Powder Keg: The Explosive Consequences of Counterterrorism

Today is Guy Fawkes Day, when the Britons whom I live among celebrate the foiling of a plot to blow up Parliament and the royal family in 1605. The leader of the botched operation, Catholic militant Guido Fawkes, is traditionally burned in effigy at great bonfires across the land. Nowadays, the holiday has become more of a simple fall festival, a family night out with fireworks and fun fairs laid on by the local authorities and various institutions.

But this modern innocence masks what was a far more vicious and brutal affair, as the "counterterrorism surge" launched by King James I in response to the failed bombing reached deep and wide to ravage the lives of many innocent people and sow poisonous seeds of sectarian hatred and suspicion in the populace. Scott Horton has a good piece of detailed historical context concerning the still-unlearned lessons that the Gunpowder Plot has for our counterterrorism surgers today, including "Torture Never Works and is Always Wrong" and "Beware the Government That Rules By Fear."

The whole piece is well worth reading, so scoot on over to Harper's and check it out.