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By Jason Michael
It is never a good sign when soldiers are on the streets. It betrays panic rather than strength and stability, and everyone knows it. These troops have nothing to do with security and everything to do with power.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has upgraded the terror threat level in the United Kingdom from “severe” to “critical” in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena terrorist attack, thus triggering Operation Temperer – allowing for the rapid deployment of up to 5,100 soldiers onto our streets. This decision is unprecedented on mainland Britain, and should be a cause for alarm. Tuesday night’s attack on innocent young people in Manchester was horrific and cowardly, but we must think carefully. Nothing of this scale was rolled-out after the London bombings when 52 innocent people were killed and a further 784 injured. Something has clearly changed.
Operation Temperer, for those new to it, was a highly secretive terror response strategy drawn up by the UK government in light of the Paris attacks. It was never meant to be known by the public, and so was never put before parliamentary scrutiny. When the Sunday Mail revealed the existence of the plan Baroness Jones, then a member of London’s Police and Crime Committee, described it as shocking; going on to voice her concern that soldiers are not sufficiently trained to protect civil liberties.
Documents seen by the Sunday Mail in July 2015, documents accidently uploaded to the National Police Chief’s Council – how’s that for security?, were of plans for the British Armed Forces to back up police on the streets in the event of a coordinated terrorist strike on “multiple targets.” This certainly describes the London bombings of 2005, but – as awful as it is – the suicide nail bomb detonation in Manchester was not an attack of that nature. Tabloid papers are making hay with the “potential” link to ISIS, but analysts in the intelligence community have already cast serious doubt on the bomber, Salman Abedi, having had any relationship with the Islamic State.
Manchester, while not meeting the criteria laid out in the Temperer plan, has become the pretext for the indefinite mobilisation of troops on the streets of Britain. Right on cue the establishment media leapt in to calm us all down. Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian that “we must hope that this critical state ends quickly,” while the editorial in the Independent gave the full spiel:
Now is not the time for debates that would quickly become party-political about civil liberties or police resources. Now is the time for mourning, and for reassurance. Part of that reassurance is rightly a matter of visible security, which inevitably means some infringement of absolute liberty – the freedom not to have one’s bags searched in crowded places, for example. Mostly, those infringements are accepted as the price of safety in a liberal democracy.
“Now is not the time.” Where have we heard those words before? Actually, now is the time. Time and again we have seen the same pattern of behaviour from authoritarian elements within liberal democratic governments in the creation of states of emergency and exception. “Only a crisis – actual or perceived,” wrote Milton Friedman, the author of this government strategy described by Naomi Klein as “disaster capitalism,” “produces real change.” He continues:
When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.
Far from being cynicism or paranoia, this was exactly the reservation expressed by the British Army when Temperer first became known to its officers. In late July 2015, in another report written for the Guardian by Ewen MacAskill, the single biggest objection ranking officers had to the idea was that “once troops are committed to the streets, it is hard to pull them back.” What we have is the effective imposition of martial law, with military personnel on the streets of the UK who have had extensive experience in urban policing since Northern Ireland in Iraq and Afghanistan – all of which are conflicts where British soldiers have been accused of war crimes and of violating the human rights of civilians. Baroness Jones was only saying what we all know; these soldiers are not good for our civil liberties.
So why has Theresa May put them on the street? Manchester doesn’t meet the requirements set out in the original plan. These troops are on the street because we are in the middle of a general election May cannot afford to lose. Every dirty trick in the book has been played on Jeremy Corbyn. In less than a week he has been a Communist and an IRA sympathiser, but the Prime Minister continues to slip in the polls. If the current downward trajectory in her ratings continues, it is likely she will emerge from the vote with either less of a lead or without a majority.
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) May 25, 2017
Oh this is outrageous! No upstanding British premier would pull something like this surely?! Well Thatcher did, and what gave the game away on May was the off camera chat captured by Russia Today between Faisal Islam and another Sky News reporter at Downing Street ahead of her announcement. All of this “plays in her favour” they say in hushed tones, “…with the Manchester [IRA] connotations.” Faisal even goes as far as to say that she doesn’t need to “play” this because “that narrative… that’s already there.”
None of this is about security. If that were true the Prime Minister wouldn’t be scurrying off to Saudi Arabia to secure billion pound arms deals with a criminal regime well known to be funding and arming the terrorists now targeting us. May’s decision to put soldiers on the ground in the UK serves a couple of purposes. It ramps up the fear and deepens the sense of insecurity across society. A visible armed military presence never leads us to believe things are under control. It says the opposite. Frightened people are frightened voters, and remember; “strong and stable.” What else it is doing is militarising Brexit. We are doing this “as one United Kingdom,” and if you don’t like that idea we have some chaps who’d like a word with you. What is interesting is that in Scotland, of the 12 sites now under military protection, not one is civilian.
What we have right now, unless this is quickly reversed, is a pro-government coup. Theresa May and the Conservative Brexiteer agenda have never been as fragile. Whatever or whoever is really behind Brexit and the plan for the reconstruction of May’s new corporate Britain – and that certainly is not the government – is not going to allow this grand strategy to fail. Now is most definitely not the time to stay quiet and see what happens. This is going nowhere good.
Armed soldiers deployed across UK streets