Thursday, January 25, 2007

Director of Public Prosecutions: "no such thing as a war on drugs"

Some fascinating commentary on recent developments in criminal justice legislation emerged this week from the very heart of the Criminal Justice System, in a speech by the Director of Public Prosecution, Sir Ken Macdonald, to the Criminal Bar Association. The Guardian reports how he:

put himself at odds with the home secretary and Downing Street last night by denying that Britain is caught up in a "war on terror" and calling for a "culture of legislative restraint" in passing laws to deal with terrorism.

Specifically he warned of:

the pernicious risk that a "fear-driven and inappropriate" response to the threat could lead Britain to abandon respect for fair trials and the due process of law.

He used the example of the the rhetoric in 'the war on terror' - as coined by Bush and adopted by Blair – to illustrate the risks.

All very interesting (enough so for the Guardian to write a Leader column in praise of Sir Ken's 'sure touch', 'clarity and confidence'), but what's this got to with drugs? Well, there have been numerous commentators who have drawn comparisons between rhetoric of the 'war on terror' and that of the much longer running 'war on drugs'. They have much in common: they both have no obvious end point or boundaries and they both provide an opportunity for our leaders to use, some would argue exploit, fear of ill defined, phantom, or metaphorical enemies to pursue various political agendas and interests, invariably involving the pushing through 'tough' repressive criminal justice legislation.

Google 'war on terror + war on drugs' and you will find literally hundreds of essays, articles and papers on this subject (rhetorical comparisons aside, there are also a number of very real intersections between the war on terror and the war on drugs explored in many of the links the above Google search turns up – but thats for another time)

The comparisons between these two rhetorical wars is not lost on Sir Ken. In his speech he observes

"London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a 'war on terror', just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs'.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The whole idea of the 'war on terror' has been strange from the start, its such a broad and meaningless statement. At least with the 'war on drugs' you actually had something to aim at, you knew what the drugs were and where roughly to look for them.