Police State

I used the phrase "police state" while talking to a Russian recently about the Soviet Union, and wondered if Wikipedia had an article about it. They did. And the USSR wasn't listed as an example. Instead, the UK, US and Australia are mentioned. ROFL! They do have a banner that says the editors are in dispute and I spent some time reading what they had to see, looking for signs of sanity.

Actually, the sanity was there, but apparently losing the edit war. Before the edits change, here is what it says at the moment:

The United Kingdom is felt by some to be moving quickly in the direction of a police state,[7] with biometric identity cards,[8][9] continuous surveillance and long term detainment without trial all having been introduced by the government. The UK has been described as "the most surveilled country".[10] Peaceful protests within a half-mile radius of the Houses of Parliament are illegal in the UK unless authorised by the Metropolitan Police.[11] Claims of police state behaviour have been dismissed by the UK government.[12]

The United States has been accused of moving towards a police state. On June 27, 2002 U.S. Congressman Ron Paul said in the House of Representatives:

"...'Is America a Police State?' My answer is: 'Maybe not yet, but it is fast approaching.'"[13]

There has also been criticism of the US over the use of mass surveillance. Compulsory vaccinations are also in use.[

Australia isn't mentioned exactly. Instead, there is a picture of a woman holding a sign that says "NSW Police State". There are policeman standing right next to her, not taking down her sign and beating her to a pulp, but instead there protecting her right to freedom of speech. It's basically surreal that people hold signs like that. And surreal that the UK gets mentioned as a police state because it has surveillance - surveillance that is specifically designed to PROTECT citizen's human rights, not take it away!

They seemed to have a bit of trouble coming up with an objective way of determining what a police state is.

Which provides a bit of a lead-in to another discussion I had with someone. He said that the impression he got from Indonesian media was that things were fine in Iraq in 2003, and he had no idea that all these people opposed Saddam. I asked him how many political parties there were in Indonesia (about 50), and why they didn't have just one (Indonesians apparently have different opinions), and asked him why he didn't think that Iraqis might have different opinions as well, and not all be represented by the 1 party in Iraq. He said he never heard from the Iraqi people that they opposed Saddam. They weren't asking for help. I suggested to him that the fact that he could watch the news and come to such a highly erroneous conclusion would suggest that the media he is using as an information source should be ditched and replaced with something more accurate. He agreed. (It's nice to find people like that occasionally - VERY occasionally).

So I decided to have a stab at defining a police state in an objective manner myself. North Korea and the Soviet Union were the best recent examples. Let's have a go.

If a majority of the citizens are scared to express a negative opinion about their current head of government, in a public place, because they fear arrest by the instruments of the current head of government, then they are living in a police state.

In a non-police state by contrast, the majority of citizens have no fear in expressing a negative view publicly, because they can see that other people did that and didn't suffer any repercussions, so assume that it is safe for them to do likewise.

So if you can see negative opinions of the current government coming from a particular state, you can be pretty sure it isn't a police state.

However, if you cannot see negative comments of the current government coming from a police state, the reasons could be:

1. Very backward - such poor communication that people don't have the ability to get a message out of the country. Or people don't have the required vocabulary to say "bad ruler". Or people are mute (because of the black plague or some other debilitating disease). Or illiterate so they can't write down their opinion.

2. All the people in that country genuinely approve of the current head of state.

3. The country is a police state.

The left-wing often tried to pass Iraq off as number 2. I assumed number 3 and wanted to see some heads smashed in and vigorous debate to emerge. There are apparently still some tribes in South America etc that haven't yet been contacted by someone outside their tribe - so we can probably conclude that number 1 applies to them (poor communication rather than being mute etc) rather than being in a police state.

Some people (Americans) complained about Iraqis being allowed to march in Tikrit etc holding pictures of Saddam (after April 2003). I instead said that it was beautiful and important. It showed that ANY speech in Iraq was allowed, and that America clearly wasn't forcing its will onto the Iraqi people. Exactly this sort of thing was required to give the Iraqi people the confidence they needed to be able to say what they really thought without fear of having their tongue cut out.

And it was beautiful to see people speaking out without risking amputation of their tongues. What they said wasn't always beautiful. But it was beautiful that they were genuinely free - AND THEY KNEW IT. Just like that Australian woman holding a "police state" sign. She knows damn well she can say anything she wants. Just as the Iraqis knew (or at least, guessed) when they came out with their Saddam photos.

Thankfully the pro-Saddam morons played their part in opening up freedom of speech (if they didn't exist, it would almost need a CIA operation to get those pictures out there!). The Iraqi people responded by creating an unbelievable 300+ political parties. I've never seen anything like that in my life. Certainly not in Australia. And the US is even WORSE. The people opened up, and took their right to the ballot box. Imagine what position we would be in if the turnout was 5% instead of 79.6%. We would still have no idea what these people really thought.

It will also be fascinating to find out what the Iraqi people REALLY think about US troops in their country when the referendum is held on exactly that question next year. I did a search to find out what the polls showed, and this one from the BBC in March 2008 suggests that only 38% of Iraqis want the US forces to leave now (ie then). But it'll be great to see these opinion polls validated against a secret ballot. The same poll shows the normal fundamental difference between Iraqis (which reflects the rest of the world) about right and wrong. 49% think that the liberation was right, 50% thing it was wrong. The figures for 2004 are shown as well, which were 49% right, 39% wrong (13% refused to answer). Those refused to answer are interesting. We can speculate that they were anti-liberation at the time and were scared of US reprisals. Interesting that only 13% were scared of reprisals, and also interesting that a year later that dropped to 4%, and by 2007 no-one was scared to answer anymore. Although we still can't tell if some people are scared and giving a false answer (either way). Only a secret ballot will tease that information out of the Iraqi people. The opinions expressed in parliament are the closest indicator we have otherwise. But those opinions are more pro-US troops, presumably due to them being better informed, so can't be used as a judge.

One other thing. Even though Iraqis as a whole are clearly free to express different opinions as those poll results show, people in individual areas (Shia, Sunni), may be scared to give their true opinion also. The most violent people are the terrorists, so if you want to play it safe, don't say that you support the occupation. Until you have a secret ballot. :-)

What can I say? Freedom is fascinating. Imagine a world without a free Iraq. Now there's a depressing thought.

What I would really like to see is after the US troops leave, for the Iraqi government to admit that no Iraqi oil was ever stolen, the US in no way controls either them, or the oil, and never has, and the people who lied for all those years were, well, liars.

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