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Terrorism, Security Business and Britain

By Sherry Shamsi (Edinburgh) | 19.12.2006 18:49 | Repression | Terror War

"The airlines, as owners [of airports], would be sensitive not only to the direct impact on their profits, but the indirect impact as a result to unhappy customers who chose alternative modes of transportation."

This is suggested by Joseph Stiglitz, former US Council of Economic Advisers, in a Financial Times article. In this, he discusses the UK airports "debacle" of this summer, triggered by the discovery of the terrorist plot to blow up aircraft. He argues that the BAA (British Airport Authority) lacked efficiency and sufficiently trained staff for security checks. So airlines should own the airports so they can modernize security measures with the latest equipment and new highly trained staff.

Who is earning - and how much - from this business carried out in the name of terrorism? Before 9/11 expenditure on security was not that big. The US administration acted as a "pioneer" when they spent billions on renovation of the existing security system. The money was spent on measures including new training of security staff, new security cameras, metal detectors, arms and other devices. Spending on the army and its operations is separate from this.

This year the US Senate approved a $447bn defence spending bill which includes $25bn for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is 5.7% larger than the 2004 defence budget, excluding the Iraq money, but is 1.7% below what George W Bush was asking for.

The US mid-term elections results showed the reaction of ordinary Americans towards the intentions of "omnipotent" Bush and the neo-cons. People are beginning to see through the rhetoric, as cuts in social benefits were "justified" through the panic they were spreading. After 9/11 the "common people" were led to worry about their personal and "national" security and thus to see the need for new security measures.

In all this, civil liberties and personal privacy were targeted mainly to exacerbate the feeling of fear. Hotels, casinos, shopping malls, etc., and any place with crowds of people were asked to ensure "security", that is, to buy more and new equipment.

Private security companies started offering expensive services like security staff and systems, to meet this heavy demand. An increase in profit margins and a boom in the security equipment industry after 9/11 attracted more producers and investors in this business, as there was already bearish behaviour in other traditional businesses for some time.

Whenever there is a rise in production, a battle for markets ensues. The problem that the "market economy" usually faces is that it can't always have the markets it needs; and so it has to create markets. This cruel process removes the progressive veil that hides the dreadful face of the capitalism. Creating a market for the security business required the same level of panic, feeling of being threatened and instability in other parts of the world too. More fear, more sales and more profits.
Instability means customers

Saudi Arabia (KSA) is one of the countries with the highest level of defence spending. It has been increasing its defence spending tremendously over the past 16 years. The latest "justification" by the KSA authorities for assigning mammoth amount of money arms expenditure is the "threat from Iran". A single reactionary statement by Iran's President adds more dollars to the US reserves. The KSA is set to spend billions of dollars updating its military hardware, from fighter jets to security equipments. The oil-rich kingdom has "traditionally" sourced its arms from suppliers in the US and Britain. The latest sale was of 24 UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters, radios, armoured vehicles and other military equipment worth more than $6bn. Another Eurofighter Typhoon jets deal with Britain will cost the KSA more than $10bn. Expecting the KSA to be a hot customer, French President Chirac visited the country this March to play his part in bidding for a part of this lucrative business. For a decade French defence company Thales has been battling to win a 7bn euros ($8.4bn; £4.8bn) deal to supply Saudi Arabia with border security equipment. Meanwhile, Dassault, the makers of Mirage and Falcon aircraft has been lobbying hard for Riyadh and the Saudi air force to buy its Rafale fighter jets.
Missile Defence System for hotel

Dubai is a small state within the UAE in the Middle East facing no security threat or war. No terrorist attacks or other such activity has been hitherto reported there. After 9/11 airports with flights to the USA and other places crowded by rich tourists and businessmen were "advised" that they should update their security measures to ensure "safety". So it too has to spend an extra $5bn per year just for security equipment maintenance, other than routine army expenditure. To make this clear: this is government spending, as official private spending figures are not publicly available yet because they are astoundingly high. The level of private spending can only be guessed at by looking at one "small" example. Recently an underwater luxury hotel, under construction, was declared unsafe, so the private construction company bought a "missile defence system" for hotel security systems from a US company in order to get a safety clearance certificate. A row erupted around the issue of six American ports being run by the ‘Dubai Ports Authority' and rumours were spread by mighty US security companies to promote Dubai as unsafe in order to sell security equipment. It is in fact very difficult to find news in the newspapers about defence spending by private companies of different countries.
Britain: a society-under-surveillance!

Countries such as Britain, that was not that insecure before the Iraq war, started facing serious security problems. Blood and corpses were seen on the streets of cities that in the past were considered safe. Pro-war sentiments to justify the so-called "War on Terror" were aroused by the extensive use of footage of the horrendous carnage. People who had been peacefully living together for a long time were now asked to start fearing each other. A feeling of mistrust was promoted. Action was taken by the Blair government to limit civil liberties and the privacy of common citizens following in the path of their US mentors. To some extent one could say that Blair has outdone the Bush administration in harassing its own people.

Britain has 4.2million public close circuit TV (CCTV) cameras installed around the country, estimated as one camera for 14 people. That is the highest level of surveillance of any country in the world. One report by "Surveillance Studies Network" revealed that every person in Britain is caught on average 300 times a day on security cameras. The report producer David Camiwood explained how shopping habits, the movement and behaviour of people are monitored continuously for "security reasons". Preferred travelling routes on buses and trains are recorded in databases. Automatic number plate observation system of vehicles is used for recording the private transport owner's travel. Institutions and firms are being advised to increase the level of observation of their staff. This level of surveillance is not only an absurd interference in a citizen's privacy but it also unleashes unnecessary levels of panic which can provoke misjudgement. The "accident" such as the murder of an innocent Brazilian by police is an example of this. Information Commissioner Richard Thomson revealed his level of astonishment when he stated that "Britain is turning into a "society-under- surveillance!"
Who finances "war on terror"?

All this is being used to justify an increase in defence spending by $6.8 billion (£3.7 billion) in the last three years to a total of $65.1 billion (£35.2 billion). This is the longest period of planned "sustained real growth" in defence spending for over 20 years. Additional resources are being made available to "modernise" the UK's Armed Forces to meet the "challenges" of the 21st century. The results of this prodigal expenditure can be seen clearly in the lives of ordinary British people. They are not only paying more taxes but also feeling more insecure at the same time. They are the one who are actually paying for everything, whether it is for war or life itself.

The number of British service personnel who have been killed since the beginning of Operation Telic - the British operation in Iraq - is 120. Of those, 89 died in "action" while the rest died either in accidents or of natural causes such as illness. Many have remained unexplained or are still under investigation. "Combat Stress" (the Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society). An army institution for stress management, has reported that two thousand servicemen have been found mentally ill or with serious psychological problems. One survey report says that one in five wants to leave the army, but the problem is that Blair doesn't want to leave Iraq.

There is constant intrigue to break the power and unity of the working class by using the fear of terrorism. One after another, controversial statements are delivered to raise non-issues among the ordinary people. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is very much at home in this kind of thing. He never misses a chance to raise topics of discussion that are aimed at pitting worker against worker.
The pettiest intrigues

Questions need to be asked. What is terrorism? How did it suddenly come to be so much at the centre of debate? Where did Al-Qaeda come from? Does it really exist? These are questions which everyone seems to have an answer to. The problem is that the media feed us with a plethora of lies and absurd statements whose aim is to scare people so much as to facilitate the real hidden intentions of the powers that be. "Foiling the terrorist plot" to blow up passenger aircraft this summer, which resulted in restrictions on the carrying of liquids onto planes was one of them.

It is extremely difficult, if not almost impossible, to produce an effective explosive from liquids carried on board a plane. You would also have to keep some of the ingredients at very low temperatures; you'd have to take an ice pack on board with you. Ignoring basic chemistry, the authorities pointed the accusing finger at that terribly dangerous liquid... water! By using several ingredients it is theoretically possible to produce the dangerous explosive "Triacetone Triperoxide" (TATP). But you need the chemical ingredients, all in the precise quantities and everything must be done below 10 degrees Celsius otherwise it converts into an ineffective chemical mix. The process also produces a lot of fumes. Laboratories use strong air evacuation systems to cope with this level of fumes. And it also normally requires two to three days work in a laboratory. Even if the most efficient and resourceful means are available it still requires many hours. How could a potential terrorist carry all the required ingredients - presumably into the airplane toilet - and work at it for several hours, all at -10°C, without being noticed? That it was a scare has now been confirmed by the fact that limited amounts of liquids and creams are now allowed in hand luggage onto planes flying in and out of Britain!

And yet, this "drama" was referred to by bourgeois analysts in many wonderful and varied ways: "Airport debacle", "Security loopholes in British airports" and even a "mini 9/11". The curious thing to note is that when they announced the total ban on liquids on planes, it was main headline news. When they loosened up the restrictions people travelling were still not aware of it as there were no big newspaper headlines to announce it. The main thing is that the scare served its purpose in heightening people's feeling of insecurity. In reality what they are all humming is the same tune, "attack workers to raise profits". The opening quote from the Financial Times at the beginning of this article, elucidates well the real intentions: to take advantage of the situation by creating a sense of terror and insecurity.

These kinds of cheap manoeuvres are all we can expect from an obsolete socio-economic system. Whenever the "market economy" faces crisis its strategists start playing out such "monkey dances". As Marx said "Pretentiously paraded exertions and philistine terror at the danger of the world's coming to an end, and at the same time the pettiest intrigues and court comedies played by the world redeemers...."

Insecurity and instability in different parts of the world are actually adding value to the profits of the security companies. Privatisation, pension cuts, interference in privacy so as to know what to sell, cutting health and education services and moreover the marketing of security business is being played out behind the curtain of the "War on Terror". Its meaning becomes clearer if we use the term "War by Terror". It is the favourite last card up its sleeve, which the ruling class always plays in periods of crisis historically.

It is truly unbelievable to think that some person hidden away in the hills of Afghanistan, named Osama, is holding all the strings of the world. The real truth is that markets are shrinking, profits are falling, and the giant companies are eating each other in the name of mergers. But at the same time, the workers are "rising from their slumbers" from Latin American to Europe and the system has nothing to offer them.

Real terrorism is capitalism itself, the system which is forced by its inner mechanisms to make a profit at any cost even at the cost of life itself. Lenin said, "Capitalism is horror without end!" It is impossible to eradicate this reign of terror so long as the system that spawns it survives. A society without fear can only be a society which has no greed for profits and no struggles for markets.

By Sherry Shamsi (Edinburgh)
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