A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.
Gordon Brown’s last-minute bid to win over 42 day rebels
Robert Winnett, The Telegraph
Gordon Brown is embarking on a round of last-minute lobbying to win round rebel Labour MPs who are threatening to block Government proposals to increase the period terror suspects can be held without charge to 42 days.
Ministers hope that new concessions – including a proposal to pay compensation of £3,000 a day for those held for more than 28 days who are not charged – may help convince dozens of Labour MPs who are opposed to the plans.
An opinion poll for the Daily Telegraph reveals that an overwhelming majority of the public are in favour of the plans. The YouGov survey found that almost three quarters of the public (69 per cent) support raising the detention limit from 28 days to 42 days “in exceptional circumstances”. A quarter (24 per cent) oppose the plans.
The result comes ahead of tonight’s knife-edge Commons vote on the Counter Terrorism Bill. Even seriously-ill loyal Labour MPs are being ordered to Westminster to back the Government in the biggest parliamentary test of the Prime Minister’s leadership. The Foreign and Defence Secretaries have also been ordered back from overseas trips for the vote.
Comment: This folly has provoked a unique alliance
Bob Marshall-Andrews, The Independent
The strong and growing opposition to detention for 42 days has created strange and wonderful bedfellows. Lord Peter Goldsmith, the former Attorney General, joins the usual Labour suspects in predicting ethnic and racial tension. (In view of his responsibility for the Iraq war this may reek of atonement, but the apostasy remains remarkable nonetheless.) Lord Falconer, devoid of his many jobs, embraces the Tory and Liberal opposition, while Liberty and the Director of Public Prosecutions drink happily from the same cup.
In the Commons strange enemies emerge. David Davis (Tory and Territorial SAS) leads a charge containing numerous former soldiers against the professional politicians of New Labour. (It is difficult indeed for the Home Secretary to brand opponents “soft on terror” when those opponents were on IRA death lists before she became a parliamentary candidate.)
This extraordinary and unique alliance requires from the Government careful analysis and measured response. It is receiving neither. Instead, two dangerous, possibly deadly, misconceptions are growing among loyal ministers and backbench MPs.
The first is that the opposition to 42 days is based not upon principle but is an opportunistic coincidence of self-interested forces – Blairite, right wing, left wing and liberal – united only in their dislike and loathing of Gordon Brown and their desire (through widely different motivations) to have done with him. In other words it is part of a fashionable feeding frenzy in which many different species of vulture may gorge.
The second, closely associated with the first, is that it simply doesn’t matter; that the British electorate, Sun readers or Mondeo drivers all, are indifferent to the withdrawal of civil liberties and freedoms (particularly in the case of those who are, or appear to be, foreign).
‘It really is psychological torture’
Lee Glendinning, The Guardian
“A minute goes like an hour and an hour like a day inside a cell … You lose all concept of day or night. There are no emotions: you can’t cry, you can’t laugh… Six days felt like six years. I dread to think what 42 days would feel like: 28 days is harsh enough … the idea of 42 days is phenomenal. The ironic thing is, paedophiles, murderers, bank robbers, kidnappers and extortionists are held for four days – 96 hours maximum time. And terror suspects are on a par with all of those.”
Rizwaan Sabir, 23, a student at Nottingham University, found himself detained in a segregated and sealed-off prison wing last month, arrested and held under the Terrorism Act after arriving at university and catching up with a friend for coffee.
For six days, he was kept in prison without charge, under 24-hour surveillance and interrogated daily about his views on al-Qaida and Islamic literature. It was a subject close to his heart. Four months earlier, Rizwaan, who was doing his masters in international relations, had clicked on an al-Qaida document online while researching his dissertation, which focused on the difference between various military organisations. The document was an edited version of the al-Qaida training manual, downloaded from a US government website.
Thanks to mentoring and training from Coalition Forces, Iraqi Forces now have responsibility themselves for the defence of some aspects of the Iraqi oil terminals which HMS Chatham currently protects.
Royal Navy frigate HMS Chatham assumed responsibility for maritime security duties in the Gulf in May 2008, maintaining the Royal Navy’s ongoing presence in the region.
The main focus of Task Force 158 is to protect Iraq’s two oil terminals, the Khawr Al Amaya and the Al Basra, as well as the Iraqi Offshore Oil Infrastructure. Coalition Forces work alongside their Iraqi Navy and Marine counterparts ensuring that oil continues to flow from Iraq, generating national income from the export market.
The Coalition Forces are also focussed on training the growing Iraqi Navy and Marines so that Iraq can eventually take full responsibility for its offshore security.
This enduring commitment is making good progress, with Iraqi Forces now taking responsibility for the defence of some aspects of both oil terminals. The Iraqi Navy and Marine boarding teams (trained and mentored by the Coalition) are also now fully engaged with security sweeps of tankers arriving on a daily basis in the deep water anchorages, waiting to take on oil from the terminals.