November 10, 2005

A Night of Hard Labor

What an upset! They say that if Peres stood against himself, he would also lose. But I thought it was quite ironic that on the same night as Peres lost the support of his Labor party in Israel, Tony Blair lost the confidence of his Labor party in Britain.
In an unprecendented rebellion against the leader who had just won their party a record 3rd election victory, Labour MPs defeated Blair's motion to extend the detention of terrorist suspects to 90 days. He had proposed this motion on a police recommendation that this was the time-span needed to analyse evidence, computer and email data, track down cellphone records and call origins, and all that goes with the busting of well organised and oil-funded terror cells. One assumes the anti-terrorist police in the UK know what they are doing. One also assumes Tony Blair is privy to the inside story of terrorist intentions, whether already foiled or still planned, in the UK. So why fight the measure? Well, for the lame duck Conservative opposition - themselves in the midst of another boring leadership election - this was a golden opportunity to humiliate a Prime Minister fresh from an election victory. Playing politics with the safety and security of voters will ultimately cost them dear. But for the Labor MPs who voted against their own leader, it was all about civil liberties. Forget the fact that for each 7-day segment of the 90 day detention, police still had to get clearance from a judge specialising in terrorist prosecutions. The rights of suspects linked to terrorism must be respected over and above the security of citizens going about their lawful daily lives.

Fast forward. Two Englishmen are sitting on a bench in London's Hyde Park after a radioactive "dirty bomb" was exploded in the City and airborne anthrax was released at a dozen subway intersections. Both are retching from radiation sickness and bleeding from sores. This is their exchange.

"Well old chap, it looks like we're all done for."
"Yeh mate," says the other.
"We've lost our lives, our country, our whole future."
"Yeh mate. But at least we've still got our civil liberties."

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