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July 16, 2003

Airstrip One. David Leigh and Richard Norton-Taylor on the extent to which the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has surrendered its sovereignity to the administration of George W. Bush:
[Home Secretary] Blunkett agreed that the UK would extradite Britons to the US in future, without any need to produce prima facie evidence that they are guilty of anything. But the US refused to do the same with their own citizens. The Home Office press release concealed this fact—out of shame, presumably. Why did the US refuse? According to the Home Office, the Fourth Amendment of the US constitution says citizens of US states cannot be arrested without “probable cause”. The irony appears to have been lost on David Blunkett, as he gave away yet more of Britain’s sovereignty. If we really were the 51st state, as anti-Americans imply, we would probably have more protection against Washington than we do today.
[11:23 PM]
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Comments on Airstrip One.:

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 04:32 AM:

You really don't know how insanely furious this makes me.

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 05:27 AM:

See also this Guardian report on Geoff Hoon's defense review (last month). The following quote is rather illuminating:

"Most importantly, it is highly unlikely that the United Kingdom would be engaged in large-scale combat operations without the United States, a judgment born of past experience, shared interest and our assessment of strategic trends".

Here's a British defense secretary saying that he thinks the only global role for the UK is as a US satellite state, and using this as justification for a defense review that will render the British military incapable of operating except as an adjunct to the US military.

(Interestingly, the Conservative opposition didn't criticize this point, but instead went on to question his ability to deliver the reforms. A remarkable demonstration of wilful blindness for a party that has historically been obsessed with the defense of British sovreignty.)

I'm at a loss for words to describe how I feel about the combination of the Hoon defense review and Blunkett's abrogation of our civil rights on the altar of keeping the Bush administration happy. It might almost make a kind of bizarre realpolitik sense if the Bushie's political loyalty was a two-way street, but as it is the biggest irony I can see is that there's no British Anne Coulter around to scream "treason"!

bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 08:10 AM:

it is your sad duty to be that british Anne Coulter.

Actually I'm just wondering what the general opinion is in Britain about this? Are most people unaware, or just fatalistic? This is the kind of thing that makes me think that the EU needs a common military ASAP.

Andrew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 08:31 AM:

unaware, I think. The right-wing press keeps up such a continuous scream of hatred towards "Brussels" that no one notices that all the powers we are supposed to be surrendiring to the EU -- a body in which we have a considerable influence on policy have in fact already been surrendedered to the USA, where our influence is more or less zilch.

Sam ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 09:39 AM:

Bryan - unaware, for the most part and I, being one of those who vaguely pays attention, feel generally fatalistic. Our current administration seem far too willing to bend over for Bush and ignore what we have to say, and as touched upon by Charlie above, I can't hear the Tories saying too much either. In fact, I suspect that their approach would be quite similar - so what choice do we have? Vote one lot out and get another nearly identical load of bush lovers in?

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 01:19 PM:

Let me add: I see nothing wrong in supporting the Americans when they happen to be right. It's just that the current British government seems to have adopted a foreign policy that can be summarized as "their country, right or wrong" (minus the subsequent clause in the original verse).

Given that the current US administration is one of the least competent -- and arguably one of the most corrupt -- for a century or more, and are pursuing policies that seem intended to bolster the causes of anti-western terrorism rather than reducing them, such a policy is remarkable.

Friends don't let friends get into trouble. So just what the hell does Blair think he's doing?

Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 03:14 PM:

well the way I see it the Guardian piece really is floating the issue, not consciously but this is its function in that it is as yet not a major media issue, if people started agitating about this issue particularly in Britain then I suppose that it would have more weight than the anti-war stuff did, is Blair gonna claim that people being averse to extradition at the behest of another government without oversite is somehow just anti-americanism? Especially if there's no quid pro quo, a basic tactic would be to try to find someone the U.K has been trying to get from the U.S for a while, but can't, if that information gets moved along and voiced in enough places some televised media is likely to at some point ask the same thing, because it has punch, esp. if the person one wants extradited did something fairly perverse and ratings attractive. this is of course just my fantasy derived from living on a media saturated planet but I would like to share it with the rest of you,

Of course the article had more hits against loss of sovereignty than that, but that's the stick with which to beat the other issues.

Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2003, 05:51 PM:

The extradition agreement is very likely in breach of the UK's Human Rights Act, which made the European Convention on Human Rights a part of UK law.

It was enacted by the Labour Government shortly after they were first elected, and the Labour Government seems very good at not seeming to know what it means, as ministers affirm that new laws comply with the Act.

Of course, once you have secret arrests and detention and trial, the law doesn't mean anything anyway.

Larry Lurex ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2003, 05:36 AM:

Fatalistic, mostly. We know that we are a vassal state to the US, and if we refused to extradite people to the US your secret services would just come in and grab them anyway.

I just hope we haven't given your military our nuclear launch codes - although considering they were made in the US, they probably have a US over-ride anyway.

Also, the Labour government (and more importantly, our unelected and unaccountable all powerful civil service) know that the US can wreck our economy any time it chooses, so they tend to go along with whatever hare-brained scheme world bully wants.

Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2003, 07:32 AM:

Not so. Lotfi Raissi was detained for 5 months in Belmarsh for the new American crime of flying while Muslim. But when the US failed to provide any evidence against him other than the facts that he was Algerian, a Muslim, a pilot and a flight instructor, none of which are crimes in the UK, a British judge released him, much to American annoyance: they would have doubtless liked him locked up in Guantanamo Bay with the other "bad men", where the "legal impediments" about interrogating prisoners do not apply.

And they may get their wish: I understand this unequal treaty that Blair's government have signed with the US is retrospective. All they need to do now is tell the UK government that they want Lotfi Raissi, and they can get him. Justice does not apply.

Bill Collins ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2004, 10:59 AM:

I think most people are unaware. That wouldn't matter so much if there were serious political opposition to the UK's role as a satellite of the USA, but I am not aware of any. Blair and his supporters are giving the press the run-around: the PM only ever talks in slogans, and avoids the type of journalist who might point to the lack of rational argument in everything he says. The USA provides inducements for states to do its bidding and wields the stick against those who do not (witness the arm-twisting aimed at getting a second UN resolution on Iraq), and I think it would be foolish to assume that the UK is treated any differently from other countries in this respect. Until we discover the terms of the UK's relationship with the USA, especially what, if anything, we Britons are getting in return for our poodle-dom, any assessment must, I feel, remain provisional.