I'm posting here in order to agree with Seumas Milne. You'd better read that again. Yes, it says what you thought it said. I'm posting here in order to agree with Seumas Milne. Writing about the terrorism bill, published yesterday, he says:
[U]nder the terms of the bill, anyone who voices support for armed resistance to any state or occupation, however repressive or illegitimate, will be committing a criminal offence carrying a seven-year prison sentence - so long as members of the public might reasonably regard it as direct or indirect encouragement. Terrorism is not defined in the bill as, say, indiscriminate attacks on civilians, let alone an assault on civilian targets by states - but as any politically motivated violence against people, property or electronic systems anywhere in the world. This is not only an assault on freedom of speech and debate about the most contentious subject in global politics. It also makes a criminal offence out of a belief shared by almost every society, religion or philosophy throughout history: namely, that people have the right to take up arms against tyranny and foreign occupation. Clarke made clear on Tuesday that this was exactly his intention. He could not, he said, think of any situation in the world where "violence would be justified to bring about change".Where I agree with Seumas - assuming his characterization of what the bill will enable is accurate - is that criminalizing support for armed resistance against tyranny is morally indefensible, and if that were to lead to prosecutions and imprisonment the new law would be an instrument of injustice. There is a fundamental right to resistance, including taking up arms, against tyranny. It is not support for terrorism to believe this. John Locke did. In the context of the times, Milne allows himself a convenient elision in talking of a right to take up arms not only against tyranny but also against 'foreign occupation'. That right doesn't apply if the foreigners in question are where they are at the request of the legitimate, democratically elected, government of the country in question. Still, the basic point here stands.
What may be also be said, however, is that for all its validity the point comes less well from anyone who, in face of actual terrorism - as involving 'indiscriminate attacks on civilians' - inclines towards muddying the distinction between legitimate resistance against tyranny and just such indiscriminate attacks, or who is given to making apologetic noises about the latter, or who is continually providing space, on the pages of which he is the editor, to others making those apologetic noises. This is an observation ad hominem, but none the worse for being so. I've already endorsed a core point in what Seumas Milne says. But it is relevant that he is less well placed to argue for it than others would be who write more unambiguously than he does on these matters. Even in this piece, in what follows the passage I've quoted, you get the following:
[The new law] is aimed not just at those who praise bomb attacks on the London tube, but at Muslims and others who believe that Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans and others have a right to resist occupation.And:
[Hizb ut-Tahrir] condemned both the London bombings and the 9/11 attacks. It does not, however, condemn armed resistance in Iraq and Palestine, which is how the government plans to catch it.Seumas only neglects to note that in Palestine and Iraq today 'armed resistance' has involved the deliberate murder of civilians. We already know what he thinks about this: 'cruel, but...'
(See also David T who engages with another aspect of Milne's article.)