June 12, 2008

First they came...

In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
I have seen Martin Niemoller's poem in 2 contexts today:

1. It is cited by Stephen Bainbridge in defence of the Supreme Court's conferral of habeas corpus on enemy combatants who are not US citizens. A commenter writes:
Considering how much opposition has arisen to even the denial of habeas relief to enemy combatants—which denial is amply supported by legal precedent—I believe the odds that the next step would have been infringement of the habeas rights of American citizens are at exactly zero.
In present-day Germany, the Nazi Party is prohibited. By your logic, Germany is again on an inevitable course back to dictatorship and genocide. “First they came for the Nazis, then they came for the Christian Democrats, then they came for the Social Democrats....”

2. It is cited against the UK government's legislation to extend the suspension of habeas corpus under The Prevention Of Terrorism Act from 20 days to 42 days. Actually I am more sympathetic to this citation. The legislation is presumed to target Islamic terrorists, who are probably UK citizens, and I, like most, hate their guts just for their ideology (Islamist guts, that is - the UK government has none to hate) even if they are law-abiding, so I'm happy if they suffer. Western Islamists simply game the freedoms of their host to hollow it out, so why should the freedoms apply to them? Good question, but that issue should be dealt with by a discriminatory immigration policy and the ditching of multi-culturalism, not by drastic empowerment of the Executive over citizens. In this case the poem applies:
They came for Moslems and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Moslem.

Footnote: Re-reading this I see that I'm slippery in eliding the terms 'Islamic', 'Islamist' and 'Moslem', so let me be clear: an Islamist is a Moslem who wants rule me or kill me. In fact almost all my interactions with Moslems are delightful, the Egyptian I played football with last night in New Jersey, the Moroccan store owner in London, the ship's crew in Djibouti, the Kuwaitis I bought oil from...and on and on...but maybe not the sinister-looking disaffected Moslem youth in The Hague who headbutted me when I interfered with a group of them who were stealing a hat from a frightened Dutchman in a cinema queue of passive onlookers in broad daylight. It's a fond memory as my head has been hardened by decades of full contact soccer like a conker pre-soaked in vinegar. Ah, memories.

Leadership in a democracy

David Davis is the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party. He wil resign his seat in the House of Commons to fight a by-election on the single issue of the government's proposed legislation to increase to 42 days the limit of detention of terrorism suspects without charge. While there can be other views on the specifics, his general points are spot on. Davis is a bigger man than David Cameron who won the leadership election, heavily plugged by the BBC as a 'compasionate conservative' - ie socially liberal. This deed will brand Davis as a leader and may draw a historic line in the sand against state control of justice.

Davis has led a real life in the Army and in business. His type restores one's faith in mainstream politics.