The war on terrors dead. Long live the war on terror!

In my day ‘Punk’s not dead’ used to be the teenage mantra, a line beloved of Exploited fans the country over. Recently I reckon it’s more a case of the war on terror’s not dead.

Hang on! You thought Obama’s (very welcome) promise to close Guantánamo was proof that the WOT and its human rights-flouting dark side was finally over? Think again ….

Earlier this week White House officials were briefing the LA Times saying “you need to preserve some tools – you still have to go after the bad guys.” The tools in question, apparently, are going to include “extraordinary rendition” – otherwise known as getting your intelligence agencies to kidnap people and hold them in secret without charge or trial, possibly for years.

It’s one thing trying to bring in appointees who haven’t paid their taxes, but it’s another  – much scarier – kettle of fish if you’re going to allow the CIA and others to operate totally outside the law. Come on Obama – what’s going on?

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago David Miliband was ostensibly driving a stake through the heart of our own war on terror with his Mumbai speech. He stressed that the language had been “misleading” (to say the least I would have thought!) but he was suspiciously silent about most of the actual behaviour or policies the wrongheaded WOT had led us into.

But is the WOT really over, even here in the UK? Today the Guardian has front-paged a follow-up to its now long-running investigation into how MI5 allegedly conspired in the torture of terrorism suspects in Pakistan. Jacqui Smith is going to be called to appear before the parliamentary human rights committee to answer for the tactics of our spies who might, in the words of the MP Andrew Dismore, “be operating under a James Bond-style get-out clause”. (Presumably Smith’s grilling will not include sleep deprivation and having her fingernails pulled out over a period of three days).

Meanwhile, the UK’s very own anti-terror watchdog – Lord Carlile – has again been reporting back on our Kafka-esque “control orders” (house arrest-like detentions for people who haven’t – like Josef’s “K” – had the benefit of a trial to find our what they are even accused of).

In a depressing looking report (Carlile has always been firmly supportive of these ridiculous measures), Carlile is essentially backing the current control order regime. It’s not actually that effective at stopping people mixing with their associates (its intended pupose), he says, but the twilight sub-judicial process of locking these people into their own homes is okay – is his basic message.

So, we may not call it the war on terror anymore, but its tactics seem to be alive (undead) under a different name. Actually, now I come to think of it, punk’s not dead either….

(PS: more on the breaking news about Binyam Mohamed and David Davis in tomorrow’s post).

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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