Manchester and now London: ‘Prevent’ faces its ultimate indictment

Theresa May tries to shore up a shaky electoral campaign by exploiting the inevitable ‘Islamist ideology’. Her claim that there had been “far too much tolerance of extremism” in the U.K. was an obvious direct attack on the Labour leader during a supposed suspension of election campaigning. Given this, it is worth remembering that the two attacks are actually happening on her watch, both as acting Prime Minister and long-standing Home Secretary.

The Prevent Programme, which she helped launch, was actually founded on the post Iraq War drive of the US, through the concerted campaign of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Europe (GMFUS), to shift the causal arrow of terrorism from its foreign policy in the Middle East onto ‘Islamic ideology’.

Britain under David Cameron as Prime Minister along with Theresa May was the most receptive of the European nations to this idea. Prevent was launched by Cameron in his 2011 speech at the Munich Security Conference (organised under the aegis of GMFUS) designed to profile non-violent extremists in the political space (i.e. critics of government policy) as potential violent extremists, despite authorities on the subject deeming the link logically absurd.

To hear Theresa May posturing days before the vote, one would have thought that Prevent had at least been a mild success. In fact, it has failed miserably and turned the Muslim community of Britain into the ‘enemy within’. If May does become Britain’s next Prime Minister,  she should be advised to follow more evidence-based counter-terrorism strategies.  Counter-terrorism Intelligence specialist Richard Barrett warns that May’s new policy could easily make things much worse. ‘The prime minister must be careful, he says, not to equate terrorism with Islamist extremism.

The attempt by British tabloids and Tory ministers to stymie criticism of UK foreign policy, especially in Libya, by saying that it implicitly lends succour to terrorists is inane and insane. As Paul Rogers has written’… the links between the attack and the ongoing war in Iraq and Syria must be made. That Britain is still at war after fifteen years suggests that some rethinking is required.’

Furthermore, the suspicious circumstances under which ‘national security’ was recently invoked to stop the trial of the murderer of PC Yvonne Fletcher in front of the Libyan Embassy in St James’ Square in 1984, brings up a different but important point. If the default position of the Westminster foreign policy community is to be uncritical, then such steps will only suffer the worst possible interpretation in the public’s mind. A national security necessary immediately becomes a cover-up. Openness and criticism as the default position actually serves everybody including the security establishment.