Friday, April 04, 2008

A thorny question

If your job was to protect this country,
and you found out that some people born in this country were going off to a different country
( say, a training camp in Pakistan)
to learn to use machine guns and rocket launchers, and intended after their training to attack UK targets and UK soldiers abroad, ( say, in Afghanistan and Iraq)

but as far as you know (or hoped) they weren't actually going to attack UK soil, or at least, you had no conclusive proof of it

what would you do?
What should you do?

If you suspected that they might not only be intending to attack UK targets abroad, but there was also a chance - a possibility - or even a probability - that they might also attack this country instead (or as well)

would you

( a) keep your head down and do nothing, maybe even take the people known to have travelled abroad for training off surveillance - on the grounds that current thinking was that ''suicide attacks would not become the norm in Europe''. ( *cough*)
(b) Reconsider the threat you were facing, particularly in the light of the indisputable fact that some UK citizens had indeed shown a willingness to engage in suicide attacks such as the 'shoe bomber' and the bombers in Tel Aviv had done?

For legal reasons, I will add that this post is inspired by no particular current or imminent trial. It's just something I have been thinking about a great deal for the last few years, and reading up on, and investigating.

What if you found out that they were being trained to make bombs? Detonators?Mix explosives from household chemicals?

Personally, I think to let a small number of hot-heads go off on training for murderous missions abroad on the grounds that whatever subsequently happened was
not my problem
, I'm only responsible for protecting the UK, Jack
is not only amoral, but totally lacking in imagination and foresight.

I would say that an urgent investigation into what appears to be years of the Home Office, police and security services turning a blind eye to a small number of extreme-fringe politico-religious extremist groups, as long as the extremists went off to fight and and bomb and die far away and not on our patch - is long overdue.

The police and security services may have felt reassured when the extremist propogandists they approached spoke of '' The Covenant of Security'', (the undertaking of Muslims living in the UK not to attack the country they lived in).

But once a few noisy extremist clerics began to say that they considered that the ''Covenant of Security'' was broken - by ''the UK attacking Muslim lands'', ''slandering the prophet''
( remember the Satanic Verses furore?) and ''waging war against Muslims'' - then the picture changed. Some began to say that only Muslims fleeing persecution who sought refuge in the UK were covered by the Covenant not to rise up, and that any Muslim born here could strike at the UK if he found it to be oppressing the Ummah, the global family of Muslims.

As soon as that started to fly, ( unscholarly and poisonous nonsense that it was) it should have been realised that the UK now faced a new threat - that the same few people who were urging young men to fight abroad, the thousand or so recruits who were flying off for weapons/explosives training in a 'holy war' - those people might attack on UK soil. Dealing with those people back in 2004 would have prevented 7/7.

This is one of the reasons why having a 7/7 inquiry is important.
However, it appears that having the truth come out in dribs and drabs in court is the current strategy. A bloody stupid one, an incredibly short-sighted one in my opinion, but there you are.


Blogger Old Fogey said...

I agree with you. It's black and white simple. If one of our citizens is suspected of preparing himself, here or abroad, to commit a murder (of anyone, anywhere), then our duty is to stop him. Any assurance given that he would only attack foreign targets (even if credible) does not absolve us from that moral responsibility.

April 04, 2008 7:17 pm  
Blogger septicisle. said...

These are questions littered with difficulty. We don't know how many have gone to jihadist training camps; one would suspect in the hundreds, and we also don't know how many have gone to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq; one would again guess in the tens if not in the hundreds.

Personally, I'm of the opposite view. If these individuals want to go and fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that's where the current jihadi hotspots are, then I don't see why we shouldn't let them go and get themselves killed or die in suicide attacks. That's one less extremist to worry about over here, regardless of how many they might kill in the process.

Yes, that is I agree an amoral argument, but it's also a pragmatic one. Fact is, we can't be responsible for what our citizens decide to do abroad, whether it be stag party piss-ups or waging war against the "crusaders". The vital point has to be that once we know they've gone, we then make damn sure either that they don't come back, or that if they do, we arrest them immediately on re-entry. My biggest concern is not the current bunch of dilettantes on trial, but those who have learned their trade in Iraq/Afghanistan, in what the al-Qaida leader in Iraq has himself called the "university of jihad". Those are the ones we should be worrying about getting back in, not those still going out.

April 04, 2008 8:00 pm  
Blogger Brennig said...

Rachel, the moral obligation is to prevent the crime - no matter where or when it will be committed or the nationality(ies) of the perpetrator(s).

However there are circumstances when the moral obligation is over-written (though I'm not saying that any situation you may have in mind would meet those circumstances), eg Churchill's lack of action re the bombing of Coventry to protect the fact that Enigma had been broken.

April 04, 2008 10:13 pm  
Blogger Old Fogey said...

I think brennig hits on the distinction between strategy and tactics. The overriding moral(and strategic) objective is to prevent the crime.

The tactics used to achieve that end are practical, and practical decisions depend upon the particular circumstances of the case. There are valid moral considerations to be taken into account here, at this level. Thus for example, you may not rush to arrest a suspect on the grounds that in allowing him to continue to act freely he will lead us to others who may be involved. Such a decision needs a clear 'risk assessment', of pros and cons, what might happen if and if not.

But we shouldn't allow such valid tactical considerations to obscure and override the strategic objective and moral responsibility to prevent the crime.

April 04, 2008 11:07 pm  
Blogger The Monkeyman said...

Your totally correct. The whole thing just seems so short sighted and stupid, but more importantly it is utterly unbelievable that humans could act in such a callous manner. They could have stopped these people exporting murder and decided not to: outrageous.

April 05, 2008 11:49 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

They not only let them go out to learn how to fight and make explosives, but let them come back again and took their eye off them when they returned here.

MSK being the prime example.

April 05, 2008 12:35 pm  
Blogger Simon said...

Make them disappear – that’s what we have SIS for.
Under the theoretic term ‘international law’ a person committing murder anywhere is prosecutable in any country for those crimes – even if it’s not the country in which the murder occurred.
That said, they could just join the TA here and learn many of the skills for free, especially exceptional use of the bayonet, explosives, and all manner of hand held and vehicle born weaponry. Further to this, they would get paid while doing it – oh and they get free uniforms and everything.
Over 90% of all medical staff in Afghanistan are TA and high proportion of the troops are too.
So, lets think about how clever these people really are?.......hmmm - not getting anything here.

And the joke is this; Sun Tzu said ‘know your enemy’ – so what better way to know than join the TA, but they don’t, because beyond all else they’re stupid.
However, this is not a joke and we really don’t know how much of this is now being acted upon by the SIS and SS, but I will say that they’ll be working hard on it.
The reality is this, after 911 our government became a government whom only reacted to media criticism, they have their heads in the sand and simply don’t wish to make decisions and take responsibility.
Our government thinks that as long as we can fight a war in a far off land on the US meal ticket then everything is ok and will not effect us. Just how wrong can they be – the amount of civilian deaths in these countries is frankly disgusting, shameful and abysmal, there’s no wonder that people want to join the fight against us.

April 05, 2008 3:30 pm  
Blogger Autolycus said...

There is also the point that it was explicitly made illegal in the UK - as it had not been before - to prepare for acts of terrorism abroad. Now just remind me which government brought in that legislation...?

April 05, 2008 9:48 pm  

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