Which is most important to us – freedom or safety? Freedom is always tested by danger and the limits of freedom, and its companion tolerance, are pushed back by vicious acts.
When the twin towers was attacked on 9th September 2001 leading to a loss of nearly 3000 lives the United States reacted by imposing laws to limit freedom, in the name of security. They wanted to ensure that people would be eternally protected from such an attack and so they imposed real limits on freedom. People suspected of terrorist offences, which are simply ordinary crimes on a large and unpredictable scale, were imprisoned without trial, often without charge for years.
When on the 7th of July 2005 56 people lost their lives in a series of bombs in London, the government of the United Kingdom imposed more restrictions of freedom and at one stage sought the ability to detail suspects of terrorism, again I say simply crimes writ large, for lengthy periods without trial, without charge and without access to justice. British freedom was restricted in the name of safety.
Recently another crime has been committed inNorway. The crime involved the murder of dozens of children at their summer camp. It was a dreadful and as shocking as all acts of terrorism which have killed many people, and took place in a nation of less than five million people. The Norwegians have not responded by limiting freedom, They have not provided that cowardly response t the act of terror that afflicted them.
The Norwegian Prime Minister, Mr Stoltenberg, has shown bravery as have his people. His response on the attack on democracy and openness inNorwaywould be “more democracy, more openness”. This response proved too brave for Mr Bush and Mr Blair. Their response on attacks on democracy was “less democracy, less openness”.
I am minded of what Edward Gibbon wrote about ancient Athens, that mother of democracy.
“In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”
A future history will not write that aboutNorway, if they keep they word. I wish I could be so sure that those words will not in future apply to the United States of America and to my country, the United Kingdom.