Who are the real victims?

January 14, 2016

In a somewhat martyr-like fashion, Stefano Bonino grumbles about the ink he spilled writing an earlier article defending the employment of former police spy Bob Lambert in a university environment (“Hunting the wrong witch”, Letters, 7 January). In that previous article, Bonino acknowledged that the Special Demonstration Squad, which Lambert rose to lead, infiltrated “legitimate and peaceful protests” and engaged in “a series of unethical and possibly illegal activities”. But in his latest letter, Bonino says that the infiltrated groups were “posing a threat of public disorder and/or political violence”. This revised description is clearly untrue for many of the infiltrated groups, and SDS member-turned-whistleblower Peter Francis has stated that the SDS spied on several unions, including the National Union of Students, the National Union of Teachers and Unison.

Bonino’s own sympathies are revealed in the language he uses. If you criticise or protest against academics for things they have done or said, you are apparently engaged in a “mob-style attack”. It is this kind of paranoia about people exercising their democratic rights that leads to the kinds of police abuses under discussion.

Bonino’s letter continues with a scornful and disgraceful reference to “former Guantanamo Bay detainees being heralded as human rights champions”, the clear implication being that people held without charge for years by a state that led an illegal war and engaged in torture (facilitated by the American Psychological Association) must nonetheless be guilty of something. Bonino’s implied contempt for a basic principle of justice is breathtaking.

Bonino is entitled to his opinion that Lambert deserves a position in the university sector. However, he undermines his own authority on the matter by resorting to self-contradicting inaccuracies and slurs against innocent victims of the West’s so-called War on Terror.

David Hardman
Secretary, London region University and College Union
Secretary, UCU at London Metropolitan University

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