millions of deprived and marginalised people. Hence, as Martin Williams correctly points out that truth is the first casualty in war, including the "war on terror"; it is inevitable that justice too becomes a casualty.

Detention without trial was a intergral part of the former apartheid government. It was used not only to incarcerate and silence opponents; but also to torture and murder! Along with equally hideous policies it sought to crush legitimate dissent. While the apartheid system seemed to flourish by its dependence on a host of draconian measures including "pre-emptive strikes", it finally earned the wrath of the international community.

South Africans – possibly more than others – are able to identify similar patterns of conduct in the approach that Bush, Blair and Sharon have foolishly chosen. Opponents are de-humanised as "terrorists" and persecuted as dangerous criminals through a variety of illegal measures including the undermining of civil liberties.

It is this apartheid-type psyche, evident in the paranoid behaviour of Tony Blair, which explains why he has chosen to remain embedded in America’s war of terror as well as introducing draconian "Israelisation" measures.

So the question about Aswat’s presence in South Africa and the mosques he may have frequented does not arise. Indeed by insisting to probe where he ate, what he ate, with whom he slept and whether he slept with his eyes wide open – Mills and Shillinger reflect a state of mind which is paranoid.