Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Continent finally is waking up to the universal and very real threat that terror poses

[Tony] Blair is once again playing a leading role in the war on terror and, unlike in the Iraq war, most of Europe appears ready to follow this time
writes the Wall Street Journal.
From Spain, which suffered the March 11, 2004, train bombings in Madrid, to less likely targets such as Sweden, the Continent finally is waking up to the universal and very real threat that terror poses. France, for all its objections to the Iraq war, already has some of Europe's toughest anti-terror laws.

Worries of an imminent attack are particularly acute in Italy. … Italians who think their vulnerability is the result of their participation in the Iraq war should look no further than Germany, which opposed the war yet feels compelled to step up its security. Interior Minister Otto Schily has been outspoken about his belief that Islamic terrorists are at war not just with the U.S. and its allies in Iraq but with Western society in general. Mr. Schily has called for increased search and detention powers in cases involving terror suspects who are known to be a threat but who haven't yet committed a crime.

Throughout Europe, there has been good cooperation between national intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and the European Union has pledged to seek ways of strengthening this cooperation. … Of course, the old-time religion of appeasement hasn't completely disappeared. Mr. Schily's proposals have been compared to Nazi-era tactics by leading members of the Green Party, a minority partner in Gerhard Schröder's coalition government. Some German officials have--in all seriousness--floated the idea of a new Muslim public holiday as a way of mitigating the terror threat.

Even in Britain, controversy envelops the efforts to deal with further threats. … Absolutist interpretation of free-speech rights, with no injunction against "shouting fire in a crowded theater," has protected extremists such as [Abu] Qatada and Omar Bakri Mohammed, who recently fled Britain after two decades of preaching hatred and violence. Allowing Muslims to practice their religion freely is the act of a free society. But looking the other way while radical clerics praise suicide bombers in Israel and America and encourage their acolytes to attack their neighbors is an abdication of governmental responsibility.

…European nations would do well to review whether their laws could be tweaked to close loopholes that terrorists have learned to exploit. That these measures are finally being discussed is a sign that Europe is finally giving serious thought to the balance between freedom and security.

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