If there is but one thing in the post 9/11 world used to justify not just the piecemeal erosion of British civil liberties but the relentless dilution of its moral integrity, it is that piece of string of indeterminate length called “national security”.
First, a capitulation to the sneaky sheikhs of misogynistic, human-rights-free zone, Saudi Arabia over investigations into arms sale corruption with Bae Systems, and now, worse still, an unconditional surrender to the US over the revelation of torture evidence. In both cases, the threatened sanction for defiance being a suspension of supposedly vital intelligence cooperation.
Of course, any government’s prime duty is to protect the interests of the nation which it serves. In terms of the provision of jobs, this principle is under some scrutiny in the UK currently, with the contract tender scandal in Lincolnshire, the subsequent debate over European employment law and its ultimate impact on the welfare of indiginous workers, especially at a time of depress…err recession.
National security, however, is an altogether easier political matter to package up and sell. So much so, in fact, that people are assumed to be acquiescent in any executive decision making that claims to safeguard it. At the same time, the notion that truth and justice might carry some weight in the counter argument does not seem to be considered at all. Yet even Barack Obama himself, in his inaugural presidential address, mentioned the importance of not sacrificing ideals for security.
And from a US perspective why be so sensitive in any case. It’s a dog eat dog world after all. Alpha nations vie with each other for geopolitical advantage and control, and when the crunch comes, human rights, even moral decency, goes out of the window. Do the US authorities, whose remit, like that of all aggressors, be they totalitarian or imperial, includes recourse to state-sponsored cruelty really believe that a legal record of such will so inflame their enemies or so compromise the goodwill of their friends and allies that they must resort to such crude and manipulative forms of “diplomacy” to prevent its exposure?
Meanwhile, in it’s enforced assistance with America’s efforts to avoid political embarrassment, the UK government is left to invoke the same old theme. National security is that which cannot be contradicted, questioned or denied, but surely even a declared rationale behind how it is evaluated or a proper definition about what constitutes a threat (as long as this doesn’t weaken national security of course) would be something.