On mass surveillance

John Richardson writes: More mass surveillance won’t make Brits (or Aussies) any safer” (Tuesday)

Bernard Keane rightly observes that “the War on Terror has proceeded for 16 years … that trillions of dollars have been spent … hundreds of thousands of people have been killed … some of our most fundamental freedoms have been abolished (in the name of fighting people who “hate our freedoms”) … we have become a surveillance society. And yet, judging by the conduct of governments and the media, we’re no safer than we were in 2001.” 

If it really is beyond our political leaders to countenance any discussion or speculation about ‘root causes’, then perhaps the next best question might be to simply ask ‘who benefits’.

Mary-Jayne House writes: More mass surveillance won’t make Brits (or Aussies) any safer” (Tuesday)

Best analysis. I wish every news outlet reported in this way and everyone — our political leaders especially — were forced to read and absorb this truth.

On root causes of terrorism

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Our politicians and media are in denial about the cause of terrorism” (Tuesday).

We are regularly provided ‘alternative facts’, but this has always been. John Menadue views are well known and like the left from way back they have their own construct to explain why things are. Cynical tragics are good at finding fault but not at proposing solutions. I am sure things could be different if one thing in the past was different, but it is rarely so. However the inconvenient fact is that the first instance of large scale suicide attacks from an Islamic source was in 1983 in Beirut (which killed 300 US and French peacekeepers under UN auspices trying to bring an end to a horrible civil war). There are many instances of attacks in Nairobi and so on well before 9/11 or Iraq in 2003. Many involve counties with no direct involvement in any of these conflicts (like bombing a synagogue in Buenos Aires).

I think David Kilcullen has written sensibly on this issue as did Christopher Hitchens, who pointed out that if certain views (specifically on the left) had prevailed that Argentina’s fascist military government would still occupy the Falklands, Saddam Hussein would occupy Kuwait, Mohammad Omar’s Taliban would have ruled Afghanistan uninterrupted and Milosevic would have exterminated the Kosovars. As for positive attributes of supposedly secular leaders in Libya, Iraq and Syria. Anyone with the slightest awareness of human rights or civil liberties would find it hard to side with any of them, between them they probably violated every convention or decency that exists.

This blaming ourselves logic is unhelpful cynicism, but its popular in some circles. As for disengagement, it won’t be easy; we want development and opportunity to occur; we don’t want failed states (but we don’t want the sort of Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Assad excesses either). It will involve a lot of civil and military effort. It will be hard — on that point John and I would agree.

 

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Peter Fray
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