Tim Farron is right: Osama Bin Laden’s death was not a tragedy

Tim Farron was widely quoted on Monday, for perhaps the first time since his election as leader. The good news is that he was correct in his point. He was responding to a resurfaced quote from Labour leadership favourite, Jeremy Corbyn, who has said to Iranian TV that Bin Laden’s death was “a tragedy”, as it was unlawful and he should have been put on trial instead.

That the killing of Bin Laden was illegal has been a favourite proposition of the Galloway-ite hard left, so it isn’t a surprise to see them jump up and defend Corbyn. But I was surprised to see a few serious liberals, including Paddy Ashdown in the past, also voice this and criticise Tim for his intervention.

Their premise is that Bin Laden was a common criminal, and thus “due process” should have been followed, with him legally arrested and brought to trial. But this view is based on a foundation that is both legally dubious, and naive in practicability.

Acres of legal opinion have been written about the legal status of the conflict with Al Qaeda and ISIS in the last decade, and suffice to say there is no settled legal answer, but a liberal would do well to use to use common sense and liberalism to pick a legally well-supported and consistent position here. The fact that the American military has been picking and choosing whether it treats the situation as a war or a criminal matter (or neither, sometimes) is both unhelpful and wrong, but shouldn’t affect hour we assess the situation.

At the base of this is the question of whether the USA and Al Qaeda are “at war”. Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda publicly declared war on the USA in August 1996, reiterated in February 1998, in two Fatwas, sometimes called the Ladenese epistle. President George W Bush declared de-facto war on Al Qaeda on September 20th, 2001, nine days after 9/11. Since then, both entities have been locked in a clear military confrontation. This is a reasonably sound basis for a legal “war”, and we should behave accordingly. In addition, anyone saying inmates of Guantanamo should be under the legal protections of POW status (a strong legal opinion that I agree with) is implicitly agreeing that a de-facto war is in effect.

What this means is that the military personnel and leaders of both entities are legal targets for the other, and because of that the only “due process” is a positive identification – after that, targets may be killed on sight. The refusal of groups like Al Qaeda to wear uniforms makes identification more difficult, but in the case of Bin Laden himself a facial identification was sufficient.

As it happens, the CIA would probably have loved to get hold of Bin Laden alive, as he knew a lot about Al Qaeda. But would doing this have been plausible?

Sending your own soldiers into a nest of suicide bombers, which is likely booby-trapped, in order to apprehend individuals who may be wired to explode, is an astonishingly risky thing to do. Irresponsibly risky in fact – because deliberately gambling dozens of good people to try to save one mass murderer is morally wrong, and I certainty don’t blame the Americans for refusing to do that. We also know from the genuinely “tragic” case of Jean Charles De Menezes that the security forces have determined the only way to deal with someone believed being wired for suicide is multiple head-shots. There is no plausible way to arrest such a person.

So the killing of Bin Laden was not only legal, is was the only plausible and most moral way of putting an end to his murderous activities. Corbyn is misguided, even more so because – as usual – he plays into the hands of terrorist sympathisers, and Tim was right to criticise him.

* Dr Mark Wright is a councillor in Bristol and was the 2015 general election Parliamentary candidate for Bristol South.

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  • Richard Stallard 1st Sep '15 - 3:48pm

    No argument with you on that at all, Mark.
    Mind you, you need to be careful about using common sense – it gets some people in a right old tizz!

  • I don’t disagree with much of this, but you have missed the fact that the killing took place in the jurisdiction of a Sovereign Country without their permission or knowledge.

  • Is it not time for Ashdown to start toing the present party line? If he cannot then he should keep quiet.

  • Absolutely shocking and repugnant. To think that I’ve voted for this party in the past.

    This is what a far better liberal, Boris Johnson, wrote on the subject:


    Yes, that well-known communist, Boris Johnson.

    And that Paddy Ashdown, well what does he know about special forces operations anyway.

  • Well surely the fact that Ashdown has some sympathy with the view suggest that it isn’t just a belief of the far left. Personally, I think it was a military action, under military rules of engagement and the soldiers involved assessed the plausibility of extraction and acted accordingly. But if by the same token there was evidence of him surrendering then it would actually have been a war crime under those same rules so I can see why some people question it. I think they are wrong.
    However, I think endlessly indulging in the dog whistle politics of The Daily Mail is counter productive and though not a Corbyn supporter, find it genuinely healthy to see the centre right and the economic right face a high profile challenge to their cosy consensus.

  • Apart from the fact that Corbyn didn’t use the term ‘tragedy’ in isolation on Bin Lade,n the ‘legal status is very, very dubious…………
    . If Bin Laden is an enemy combatant then under the 1977 First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions. Under Article 35, states agreed to prohibit the manifestly unnecessary killing of enemy combatants. And, under Article 41, they agreed that combatants who are completely defenceless, at the mercy of enemy forces, shall be considered hors de combat.
    The modern law of armed conflict (LOAC)1 supports the following maxim: if enemy combatants can be put out of action by capturing them,they should not be injured; if they can be put out of action by injury, they should not
    be killed; and if they can be put out of action by light injury, grave injury should be avoided..

    In short, LOAC prohibits the manifestly unnecessary killing of enemy combatants

  • Tsar Nicholas 1st Sep '15 - 4:11pm

    The words of Sir Thomas More come to mind: “I would give the devil benefit of law for my own protection.”

  • Hummm ……. I was surprised by Tim’s response. I have no religion, but believe that killing is wrong no matter who they are or what they have done. I thought that most Liberals would agree with that & the rule of Law……… guess I’m wrong, which is making wonder today if the Lib Dems are the vehicle for Liberals like me.
    I have luckily not been in a position of kill or be killed, but the USA were wrong to kill BL – I’m sure they could have captured him and put him on trial if they wished.
    Are there any Liberals out there who hold my position??????

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Sep '15 - 4:25pm

    The US didn’t have to tell anyone about the operation. Would you trust Pakistan after finding enemy number one in a compound on their territory?

    One of the things that really puts the working class of the left is when they think soldiers should put their health at great risk to save the lives of people like Bin Laden. It’s not just and the left will never get anywhere whilst offending so many people on a topic like this.

  • Technically, Bin Laden’s killing was a tragedy: a man uses financial power to advocate and incite murder, extra-judicial killing, terrorism, call it what you may, it is his fatal flaw. He is summarily put to death in a manner that is similar to killings that he himself endorsed.

    A tragedy, but not one over which we are likely to shed tears. Pragmatically, much more blood and much more innocent blood would have been spilled had Bin Laden been taken captive. That which is wrong in principle, may be right in practice: a case of the means justifying the end.

    P.S. theakes, you are a bit of a nana, how could Paddy Ashdown in 2011 follow Tim Farron’s line of 2015?

  • David Faggiani 1st Sep '15 - 4:41pm

    OK, all fair points. I still think it looked a bit like jumping on a ‘Corbyn-bashing’ bandwagon though. Maybe ill-judged of Farron to make any statement.

    I took what Corbyn was saying to mean that Bin Laden’s death was the end of a huge, complicated story, which involved many tragedies, and many hundreds of thousands (or millions) of deaths. Remember, in tragedies, the main character often hurts a lot of people, then dies. Tragedies, almost by definition, don’t feature ‘good guys’.

    Let’s try to steer clear of ‘traitor’ rhetoric when it comes to Corbyn. It doesn’t become us, and the Tory press have that covered. We should focus on his policies, when he is, as looks likely, elected.

  • David Faggiani 1st Sep '15 - 4:42pm

    Yes, agree with Martin, above! Just seen his post.

  • I’m uneasy about the killing, but to call it a tragedy or anything like it shows Corbyn ain’t got the required nous.

  • Even the worst criminal is not a criminal until due process had been followed. This is the heart of the matter and should be self evident to anyone with the pretension to be a liberal. This was why we had the Nuremberg trials and I am astonished that the writer of the main article is willing to ignore that. As a supporter of Tim I have to say he was absolutely wrong on this and Paddy absolutely right. Sadly it was also a cheap Daily Mail type shot at Corbyn. Must do better.

  • @Martin
    “A tragedy, but not one over which we are likely to shed tears.”

    You’re missing the point that Corbyn made. The tragedy was that a summary execution inside the borders of another Country without the permission of the government had the effect of acting as a powerful recruiting sergeant for Al Qaeda – it, in the same manner as the drone strikes, etc, helped confirm to young men in the Middle East and Afghanistan and Pakistan the contempt that they perceive the West has for them. That is the self-perpetuating cycle of tragedy following tragedy that began with 9/11 which Corbyn describes.

  • Martin,
    Seems I follow Dave Milliband then!!!!!
    Well I ask the important question again, is he going to follow the party line, this is very important for the immediate future of having a united party.

  • Richard Stallard 1st Sep '15 - 5:30pm

    “Under Article 35, states agreed to prohibit the manifestly unnecessary killing of enemy combatants.”
    Completely necessary and justified – the man needed to be taken out.

    “And, under Article 41, they agreed that combatants who are completely defenceless, at the mercy of enemy forces, shall be considered hors de combat.”
    Who is to say what he has under those robes? A firearm? Explosives wired up to a hand-operated trigger?
    No – a full magazine through the face to take out the brain stem to minimise the chances of muscle contraction and detonation. That is the way I was always taught, and the way in which I then taught the Iraqi police officers who had to be prepared to do it. The real tragedy is that many of those I taught are now dead, at least some, I know, through not following the training we gave them.
    You don’t take any chances with people like Bin Laden if you yourself want to live to fight another day.

  • Well, I commented on this once already, but here we go again:

    1) Corbyn did not actually call the death on Bin-Laden a tragedy, but the manner of it
    2) Paddy Ashdown in 2011 and even Boris Johnson agreed that this extra-judicial killing was a bad thing for a democracy to indulge in. In 2011 the USA were not in a recognised state of war with anyone (other than with “terror” perhaps?). In a war such acts can be legal (but not necessarily).
    3) In those circumstances we can see that while one might make an argument that the US action saved lives or was justified for a self-confessed mass murderer, it is clear that Corbyn’s view is not an unreasonable one. Indeed it has usually been the Liberal Democrat viewpoint that when it comes to issues of law the end does not justify the means
    4) Therefore it was very foolish for Tim Farron (and some other contributors to this thread) to make off-the-cuff tweets having a go at Corbyn. If I was Tim I would apologise to Jeremy Corbyn…

    However I am not going to refuse to vote Liberal Democrat over it!

  • Mark Wright…………………………What this means is that the military personnel and leaders of both entities are legal targets for the other, and because of that the only “due process” is a positive identification – after that, targets may be killed on sight. The refusal of groups like Al Qaeda to wear uniforms makes identification more difficult, but in the case of Bin Laden himself a facial identification was sufficient………………….

    A strange argument….I consider the killing of Lee Rigby to have been an act of criminal murder by Islamic extremists. Following your argument, had the killers been members of al Qaeda, he would have been, in your words, “a legal target”

  • PS The fact that Mr Stallard agrees with the OP only makes me more opposed. He is a sort of barometer of illiberalism as far as I can see!

  • Richard Stallard 1st Sep '15 - 5:49pm

    I would just add (because his post came in as I was typing mine!) that whilst Joe Otten and I might disagree on the eu, he is spot on here. There are enough pontificating armchair warriors and he has the grace to say that he himself is not in a position to judge.
    And the answer to question 3 is not the commander in chief, nor even the ground commander. It is entirely up to the individual who is facing him at the time.

  • Neil Sandison 1st Sep '15 - 5:53pm

    Note no one has mentioned Bin Ladens innocent victims who did him no harm and wished him no ill will .but his campaigns of violence slaughtered without mercy.

  • Stephen Campbell 1st Sep '15 - 6:23pm

    Maybe we should have, after Germany surrendered in 1945, just put all the captured Nazis who were responsible for genocide up against a wall and summarily executed them rather than putting them on trial? Let say, theoretically, that Osama Bin Laden could have been captured alive and put on trial. Would liberals then have supported doing so, or supported executing him right then and there?

    It seems to me that some so-called liberals have traveled so far rightwards that they think sometimes the rule of law (even for those we despise) should be ignored in order to sate a lust for revenge. Personally, if someone I know or loved was killed in a terrorist atrocity, I would most certainly want the perpetrators tried in a court of law and then, if guilty, imprisoned for life. Not killed by the state.

    “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.”

  • Eddie Sammon 1st Sep '15 - 6:48pm

    Just to clarify: one reason we hold human rights and the Geneva Convention so highly is because we want others to treat us how we treat them. It is why we gave one of our own Royal Marines a 10 year sentence for shooting dead an injured Taliban fighter.

    However Bin Laden was in an armed compound and the Americans were fired at on entry. It wasn’t as though we had him in a prison cell and decided to walk up to him and shoot him.

    Of course, I only know the official story and I’ve read bits of some accounts from the soldiers on the mission. But the wider point is those who call Bin Laden’s death a tragedy are the same kind who always seem to be prioritising the rights of terrorists and criminals above the safety of the general public and that is what the public will hear.

    We should be hammering the Tories on Home Office cuts too.

  • @Stephen. – Completely right. I have despaired at the Cameronlite version of liberalism over the lady give years and had hoped lessons had been learned.Apparently not.

  • paul barker 1st Sep '15 - 6:50pm

    Of course a trial would have been better but how would US forces have captured him without an airborne invasion ? Bin Ladens HQ was next to an Army base. Lots more innocent people would have died for the sake of a trial where guilt wasnt even in dispute.
    Rather than Nuremburg, a better analogy would be the “Trial” & swift execution of the Caucescus, live on TV, on Xmas Eve 1989. Not perfect in terms of justice or legality but it saved hundreds of innocent lives by breaking the will of the Secret Police. Sometimes ordinary lives matter more.

  • Well the question I would ask is

    “has the assassination of Bin-Laden actually made the world a safer place?”

    I challenge anyone to point out a significant retreat in Islamic extremism since his death! I am sure he is revered as a martyr and an inspiration to many. It is usually best to let such people grow old an ineffective…

  • all this arguing about whether he was armed or not and whether it is comparable to Ceaucescu becomes a bit stupid if the whole operation was pointless, other than for revenge (rather like the whole second Iraq war, which just made things so much worse … Killing Bin laden in that illegal way has probably made things worse as well… In which case I would call it a “tragedy”….

  • Putting elderly Nazis on trial carries no risk to anyone else and does not make the world a worse place. It is also completely legal and proper and therefor does not undermine the rule of law.

    I think there is an argument that the death of Bin-Laden has weakened Al-Quaeda and allowed ISIS to take over… Presumably you think that is a good outcome?

    Taking on criminal gangs certainly does make the world a safer place!

    If you actually analyse the operation and look at the probability that benefit to Western security would result it is hard to imagine a scenario in which it would, even if Bin-Laden could have been taken and tried (which was not attempted – too risky). Benefits to the US President on the other hand are obvious. Obama’s approval rating went up 9 points.

  • The Afghan war was justified by the US and UK on the grounds of Article 51 of the UN Charter which deals with self-defence, i.e. that Nato had a right to the use of force against Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, However,, in the absence of continuing attacks on the US or its allies this justification falls away. If there is no imminent danger, the notion of invasion as preventative self-defence or retaliatory self-defence has no basis under international law

    A repercussion of the Afghan war is that it crossed the border into Pakistan,. This has led to the death of many innocent Pashtuns who have fallen victim to drone attacks. Pakistan were not party to the war between the US and Afghanistan, but it was claimed by the US they are supporting and giving shelter to terrorists there.

    The raid on the compound in Abbottabad has to be seen a continuation of this conflict. US military rules of engagement provide for the use of lethal force when their troops come under fire as they reportedly did in this raid. Once Bin Laden’s henchmen opened fire, their leaders chances of survival were greatly diminished.

    The only good thing you can say about it is that an Al Queda mass-murderer can do more harm and, thankfully, a cruise missile was not dropped on the compound killing all its occupants and perhaps some of the neighbours too.

    Ultimately, the US President and Commander-in-Chief deemed the Pakistani government (perhaps with good reason) too unreliable to apprehend Bin Laden by themselves and drove a cart and horse through international law in undertaking this action. That would remain the case even if US forces had managed to arrest Bin Laden.

    The judicial issue is the breach of Pakistani sovereignty. Bin laden’s death in a fire-fight that his men initiated was not an execution, but rather an occupational hazard of those who choose to ‘live by the sword’.

  • David Allen 1st Sep '15 - 9:57pm

    Corbyn, like Ashdown, was speaking four years ago when the fear of a “martyrdom” backlash from Al-Qaida was real. “Tragedy” was arguably the wrong word to use, but what Corbyn called a tragedy was our failure to bring Bin Laden to trial. Mark Argent thinks that would have been inmpractical, but Ashdown disagrees – I wonder who knows better? Anyway, one can disagree with Corbyn’s viewpoint, but one can’t reasonably call it crazy or loony.

    Farron has jumped headlong onto a tabloid, Tory bandwagon. It demeans him.

  • If you genuinely believe the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes should be described as tragic rather than the unlawful killing of an unidentified, unarmed man, then why have you chosen to put that word in quotation marks, and who or what are you quoting?

  • Cllr Mark Wright 2nd Sep '15 - 12:02am

    @David Allen – I don’t know if “Mark Argent” is meant to be me, but Paddy was active in the special forces 40 years ago and so is very unlikely to have experience of tackling suicide bombers.

  • Cllr Mark Wright 2nd Sep '15 - 2:15am

    @Steve Kay – the killing of De Menezes was tragic AND unlawful, IMO. Those are not mutually exclusive terms (obviously) and Corbyn used them in the same way, that’s why it’s quoted for comparison with the title.

  • Cllr Mark Wright 1st Sep ’15 – 6:45pm ……………….@expats – 1. Lee Rigby was a civilian at the time he was killed. 2. He was also manifestly unarmed and not a threat. 3. There is no argument that he was probably wired to explode when he was attacked…..

    1)Lee Rigby was an off-duty serving soldier….2) He was a soldier and your opening thread states targets may be killed on sight 3) Bin Laden was in bed with his wife. I don’t expect ‘wiring’ was usual….The US forces took Bin Laden’s corpse with them so, presumably, an unconscious, rather than dead, body would have been no more trouble…

    The use of phrases like, “needed taking out” show the mindset of those who use them….Western intervention in Libya was to use “”all necessary means” to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas from attack, imposed a no-fly zone, and called for an immediate and with-standing cease-fire, while also strengthening travel bans on members of the regime, arms embargoes, and asset freezes”…This quickly morphed into a ‘kill Gaddafi’ policy…..

  • Jayne mansfield 2nd Sep '15 - 9:28am

    Frank- ‘ – It’s that flaw which forces him to take the inevitable step towards his own doom. You see? Whereas Rita, a woman’S hair being ruined – Or the sort of thing you read in the paper that’S reported as being tragic’, ‘ Man killed by falling tree’ ,, that is not a tragedy!.

    Rita: It is if you are the poor sod under the tree’.

    (From Educating Rita. I just couldn’t resist.)

  • Richard Stallard 2nd Sep '15 - 10:20am

    “…I didn’t say anyone “needed taking out”.”
    No, Mark – I did in an earlier comment. As you rightly say, there was a war on.

    Bin Laden was an enemy. In war, you kill enemies so they don’t kill you.
    Boo hoo. How sad. Get over it. Crack on.

  • Cllr Mark Wright 2nd Sep ’15 – 10:02am ……….
    @expats – you think terrorist bases turn off their booby-traps at bedtime? Oh dear…

    Oh, dear indeed…You said HE, not the base, was wired to explode…..As for the rest of you argument????? Why would they not fire if threatened? The discussion is about Ben Laden found in bed, not about armed fighters….

    I raised Libya because that has been the western mindset in these conflicts and I didn’t accuse you of using those words…Please read was written; not what you want to read…..
    You justify killing Bin Laden as a target and then ‘backtrack’ with claiming that Lee Rigby was a civilian when your own argument is used against you..

  • John Tilley 2nd Sep '15 - 10:38am

    The language of some of the comments in this thread is distressingly juvenile. “Dumbing Down” does not begin to describe it.

    Joe Otten 1st Sep ’15 – 5:08pm
    “…. Does anybody not think OBL had it coming, one way or another? “.

    I had rather hoped that anyone who is approved as a parliamentary candidate for this party would express themselves in slightly more Liberal terms.

  • Ok fine if you insist on focussing on this, you cannot be human and note be struck by the tragic waste of a life when a highly intelligent and charismatic young man chooses to devote hislife and talents in the pursuit of evil deeds rather than for good. You annoy but think it a tragic waste of life and talents that so many people died because of this man, not just in 9/11 but also Afghanistan,Iraq etc.

  • Richard Stallard 2nd Sep '15 - 11:12am

    “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”
    Another from George Orwell (to cross over with another thread).

    Yet when they do, all they get is vilification and hate from those sitting cosily at home in their armchairs.
    I have trained good men (Iraqis) to do what those US Navy SEALS did, and I know that many of them are now no longer with us.

    Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
    Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap.
    An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
    Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
    Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul? ”
    But it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes ” when the drums begin to roll
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it’s ” Thin red line of ‘eroes, ” when the drums begin to roll.
    Kipling (another whom certain people love to hate).

  • Jayne mansfield 2nd Sep '15 - 11:25am

    @ Richard Stallard,
    I don’ t think many people vilify our soldiers. There is an acknowledgement that the soldier is carrying out the orders that ultimately come from politicians. Too many soldiers lose their lives or are left with life changing injuries … For what? For whose benefit?

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Sep '15 - 11:55am

    Richard Stallard 1st Sep ’15 – 3:48pm “No argument with you on that at all, Mark.
    Mind you, you need to be careful about using common sense – it gets some people in a right old tizz!”
    Defined as ‘the opinion of the man on the Clapham omnibus’
    So who was this man? Was he in work? possibly a commuter? but above ground, so he could see his surroundings.
    Can he afford to pay his fare? or does he have a bus pass from the government?
    Is he married? Does his wife also have opinions? Are they the same opinions?
    Did he/they have children / grandparents?
    Did they watch “Who do you think you are” on TV?
    Do they predate the 1944 Education Act?
    Common sense is defined in judgement/s from the Law Lords (now called the Supreme Court).
    It is a starting point, not an endpoint.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Sep '15 - 12:02pm

    Mark Wright

    So the killing of Bin Laden was not only legal, is was the only plausible and most moral way of putting an end to his murderous activities. Corbyn is misguided, even more so because – as usual – he plays into the hands of terrorist sympathisers, and Tim was right to criticise him.

    But it hasn’t put an end to the murderous activities of those inspired by Bin Laden and others like him, has it?

    We have a loose network of people who believe there is a “war” between Islam and the west. So if you say to them “yes, you are right, there is such a war”, you are encouraging them, not putting a stop to them.

    It is quite clear that every act of violence done in this “war” by the USA and its allies, whether or not it is “legal”, is used by those on the other side to justify their own violence. The line they put is that their terrorist acts are no different, just acts of war.

    If this really is a “war”, then surely our response to all who identify with the other side should be to arrest them and keep them as prisoners of war. So are we going to have mass raids on the houses of silly kids who get carried away with the propaganda put out by those on the other side? Or, if they resist, it’s war, so shoot them? No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.

    I accept the case for defence, I am not a pure pacifist. But it seems to me so much that is being done against Al-Qaeda/ISIS or whatever other group will arise next and claim to be the holiest and most devout people of their religion is counter-productive, because it reduces us to their level. To someone whose friends and family are killed by a bomb dropped out there, it’s no different than to us when terrorists strike in our cities. And, as we have seen, it does not require one single Bin Laden figure to get those terrorists to do what they do, so you can’t just kill a Bin Laden and say “that’s it”.

    To me, this must be fought morally, not physically. Theirs is a religion of hatred and violence. Whether we put it in terms of religion or philosophy, we must show we are about love and peace. If that is so, whose side is the real God on?

  • David Allen 2nd Sep '15 - 12:16pm

    Mark Wright, “Paddy was active in the special forces 40 years ago and so is very unlikely to have experience of tackling suicide bombers.”

    Sounds like “My doctor left college years back, so what the heck does he know? I don’t need to follow medical advice, I know better!”

  • David Allen 2nd Sep '15 - 12:38pm

    Actually, this isn’t really about whether or not the US could practicably have taken Bin Laden alive, or not. It would be perfectly possible to believe that the assassination route was the only practicable one, and yet consider that to be a “tragedy”, in the sense of an outcome not likely to bring to an end the destructive and violent conflict between fundamentalist Islamists and their (sadly sometimes equally fundamentalist) opponents. Clearly, what Corbyn called a “tragedy” and what Ashdown condemned in similar terms referred to the perpetuation of a cycle of violence.

    Hindsight tells us that Corbyn – Ashdown weren’t perfect in their predictions of the future. Bin Laden’s martyrdom didn’t “inspire” Al-Qaida to an upsurge of violence, as it turned out. Instead ISIS came along. So, if we really want to throw everything we can chuck at Corbyn (and Ashdown), we can accuse them of being not brilliant as clairvoyants. Corbyn would probably also lose a lot of bets on horses, the terrible fellow.

    What Corbyn really, really didn’t even begin to do was to weep tears over the death of a terrorist. The tabloids and the Tories would like to frame him for this, to distort his words, and hence to convict him in the court of a totally misinfomed public opinion. If Liberal Democrats go along with this kind of black propaganda operation, they demean themselves.

  • Cllr Mark Wright 2nd Sep ’15 – 10:46am …….Ah, I see you now mostly want to have an argument about the semantics of what is already written. Good, this is a sound sign you have no real argument left.* “You said HE, not the base, was wired to explode”….No, my article says: “a nest of suicide bombers, which is likely booby-trapped” – Bin Laden would likely have had access to any triggers for explosives with him. The US troops would have had to assume that everyone and everything was wired. They want to live, you see, despite your utter disregard for their lives…….

    You wrote…..Cllr Mark Wright 1st Sep ’15 – 6:45pm ……………….@expats – 1. Lee Rigby was a civilian at the time he was killed. 2. He was also manifestly unarmed and not a threat. 3. There is no argument that he was probably wired to explode when he was attacked…..
    This is my last post on this matter….As, with any comment on Israel, the thread has become distorted; in this case you disgracefully accusing me of having “utter disregard of soldiers lives”….

  • David Allen 2nd Sep '15 - 5:04pm

    Carl Gardner,


    Ashdown: “The point that I really objected to was [the] point that he should have been executed. That it seems to me is wholly, wholly, wholly wrong.”

    Corbyn: “There was no attempt whatsoever that I can see to arrest him, to put him on trial, to go through that process. This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy. The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy.”

    How can you say that there is any substantial difference between these two comments, which somehow (in your view) makes the first reasonable and the second unreasonable?

  • Carl,

    OK, just one question:

    1) I kill someone illegally (wholly wholly wholly wrong according to Paddy Ashdown)
    2) I say something is a tragedy and compare it with some things that were much bigger tragedies.

    Which is worse??? Honestly you would think Corbyn was the criminal here the way some people are talking!

  • John Tilley 3rd Sep '15 - 7:25am

    AndrewMcC 3rd Sep ’15 – 12.40am
    “…. you would think Corbyn was the criminal here the way some people are talking!”

    You are quite correct to point this out, AndrewMcC.

    In this thread the tragedy is played out as farce because some people are so keen to blacken the name of Corbyn they are completely relaxed about not bothering to read the facts. They follow the spin mindlessly.
    Oddly, these are usually the same people who say that if Corbyn leads the Labour Party it will be dead before Christmas. A rational reaction from a right wing member of the Liberal Democrats to the certain death of The Labour Party before Christmas would be “Oh Good”. So one wonders what these people who echo the Telegraph and The Mail are actually thinking, or indeed if they are thinking at all.

  • Alex Macfie 3rd Sep '15 - 9:18am

    Indeed @Simon Shaw. I am mystified as to why some on the left of our party seem to be supporting Jeremy Corbyn. For me, if Jeremy Corbyn does win the Labour leadership contest, the Lib Dems should be looking to move into the vast political space on the mainstream centre-left that Labour will have abandoned.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '15 - 10:44am

    Cllr Mark Wright

    @Matthew – A reasonable post, but your core point only has any weight for people who think that: Al Qaeda = Islam . That equality clearly doesn’t stand

    I cannot see anything in what I wrote which says or implies that.

    Now, there is an issue that there are many who, although not outright supporters of Al Qaeda and similar groups, nevertheless have a tendency to go along with the line that there is some sort of West v. Muslim conflict. To our great shame, many in the Liberal Democrats have encouraged that mentality by the sort of words they have used to describe Tony Blair and the intervention in Iraq under his direction. It is quite clear that a few on the fringes of this way of thinking do end up supporting the extremes. It is perfectly possible to say that Blair’s intervention was wrong and mistaken without going on to twist the words he used once into suggesting it was some sort of “Word from God” which encouraged him and that thus the intervention was Christianity v. Islam thing. I believe that those who did this share some of the blame for the atrocities committed by ISIS etc, as that is part of the propaganda they use to attract support from the impressionable.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '15 - 10:47am

    Simon Shaw

    As someone I take to be a left wing member of the Liberal Democrats, would’t the “certain death” of The Labour Party be something that you would welcome, whether it’s before Christmas or in two or three years’ time?

    As a liberal I believe in political pluralism, it is at the core of what I am about. Therefore I certainly would never welcome the death of any political party. Sorry, Simon, but to me, the fact that you think that way casts doubts on whether you are truly a liberal.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '15 - 10:49am

    Cllr Mark Wright

    It is currently a criminal offence to be a member of Al Qaeda or ISIS, so yes: they should be arrested and jailed until the war is over (or, some other set amount of time, if they renounce membership)

    It was not a criminal offence to be German at the time of the Second World War. So the very fact that you put it this way supports what I am saying.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '15 - 11:10am

    Cllr Mark Wright

    @Matthew – A reasonable post, but your core point only has any weight for people who think that: Al Qaeda = Islam . That equality clearly doesn’t stand

    So, to continue.

    My actual point was that this is a conflict that needs to be fought and won through moral argument. Part of that moral argument is disgust at the atrocities committed, and to ask those who sympathise with the atrocious “Is that really what your religion is about, is that really what delights you and what you think your God wants?”. The very fact that I put it that way indicates that, no, I do not think Islam in general endorses such things as its core, and that I think Muslims in general will want to reply “No” to that question.

    However, that moral argument is very much weakened if the language some have used here about wanting to reply to violence with violence is used. We know very much that the “what-abouttery” line is a powerful one that terrorists use to defend what they are doing.

    Please note, some of what I say here has its roots in my utter disgust as a Catholic at the IRA. The IRA never claimed to be fighting on behalf of Catholicism, and in fact always scrupulously avoided mentioning religion in its propaganda. Nevertheless, I felt I had a particular moral duty to denounce them because others tended to make that identity.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '15 - 11:18am

    Cllr Mark Wright

    This is implicitly equating a war against Al Qaeda/ISIS with a war against Islam.

    No, I am making the opposite point to the one you seem to be accusing me of making. I am acknowledging there are some who see or who want to push the idea that there is a “war against Islam”, and I am saying that I very much disagree with that viewpoint.

    What I am also saying, which you don’t seem to be getting, is that fighting Al Qaeda and ISIS with violence can be and is used by them to push the idea that there is this sort of war. It is a classic terrorist technique. We need to be very careful to avoid anything which they can use to build up their false argument. It is similar to the way that “Bloody Sunday” was a terrible mistake, not just very wrong in its own right, but also because the IRA were able to use it as a recruitment device, for years and years pushing it to indicate that their violence was justified.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '15 - 11:21am

    Cllr Mark Wright

    I dont understand your point about Germany. It wasnt a crime to be German in the UK during WW2 (although, disgracefully, German citizens were in fact interned then)

    The point is that if this were treated as a “war” we would be seeking to intern supporters of the other side as prisoners of war. So the very fact that we would put them through a criminal trial and imprison them as criminals argues against the case that this is a “war”.

  • Ah, yes, internment.

    Introduced to Northern Ireland in 1971, it failed to have any significant detrimental effect on the ability of the IRA to carry out it’s campaign of violence but legitimised, in the minds of those that might be persuaded otherwise, that the government of Northern Ireland had declared war on one section of the population and, therefore, that the IRA was justified in prosecuting that ‘war’ from the other side. It was disastrous. Killing OBL in a targeted assassination without the permission of the sovereign government of the Country he was hiding in was also disastrous, and a tragedy, in helping to promote the very ‘war’ that OBL wished to foment between the ‘West’ and ‘Islam’.

  • David Allen 3rd Sep '15 - 11:53am

    “My worry is that John Tilley (and some others like him) have an instinctive preference for being to the left of Labour.”

    In 2005, Kennedy pitched us as being to the left of Blair’s New Labour, which he fairly described as a “conservative” party. I was happy with that.

    In 2015, we shall inevitably be to the right of Corbyn’s Labour party, if he wins. I’ll be happy with that too, provided we’re not so far to the right as to be allied with the Tories.

  • David Allen 3rd Sep '15 - 11:58am

    Alex Macfie, “I am mystified as to why some on the left of our party seem to be supporting Jeremy Corbyn. For me, if Jeremy Corbyn does win the Labour leadership contest, the Lib Dems should be looking to move into the vast political space on the mainstream centre-left that Labour will have abandoned.”

    I completely agree – but would point out that in order to do that, we need to make a big shift away from the centre-right position of Clegg’s coalitionism. A centre-left party will need to be clearly independent from and different from both Tory and Labour, but it will need to agree with Corbyn at least as much as it disagrees with Corbyn.

    If all we do is sneer at Corbyn, we will confirm to the public that our pale blue Cleggite spots have not changed.

  • John Tilley 3rd Sep '15 - 12:04pm

    Simon Shaw 3rd Sep ’15 – 11:45am
    “….John Tilley (and some others like him) have an instinctive preference for being to the left of Labour.”

    Not a preference, Simon. An objective statement of fact.

    Ted Heath said on TV when Blair was leader of The Labour Party — “Even I am to the Left of Labour now”.

    Obviously Ted Heath was a dangerous radical Liberal who you would chase out of your corner of Southport with dogs and hunting horns. Or maybe he was right?

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Sep '15 - 5:27pm

    Simon Shaw

    It was John Tilley who used the phrase “the certain death of The Labour Party”. I’m assuming he didn’t mean it literally, but I’m not clear why more left wing members of the Lib Dems should be opposed to the relative demise of the Labour Party.

    It was very clear what John Tilley was saying. You seem to have missed his point completely.

  • @David Allen “Sounds like “My doctor left college years back, so what the heck does he know? I don’t need to follow medical advice, I know better!””

    Your doctor, were she still to be practicing, would in the interim have had to undertake regular refresher and updating training.

    Paddy, on the other hand, left the SBS in the early 1970s and has not served since.

  • Had would-be suicide bomber Hussain Osman not been captured alive and brought back to face trial that would have been a tradgedy. Rome police arrested the real Osman in a normal manner. There is no credible excuse for what happened to the unarmed and wholly innocent Jean Charles de Menezes and the jury found it not lawful.

  • David Allen 7th Sep '15 - 12:17am


    Sure, Paddy left the SBS a generation ago, and he might possibly have decided not to keep up to date on military security. It’s possible that he shied away from all his old colleagues, and forgot everything he ever learned. It’s possible that he pursued his later career with the Lib Dems, and then took a big job in Bosnia, without bothering to keep up to date in his earlier specialism. It’s possible. He’d have had to be a pretty effective bluffer, of course, to get the Bosnia job without knowing anything up-to-date about military affairs.

    He’d also have to be one of those Walter Mitty types who just can’t keep away from pretence. When Bin Laden was assassinated, it would surely have been easy for Paddy to say “Well, since I am so ignorant about what the modern equivalent of the SBS can reasonably be expected to do, well, tell you what, I’ll just not offer an opinion.” Instead, he decided to be very vocal and tell everybody that Bin Laden could and should have been taken alive and put on trial.

    Is Paddy a total bullsh*tter, as you, TCO, seem to believe? Let’s let readers judge!

  • A Social Liberal 7th Sep '15 - 12:29am

    And what did Paddy do after he resigned his commission TCO. He didn’t work for SIS did he?

  • A Social Liberal 7th Sep '15 - 1:03am

    To be quite honest, I find the idea that so called liberals on here are making the case for a government to be judge, jury and executioner quite nauseating. I expect it of the Tories and Labour, of UKIP and Britain First but for liberals to be forwarding the idea that anyone loses their right to due process because they ‘had it coming’ is wrong on so many levels.

    Answering Joe Ottens questions

    1. If the options were to kill OBL or let him go, which is better?

    We found out in Northern Ireland that it was much better to lock up the terrorists than to kill them outright. There were times when it was impossible to apprehend them and so they were shot. But make no mistake, it was the view of the military command at the time that it was much better to lock them up for life sentences then to kill them. Kill a terrorist and it is easy to turn them into a martyr, lock them away for 20 years and you make the supporters of terrorists despair, Kill them and you allow the mouth pieces of the terrorist organisations to spout their equivilent of the Pro Patria Mori bollox, lock them up and young men see what is happening and decide t hat they would rather not rot in a cell for decades. Kill them and they can be hero’s, lock them up and they come out broken men which no-one wishes to emulate.

    2. How much risk is it right to take to capture rather than kill someone like OBL? I.e. what is the highest probability of the death of one of your own personnel would you tolerate in order to capture rather than kill? Stupid question, wrongly predicated. Risk is mitigated by intelligence, risk in this case was the fighting to capture the compound – once the compound in their hands and Bin Laden was a prisoner the risk of further deaths was much decreased.

    3. Should the final decision in respect of question 2 be made by the commander on the ground, or the commander-in-chief? Another silly question – that sort of decision is not made by the comander on the ground. If the mission proves to be impossible once the team is in country then they can abort or call in extra resources but the initial briefing is given by someone further up the chain of command.

  • A Social Liberal 7th Sep '15 - 1:03am

    Someone else floated the idea that it could have been too dangerous to extract the team with Bin Laden alive – not so, the extraction would have been the same with him trussed up just as it did with him dead.

    Basically, it was politically expedient to have Bin Laden killed. It was an illegal act no matter if you consider the so called war by Al Qaeda to be an actual war or not (a silly suggestion in my opinion), either because of the Geneva Conventions (ask Marine A) or through international law.

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