What do you think about the drone attacks killing UK citizens in Syria?

I have to say that when I heard that David Cameron had authorised drone strikes on two UK citizens who had joined ISIS in Syria I felt very uneasy. I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever with the men in question. I do care about due process and about the reputation of this country, though. I’m not convinced that what appears to be summary execution for actions that took place 3 and 4 months ago counts as “self defence.”

There didn’t seem to be much doubt that the men were up to no good:

The prime minister indicated that the UK and the US strikes followed intelligence that Khan and Hussain were plotting to attack “high-profile public commemorations” in the UK.

It is understood they were the Armed Forces Day event to mark the death of Lee Rigby, which was held in Woolwich on 27 June, and the VE Day commemorations presided over by the Queen in London in May.

 

I find it difficult to accept that it is ok or necessary to send drones into a foreign country to hunt down our own citizens. I struggle to accept the inevitability of extra judicial killing at all but imagine the outcry if Russia sent a drone after one of its citizens living in London.

Other Liberal Democrats are taking a different view, though. Former Director of Public Prosecutions and peer Ken McDonald thinks that the action is legal:

I think it is lawful and proportionate to target a British citizen who has travelled abroad to join an armed group which is targeting Britain and British citizens and is on record himself as having that purpose. I think it is appropriate to invoke the principle of self-defence and to target him.

Alex Carlile also told the BBC that:

the argument the attack might not have been lawful was “entirely artificial.

However, Chief Whip Tom Brake has asked an Urgent Question on the matter and is a bit more cautious in his approach:

The government needs to provide more information and clarification about the recent drone strike that killed two British citizens in Syria.

Drones can be a legal tool of war but they need to be used correctly and be underpinned by law.

The British public are highly sceptical of military interventions in the Middle East given the disastrous and illegal invasion of Iraq.

To avoid any confusion – and to escape the long shadow of Iraq – we need to make sure this drone strike was legal.

If it is the case that drone strikes are legal, and we need to see the legal advice the government was given, self defence should surely apply to an immediate threat at the very least and they should only be a weapon of last resort. Michael Fallon’s comments this morning imply that this tactic could become routine. That is not something I can feel remotely comfortable about.

On Twitter, some other party members and regular commenters on this site had their say:

 

 

I would have preferred a more unequivocal response from the party. We need to have confidence that our government is acting within the law and that there was no other realistic alternative to stop immediate harm being done. I am far from convinced that is the case. Others will say that if you go off and join a murderous, barbaric group of terrorists, you deserve everything you get.

What do you think?

 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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120 Comments

  • Simon mcgrath 8th Sep '15 - 1:54pm

    It certainly raises questions, but what else could have been done. Apart from nothing (which is clearly an option) I can’t see the alternative. And if the PM did nothing what would his position be if say the next time he saw these evil men they were killing someone or throwing a gay person of a building ?

  • Glenn Andrews 8th Sep '15 - 1:56pm

    It is pretty hard to argue that someone sitting thousands of miles away is a clear and present danger to the UK, I’d go so far as to say he plainly isn’t…. although he may well have been a danger to those in the vicinity of Raqqa. This just strikes me as being akin to crossing the street in order to administer a beating to someone because they looked at you in a funny way.

  • I don’t think we ARE “at war” with ISIS, Eddie. And it seems very difficult to define in the modern world when parties ARE at war, especially when at least one party is not a nation state. It seems to me barely credible that this series of conflicts will end without people being lured away from the grip of ISIS. In other words, there is not really a purely military solution to what is happening. So I do not feel that it is justified to set out to kill individuals in this way. It is almost like saying “We no longer have the death penalty any more, but it’s OK if we just strike them down in another country.” In many ways, from a practical point of view, the more violent our response, the more likely it is that existing supporters will stay with ISIS, or others who sympathise with those killed will actually join the ISIS effort. Cameron compounds this by actually doing this without Parliamentary or other approval. Silly man.

  • Glenn – I suppose the Govt’s argument is likely to something like “Because he exercises such a powerful influence over A, B or C, they will carry out his orders.”

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Sep '15 - 2:11pm

    Tim13, I would say that we were at war with ISIS as soon as they killed David Haines, whose daughter has just announced her support for Cameron’s policy. Never mind Alan Henning, whose murder was one of the most unjust things I have ever seen.

    I don’t want to say much more on this debate, just that not supporting the war effort will have political consequences, although I still respect disagreements and those making different arguments greatly.

    Thanks Caron.

  • The Government must act within the law. Where there is ambiguity about whether they have done so, it is the responsibility of the opposition in Parliament to question them, regardless of whether they agree with the action or not and it is the responsibility of the judiciary to review the actions to ensure they are legal. This process must be as transparent as possible, without revealing intelligence sources to our ‘enemies’.

    As to whether I agree with using drone strikes to kill our own or other nationals, that’s more difficult.

    On one hand, if we didn’t kill this man how many people might he kill or help to impose ISIS’s sickening ideology on? On the other hand these kind of attacks, although not in this specific case, usually involve civilian casualties whether these are simply bystanders or if they are being used as human shields. The civilian deaths are what really worry me as they are not only just plain wrong but they serve as recruiting tools for the organisations that we are trying to attack.

    If the Government wishes to carry on with such attacks I think they should get express approval from Parliament for military action in Syria. Just to clarify – I am absolutely against ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria. There is currently no viable alternative to the Assad regime and our track record as regime change is… well, we all know how that’s turned out!

  • @Simon McGrath
    “And if the PM did nothing what would his position be if say the next time he saw these evil men they were killing someone or throwing a gay person of a building ?”

    What a weird comment. If they were about to kill someone in Syria or throw someone off a building in Syria then it has nothing to do with us as a Country. We are not the world’s police force/judicial system/penal system rolled into one – we would clearly be acting beyond our jurisdiction. If they were about to throw a person off a building in this Country then the police have authority to act and possibly even used armed intervention if it could prevent an imminent act from happening. Did you not read the part of this story that describes the attack as happening in Syria?

    Then there’s the practical aspect: How on earth is our PM supposed to monitor the behaviour of individuals in Syria in real time and how on earth are our armed forces supposed to monitor and act on the behaviour of individuals in Syria in real time such that the PM can authorise the killing of those individuals who are about to throw someone off a building?

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Sep '15 - 2:49pm

    “… imagine the outcry if Russia sent a drone after one of its citizens living in London.”
    Don’t they use Polonium rather than drones?

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Sep '15 - 2:51pm

    @Steve

    “If they were about to kill someone in Syria or throw someone off a building in Syria then it has nothing to do with us as a Country. We are not the world’s police force/judicial system/penal system rolled into one”

    So what do you think can or should be done to stop these people killing those who don’t share their particular religious views? And who should do it? Are you suggesting it is OK to stand idly by while it goes on?

  • I’m not a believer in air offensives without ground forces. They don’t work out that well. It’s all very well killing a terrorist or threat here and there, but it is not a real threat to ISIS as an organisation and shows no sign of working as a way of removing them from their strongholds. I can understand the discomfort with the notion of extra judicial actions of this sort, but my basic issue with it is that it is not a very effective way of making the region more secure or improving the lot of civilians suffering under ISIS’s control. If I’m honest, it looks more like a publicity stunt than a serious contribution to world stability.

  • mike clements 8th Sep '15 - 2:56pm

    There are occasions, albeit rare ones, when the end justifies the means and I believe that this is one of those occasions,

  • I posted this on another thread this morning this morning, but it is more relevant here. “Lengthy justifications” refers to this: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/07/lawful-uk-forces-british-isis-fighters-syria. As far as I am aware Cameron has produced no more justification than “The Attorney General says it was legal”

    I think the fact that such lengthy justifications of the legality of this action are needed just shows that we are on dangerous ground here.. Our opponents will never believe in this “legality”.

    If we had arrested this man in Britain he would have been tried. If there was proof that he had murdered people or conspired to murder people that would have have have led to conviction… At any rate he would not have been sentenced to death, as far as I know we do not have the death penalty in this country, even for terrorists.

    Well, there is no doubt in my mind that as described and justified by Cameron this is an extra-judicial killing. The Prime Minister has assured us that this man thousands of miles away constituted a direct and immediate threat to people in Britain, and therefore killing him was legal. (and a couple of people in the car with him, who we don’t talk about). I think this was a stupid approach to the problem, opening us to endless criticism, and arguments that we will not win in the minds of potential extremists in this country.

    The reality is that we are at war with ISIS – we are bombing them in Iraq. In war you kill enemy soldiers whenever you get the chance, and legality does not come into it. This could have been portrayed as just one of many such operations, no different to the rest. Killing them using drones is arguably more precise than using larger planes, and certainly less dangerous for your own soldiers. Certainly it is not frowned upon as indiscriminate like attacking civilian areas with Grad missiles (for example). The other people in the vehicle were enemy soldiers too, so killing them is not such an issue (well, killing people is always an issue in my mind, but sometimes necessary)

    The big problem for Cameron was that Parliament had expressly forbidden him to conduct warfare in Syria… so he had to dress this up as something else, a response to an immediate threat, a security operation, something that needs to be justified by our legal system. In doing this he has helped potential terrorists in Britain, not hindered them, in my view.

  • @Nonconformistradical
    “So what do you think can or should be done to stop these people killing those who don’t share their particular religious views? And who should do it? Are you suggesting it is OK to stand idly by while it goes on?”

    I made a very specific couple of points about our jurisdiction in administering justice in other countries and the practicalities of doing the the very thing Simon McGrath mentioned – intervening against a crime that was about to be committed in another Country against an individual in that Country . I throw it back to you – do you think we have the right and ability to administer summary justice in every other part of the world whenever someone is about to break the law, or whatever we perceive to be the law, there? If you do then you a very long way from being a liberal or a democrat.

  • It’s so very difficult isn’t it? I mean, we all now wish we hadn’t invaded Iraq because it led to the current rise in extremism and anarchy. But then people are saying we SHOULD have invaded Syria right at the beginning when ISIS wasn’t so strong and so many millions of refugees hadn’t been displaced. how do we know that invading Syria then would not have led to even worse outcomes? And how do we know that invading Syria now might not lead to the same?

    Of course, the only long term solution is to pressurise the Saudis, Turks and Lebanese to stop funding ISIS and others but what leverage do we have over these countries when we are so reliant on Saudi Arabia for oil?

    It’s a very tangled web.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Sep '15 - 3:19pm

    If we are at war with Syria, we should have been told and it would have been nice for Parliament to have had a vote. Irrespective what you think about drone strikes as a weapon of war, drone strikes without prior public acceptance of their existence and (OK, this is arguable but I’ll say it anyway) parliamentary consent is just another form of clandestine warfare – and in my book, that just puts the UK at high risk of being on on a level with Putin’s incursion into Ukraine.

  • @Nonconformistradical
    You are advocating that we should fire missiles at people in other Countries because we think they are about to break the law there. What if someone is about to knife someone in St Louis – should we send a missile? What if someone is about to shoot someone in Buenos Aires – should we send a missile?

  • David Evershed 8th Sep '15 - 3:26pm

    We may not be at war with IS but IS is at war with us.

    The group calls itself IS and the ‘S’ stands for state.

    The state occupies a territory formerly occupied by part of Syria and part of Iraq.

    Like Kosovo and some other autonomour regions, it is not recognised as a state by the UN.

  • tony dawson 8th Sep '15 - 3:39pm

    The powers that be wish to perpetuate the myths that (a) their control over these drones is very good so that they largely hit what they are aiming at (b) that their intelligence is perfect so they are always aiming at the right thing and (c) that there is no ‘collateral damage’ (code for small children turned into slurry). All that before you even consider whether this is a sensible thing to do re: public opinion in the countries concerned and other factors.

    We live in very difficult times.

  • Jenny Barnes 8th Sep '15 - 3:47pm

    Is isn ‘t really a state though isit? You might argue that it’s a nation, in the sense of an imaginary community. The state in the area where this drone strike was carried out is Syria, and there is no suggestion that Syria was an imminent threat. Is is one part of the civil war there, which is arguably none of our business.
    If DC wants to go to war inSyria he needs parliamentary approval. Shades of WMd in 45 minutes I think.

  • A Social Liberal 8th Sep '15 - 4:13pm

    Simon McGrath said

    “It certainly raises questions, but what else could have been done. Apart from nothing (which is clearly an option) I can’t see the alternative. And if the PM did nothing what would his position be if say the next time he saw these evil men they were killing someone or throwing a gay person of a building ?”

    Until we had evidence of an PIRA (INLA, Continuity etc) terrorist having commited an atrocity in Northern Ireland – nothing was exactly what we did. We knew that McGuinness was in the PIRA Army Council but we didn’t have the evidence, and so we did nothing.

    Incidentally, the government did not kill Reyaad Khan for his crimes commited in Syria, but for the danger he presented to the People in the UK – even though that danger was apparently neither clear nor present. If we can carry out extra judicial killings of those suspected of one crime, why shouldn’t we visit those we think have commited other atrocities?

  • PHIL THOMAS 8th Sep '15 - 4:32pm

    Why would anyone not support the death of these terrorists ? They were happy to kill anyone who did not believe in their ideas, wheather they were fellow British citizens or not ? The Lib Dems will never be elected if they take the side of terrorists and worry about their so called rights ?

  • Stephen Campbell 8th Sep '15 - 4:50pm

    If we’re declaring war on brutal theocratic “states” who kill gay people, use beheading as a form of execution, stone adulterers and support terrorism through state funding..

    …when does the bombing of our “friends” Saudi Arabia start?

  • Phil T
    “Why would anyone not support the death of these terrorists ?”
    One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
    “Confronted with irrefutable evidence neither assassin could deny his guilt. Nevertheless, they argued their case with a logic known only to diehard fanatics: they were carrying out orders from a Zionist terror network operating inside British Mandated Palestine. By finishing off Moyne they were sending a message directly to the highest echelons of the British Foreign Office: “Stop interfering with Jewish immigration into Palestine, or else…”
    The two assassins, Eliahou Bet-Zouri and Eliahou Al Hakim, both in their early twenties, were members of the Stern Gang then under the control of Yitzhak Shamir — the same man who would later became Prime Minister of the new state of Israel.
    They received capital punishment and were subsequently hanged at the insistence of the British government. As the mood changed and Western psyche increasingly imbued with a feeling of collective guilt regarding the atrocities of World War II, the two terrorists were eventually exonerated. They became the subjects of folk tales, books and poems.”

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Sep '15 - 5:01pm

    Stephen Campbell, Saudi Arabia are on my mental list of “states to deal with”, preferably with economic sanctions, but we have a bigger danger in ISIS.

  • Eddie,

    Good luck with that one!

  • Stephen Campbell 8th Sep '15 - 5:08pm

    @Eddie Sammon: “Saudi Arabia are on my mental list of “states to deal with”, preferably with economic sanctions, but we have a bigger danger in ISIS.”

    Oh, I agree. I just think it is totally and completely wrong and hypocritical for our country to be giving State Visits and selling weapons to a regime which is often just as brutal as ISIS, just because they control so much of the world’s oil. Apparently there are some kinds of extremists that the West believes are ok.

  • David Evans 8th Sep '15 - 5:14pm

    I think Tim made a very clear statement on the news today and his concerns were well made. As Andrew McC says, “Cameron has produced no more justification than ‘The Attorney General says it was legal.'” Bering in mind the rebellion of 37 Conservative MPs over the EU referendum, one explanation is Cameron needed a dog whistle to keep his party in line and to distract media attention from domestic matters.

  • “Another suicide bomb hit Saudi Arabia on Thursday, this time at a mosque inside a Special Forces headquarters in Asir, southwest of Saudi Arabia, killing 15 people and injuring nine. The attack, by ISIS, was carried out by Abu Sinan Al Najdi.
    This is the fourth bomb attack on a mosque in Saudi Arabia, but the first on a non-Shia mosque. Last year, in November, eight people were killed in the Eastern province of Al Ahsa, when gunmen attacked a Shia community centre. The Al-Qaeda affiliate, ISIS, claimed responsibility for two following attacks in the Eastern Province, one in Qatif killing 21 worshippers, and the second in Dammam, which killed four people. Another bombing on a Shia mosque in Kuwait in June killed 27 people, was also claimed by ISIS. On July 16, a man was killed and two security officers were injured in a suicide car bombing in Riyadh.
    “While a group of the personnel of special emergency forces in Asir region were performing Al-Dhuhur (Noon) prayer together at the forces headquarters,” reported the Saudi Press Agency, quoting an Interior Ministry spokesman.
    The attack was at the headquarters of the special emergency forces in Asir, close to the Yemeni border. The ISIS said in a statement the bomber had used an explosives belt. The attack was claimed in online statements by a new IS-affiliated group, Al-Hijaz Province.”
    Daesh is a much greater threat to Saudi Arabia than Britain.

  • John Tilley 8th Sep '15 - 5:53pm

    We have been told that in August the government killed two UK Citizens.

    The US government killed a third UK citizen just three days later.

    Our Prime Minister told our Parliament that this was “an act of self-defence”.

    We are told that these three boys in their twenties (21, 21 and 26 years old) were “a threat” to the UK.

    A country of 63 Miliion people spending £34.3 Billion a year on defence was “threatened” by three boys.

    It is a remarkable statement.

  • @Phyllis
    ” I mean, we all now wish we hadn’t invaded Iraq because it led to the current rise in extremism and anarchy.”

    Iraq certainly didn’t help, but there was plenty of extremism and anarchy long before that. Most of the slaughter that goes on there (see Manfarang’s post immediately above) has its roots 1,400 years ago. Western governments played some sort of enabling role but it would be wrong to think they have created this situation.

    Regarding the drone attack – I have no firm opinion because we don’t know what the government claim they know about what these men were up to.

  • To give an alternative view, I’m assuming that most liberals don’t support the death penalty and certainly not without trial. So I’m going to assume a lot of the gung oh stuff is by supporters of the death penalty otherwise it could seem a little hypocritical.

  • “Former Director of Public Prosecutions and peer Ken McDonald thinks that the action is legal”

    If the former DPP (a LibDem and hence not a government supporter), someone who would of given the government legal advice had occurred on his watch, thinks it is okay and can present an argument for why it is okay then that’s good enough for me!

  • “but imagine the outcry if Russia sent a drone after one of its citizens living in London”

    Comrade Putin actually did this, except he used Polonium, not a drone.

  • David Evans “Bering in mind the rebellion of 37 Conservative MPs over the EU referendum, one explanation is Cameron needed a dog whistle to keep his party in line and to distract media attention from domestic matters.”

    That was my first thought too.

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Sep '15 - 6:25pm

    @ David Wallace – “Give the drone pilots medals. Declare anyone who joins ISIS guilty of treason and revoke their passports automatically so they are not our citizens anymore. Declare them enemies against our country who must be killed or captured on sight. Amend the law to make this allowed if need be.”

    I agree on the first point; they did their job in defending the citizens of their country, if we accept the legal justification give.
    On the second I dissent; i don’t believe the government has the right to revoke the the citizenship of a natural born UK citizen. A person with dual nationality who later became such by acquiring british citizenship is another matter however.

  • jedibeeftrix 8th Sep '15 - 6:28pm

    @ John Tilley – “We are told that these three boys in their twenties (21, 21 and 26 years old) were “a threat” to the UK. A country of 63 Miliion people spending £34.3 Billion a year on defence was “threatened” by three boys.”

    Do you consider they have achieved their legal majority, being able to evaluate their decisions as an adult and accept the full full consequences thereof?
    Do you also advocate the vote for 16 year olds, likewise in the belief that they are capable adults?

  • John Tilley 8th Sep '15 - 6:39pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    In one sense you are correct. The age of the dead men is less important than the decision of government to kill them.

    Are you not scared by that decision and what it might suggest is still to come from this government ?

  • Jayne Mansfield
    There is still harm from older established movements. I wonder what you would say to the dissident republicans.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Sep '15 - 6:54pm

    A YouGov survey has just come out and has a clear majority in favour of the drone strikes from Lib Dem, Labour, UKIP and Conservative voters.

    9696 adults surveyed. However 45% think Cameron is being too kind of refugees, so I’m less happy about that result.

    https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/09/08/public-approval-syria-drone-attacks/

  • ISIS’ command and control is located in urban areas, where the idea of “surgical strikes” is pure fiction. Although the targeting systems on our missiles are extremely precise, the blast radius (between 15-20 meters for Hellfire missiles) is not.

  • John Tilley

    ‘A country of 63 Miliion people spending £34.3 Billion a year on defence was “threatened” by three boys.’

    You do realize that it’s ISIS & not Mary Poppins ?

    Meanwhile in the real world according to YouGov you are at odds with 66% of the country that agree with getting rid of these terrorists & 60% of Lib Dems

  • Nonconformistradical 8th Sep '15 - 7:42pm

    @Steve

    “@Nonconformistradical
    You are advocating that we should fire missiles at people in other Countries because we think they are about to break the law there”

    Please don’t put words into my mouth (or my fingers). I advocated no such thing. However if ISIS canreasonably be regarded as an organisation committing crimes against humanity then how do you think they can be stopped?

  • Tsar Nicholas 8th Sep '15 - 8:38pm

    I don’t like slippery slope argument but what about when the government starts assassinating British citizens within Britain?

    They may not be “obvious baddies” like bearded young men with religion. They could be indigenous white conspiracy theorists whom Cameron has derided on many occasions.

    The US has gone from assassination of its own citizens to S 2221 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which permits indefinite detention of American citizens without due process.

  • This entire situation just gets worse. We descend to the level of regimes we tell ourselves and others are inhumane or even evil. What Mister Putin achieves with polonium in somebody’s dinner, we do with high tech drone strikes from afar. And we’ve done it outside of the law, off to one side of parliament, with no accountability and no due process whatsoever. I’m not hugely bothered that these three idiots are dead. I do care that they were killed. A killer who goes around only seeming to kill Bad People is still a killer, and it is for a court of law to decide who is a Bad Person. Giving the state the power to simply knock off citizens who cross a line not codified anywhere in our legal or political system is a worrying precedent to set. Even more worrying a precedent to cheer on from our armchairs.

    As a liberal I am worried about this, even if I’m not particularly bothered that three terrible human beings have died. Certain commentators who seem to be advocating bringing back an almost medieval state of outlawry that would be achieved by revoking passports are, I hope, getting carried away in the moment. I sincerely hope that calmer thoughts return, and quickly.

  • John Tilley 8th Sep '15 - 8:48pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    I do not think there is a single thing in what I said that either seeks to justify or defend the three dead young men.

    What concerns me is that we now have a government which thinks that it has the right to “shoot to kill”.
    This time it was in Syria. Next time it might be in the streets of Sheffield or the leafy suburbs of Surrey.

    Our government killed people by bombing their car on a road in Syria; If that is OK, why not the road that you live in?
    Perhaps those of us who have lived and worked in London are more concerned about the possibility of this because there have already been a number of incidents resuting in deaths when the Met seem to be operating a “shoot to kill” policy.

  • From what has been reported the slain men were talking to NI journalists, the same outfit which has repeatedly fitted people up for the purpose of selling newspapers. I do hope that there is some evidence that doesnt rely on Murdoch employees as their testimony has frequently been found wanting in court.

  • “I felt very uneasy. I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever with the men in question. I do care about due process and about the reputation of this country, though. I’m not convinced that what appears to be summary execution for actions that took place 3 and 4 months ago counts as “self defence.”

    Caron, I felt very uneasy and have total sympathy for the UK citizens who were decapitated and beheaded by the terrorist thugs of which these 2 terrorists are part of , I suggest that you have a look at one of there tweets wherebye they describe how happy and joyful they are watching some poor defenceless chap being decapitated and beheaded can you let me know where the due process is in relation to the people who have been decapitated and executed. Reputation of the country does not protect UK citizens from murderous terrorists they choose to declare war on the UK and they have been dealt with and as a result their planned terrorist acts have been stopped and people are safer and can sleep safely knowing that the 2 terrorist are no more.

  • A Social Liberal 8th Sep '15 - 9:53pm

    Mark

    You can say a hundred times that we are at war with Daesh but your saying does not make it so. Terrorist organisations cannot declare war on a sovereign state. Even if it was possible, the act of prosecuting an attack in a country with whom we were not fighting that war alongside (either formally or informally) is a war crime. Indeed, even having our war machine over the sovereign territory of another nation without that nations approval is a war crime.

    As for your assertion that we were at war with Al Qaeda and that Bin Laden was a legitimate target – well, Sergeant Blackman also thought that a wounded, ill man was also a legitimate target for his ire and paid with his liberty.

    You might not accept it, but there are rules in prosecuting a war, and laws underpinning those rules. One of those rules is that even if terrorists declare war, their declaration is null and void. Just ask Gerry Adams

  • A Social Liberal 8th Sep '15 - 10:11pm

    Will

    Do you honestly think that our killing of two terrorists will stop Daesh from decapitating it’s western prisoners? If you do then might Isuggest that you are being more than a little naive. If you don’t then the only reason for your post is that you want a tit for tat exchange of killings. Now, given that our parliament said that it didn’t want our servicemen and women bombing the territory of a sovereign nation, do you really think that it is right for this government to ignore them and do it anyway?

    Finally, I think I should remind you that the reason given for the extra judicial killing of Reyaad Khan was the supposed terrorist attacks he planned to perpetrate on mainland Britain.

  • Simon McGrath 8th Sep '15 - 10:13pm

    @john Tilley
    “We are told that these three boys in their twenties (21, 21 and 26 years old) were “a threat” to the UK.A country of 63 Miliion people spending £34.3 Billion a year on defence was “threatened” by three boys.
    It is a remarkable statement.”

    Presumably on the same basis you would argue that the 4 london bombers in 2005 – aged 30, 22, 19 and 18 were also not a threat ?

  • Tsar Nicholas 8th Sep '15 - 10:14pm

    Will

    How on earth do you know these men were guilty of the crimes of which they have been accused?

    This is totalitarianism, Soviet-style. A suitable denunciation from on eye, and the population, lemming-like goes to its doom.

    By the way, we are not at war. Parliament refused to sanction air strikes against Syria back in 2013. There were some senior figures in the party who said that they were, as a result, ashamed to be British. Nevertheless, Parliament expressed its view. I don’t know about others, but drone attacks certainly seem to come within the definition of air strikes.

  • John Tilley, For the first time, I find myself unable to support your comment. These young men would feel no compunction about blowing up “boys” . They left the UK purposefully to do us harm.

  • Simon McGrath 8th Sep ’15 – 10:13pm ……………..Presumably on the same basis you would argue that the 4 london bombers in 2005 – aged 30, 22, 19 and 18 were also not a threat ?…………

    Those involved in 2005 were an unknown quantity…These two were known and under enough surveillance to be killed; hardly a fair comparison. The threat to us is most likely ‘home grown’ not two idealistic youths who were already ‘targets’.

  • You’ve got lot of people here saying we’re at war with ISIS and not Syria, but in 2013 Cameron wanted to use the RAF as support to aid Syrian “rebels” and thus effectively giving ISIS an air force. Our recent involvement in the Middle East has been one disaster after another and has at every step of the way aided religious extremism and lead to thousands of deaths. What happened in Libya is even worse than the Blair/Bush cock up in Iraq because there were at least troops on the ground to contain some of the factions involved. What we are doing now is utterly reprehensible because we are pretending that we can contain an expanding ideology by blowing up a couple of trucks here and there with no risk or consequences. even as the refugee crisis stretches into millions. Even now we’ve got idiots in office who think if we just topple Assad it will all work out fine just like it didn’t in the Arab Spring. I’m sorry, but you can’t have a coherent military strategy without ground troops and you cannot pretend religion has nothing to do with religious extremism. I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to butt out of the region altogether or put permanent forces on the ground and accept that the West is basically an imperialist power just like the Romans.

  • Jayne Mansfield
    “I think that you question is best posed to the people of Ireland.”
    In the Republic it is an offence to belong to extremist movements that believe in violence and break the law.
    However in the north such groups continue to use bombs against the authorities and boys are attracted to their cause as are boys in other parts of the UK attracted to another kind of extremism and potential martyrdom.

  • Two wrongs don’t make a right.
    If that was ever true it is true today.
    Daesh is wrong, its beliefs are a distortion of Islam.
    Extra-judicial killing is wrong. it is illiberal in the extreme.
    It is important that a legal challenge is mounted concerning these killings .
    The justifications concerning Article 51 need testing in a court of law.

  • tony dawson 9th Sep '15 - 7:15am

    @A Social Liberal:

    ” there are rules in prosecuting a war, and laws underpinning those rules. One of those rules is that even if terrorists declare war, their declaration is null and void.”

    It seems to me that the reality is that the ‘rules’ come from another century and it is these rules which are effectively ‘null and void’. As you demonstrate in your next posting where you write of ” extra judicial killing”. What is the increasing wave of ” extra judicial killing” on all sides of almost all conflicts except perpetual breaching of long-lost ‘rules’?

  • John Tilley 9th Sep '15 - 7:33am

    Phyllis 8th Sep ’15 – 10:26pm
    “….. These young men would feel no compunction about blowing up “boys” . They left the UK purposefully to do us harm.”

    Where have I said anything to the contrary?

    As a regular reader of LDV you will know that I have been consistent in being highly critical of the Daesh and their Saudi sponsors.  Much more consistent than those people who only  two years ago were calling for the RAF to effectively support The Daesh by bombing  Assad’s Syria.     It is precisely because I agree with you about the danger of terrorist attacks that I do not think that our government  should fall into the trap of boosting the power and prestige of terrorist organisations.  

    Calling a 21 year old fom Cardiff a “threat to the UK” helps to build the image and prestige of the terrorists.   

    What impact do you thnk that this week’s wave of government orchestrated hysteria will have on likely recruits to the Daesh.?   Do you think it will discourage them? 

    The danger of terrorist outrages  is not the same as a threat to the UK.

      Hitler’s forces massing in Northern France in the 1940s was a threat to the UK.   A 21 year old in Syria with a Twitter account and an overdeveloped sense of his own importance is not.

    Terrorist attacks by the IRA between 1970 and 2000 were far more frequent, had much greater impact and were carried out  in a much more highly effective way (eg Airey Neave, Lord Mountabatten, the Brighton Bomb).  Have we learned nothing from that time?

  • Jonathan Pile 9th Sep '15 - 8:49am

    Caron think this sets an ugly precedent. Parliament specifically forbad Cameron from Airstrikes in Syria in 2013, his use of article 51 is by most legal commentators is a stretch. The alleged terrorist attrocities planned for VE/VJ were foiled or deterred so the Extra-Judicial killing on Aug 24 was done after the planned attacks not to prevent as some have claimed. Very uneasy about the detail on this which demands parliamentary or judicial scrutiny. We need to support National Security but news that there is a Drone Kill List is suggestive of US policy and all the counterproductive pitfalls that follow. We need to look at a wider Syria policy which considers the sad necessity of an agreement with the Syria Government for a Road map to reform, and end to Civilian attacks in exchange for Syria, Iran and Russia joining fight against ISIS. Churchill used the same logic in WW2 with the pact against Hitler with Stalin. Distasteful, and a reminder that the Regime Change agenda triggers Anarchy, & Civil War.

  • ……… I have no sympathy for Reyaad Khan or Ruhul Amin, the British citizens fighting for the so-called Islamic State who were killed by an RAF drone strike. I have sympathy for their families, who never asked for any of this. But Khan and Amin were foolish and arrogant young men who signed up to an organisation which thinks it just fine to oppress and rape women, to enslave non-believers, to throw gay people from high buildings, and to destroy the cultural heritage of humanity. Khan and Amin went off to a foreign land, where they had no business being, in order to kill those who don’t share their narrow misinterpretation of a holy book.

    However, that doesn’t mean that the British state which ordered their deaths should escape criticism. By killing these two young men who had become enthralled to a perversion of an ancient faith, Britain has shown itself to be a state which practises summary justice. The great problem with summary justice is that it’s very difficult to distinguish from summary injustice. Summary justice is no justice at all.

    The chilling truth is that the British state has now sanctioned the assassination of British citizens, without trial, without public disclosure of the evidence against them, without accountability. That’s a dark and dangerous road to go down. The fact a drone strike is carried out remotely doesn’t make it any less of perversion of justice than a South American death squad or a Bulgarian with an umbrella.

    Is that the kind of Britain we want? Because whether we like it or not we now live in a country which has a hit list of citizens whose deaths can be ordered by politicians behind closed doors for reasons that are not disclosed, on evidence that is not revealed.

    Sadly, after this incident, the only difference between the UK and Latin American states with their death squads is that we have worse weather and no banana plantations in which to hide the bodies.

  • Neil Sandison 9th Sep '15 - 9:21am

    We seem to be forgetting that these ISIS supporters have gone a little further down the road to terrorism .They had rejected our democratic state and sworn allegence to another .Moreover they were actively engaged in combat in Syria and subversion of our state through social media. That was clearly a choice that they made .

  • Matt (Bristol) 9th Sep '15 - 9:46am

    Cllr Mark Wright:

    I will agree that we formally are at war with ISIS when there is a formal declaration as such, and ideally there needs to be a debate in parliament about the means fields of operation in which that war should be carried out. And in a sense, I wish the government would hurry up instead of carrying out a constantly escalating semi-secret war by clandestine means instead of being prepared to discuss its aims in public.

    I agree I mis-spoke when I used the phrase ‘war WITH Syria’. That didn’t help my point.

    But where is the mandate for carrying out a war IN syria, and why does the government not seek to build one?

    I agree that neither Bin Laden’s death nor the deaths of these ISIS fighters (if that was what they were and the evidence was clear and there was no collateral damage) were ‘tragedies’, but I still contest that at present the only difference between what we have just found out the government has been doing in our name in the skies over Syria and what Putin continues to do in Eastern Ukraine (or what the USA was doing in Laos in 70s, for eg) is one of scale. This makes me uneasy.

    This may be pedantry to some, but I think it is important. Without a formal declaration of war or clarity over our war aims, we are engaged in clandestine infiltration. Democratic nations who claim to be defending democracy should wherever possible use democratic means to engage their populations in their policies and purposes, in all fields including defence and foregin policy.

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Sep ’15 – 10:01am …………….Expats refers to ‘idealistic youths’. Whatever next? Why not refer to Hitler as an idealist, that was his self-description. I cannot avoid the images of unbelievable cruelty meted out by these barbarians, much as I would wish to. Are these ‘idealistic youths’ who see press images and who visit websites that glory in cruelty really such ingenue when they leave to join ISIS?…………

    If you read my posts in context at no point have I glorified ISIS or condoned their actions….However, they and those like them ARE idealistic (even if all rational thinking shows such beliefs to be evil). Why else would such young men be willing, even eager, to die for these beliefs….
    This thread is not about THEIR beliefs/ideals/actions; it is about OUR response. As I’ve said, this action is no less of perversion of justice than a South American death squad or a Bulgarian with an umbrella.
    What is the moral difference between ‘executing’ these two in Syria or ‘executing those, leaving to join ISIS, at Heathrow/Gatwick,?

  • @expats “This thread is not about THEIR beliefs/ideals/actions; it is about OUR response. As I’ve said, this action is no less of perversion of justice than a South American death squad or a Bulgarian with an umbrella.
    What is the moral difference between ‘executing’ these two in Syria or ‘executing those, leaving to join ISIS, at Heathrow/Gatwick,?”

    With respect, that is all supposition on your part. You have no idea what those two were doing, did, or were planning to do at the time they were hit. You have no idea whether the timing was chosen in order to minimise or eliminate the risk to other persons.

    The “Rules of War” are a legal nicety that mean that if someone puts on a certain set of clothes and acts for a government that we have chosen to declare war on or declare war against us, makes it OK for us to kill them.

    War is a dirty business. We pay people to do that dirty business for us so that we can sleep safely in our beds at night and feel outraged. Kipling had it right:

    “For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! ”
    But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot.”

  • Neil Sandison 9th Sep '15 - 10:57am

    The down side of all this is whilst we are all getting excited over the drone attack Cameron is getting away with not having a joined up policy on the refuge crisis .But perhaps that is what he intended by announcing both statements on the same day. The Tories are past masters when it comes to media manipulation.

  • Chris Randall 9th Sep '15 - 11:13am

    The basic question should be do we want these war criminals back!? No Okay save the world the cost a trial. If you want to have a trial do it absence, then execute the the oxygen stealing ex humans. There is enough evidence to suggest that these animals do not deserve anymore thought then putting a rabid dog down.

  • “… imagine the outcry if Russia sent a drone after one of its citizens living in London.”

    But Russia would have had recourse to our legal and policing services so not really comparable to terrorists living in ISIS controlled areas. If anything this is a more clear case then the attack on OBL’s compound. That took place in a Country where the US had normal diplomatic relations. Personally I believe both to be valid in the OBL case we know he still exerted influence and encouraged and authorised attacks on US targets. In the recent case the British Citizens in question were fighting for a foreign power / terrorist organisation (in their minds a Country in it’s own right) that has executed other British Citizens. If the Government had information to believe they planned attacks in the UK or on UK citizens then it was, in my mind legitimate.

  • TCO 9th Sep ’15 – 10:46am………………[email protected] “This thread is not about THEIR beliefs/ideals/actions; it is about OUR response. As I’ve said, this action is no less of perversion of justice than a South American death squad or a Bulgarian with an umbrella. What is the moral difference between ‘executing’ these two in Syria or ‘executing those, leaving to join ISIS, at Heathrow/Gatwick,?”………….With respect, that is all supposition on your part. You have no idea what those two were doing, did, or were planning to do at the time they were hit. You have no idea whether the timing was chosen in order to minimise or eliminate the risk to other persons…………..The “Rules of War” are a legal nicety that mean that if someone puts on a certain set of clothes and acts for a government that we have chosen to declare war on or declare war against us, makes it OK for us to kill them…………War is a dirty business. We pay people to do that dirty business for us so that we can sleep safely in our beds at night and feel outraged. Kipling had it right:……….
    “For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an` Chuck him out, the brute! ”
    But it’s ” Saviour of ‘is country ” when the guns begin to shoot.”……………..

    Strange that you ‘trust’ Cameron and UK intelligence when both have been so often proved wrong..

    As for Kipling, I suggest you try…
    “When you’ve shouted “Rule Britannia”: when you’ve sung “God Save the Queen”
    When you’ve finished killing Kruger with your mouth:…”

    It is Cameron/Osborne/Fox, playing to the ‘saloon bar’ mentality, who want ‘Tommy’ ordered south…

  • Richard Underhill 9th Sep '15 - 11:23am

    Neil Sandison 9th Sep ’15 – 10:57am Yes but no.
    “Cameron is getting away with not having a joined up policy on the refugee crisis”
    The policy is joined-up, but it is numerically inadequate.
    He is entitled to say that Calais is in France, so the Mayor of Calais ahould look to Paris for support.
    He is entitled to say that he does not want to be part of burden-sharing with other neighbouring democracies (not forgetting Norway and Switzerland) because the UK is one of the EU members with an opt-out.
    He is entitled to point to the UK’s substantial spending on aid without crediting his former coalition partners and predecessors.
    He is claiming morality, which is a subjective and personal thing, but the Chief Rabbi, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope do not agree with him. Nor does the coalition governemt in Germany, a sort of conservative-socialist-regionalist coalition, not including liberals or greens.

  • @expats “Strange that you ‘trust’ Cameron and UK intelligence when both have been so often proved wrong..”

    Well, let’s wait and see, shall we.

  • John Tilley 9th Sep '15 - 11:33am

    Jayne Mansfield
    “Many people saying such things are not right wing idiots, but ordinary people who have brought up children …”

    I have not doubt that is true.

    I well remember exactly the same sort of people and the things they said about people from Argentina in 1982.
    I also remember what the same sort of people have been saying about. “The Irish” for centuries.
    When you and I were young it was those sorts of people who put up signs saying “VACANCIES, No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs”.
    They were just ordinary people, they were not rightwing nutters, they were not Nazis, they just followed the crowd.

    Ordinary people who have brought up children often say things that they regret later. This is especially so when whipped up by a media storm coordinated by the cynical media pals of a Conservative government.

    You are absolutely right, those people are not rightwing idiots. They are not idiots at all. They are people who get dragged along in the crowd.

    The instinct to conform when the media pack are in full cry makes people hate and loathe “migrants” one week ….
    and then after little Aylan Kurdi appears in a photo, dead, face down on a beach those dordinary people wake up.

    It is our job to wake people up.

  • But TCO,
    We haven’t declared war on ISIs because they are not recognised as a state and we view terrorists as criminals not enemy combatants. So we are talking about extra judicial execution not a military action and as someone said early would we feel comfortable with death squads operating in Heathrow, plus parliament voted against military action in Syria and unlike America we don’t actually have the death penalty either. Personally. I’m not sorry that these young men were killed but I am very uncomfortable with Britain effectively using death squads to get round the fact that there is no mandate for military involvement in this conflict. And lets be honest these guys would have been picked up the minute they tried to come back to the UK as the information about plots was already cited as the reason for this action! I also suspect they would probably have been more useful to the security forces alive. My view is that if we want to involve the British military in Syria then we can’t bypass parliament or the British public and should not be applauding the mandate stretching antics of a prime minister who’s disastrous policy in Libya is shuffled under the carpet, but who makes great capital out of Blair’s disastrous and legally questionable mistakes.

  • @Glenn “We haven’t declared war on ISIS because they are not recognised as a state and we view terrorists as criminals not enemy combatants. So we are talking about extra judicial execution not a military action.”

    I understand the legal distinction, but there is a moral equivalence here.

  • Jayne Mansfield – “International Law experts are giving opposing views.” (9th Sep ’15 – 10:01am)

    I’m not finding any evidence of this from a Google search, however I have found this article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/11852228/Are-UK-drone-strikes-in-Syria-legal.html

    It contains two rather interesting and relevant passages, the first concerns the legality:

    Yesterday Former Attorney General Dominic Grieve said: “I am not privy to the intelligence information that the Prime Minister had to justify his actions.
    “But is it possible for me, as a lawyer, to see a legal basis on which you could attack IS in Syria, the answer must be yes.
    “If IS is threatening the national security and the lives of people in the United Kingdom and it is operating in ungoverned space and if the Government has gone through a checklist of deciding that what they want to do is necessary and proportionate and there is no other way of dealing with the problem other than using lethal force against it then those do provide, it seems to me, to provide perfectly clear grounds in international law why air strikes could be used, not just in the context of what appears to have happened on August 21 but in the wider context.”

    and the second the intelligence:

    Labour MP Fiona MacTaggart told the Telegraph … “This drone killing sounds illegal but there might be intelligence that is compelling but there is nobody about from the reviewer who is a judge to test that.

    “It is not the legal advice it is the intelligence we need to look at.

  • Glenn 9th Sep ’15 – 11:45am…………. We haven’t declared war on ISIs because they are not recognised as a state and we view terrorists as criminals not enemy combatants………………

    When it suits us they are enemy combatants and can be killed; when it doesn’t they are terrorists and can be tried or imprisoned (Guantanamo Bay)………In Syria the US supported the same people who they deemed terrorists in Iraq…..
    From Iraq on we set out to remove governments we disapprove of (unless they buy our arms, sell us oil, etc.) and there is a grave danger of us losing all moral compass in this situation…..

  • Jayne Mansfield 9th Sep ’15 – 12:33pm …………expats, That works both ways. When it suits these criminals, they are citizens of of Islamic State, when it suits them they are British citizens….

    Yes, Jayne, but they are the bad guys….

  • Richard Underhill 9th Sep '15 - 12:50pm

    David Cameron was questioned at PMQ on 9/9/2015. Before answering a question from Labour’s interim leader he gave a fullsome goodbye to her as a front-bencher and praised her role in women’s issues in particular.
    He then gave illogical and inconsistent replies to her questions, which she did not seem to notice, or which she accepted. She then continued to ask her prepared questions. Maybe she is affected by not being able to chase up the government’s actions. Maybe she is relieved that issues such as Syrian refugees will be devolved to Cabinet Ministers (who might have a better command of detail than the PM). Maybe she is demob happy, but following weeks of recess an opportunity has been missed. What, for instance, does either of the mean by “this year” ? the calendar year up to 31/12/2015? or the financial year?

  • Richard Underhill 9th Sep '15 - 12:54pm

    “You recently signed a petition on the UK Government and Parliament Petitions website to:
    Accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugee migrants in the UK:
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    The Petitions Committee considered today whether to schedule a debate on this petition.
    Because the House of Commons has already had several opportunities to debate this issue, the Committee decided that the time was not right for another debate on the same issue.
    The House of Commons has had the following opportunities to consider the issue raised in this petition:
    – The Prime Minister made a statement on Monday 7 September and was questioned by MPs about it:
    http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2015/september/statement-on-syria-refugees-and-counter-terrorism-7-september-2015/
    – On Tuesday 8 September there was an emergency debate on the refugee crisis in Europe:
    http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2015/september/emergency-debate-the-refugee-crisis-in-europe/
    – A further debate on this subject is expected tomorrow (Wednesday 9 September).
    This petition has been listed on the House of Commons order paper as being relevant to the debates on this issue.
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  • From a moral point of view, these men were born in one of the richest countries in the world with many opportunities. They chose to take the advantages they were offered and go to join an organisation which enslaves people different from them, tells its members they are ok to rape children and kill in barbaric ways (particularly targeting civilians). These British men with their opportunities went to inflict this on peoepl who were born without the opportunities they enjoyed.

    They cannot have done this with out understanding that there was a high risk of something nasty happening to them in response. Quite frankly they were luck it was a fast as a missile to their vehicle compared with the treatment their comrades are inflicting on others.

    The point at issue is whether the UK should be taking action to deal with these individuals. As I ca see it there are two times that we should:
    1) When it is a matter of self-defence (someone posing a threat to the UK).
    2) As part of a thought through strategy with allies that can stabilise the situation and provide greater safety of the civilians in the region (which presumable would have international agreement).
    The current information suggests case 1 applies.

    For those declaring that this is a war crime perhaps you could provide a referenced argument not just claims?

    As to the claim that the government will next be using drones to kill people in Surrey, you presumably missed the point that in order for this type of action to be legal it would require that the local legal system is unwilling or unable (as in this case) to assist in detaining the person for the normal legal process.

  • Expats.
    I think the War On terror is incoherent for some of the same reasons the War On Drugs was incoherent. It has too many unachievable goals being driven by a mess of conflicting aims. As you say one month were bombing targets to aid rebels overthrow leaders we don’t like and the next we’re bombing the rebels because they turn out to be religious fruitcakes which we knew they were in the first place. I do blame a lot of this incoherence on Bush and Blair, but the Obama/Cameron approach is even worse because it just seems to involve bombing things to be seen to be doing something and an unwillingness to commit troops who could at least contain some of these insurgents. Personally, I vacillate between wanting to see boots on the ground or the complete cessation of all military actions in the region. Do something coherent or do nothing.

  • Eddie Sammon 9th Sep '15 - 3:47pm

    Glenn makes an interesting point by suggesting we either leave the region or have permanent troops in it and compares the West to the Romans. In my opinion we do need troops in the region for a long time, but they need to be UN sanctioned troops and with local consent as soon as possible.

    This is my long-term peace plan for the region: long-term UN troops. We need an international anti-terrorism force. We can’t just have the resented West acting as the police man of the world, but arguably we need someone to do it.

    It needs to be done until we know that we pretty much know that we have created long-term stability.

  • Julie Maxon 9th Sep '15 - 3:50pm

    Eddie Sammon was right to mention early on in this comment section that ISIS were responsible for the despicable murders of David Haines and Alan Henning. I can’t help but wonder whether the current arguments about whether or not the drone strike was legal would be any different had the target been that particular murderer. I suspect the majority of the public would be cheering and we certainly wouldn’t win any votes by arguing over the legal points.

  • @Frank Little “I agree with John Tilley. The charges of conspiracy made against the three young men would not have been enough to have them shot on the street by the military in the UK. ”

    So Frank, were you and John Tilley going to ask the ISIS leadership to extradite these gentlemen to face trial?

  • @John Tilley
    “I do not think there is a single thing in what I said that either seeks to justify or defend the three dead young men.”

    I don’t think anyone has suggested that you have. What you have certainly done is trivialise these men in a way that seems ill-judged. It’s no more accurate to describe them as boys with Twitter accounts than it would be to describe the armed forces personnel who killed them as kids playing with remote control helicopters.

  • John Tilley 9th Sep '15 - 6:47pm

    Stuart
    You maybe have not read all the comments in this thread but some people did seem to misinterpret what I said as defending or justifying. If you did not then that is fine.

    On your suggestion that I was trivialising. That was not my intention. My intention was to comment on this issue with a sense of proportion and not be whipped unto a frenzy by lurid headines in the rightwing press.

    Many of the troops who are sent abroad in pointless wars are around 19 years old. Is it patronising or trivialising to refer to them as “OUR BOYS” as popular newspapers regularly do? Perhaps. That was not the central point that I was making.
    As I have explained to someone else in an earlier comment I think it matters little if they are in their twenties or their seventies, this discussion was about the decision of our government to use a “shoot to kill” policy to destroy them.

    As for your suggested description of “kids playing with remote control helicopters” for the people who operate drones there may be some people who feel that there is an appalling grain of truth in such a suggestion.
    You may have read of the concerns about the mental health impact on drone operators in the USA, who have been carrying out drone attacks for some years killing the people targeted. Carrying our such a duty and then collecting the children from school on the way home from “work” in small towm Nebraska (or whereever) is so removed from traditional military engagement that it is apparently producing some worrying side effects.

  • John Tilley I have a lot of sympathy with your comments. But what is the correct way to defeat an extremist movement whose sole purpose is to overcome its neighbours one by one in the most barbaric and brutal ways imaginable and to destroy us? And I do not use the word lightly. How can there be a diplomatic process when one party only wants your annihilation?

  • Richard Underhill 9th Sep '15 - 8:58pm

    John Tilley 9th Sep ’15 – 6:47pm These days some of them might girls.

  • A Social Liberal 10th Sep '15 - 1:02am

    Psi said

    “As to the claim that the government will next be using drones to kill people in Surrey, you presumably missed the point that in order for this type of action to be legal it would require that the local legal system is unwilling or unable (as in this case) to assist in detaining the person for the normal legal process.”

    So now we a) have capital punishment and b)no longer have due process. Where did we vote for this, when were the laws passed which enabled these things to happen?

  • A Social Liberal 10th Sep '15 - 1:27am

    Phyllis

    I agree with the broad thrust of your post. However for the government to use our military to visit violence on another the precedent has been set for them to ask permission of parliament to do so. This has not happened. Further, what you and many others commenting on this thread constantly fail to appreciate is that the supposed reason for the extra judicial killing of two criminals was the violence they were supposed to have tried to visit on our country, not that they were prosecuting their criminality internationally.

    With every other criminal who perpetrated (or attempted) terrorist acts on or in the UK and then went abroad we tried to extradite them and if unsuccessful we waited. Why are two criminals who have went to a foreign country so different that we had to kill them? What is so different from previous events?

  • I would like the government to make a new law that states anyone from the UK who joins a terrorist organisation in another country who’s aims are to commit terrorist acts against the UK that they are no longer UK citizens, in otherwards there is a court hearing held in their absence and there UK citizenship is withdrawn.

  • ? Self-defence, ? Due Process, ? Proportional response.
    This latest action, using targeted drones, makes me very uncomfortable, but we do have an Official Secrets Act.
    This wasn’t the first time, and I won’t be here when the full story is told.

  • A Social Liberal

    “So now we a) have capital punishment and b) no longer have due process.”

    For comparison purposes, a man with a gun runs down Whitehall firing a gun, shouting he intends to kill people; the police who in that area are armed shoot him.

    Is this capital punishment?

    No, if the man wants due process he would have to put down the gun and fight his position in the courts. If he is running around shooting a gun he can be killed as it is reasonable for the police to do so to protect themselves and the public. That is the point about self-defence. That is why it is unacceptable for the police to shoot someone when they could have safely arrested them, hence the IRA deaths on Gibraltar, there was an opportunity to arrest them safely but they were killed.

    If you are claiming self-defence doesn’t apply then either they have to have not been intending to cause harm to the UK, or there was a safe method of detaining the key individual without risk to those arresting them.

    So which is it?

  • A Social Liberal

    “Where did we vote for this, when were the laws passed which enabled these things to happen?”

    The legal opinions circulating are UN conventions and international laws. So we didn’t ‘vote for them’ but if you think that it would be fine if the government were to just pass a law saying that they could kill anyone abroad who expressed a desire for bad things to happen to people in the UK, they could easily do so but I wouldn’t want such a blank cheque to be written.

  • @John Tilley
    “Is it patronising or trivialising to refer to them as ‘OUR BOYS’ as popular newspapers regularly do? Perhaps.”

    In that context, “boys” is clearly an affectionate turn of phrase. Nobody imagines they are not adults. Applying the same chummy language to describe the “boys of Islamic State” doesn’t have quite the same effect.

  • John Tilley 10th Sep '15 - 6:47pm

    So when does a teenager from Cardiff become one of the “boys of Islamic State”. Is it on his 21st birthday. Is it when he gets on a plane to Syria? Is it when he becomes a tool of the Daesh public relations machine?

    Prince Charles is quite a bit older than 21, yet he refers to The Queen as “Mummy” and she refers to him as one of “her boys”. The English languages is a wonderful thing, but can I repeat the point that has been made to you on more than one occasion in this discussion? The age of the dead UK citizens is immaterial. The discussion is about the UK government’s decisin to have a “shoot to kill policy”. Are you happy with that policy?
    Will you be just as happy if it is a member of your family whose car is bombed?
    Will you be happy if the Met start shooting to death suspects in Parliament Sq, ?

  • John Tilley 10th Sep '15 - 7:52pm

    Phyllis 9th Sep ’15 – 8:47pm
    “John Tilley I have a lot of sympathy with your comments. But what is the correct way to defeat an extremist movement whose sole purpose is to overcome its neighbours one by one in the most barbaric and brutal ways imaginable and to destroy us? ”

    Good question, Phyllis. I will answer in terms of Daesh terrorism as I am assuming that is the group you mean.

    This group is directly inspired and funded by Wahhabi religious lunatics who make up the ruling elite in Saudi Arabia.

    So step one would be to make it clear to Saudi Arabia that because they are the origin of this head-chopping, mosque-burning bunch of murderers in North Africa, Syria and Iraq it is time they bore the responsibility.

    Stop Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward taking regular trips to their Saudi pals.
    Stop all UK Government links with the Saudis until such time as Saudi Arabia becomes an approximation of a modern civilised state by for example not treating every woman as a chattel and ending industrial scale beheading of its own citizens,
    Work with other civilised countries around the world to coordinate a united front against the Saudi tyrants.
    Stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
    Stop buying oil from Saudi Arabia or anything else and impose total economic sanctions.
    Arrest all members of the Saudi elite who live in this country and confiscate their property.
    The Daesh are the attack dogs of The Saudis. If you want to stop the Deash you have got to do something about the Saudis, even if it does upset Prince Charles.

  • John Tilley

    Yes I agree 100%! I have mentioned the Saudis a few times on here. But what you suggest is not mentioned anywhere that I have seen by any politician – not even Tim Farron. Has anyone else? If not, why has he not focussed on the role of Saudi Arabia (and Lebanon and Turkey and Quatar etc) in any of his speeches on this matter?

  • John Tilley 10th Sep '15 - 8:55pm

    Before the coalition Vince Cable also took a principled public stand against and Saudis.

    Unfortunately once in government he was under the Clegg Rose Garden ruling that nothing must be said to upset The Tories.

  • I have had a couple of days to think about this and I remain very unhappy…

    It seems we have a list of specific people that we are going to execute without trial whenever we get the chance… The legal justification is that they present a direct and immediate threat to British people, despite the fact that they are thousands of miles away… And we will have to wait 50 years to see the evidence…

    I don’t think it is all that immoral to kill these people who are supporting a very evil regime, but descending to this dubious level of legality is just a gift to the terrorist recruiters… In Northern Ireland we eventually faced down terrorism by restraint, but whenever we slipped up like Bloody Sunday it set us back years…

  • Phyllis

    Can you clarify what you consider the role of Lebanon and Turkey to have been? The root cause from Saudi is clear but less so why the others need constant reference.

    AndrewMcC

    “And we will have to wait 50 years to see the evidence”

    That is a more useful point. There should be a better mechanism of oversight of matters after the fact as current arrangements are very poor.

    But that doesn’t mean that because someone is far a way they don’t present a threat we need to deal with.

  • A Social Liberal 11th Sep '15 - 12:31am

    Psi

    In your scenario the gunman was a ‘clear and present danger to the general public and so, yes, the police had the responsibility of acting with deadly force. This is not apparently so with the two terrorists. When the Defence Minister went on television to fight the governments case he said that the two had been plotting to attack VJ parades in England. When it was pointed out to him that the drone strike was AFTER the parades had taken place he clammed up.

    If it turns out there was no clear and present danger (and the parliamentary Intelligence Committee will find out sooner or later) then there is no international law allowing the act and it should be deemed murder. Believe me, I am no friend of terrorists, the people I served at the same time as paid far too high a price at the hands of Irish terrorists for me to have nothing but contempt for them, but in my opinion it is wrong to go down the route of extra judicial killing when it outside the caviat of ‘clear and present danger’

    On your comment on the Gibralter killings. You are wrong to claim that the three IRA murderers could have been safely arrested. They were know to have a remote detonation device and intelligence on the ground could not safely place it either on the person of one of the three or in the car. Given that arrest was not an option, the chances of multiple casualties was too high and so the decision was made to kill the three. Again, I would much rather have seen them go to gaol for a couple of decades but it was not safely possible.

  • Jim Alexander 11th Sep '15 - 11:47am

    If there is evidence that by there actions they were in any shape or form planning or acting with others to harm UK Citizens then we are within our rights to Act

    The evidence can be as simple as encouraging Jihad in the UK – we therefore have the right under the UN Convention to self defence

  • Jim,

    If we want to assassinate everyone in the world who encourages jihad in Britain we will have a list of many thousands, and every time we kill one of them that list will increase by more than the number we kill…

    The lessons of history are that extrajudicial killings by governments (especially democracies) almost always fuel terrorism, rather than suppress it

  • Jim Alexander 11th Sep '15 - 6:55pm

    Andrew

    The legal precedent is one of ” joint criminal enterprise” which is established within English Law and The International Criminal Court – if this is proven then we have the right to Act in Self Defence – the person doesn’t need to be carrying out or directly Planning the Terrorist act

    If this is established then the decision is does the Person present a clear and present danger – if so- the Govt has a duty to use all means possible to defend its Citizens.

  • @John Tilley
    “So when does a teenager from Cardiff become one of the ‘boys of Islamic State’. Is it on his 21st birthday. Is it when he gets on a plane to Syria?”

    I thought I’d made it obvious in my previous post that the turn of phrase “our boys” had nothing to do with the age of soldiers, and I can’t imagine why you would think someone would start being a boy on their 21st birthday.

    As for Saudi Arabia being the key to stopping Islamic State, did you not see Manfarang’s report of the latest IS atrocities committed at Saudi mosques? (Atrocities which have obviously received vastly less attention than the UK’s killing of two self-declared killers.) Does this not suggest to you that there are at least some elements in IS who couldn’t care less what the Saudi royal family think about them?

  • John Tilley 11th Sep '15 - 8:26pm

    Stuart 11th Sep ’15 – 7:47pm
    I agree with you when you say — “that there are at least some elements in IS who couldn’t care less what the Saudi royal family think about them?”
    There is widespread dissatisfaction throughout Saudi Arabia with the tyranny which dominates the country.
    It is hard to estimate how widespread and and what level of opposition there is because the UK Media seldom if ever reports on conditions in Saudi. The commercial interests of the small band of plutocrats who own and run most of the UK media is aligned with the same interests as the Saudi elite.

    I read Manfarang’s comment with interest. I am not sure about his interpretation of the events. However, I completely agree with his comment which included these lines —
    “..Manfarang 9th Sep ’15 – 4:43am
    Two wrongs don’t make a right.
    If that was ever true it is true today.
    Daesh is wrong, its beliefs are a distortion of Islam.
    Extra-judicial killing is wrong. it is illiberal in the extreme.”

    Daesh are inspired and funded by the same religious fanatics who make up the religious/royal elite who have run Saudi Arabia for 100 years. It is not a coincidence that Daesh and their Saudi sponsors both destroy priceless archaeology, destroy mosques which they disapprove of, kill more Muslims than any other group, behead people and treat all women like dirt.
    There may well be opposition and terrorist incidents within Saudi — but as we are reliant on the Saudi authorities for reports of these incidents it is difficult to sort out truth from lies.

  • The fact these two were not in Syria on holiday, they have joined an organisation that has directly caused the current refugee crisis as well accountable for the murders of several hundred. Some of them in the most inhumane way possible. The government should of stripped and should strip anyone who travels out of Syria to join Isis of British citizenship and make them stateless.

  • Eddie Sammon 13th Nov '15 - 5:47pm

    Good news today that Mohammed Emwazi has almost certainly been killed in a drone strike with “no reason to believe” that any innocents have been killed. Most likely a good decision.

    We can’t put these people on trial because we are not able to arrest them. The UK public seems happy with the decision, so I think we should accept it and promote it as a method of dealing with our worst enemies when no other options are available.

    Sam Kiley from Sky News has said that ISIS is rattled after also losing Sinjar. Time to press home the advantage – these can be stopped.

    http://news.sky.com/story/1587169/islamic-state-death-cult-suffers-double-blow

  • jedibeeftrix 13th Nov '15 - 6:35pm

    agreed, eddie.

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