The Early Days of a Better Nation

Thursday, July 17, 2003

From Shock and Awe to Night and Fog

Recently, on being asked if I intended to visit the United States some time soon, I indulged in the admittedly cheap crack that 'I'm staying in the free world until America rejoins it.' Trivial and theoretical though the risk may be, I just didn't fancy being in a country where you can in theory be disappeared, interrogated and executed without any trial other than by a military tribunal. It wasn't something I said lightly, because I really enjoyed all my past visits to America.

This difficulty has now been

If the point about fast-track extradition is correct, British citizens can be shipped off to the Guantanamo prison camp without any hearing in a British court. We're in the same happy position as American citizens, who can be disappeared, held incommunicado, and finally allowed to plead guilty to planning to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch - which, frankly, strikes me as about as credible as those famous Russian confessions to putting ground glass in the workers' butter.

Sartre said somewhere that fascism was not defined by the number of its victims, but by the manner of their killing. The same applies, I think, to a Yezhovschina - a period in which the secret police really believe that they are rounding up and despatching members of a terrorist conspiracy. (Even the people they arrested believed in it - they just knew their arrest was a terrible mistake.)

In this sense we have a small but central aspect of terror already in place. We now live in a country where citizens can be executed without trial, and by a foreign government at that. Anyone who thinks that because, for now, this possibility exists only for a handful of people is missing the point entirely.

On the bright side, however, I have no reason for not going to America.


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