Manhunt in Syria – The Reaper Cometh

At what point does the legitimate self-defence become an extra-judicial murder?

That seems to be the question of the day, with predictably opposing views

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FireShot Capture 49 - Cameron justifies the drone strike in _ - http___www.theguardian.com_comment

 

The justification came in the simple form of they were planning to kill civilians in the UK and hence in the age old strategy of getting your digs in early, they were killed using the medium of an RAF Reaper. This is not dissimilar to Operation Flavius in 1988, Gibraltar, but obviously without the unmanned aircraft and Hellfire missile thing!

It is an interesting debate with many nuanced views in amongst the froth; what does Article 51 of the UN Charter say, what does international law say about anticipatory self defence, what is the definition of self-defence anyway and what amount of transparency is appropriate but at the end of the day, it comes down to a simple matter of right and wrong. They are not there to hand out food to the needy and they are not there to further their study in Quranic scripture, but they are there to fight with and for an organisation that sees no problems with beheading children, killing civilians with mustard gas, raping and enslaving women, throwing homosexuals off tall buildings, boiling prisoners alive and generally debasing what it means to be a human being. They were also plotting to carry out acts of terror in the UK. In that, they forfeit their right to leniency, they gave up their right to be treated with human decency, planted their flags firmly in the wrong camp and in a nutshell, got what was coming to them.

It was proportionate and necessary.

They want to play in a game that allows them to rape women and kill civilians, fine, but they have to understand the game they play has very harsh offside rules.

Where the government seem to be failing is in their efforts to provide legal cover for the people involved. I can see the decision to not publish the legal advice has logic and merit for the short term but longer term, the UK needs to have a clear and unambiguous interpretation of the legal landscape, if necessary, through specific provision in UK law, similar to the US ‘Authorisation of Military Force’ provisions made in the USA.

This provision should be confirmed by Parliament on a regular basis or lapse, but it needs clarity because one thing is certain, as an estimated 700 British nationals have joined Islamic terror groups in Syria, we can’t just bumble along on a case by case basis or saying the only ones we will target are the ones plotting VE day atrocities.

This places far too much emphasis on ‘intelligence’ with all the weight of Iraqi WMD ‘intelligence’ bearing down on each case.

Stripping them of citizenship so we can look the other way whilst America does our dirty work, as some have suggested, seems a rather underhand way of avoiding responsibility and facing up to the unpalatable facts.

So I think we should simply state that any British citizen fighting for ISIS is a clear threat to the UK and act accordingly.

Another question arises, should we exploit this capability?

By demonstrating that we can kill individuals we show that we have an effective intelligence machine backed up with the means to exploit that intelligence. We should be ruthlessly exploiting the psychological value of this capability with careful information operations designed to nurture the feelings of vulnerability. Let ISIS expend energy on trying to figure out how, let them worry about picking up the radio or sending a Tweet, let them understand that no matter where they are, they are being watched. Let’s see a YouTube video showing their last moments with the direct message that ‘it could be you’. Guile, cunning, Twitter and YouTube are powerful allies, especially when they have a big brother with wings. Making it known to other nationalities that hanging around with British members of ISIS might not be conducive to a long life might also have value.

This capability should also be used to incite those there to come home.

Now I know this might not be a popular sentiment and there is a very good argument for, without being shy about the word, killing them in Syria and Iraq rather than worrying about them back home; but, they will be a source of intelligence and maybe some of them can be used to educate and prevent others doing the same.

With a carefully designed and closely managed return and deradicalisation programme, driven by the threat of targetted execution and the pull of some return to normal life in the UK, aided and abetted by their families, some, but not all, of the British ISIS fighters can be peeled away put to work in this long war.

And make no mistake, this is a long war that is going to play out over decades and all of the Middle East and much of Africa.

So let’s be clear, we should make it a public policy position backed up with law; if you are a British member of ISIS, expect a door knock from Mr Reaper, but there are alternatives.

Carrot and Stick.

Finally, lost in all the hype is the fact that some very brave men and women will have been involved, maybe time to share a thought for them as well.

 

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Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 1:57 pm

If there was direct evidence he was directing active plots, in the UK, and was planning to continue doing so.
If there was no way to capture him alive now or in the near future.
If there was no risk of civilian casualties.
Then it would be a perfectly valid strike in my opinion.

Also to me being able to find a single individual deep behind enemy lines and track him seems a bit of a long shot if you are only operating from the air.

Smurphboy
Smurphboy
September 8, 2015 2:06 pm

I think we all agree, both on the left and right, that ‘something must be done’, but there is far too much flag waving and far too little due process and real planning.

Irrespective of their views, as despicable and fourteenth century as they may be, they are still British citizens. Are we, as the people of this nation, happy that with no evidence presented and based on secret legal advice (sounding familiar) that it is acceptable for the government to execute British citizens? Surely, we can be told why and how this is legal? In fact, parliament should demand the government account for this.

Secondly, we need more of a plan than bombing them back to the Stone Age, what are we going to do about Syria in the longer term? Are we back to sitting down with the French and redrawing the borders again? We need a comprehensive approach to the middle east, one based on defining the peace, instead of fighting the same war again…

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 8, 2015 2:10 pm

Can’t argue with any of that…it’s my been my view from the outset that we would have been better served by taking the Jihadis at their word, and treated them as an enemy army; allowing us to shoot anyone who did not surrender without further ado, and confine those that did surrender as POWs (under Geneva Convention Conditions) until the end of hostilities…thereby keeping them behind the wire pretty much indefinitely without any nonsense about trials. As far as I can see we could do that perfectly legally, and still try those guilty of specific war crimes either as we go along or after the last black flag falls into the ruins of a burning town.

Extending that principle, we could treat people who lived in the UK but were not HM Subjects as enemy aliens, and intern them for the duration…and try and condemn those British Subjects who declare themselves to be Jihadis for Treason, in that they have taken up arms against HM the Queen, urged others to do so, or supported those that have…

These people are either enemy combatants or confessed traitors…what possible benefit do we now derive from trying to behave as though they criminals and dealing with them through the Courts?

Both unforgiving and Gloomy…

Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 2:22 pm

As I understand all legal advice to the government is secret, I forget why but there is a reason.

And why should we treat a British Citizen differently to say a Saudi/Syrian/Iraqi/Yemeni Citizen if they are planning/directing acts of terror against this country.

Also how would presenting detailed evidence that could give away details about it’s source or method of gathering serve us any better than the videos he produced calling for attacks on the UK.

I would love for the government to lay out everything in detail, but only if it would be possible without compromising future intelligence gathering.

Also the comparison with Iraq that many have made is a bit dodgy as the Iraqi Government was claiming they had no WMD’s, whereas ISIS is openly calling for acts of terror in the UK as well as claiming responsibility for many other acts of terror in other country’s.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 8, 2015 2:27 pm

@Smurphboy…a British Subject in arms and who has declared himself to be at war with HM the Queen, her Subjects or our allies has committed Treason; for which the penalty was until recently death and is still life imprisonment…why is a further offence required? What is the evidential difficulty involved, bearing in mind the various filmed confessions these individuals have voluntarily posted? Explain to me how the people in question are any different in legal terms to those who Britons who joined the SS and were then captured in their uniform?

GNB

HMArmedForcesReview
HMArmedForcesReview
September 8, 2015 2:31 pm

I support the move but the debate regarding rights and legality wont go away. In this was 1988 (though S. Joshi says its not a similar comparison), for sure it would be ok to announce it once it Commons and that’s it. http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/blogs/prospector-blog/was-david-camerons-syria-drone-strike-legal

But now, the hard left and anti-war factions will never let the matter rest.

Smurphboy
Smurphboy
September 8, 2015 2:45 pm

@gloomynorthernboy: Treason is tried in a Court of Law. Guilt is a matter for the judiciary and a jury, not politicians. Killing British citizens should be something that should be a last resort, not something to celebrate c.f. The S*n. If we really can’t bring these people to justice in any other way, then so be it, but do we really lack the capability to find and capture these people?

@engineertom I’m not arguing the pros and cons of the legal advice, I’m arguing that this reliance on secret legal advice rather than following due process has been done time and again, and is seldom justified when we are allowed to see it.

FYI the FOI Act exempts legal advice to government (Section 36 of the Act), but there are additional hurdles to clear about what is really exempt, c.f. legal advice on Iraq…

This is from the ICO website:

Section 36 differs from all other prejudice exemptions in that the judgement about prejudice must be made by the legally authorised qualified person for that public authority. A list of qualified people is given in the Act, and others may have been designated. If you have not obtained the qualified person’s opinion, then you cannot rely on this exemption. The qualified person’s opinion must also be a “reasonable” opinion, and the Information Commissioner may decide that the section 36 exemption has not been properly applied if he finds that the opinion given isn’t reasonable.
Rods
Rods
September 8, 2015 2:58 pm

I can’t see why we can’t make belonging to ISIS or their affiliates illegal and subject to a formal rules of engagement policy. That way any citizen that joins them from the UK or any other country knows that they are subject to airborne based summary justice. If they ever return to or visit the UK they can then be tried for any illegal activities and war crimes, including treason if they have been associated with an organisation that has plotted or executed any attacks in the UK or anywhere else on our citizens. IMO legally, this is then little different to supporting the other side in times of a formally declared war.

I think doing this would remove much of the glamour that is associated and seems to attract radicalised UK citizens.

Hohum
Hohum
September 8, 2015 3:12 pm

Bad guy dead, lets hope there is many more and not get too worried about it. Thats what the Labour party, SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru and other assorted nutters are for.

In the mean time, something worthy of discussion, the assets suitable for such an operation and their current OSDs (last time I checked)

Reaper 2018
Shadow 2018
Sentinel 2018
RAPTOR 2019 (Based on Tornado OSD)

There is a real question for the SDSR.

Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 3:12 pm

@ Smurphboy

My understanding is that any advice the Government receives from their lawyers is secret and is supposed to be kept secret. If they asked the lawyer for advice on whether they had the right to change the font on a certain legal document, that would be just as secret as the advice for going to war. After all it is only advice it isn’t a court decision, it would hold no legal weight in a court, if the judge decided it was illegal, to say well my lawyer said it was.

As I understand this all stems from the principle of attorney client privilege.

There is an argument for having to try someone in court etc. but that is if you deal with it as a criminal matter which is not the approach the government has taken. Rather they are acting in a military manner and dealing with it using international law, he is planning attacks against the UK so we will strike first to stop him. There is no requirement in this case to hold a trial, we never tried Hitler in court before we went to war with Germany, extreme example but that is the reasoning they are using, a countries right to self defence.

Barbarossa
Barbarossa
September 8, 2015 3:14 pm

I rather think that if you declare yourself an enemy of the state, and take up arms with an avowed enemy of the state then you have committed treason- there is no doubt in your intention, no grounds for doubt nor any reason for the jury to retire…

Equally, Daesh, ISIS, ISIL, call them what you will, have declared war on this country- they use all the terms of war, commit the atrocities of war and attack our citizens… We are in a state of war with this regime, and therefore the government would be failing in its duty to protect the state, citizens and interests if it did not act to defend the nation…

…It seems pretty stupid to ‘cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war’ and then whine because the country you’ve had a go at, has a go back, or demand that they follow the rule of law, whilst not following them yourselves.

I’m equally aghast that all the liberal, bleeding heart, hand wringers haven’t understood the danger we face, or perhaps they have intentionally misunderstood, so they don’t have to face up to the fact that their own naive world view is, frankly, rubbish.

Smurphboy
Smurphboy
September 8, 2015 3:17 pm

@engineertom: To an extent. FOI has the provision I quoted but it is not reasonable to withhold all legal advice, hence a qualified person must have a reasonable opinion of it being withheld.

Re: Hitler, I was talking about UK citizens, not foreign nationals. We can clearly go to war against a foreign power without a trial, my point is that the execution, without trial of UK citizens is not something we should feel comfortable about without suitable (or any!) oversight of the government’s rationale, evidence or motives.

Barbarossa
Barbarossa
September 8, 2015 3:19 pm

…Oh and I rather think you forfeit your right to the protection of a justice system, if you make a conscious decision to act outside it. Equally you forfeit your right to be a citizen of a state, if you take up arms against it.

Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 3:21 pm

@ Hohum

Those OSD’s are just random dates picked at the last SDSR, they are not based on any real world justification. RAPTOR is the only one that has a real world reason it could be lost, the Tornado OSD but it could well be put onto Typhoon if they still need it. For the other aircraft all they need to do is find a bit more funding from somewhere, which they could well do.

TAS
TAS
September 8, 2015 3:21 pm

“We should be ruthlessly exploiting the psychological value of this capability with careful information operations designed to nurture the feelings of vulnerability.”

What else is this announcement then, if not a deliberate message to all British would-be jihadis? It’s not like the Reaper went in trailing a Union Jack, or the Hellfire had ‘Property of the UK’ written on the side. Hell, the US could have killed him with one of theirs! If nothing had been said, nobody would have known and the targets would still have been killed as identifiable threats to national security (who were, frankly, beyond reasonable redemption). If you choose to take up arms, and you are identified discussing acts of violence against the United Kingdom, you are EITHER directly participating in an armed conflict and you are a legitimate military target OR you are a national security risk. Either way, you are a legitimate target.

The bigger issue here is the Government’s poor management of the subsequent explanation of the legal basis for taking action. Talk about leaving yourself open to attack!

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
September 8, 2015 3:22 pm

For once, well done HMG. No one forced them to go to Syria, they fight for an enemy, and know the risks. Long may there be more.

Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 3:26 pm

@ Smurphboy

I don’t think there is a specific provision that protects UK citizens from the government like the US constitution. Mainly as there is no written constitution, and anyway the US got round it.

Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 3:31 pm

I did see someone criticise them for waiting so long to announce it, but imagine the criticism if they hadn’t announced it in parliament. Personally I would like to see them work with senior Labour members i.e. show the legal advice to the leader of the opposition, with a caveat that they don’t reveal it, they already get classified briefings. As a show of being as open as they can without compromising security etc.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 8, 2015 3:37 pm

@Smurphboy…”do we really lack the capability to find and capture these people?”…no…I imagine if we put boots on the ground in sufficient numbers we probably could, provided they survived the ensuing fire-fight; and I’d guess the Kurds would be more than happy to provide a secure base for a Division based on 3 (Commando) Brigade, 16 (Air Assault) Brigade and 7 (Armoured) Brigade if that was on offer…

…but it isn’t, is it? In essence, we might have the means…certainly would in concert with the US…but we clearly don’t have the will; so the practical answer is an emphatic NO. However if it makes you feel better, let’s by all means summon them to appear in court to meet a charge of Treason (by Twitter)…try them (in absentia if they choose not to appear) on the basis of their own voluntary and widely broadcast confessions of Treason…and once convicted sentence them to the maximum penalty available in law. Ideally after revisiting the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to re-instate the death penalty…

…and then kill them legally. :-)

@ Rods…just my point…the basis of treating these people as criminals rather than enemy combatants was the idea that it made them less glamorous, and didn’t glorify their activities; this has clearly failed, so lets by all means agree with them that they are indeed an army with whom we are at war…and treat them accordingly.

It clearly can’t make them any more glamorous or attractive to their enormous numbers of fans and supporters amongst the British Muslim Community than they currently are…but it might make them very much more dead, which I personally am perfectly happy to settle for. :-)

GNB

Hohum
Hohum
September 8, 2015 3:38 pm

ET,

Wrong, those OSD’s have attached funding, without alteration they are very real.

Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 3:42 pm

@Hohum

What I meant by ‘real’ was that the aircraft won’t be unusable as soon as the OSD hits, all they need to do is decided to provide more funding, which is something I also mentioned. Also Cameron’s supposed counter terrorism fund could well be the funding needed.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 8, 2015 3:54 pm

@Engineer Tom “…show the legal advice to the Leader of the Opposition”…a bit tricky, as of next week… :-(

GNB

Mark1603
Mark1603
September 8, 2015 4:03 pm

Sadly the WMD proof and the expenses scandal have caused the general population to be untrusting of the “government” whatever its colour.
I think DC did the right thing, just sad as other have commented that some in the Press, BBC and certain members of the political class side with these people who are terrorists, but traitors. They deserved all they got.

Mark1603
Mark1603
September 8, 2015 4:06 pm

Missed out a few words in the final sentence

Sadly the WMD proof and the expenses scandal have caused the general population to be untrusting of the “government” whatever its colour.
I think DC did the right thing, just sad as other have commented that some in the Press, BBC and certain members of the political class side with these people who are not just terrorists, but also traitors. They deserved all they got.

Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 4:14 pm

@GNB

Hence my reference to the classified briefings they receive. This is something I have been thinking about in recent days will Corbyn receive the relevant security clearance to be allowed to attend the briefings. I am pretty sure meeting with terrorists as has been claimed, as well as being part of anti-military campaign groups, would raise massive red flags were anyone else to apply for security clearance.

Observer
Observer
September 8, 2015 4:20 pm

“Re: Hitler, I was talking about UK citizens, not foreign nationals.”

@Smurph

I think he meant British citizens who joined the SS.

I do see where you are coming from, people should be offered the right to defend themselves lest a mistake be made, but practically I can’t see any way of carrying out such a move without more loss of lives and massive expense. Trials, for better or worse, are a luxury of the modern world, in many areas, law enforcement is simply done on a tribal/familial basis. When the legal system is impractical or non-existent, the choice is either something like this, or to let them go free and continue their reign of brutality. It’s hardly ideal, but please bear in mind that the region they are in is through their actions lawless, brutal and murderous. The chances of there being a fair trial in that region is somewhere along the lines of a singing horse and a bear dancing the polka. So we end up with this travesty of law, not because it is good, but because it is a choice between this slight semblance of justice, or none at all. Glass a quarter full or no water at all. No one said that life was fair. After all, no one gets out alive.

Clive
Clive
September 8, 2015 4:22 pm
They were also plotting to carry out acts of terror in the UK

Jerry Adams and Martin Adams had better keep their heads down.

Challenger
Challenger
September 8, 2015 4:39 pm

RE: Raptor…

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/utas-sets-sights-on-raptor-integration-with-typhoon-415108/

No official announcement yet, but it’s certainly being worked on and i can’t imagine such a crucial bit of kit not being retained post Tornado.

From Luddite Lodge
From Luddite Lodge
September 8, 2015 4:50 pm

I see that Harman ( Labour) and Robertson( SNP) are already circling

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 8, 2015 4:51 pm

@Engineer Tom…leaving aside his previous determination to leave NATO, he was a CND Unilateralist at a time when at least some of them were taking Moscow’s gold…and all of them were seen as “useful fools”, ready to track the nukes and interfere with military preparedness on behalf of the KGB as and when required. I’d expect to see his file “leaked” at some point in the next few years…certainly will make for an interesting Parliament…

GNB

Steve
Steve
September 8, 2015 5:12 pm

We live in a country where we have process of law, where we have innocent until proven guilty. Somehow we do not apply these when its someone outside the western world. We don’t bomb people in rough areas of Britain, just because it might be difficult sending in the police.

I know it is not easy to go in and grab these guys and put them on trial, but the more we keep taking out people like this, the more we are giving others a reason to fight us. Made worse by hiding behind national security defence for not releasing any information.

There has to be a better way. I just worry that there isn’t.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 8, 2015 5:17 pm

@Steve – there is a better way – dealing with Da’esh, rather than wringing our hands…

…but we won’t… :-(

GNB

Observer
Observer
September 8, 2015 5:36 pm
Reply to  Steve

Steve, correction. Those people will still fight you regardless of if you choose to fight them or not. You are “Satan” to these people, which is why they will do their very best to kill you.

And you are underestimating the difficulty of “grabbing” these guys. To get them out, you’ll need an army. And expect casualties. In your example of the rough areas of Britain, you might have to seriously consider it if sending in the police involves losing large number of police officers.

Make no mistake. It is a war they are fighting over there. One that is undeclared and against an unrecognized state. It is not simply a police action.

WiseApe
September 8, 2015 5:51 pm

The Official Opposition are not “bleeding hearts;” they are doing exactly what they’re supposed to do – hold the government to account and effectively play devil’s advocate. It’s called democracy. Suck it up. I’m glad I live in a country where the PM has to stand up and tell us what he’s done and why; and no one gets shot for questioning him.

As for legal advice – well, you get what you pay for.

I think the only thing about this affair that will trouble the “reasonable man in the street” is that this action was carried out solely on the basis of intelligence which we will never see – or not for 30 years or so. The general public can be forgiven for not accepting said intelligence on faith, after the dodgy dossier debacle.

Personally, I say well done security services/RAF/Special Services – your continued vigilance is much appreciated.

@GNB – I accept the point you’re making about the public treasonous statements made by these and other nutjobs, but the fact remains that current UK law does not permit us to go out and slot them. I would fully support any proposed change to the law to do so. Cameron however did not site such statements as justification – Harman picked up on this I think when she asked him “Why these two and why now?” Cameron played the “clear and imminent threat” card without telling us the details, just that we had “intelligence.”

Phil
September 8, 2015 6:08 pm

@Smurphboy

You’re getting a little mixed up. If I go for a walk down the street, and some thug decides to pull a knife on me, and I (being the hard bastard that I am) wrestle the knife and stab him unto death, I have done right (all things being equal).

I do not need a court to pass down a guilty verdict in order to act in self-defence – which is the legal basis of this strike.

Steve
Steve
September 8, 2015 6:18 pm

There is a difference between someone actually attacking you and someone who might attack you. It’s one thing someone defending themselves after being attacked and another then killing someone because they looked at them oddly. Additionally if you do kill someone from self defence it is investigated and the records exist of why they did not prosecute you.

It’s a difficult decision, do you take out people that might cause you issues in the future, knowing that by doing so your causing more to have an excuse to go after you or do you run the risk that they do go after you and you look bad for not acting in advance.

And I think there is a clear link between these strikes and which countries the foreign based terrorists are targeting. You don’t hear of ISIL planning attacks on say Switzerland.

Does taking these people out make us safer, I am not so sure. The middle east is a mess because of what we keep doing there.

Phil
September 8, 2015 6:22 pm

@Steve

“There is a difference between someone actually attacking you and someone who might attack you”

Not really. If you reasonably believe them to be an imminent threat to your life you can crack on. The legal arguments will probably circle around the concept of “imminent”.

WiseApe
September 8, 2015 6:26 pm

“I do not need a court to pass down a guilty verdict in order to act in self-defence – which is the legal basis of this strike.”

Quite right, but you would still have to persuade the police initially, perhaps followed by the CPS then a jury of your peers, that you did indeed act in self defence. You will then have to prove that you were genuinely in fear for your safety and that you acted reasonably. It won’t suffice to simply tell plod that you had it on good authority – and they’re just going to have to take your word for this – that the thug was going to pull a knife on you at some point so you travelled to his abode and killed him.

Anyway, a point TD didn’t address in his post – we took this military action IN SYRIA, where the government has no mandate to do so. Surely Parliament has every right to know why HMG acted expressly against its wishes.

Observer
Observer
September 8, 2015 6:33 pm

@Steve

Have these people already not very publicly and by their presence and armed support of a group known for brutality demonstrated hostile intent, if not for the citizens of the UK, then at least for the people of Iraq and Syria?

Steve
Steve
September 8, 2015 6:38 pm

I hate to be talking conspiracy, but chances are the Americans wanted to take these guys out and asked us to do it, so to avoid the news of US forces killing brits. Which is why we went into Syria.

I think this type of war is a moral mess. It’s much easier to justify a war when someone has attacked someone else and you are liberating them. Far more difficult when you disagree on how the people want to live and in a country where we don’t agree with either side.

These types of arguments about’s self defence, were used for the American torture prisons and yet no one has managed to provide any evidence that it ever saved lives or stopped any terrorist attacks.

I remain unconvinced that we aren’t just making things worse, but half hearted going into this mess and basically providing free recruiting material across the whole of the middle east. Combine that with hundreds of thousands of immigrates entering into Europe from the region and we are creating a real big future problem for ourselves.

A Caribbean Perspective
A Caribbean Perspective
September 8, 2015 6:41 pm

Re: the “UK nationals” part of the argument. IIRC, everyone who joins Daesh is supposed to burn their passport and renounce any former citizenship. They are all citizens of the Caliphate.

Observer
Observer
September 8, 2015 6:43 pm

Oh, as an ironic aside, “self defence” isn’t admissible in court over here lol.

Historical anomaly. In the past, there used to be a lot of gang fights. And guess what both side’s defence was. Mutual “self defence”. :)

as
as
September 8, 2015 6:52 pm
Phil
September 8, 2015 7:03 pm

I can’t argue against those points (except the last one).

It boils down to, how far is it acceptable to us for a legitimate Government to go shooting its citizens without it having to explain in detail why it took the decisions? If we don’t shoot, are we displacing one risk (tyranny) with another (the deaths of innocent civilians). If we demand evidence are we again displacing the risk of a tyranny with the risk of not being able to defend our citizens because we’re hampered by decision paralysis?

Anyway, I don’t think Gov acted against Parliaments wishes. For starters Parliament can’t wish that anyone is denied the right to self defence. And second, its clear that this was an exceptional strike which happened to be in Syria rather than the concerted campaign Parliament voted no to.

JamesF
September 8, 2015 7:11 pm

Unfortunately, however vicerally satisfying it may be, shooting fanatical ISILists will not end ISIL, just as shooting communists didn’t end communism. It may well create more martyrs, this time on our doorsteps. It might be good tactics, but its fairly hopeless without a broader strategy.

Chris
Editor
Chris
September 8, 2015 7:11 pm

I also see a difference between engaging Assad’s forces in essence adjusting the civil war balance of power (which Parliament voted out) and action against those who have a stated intent to harm us and who have already committed acts of aggression on our own soil; a group which we are already engaging in the neighbouring country. While the patch of ground might be labelled Syria, the action taken is not the one that was rejected by Parliament.

El Sid
El Sid
September 8, 2015 7:18 pm

Re: that Sun front page, I think a few more might “thank Cam” if the Reaper crosshairs were on Simon Cowell…

It’s a tricky one – and it’s the kind of bind that’s an inevitable result of the US taking a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach in the early days of RPAS rather than thinking a bit harder about the consequences. It gives a precedent for China to rock up with a CH-4 and flatten a takeaway in Swindon – or Russia to start taking out their own citizens with polonium in London. You need to get the legalities straight, no matter how justified the target. As has been mentioned, even treason is no longer enough for a death sentence these days.

Steve
Steve
September 8, 2015 7:26 pm

What interests me the most is why we admitted to doing this. There is clearly some doubt on the legality of the strikes and whether or not it was against the vote, etc.

I can understand if they had rock solid evidence that these guys were behind planned attacks, that could be used as PR stick to get a vote for launching more attacks, but in this case there appears to be no real evidence other than they might have been behind planned attacks that were meant to happen in the past but did not.

Peter Feeney
Peter Feeney
September 8, 2015 7:31 pm
Reply to  Smurphboy

Bang on – politicians change their minds about who to support as the wind of public opinion changes. Drone strikes on PIRA anyone? THEY were a Clear and Present danger.
How were these men to strike targets so far from Aunty ISISland by sea?
If Preemption is OK, does that mean our Baton Gun ROE will change so we can wack the petrol bomber BEFORE he picks up the bottle … Etc etc.
MPs permitted to remove anyone they like, without checks or balances …

With apologies to Niemoeller –

“First they BOMBED the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they BOMBED the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they BOMBED the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they BOMBED me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

JamesF
September 8, 2015 7:34 pm

@Steve: Hubris, I imagine, sadly. If want to create a deterrent – you go to Syria, we will get you sort of thing – its completely misguided and incomprehending the drivers of ISIL ‘philosophy’.If its to please Sun readers, then as usual whatever meagre strategy we have is highjacked by domestic politcal points scoring – as in Afghanistan. Hopeless.

Observer
Observer
September 8, 2015 7:38 pm

Ironically James, I don’t really recall many Communist martyrs these days. Once you discredit the system, the whole house of cards come tumbling down. And of course, the victor writes the histories.

Bear in mind also that ISIS/ISIL etc etc, are not only active in Syria but also in Iraq (which was how the whole media mess started), Turkey and Egypt. As for the “leave them alone” solution, it will never work. The only way to stop them from killing, short of “doing unto them” would be for you to embrace radical Islam, swear fealty to Bashar and dye your skin and hair.

As I said, I do understand the desire to do things “by the law”, if the situation was any less screwed up, with the targets protected by what is in effect an army, I would say “arrest them”. Unfortunately, with things in such a mess, it is impractical and if you want to wait for a judicial system to build itself out of the mess to hold people to account, chances are high a lot of these murderers will never ever be held to account.

As I said, you have 2 choices. Corrupted justice, or no justice at all. To paraphrase the old wedding vows, “act now or forever hold your peace”.

@Steve

Think there *was* an incident in Switzerland.

WiseApe
September 8, 2015 7:38 pm

Interesting tidbit on that Syria vote:

“Two MPs acted as no tellers during the vote, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) and the SNP’s Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire).”

Observer
Observer
September 8, 2015 7:44 pm
Reply to  Observer

Oops, passage structure error, the 2nd paragraph onwards is not specifically addressed to James any more, just a general observation.

Repulse
September 8, 2015 8:20 pm
People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

George Orwell

Good riddance, and shame on those so week they convince themselves that empty words can keep us safe.

Steve
Steve
September 8, 2015 8:26 pm

I really don’t know where I stand on this, I can see both arguments. I don’t think anyone wouldn’t agree with taking out these guys, if they were definitely guilty of trying to organise attacks.

I think after the Iraq WMD mess etc, no one believes the government when they start hiding behind we can’t tell you why for national security reasons. I think it’s time they were a little more transparent with things.

Mark
Mark
September 8, 2015 8:34 pm

They were hardly in Syria to bring aid to the refugee camps. Appearing in videos chopping people’s heads off was more there cup of tea. They were enemy combatants on the field of battle and got what they deserved. Well done to all involved.

Challenger
Challenger
September 8, 2015 8:36 pm

I’m confused, are you having a pop at Orwell?

Phil
September 8, 2015 8:38 pm

Without a robust means of sharing why we’re blowing these people up without compromising our ability to defend ourselves then I think thoughtful people wouldn’t like to see this happen in anything other than moderation. I don’t think its a black and white issue. We have strong institutions, we are a state of laws and there’s rightfully a bit of a stink kicked up when this sort of thing happens. But sometimes when it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck its a duck.

As a thought exercise, what would the response be if these managed to pull something off and it became apparent in any inquiry that the Government knew of them and their plot and had a chance to stop it, but didn’t have the bollocks to pull the trigger because they knew they couldn’t share the intel or the legal advice to save their own hinds?

What would the legal position be? Would this be the action of a legitimate government? Hard questions to answer and why we shouldn’t make a habit of it without some sort of framework.

Jim Harper
Jim Harper
September 8, 2015 8:46 pm

its a very simple solution – ” Prosecute the mission against ISIS with EXTREME PREJUDICE” and keep killing them until they stop trying too impose their version of the 7th Century A.D upon mankind.

Repulse
September 8, 2015 8:53 pm
Reply to  Challenger

Nope, just saying that whilst some pointless ideological politicians spout hot air, the government has actually done what was needed. I just wish they would have the balls to go further, talking and cheering refugees not going to solve the ISIS issue.

TAS
TAS
September 8, 2015 8:55 pm

Right, let’s fact check here.

This was an act under Article 51 of the UN Charter. That is the right to act in national self-defence in accordance with the Law of Armed a Conflict to attack a military objective. The Attorney General has ruled that the legal basis for any military action in Syria is the collective self defence of Iraq, and that there is an international armed conflict ongoing in Syria and Iraq. So, whichever way you look at it, the targeted individuals are legitimate military targets and can be prosecuted under LOAC.

This is not self defence as we all have the right to exercise. Individual self defence is an inherent right of all UK citizens under (curiously) the Law of England and Wales. Bloody Scots. Anyway, this gives you the legal right to use force (up to and including lethal force) to defend yourself and others from actual or imminent attack. Imminence includes anticipation (i.e. a man carrying a rifle sights it towards you is an imminent threat you can anticipate) but, under our law, precludes pre-emptive self defence (i.e. killing the guy with the rifle when he’s at home). The U.S. accept the premise of pre-emptive self defence; we do not.

So, by deduction, these individuals were prosecuted under the Law of Armed Conflict as legitimate military targets, in an Armed conflict, under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

The fact that it was in Syria does not make it unlawful. Only the British government’s decision to seek Parliamentary approval before committing to conventional action stands in the way of doing more of this.

If these individuals were valid military targets, then revealing the intelligence will likely compromise a variety of capabilities and sources.

Challenger
Challenger
September 8, 2015 9:19 pm

Apologies, i get what you meant now. Initially i thought you were saying good riddance to George Orwell and i was about to tell you to step outside (we’d have to meet first of course) for a pasting!

Phil
September 8, 2015 9:31 pm

So, whichever way you look at it, the targeted individuals are legitimate military targets and can be prosecuted under LOAC.

That’s not quite what is coming across. The rhetoric is that they were killed (with the decision made months ago) to protect UK citizens because they were planning attacks on “UK streets”. Many legal minds seem to argue that the UN Charter provides for the “imminence” test as does UK self-defence law. Some are arguing that this test can’t have been met because they clearly weren’t an imminent threat to the UK because they were pissing about in Syria.

(I am no legal mind) but it seems to me that Article 51 doesn’t concern individual people and that it is clearly considered that an armed attack is already taking place against a member of the UN and so an attack can take place under the auspices of collective self-defence as long as the four principles of the LOAC are adhered to (as would always be the case).

The pickle is between the legal basis of the attack (not very sexy) and the rhetoric being used to justify it publicly (saving the lives of UK innocents – very sexy).

The spin is saving British lives, the reality is it was a proportional response made using the right of collective self-defence as long allowed under international law. You’ve got to be clear on the rhetoric versus the reality or you get people challenging you. The rhetoric is this:

“I want to be clear that the strike was not part of coalition military action against ISIL in Syria; it was a targeted strike to deal with a clear, credible and specific terrorist threat to our country at home.”

Which suggests after all that, that the strike was not about collective self-defence, it was about the defence of the UK. Article 51 doesn’t say “imminent” in the text so I guess someone has decided that “imminent” has a different meaning or isn’t a test needing to be met which is indeed one interpretation of it.

Ask 10 lawyers an opinion and you get 11 opinions back and a reserved judgement as they say.

John Hartley
John Hartley
September 8, 2015 9:32 pm

Cameron is a clueless, posh ,lightweight, who has been very lucky to have the Labour party only put up even bigger idiots against him.
This is strategy sacrificed for short term headlines. Cameron resists taking migrants as he knows how unpopular that is. Then he caves in to pressure from Germany, so he leaks this attack to bluster “Ooh I’m so tough really”.
Putin took a lot of stick, years ago, when he got a law passed that let Russia take action abroad, when Russia was threatened or its citizens put in peril. I said at the time, we need some new similar law in the UK, if only to stop the bloodsucking lawyers from harassing our troops.
If we were serious about IS/Daesh, we would have a five year mandatory jail term for everyone who goes off to fight for it.
Where is the long term political solution?
I still think partition of Syria is the best hope of ending this. One half Sunni with Saudi troops acting as peacekeepers. The other half, Alawite, Christian & Kurd, with the Russians as peacekeepers.

El Sid
El Sid
September 8, 2015 9:44 pm

@TAS
It’s not that clean though, is it? (which is what makes this case so fascinating in all sorts of ways) If you read Cameron’s statement (https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/syria-refugees-and-counter-terrorism-prime-ministers-statement ) the justification is not the collective self-defence of Iraq, but of the UK :

Both Junaid Hussain and Reyaad Khan, were British nationals based in Syria who were involved in actively recruiting ISIL sympathisers and seeking to orchestrate specific and barbaric attacks against the West, including directing a number of planned terrorist attacks right here in Britain…Their intention was the murder of British citizens…in an act of self-defence and after meticulous planning Reyaad Khan was killed in a precision air strike carried out on 21 August….2 ISIL associates were also killed, 1 of whom – Ruhul Amin, has been identified as a UK national. They were ISIL fighters…we took this action because there was no alternative. In this area, there is no government we can work with. We have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots. And there was nothing to suggest that Reyaad Khan would ever leave Syria or desist from his desire to murder us at home.

It seems that this is in the realm of anticipatory self-defence, which leads us to the Caroline test (dating from the RN taking action in 1837 on the US side of the Niagara river against a US steamboat supporting an insurgency in Canada) : “necessity of that self-defence, instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation”

I’m not convinced about the “instant” and the “no moment for deliberation” in this case. It also gets complicated when you bring the others into the case – the Septics killing the other Brit, and us killing a random ISIS member as collateral. Article 51 tightens things further, by requiring “an armed attack occurs against a Member” – we’re saying this is in defence of the UK/US, but neither the UK or US have actually received an armed attack from ISIS, although I don’t doubt that people who have trained in Syria have tried. Also, if we’re being picky about Article 51, we have to report any self-defence “immediately”, not when we feel like it weeks later.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we’re well rid of these guys, but I’m worried about the strategic consequences if we don’t get the legals nailed down as best we can at this stage.

> revealing the intelligence will likely compromise a variety of capabilities and sources.

We have procedures in place for ensuring Parliamentary accountability for that kind of thing though – the Privy Council for one. Although it’s an open question whether the Leader of the Opposition will be a member next week – there’s all sorts of interesting wrinkles.

Phil
September 8, 2015 9:56 pm

@El Sid

Indeed. People are finding it hard to see how they were an imminent threat. Yet we have operated under pre-emptive ROE in theatres of conflict. Clearly there’s some legal mechanism for these to work but I don’t know what it is. Unless you consider that the situation with ISIS as a whole is an imminent or current attack and these were simply targets in a wider conflict.

But yes its confused. But pre-emptive ROE are nothing new either. So whats the legal justification for them? Know what that is and I’d bet the farm that’s the justification for blowing these people up.

TAS
TAS
September 8, 2015 10:01 pm

Except, El Sid, it is that simple. There are only three bases for the use of lethal force under international humanitarian law – UN Security Council Resolution, Article 51 and to avert an imminent humanitarian catastrophe. This can only be Article 51. I highlighted two justifications for Article 51 action, national self defence and the collective self defence of Iraq. Either will do. Whatever the rhetoric, this was a military attack on a military objective. UK criminal or counter-terrorist laws do not apply outside the UK, and this was not self defence with any imminence of threat under the Law of England and Wales.

This is my day job, BTW, so just offering my expertise to the debate.

El Sid
El Sid
September 8, 2015 10:09 pm
Reply to  Phil


Ultimately it comes down to big countries being able to get away with breaking things like the Caroline test if they don’t get called out on it. The classic example is the UK & France saying that an attack on Poland would be a trigger to declare war in 1939. Obviously Hitler’s lawyers were busy that day, but in principle that violates the Caroline test as the UK’s official position was “peace in our time” for the UK vs Germany.

The other classic case is the “Bush Doctrine”, summed up by Dick Cheney’s idea that if you think there’s a 1% chance of an attack, you have to act as though it’s going to happen. That logic leads you to going to war because you think there’s an x% chance that Iraq has WMD – and when there aren’t any, you get accused of an illegal war. It’s a real grey area, the general thought from lawyers seems to be that Bush was overstepping the mark and has left the US with a real problem in sorting out the precedents he left, but you will find some that reckon he was acting within international law.

Phil
Phil
September 8, 2015 10:21 pm

I think this document clarifies some of the thinking. You can see some of the wording maps very well to what Cameron said. Especially on the principle of necessity ie we had to act now or we reasonably believed we otherwise couldnt have prevented an attack.

https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/public/Research/International%20Law/ilpforce.doc

Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 10:25 pm

Two points on the UK parliament that people seem to be forgetting:
a) MP’s have no right in law to decide whether the UK goes to war. They can call for a vote of no confidence and try to kick out the government, but that is not having a say on military action.
b) Parliament voted for the Iraq war, so they wouldn’t necessarily stop anything if they were to be given that power.

El Sid
El Sid
September 8, 2015 10:27 pm
Reply to  TAS

@TAS
I’m not looking at domestic law. Article 51 protects ” the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member”. There has been no armed attack against the UK by ISIS, so the only justification of UK self-defence is some kind of anticipatory self-defence (which isn’t allowed by 51). And the argument of self-defence of Iraq is a bit debatable given that he was apparently concentrating on attacking the UK.

The only threat to Iraq was he was “a member of ISIS”. Now I doubt they give out membership cards, but for the sake of argument, what if there are two allied but separate organisations – ISIS-Iraq and ISIS International. He’s a member of the latter but not the former, he’s not interested in attacking Iraq but some of his tentmates are. When he’s in a different country, it’s kind of hard to prove the threat to Iraq.

I’m not trying to be awkward, I’m just interested in this stuff – not least because it has a nasty habit of biting us in the back years later. Try asking the Solicitor General 2001-2005 – she’s now Leader of the Opposition and being oddly quiet about this stuff…

Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 10:30 pm
so the only justification of UK self-defence is some kind of anticipatory self-defence (which isn’t allowed by 51).

Actually I believe it is, will look for the reference I saw it somewhere this morning

Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 10:34 pm
Was the UK under an armed attack? Cameron said “there was clear evidence of the individuals in question planning and directing armed attacks against the UK”. In English law, you don’t have to wait for the aggressor to shoot first – and the same principle is accepted in international law. The government does not seem to be relying on the more questionable doctrine of anticipatory self-defence or pre-emptive strikes.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/sep/07/lawful-uk-forces-british-isis-fighters-syria

Engineer Tom
September 8, 2015 10:39 pm

As the UK had to notify the UNSC, does the UNSC have to give a ruling or point of view on this.

El Sid
El Sid
September 8, 2015 11:03 pm

@ET
That’s the grey area we’re in. The letter of Article 51 says that an armed attack must have already happened. But it’s widely (but not universally) interpreted as meaning that self-defence can happen ahead of an attack, but only if that attack is “imminent”.

Where that Guardian piece starts talking about ” the same principle is accepted in international law” what they really mean is that it’s a grey area which gets resolved using things like the Caroline test – what do you define as “imminent”?

HK
HK
September 9, 2015 2:38 am

I’m amazed and disappointed.

Amazed at all the hand wringing here. War is about killing people. Do you think we won WWII (Dresden) or the Falklands (Belgrano) by playing nice?

Disappointed that this was even made public. The proper (Russian, French, or US) approach has always been kill the bad guys, keep it out of the press and deny any involvement for as long as possible, then celebrate their death. Allowing the lawyers to run the show is just pathetic.

HMArmedForcesReview
HMArmedForcesReview
September 9, 2015 5:47 am

Corbyn will scream about this till sore throat or death.

Chris
Editor
Chris
September 9, 2015 7:15 am

Yes the groundrules need sorting; yes there should be behind-closed-doors briefings for MPs of all status (clearances dependent) to explain the need for such action; yes the Opposition should keep the Gov’t honest. But specifically in this case where we are engaged against the organisation in Iraq – an organisation that doesn’t accept national borders at all – whether known threats are one side or the other of a line in the desert they are still the same threat. And should expect no sanctuary. At the moment our very strange position is that we voluntarily hand them protected status once they run away to Syria – I’m amazed they can run for laughing so much.

It all boils down to stupid statements by a petulant PM in a sulk over the vote against bombing Assad’s forces. “It is clear to me that the British parliament reflecting the will of the British People does not want to see British military action. I get that.” and similar statements from the Chancellor “Britain will not be involved in any military action that takes place in Syria”. But that was specifically a vote on the Assad chemical weapon issue, not a blanket vote on all action forever more, surely?

To refresh tarnished memories, here are some reports from the time:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23862114 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-23892783

HMArmedForcesReview
HMArmedForcesReview
September 9, 2015 7:45 am

https://twitter.com/paulwaugh/status/641515513177317377 SNP Roberston in ISC SNP have a say now.

JamesF
September 9, 2015 10:13 am

@HK – but is this country at war? Legally, I think not. The real question is does this validate Putin poisoning his politcal opponents on Brtish streets, as he has done? After all if we are legally entitled to assassinate our politcal opponents in a foreign country, does not that legal right apply reciprocally? This might sound dry legalese – but the laws of war are important pilars of the western way of doing things – the Geneva conventions etc.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 9, 2015 10:30 am

@James Fennel…British Subjects under arms on behalf of Da’esh are not our political opponents…they are traitors serving a foreign power which has by it’s actions declared war on the United Kingdom. Surely our Geneva Convention responsibilities would be met if we simply advised them by twitter that they needed to present themselves to the UK Judiciary to answer that charge…and if they did not do so we would treat them as enemy soldiers on active service, and would kill them without further discussion unless they took steps to surrender?

We need to take Da’esh at it’s word and treat it as a state with which we are at war…by shying away from doing so, the only people served are British Muslim traitors who want to play at being at war with us when overseas in some ungoverned space…but then come home and get treated as troubled young people in need of help and support; to do otherwise is quite frankly ludicrous.

GNB

Nick
Nick
September 9, 2015 12:41 pm

@GNB

I think that’s a bit simplistic argument isn’t it ?

For illustrative example:

Every member of the IRA would be caught in that definition. Would you really advocate that the UK government should have executed instead of interned suspected IRA members in the early 1970s and every one else subsequently ? The justification of anticipatory self defence regarding IRA activities would be pretty strong given the events at the time and subsequently.

I am aware that I am drawing an overly simplistic difference here, but it seems to me morally/legally a different thing between using airstrikes/drone strikes to support legitimate forces on the ground (either at the front line or attacking suspected bases or ISIS logistic activities) in a general way and using the same equipment for the purposes of targeted assassination.

Beady
Beady
September 9, 2015 12:44 pm

Can the UK officially declare war against an unrecognised state? If we can, would there be any advantages / clarity in so doing?

Simon257
Simon257
September 9, 2015 1:30 pm

Since this was announced. I have worked two night shifts listening to BBC Radio 4 & 5 in my truck. It seems the BBC are more concerned about the Dead Terrorists rights. Than the rights of Law Abiding Citizens. (Although I did enjoy, Gen. Dannat sushing 5Live’s Phil Williams the night before last. As he tried to get his point across!)

The media have a very short memory, two months ago 30 British Tourists were massacred on a beach. If that wasn’t a Declaration of War, I don’t know what is!

wf
wf
September 9, 2015 3:50 pm

@Nick: please stop talking nonsense. The IRA are mostly located within the UK, so civil law applies, even in the case of MACP like Op Banner. UK law does not apply in Syria. A more reasonable comparison would be comparing the assasination of PIRA terrorists in one of their Libyan training camps circa the 80’s. I can’t imagine anyone would care about them in that case either.

El Sid
El Sid
September 9, 2015 5:06 pm

The 1986 Libya bombing would be the closest analogy, which was notionally in revenge for the Berlin nightclub attack. The Libyans would argue that air attack had as much to do with self-defence as the Lockerbie bombing…

brianm
brianm
September 9, 2015 5:40 pm

We are effectively at war with DAESH. It has murdered our (and our allies’) citizens and inspired and planned attacks on the UK (and allies). The fact that we have so far been fortunate to reign in their efforts is NOT a reason not to remove their capability to do future harm.

I’m not in the “they haven’t killed enough Brits yet for us to get involved” camp that seems popular with some. I would prefer it if we got rid of them BEFORE they qualified on that basis.

DAESH is acting as a state (even if we prefer not to recognize it as one) and we are not in a position to arrest and try people. These two were enemy combatants and this action was no (or at least it shouldn’t be any) different to air strikes on any other enemy forces.

We should be working with our allies to destroy DAESH in Syria as well as in Iraq. If we can’t get a moderate opposition into power in Syria then better Assad than DAESH.

It has to go, and all the time we twiddle our thumbs they are killing more and more people and persuading more and more potential jihadis that they are on to something and a cause worth investing in.

stephen duckworth
September 9, 2015 6:27 pm

Much of the attitude of certain parts of the media is just history repeating itself . For instance , the second Sudanese Civil War , heard of it . Don’t get confused with the Darfur events though that came later. The Civil War rage from 1983 until about the millennium basicly between North Sudan and South Sudan , over two million people died in the south due to government actions on the seperatism South. Ring any bells, no? That’s because IMHO that it was a Muslim v Christian/anamist ( a local religion) war . The North being Muslim and intent on destroying the south. Eventually due to various factors a peace deal and a new independent southern state was set up. Now free of slaughtering Christians the Northern troops turned on their slightly different believing Darfur Muslims in the west of the now smaller Northern Sudan. Suddenly wham ,bam all over the media as its OK to report as its Muslims killing Muslims so global headlines permitted. The death toll in Darfur wasn’t even a tenth of the previous civil war but was deemed more newsworthy? No it just wasn’t political correct to report on Muslims slaughtering Christians by the million.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Sudanese_Civil_War

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 9, 2015 7:59 pm

@Nick…the comparison with the Fenians is quite an interesting one, not least because in my view we may be in danger here of re-fighting that war, not fighting this one.

They did certainly claim to be an army, award themselves military ranks and try to claim rights as POWs when banged up. However in practical terms they were at great pains to muddy the water in that respect. They did not routinely appear in public in uniform with firearms…careful photo-ops at funerals for the world press notwithstanding; they certainly didn’t man military installations, maintain barracks or drive about in ad-hoc armed vehicles…and indeed were keen to ensure that dead or injured volunteers appeared to have been unarmed…in the hope of making Crown Forces appear to be as badly out of control as the military police in a banana republic somewhere.

As I see it, the reason for this is that although they were keen to present themselves as the heirs to the IRA of 1916 or the Civil War…especially at fund-raisers amongst the Boston or New York Irish…they were well aware that they couldn’t even provoke a full-scale civil war, much less win one. Their real aim was to create enough disorder and unease in Catholic communities to provide them with a safe environment from which they could provoke attacks from “The Prods” or over-reactions from the Army and RUC…they claimed to be appalled by Bloody Sunday, but even if they did not engineer it, they were delighted with the outcome…and keen if possible to repeat it as frequently as possible.

Fortunately, we had the good sense to play the long game, focussing on clearly democratic outcomes…no change of status without popular support…and although it remains a challenging situation we have pretty well won. The Six Counties are still British, and will remain so until the majority there decide otherwise…we are on much better terms with the Republic (who don’t under any circumstances want to import an angry Unionist insurrection)…and we remain a democratic state, cornerstone of NATO and key US ally. We could have lost all that.

Furthermore, if we get Da’esh-inspred insurrections in Tower Hamlets, Sparkbrook or Manningham Lane we will know how to deal with them…but that gives us no useful information at all about how to deal with Da’esh in their Iraqi/Syrian heartland…because the only useful Irish analogy for that would have been a Military Coup in the Republic in the IRA Interest, resulting in the Forsai Cosanta marching on Belfast and Londonderry.

Which would have resulted in a swift and crushing conventional campaign, ending with our tanks parked on Dublin Castle’s Lawn…which didn’t happen, and was never going to…

The current case is very different, which takes me to @Beady’s question to which I don’t know the answer, but if I were the PM I would be asking the Law Officers to cast an eye over the following public statement:

“In light of recent events, I thought it important to clarify HM Government’s position with respect to the territorial entity based in Raqqa and dominating territory in both Syria and Iraq, which calls itself the Islamic State. HMG does not recognise this entity as a lawful state, but in practical terms we feel that we must note that it has by it’s actions (especially in Tunisia) declared war on the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland…and we must therefore consider a state of war to exist between this entity and the UK as of midnight tonight. We will prosecute that war remorselessly and by all appropriate means until the entity either ceases to exist in a form capable of waging war against us, or becomes a legal state with which it proves possible to negotiate an acceptable settlement.

This has very important implications for everybody legally resident in the UK. It means that as of midnight tonight any UK Citizen expressing support for this entity with whom we will by then be at war, will prima facie have committed Treason, and can expect to be arrested and prosecuted for that offence and if found guilty imprisoned for life and without possibility of parole; it further means that non-Citizens legally resident here who express such support will be deported immediately, or detained pending deportation if they appeal to the Courts, or there are practical difficulties with removing them immediately.

It further means that UK Citizens who have relocated to this entity and are supporting it in any way will certainly commit treason unless they leave the entity and surrender themselves to the UK authorities immediately…and they must further understand that if they do not give up their arms and leave as instructed they may be killed by HMAF during the course of the hostilities, and without further warning…you must surrender, or expect to be killed.

God save the Queen… ”

GNB

Jim
Jim
September 10, 2015 7:20 am

Nicely put :

If you are a British member of ISIS, expect a door knock from Mr Reaper

Perfectly put :

if you are a member of ISIS, expect a door knock from Mr Reaper.

Don’t stop people going, buy them a ticket to the paradise isle of ISIS, free ticket to hell courtesy of a hellfire missile (perfectly named IMO)

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 10, 2015 7:43 am

I think the idea of preemptive self-defence in relation to these strikes is rather flimsy. There is not the immediacy of an attack to substantially justify the defence of self-defence.

The only reason for the government to refer to self-defence at all is, as Chris pointed out, the self-imposed limitations on the anti-ISIL operations currently underway in Iraq.

The parliamentary motion on support for Iraq stated:

“That this house: Notes that this motion does not endorse UK air strikes in Syria as part of this campaign, and any proposal to do so would be subject to a separate vote in Parliament;”

Note that the motion simply endorsed, not authorised, the use of force in Iraq. The PM is entitled to authorise airstrikes beyond the Iraqi border if he chooses; it is only his own commitment to put that choice to parliament that prevents him from doing so.

The self-defence justification is flimsy, but also entirely unnecessary. Self-defence is being claimed in order to overcome a political barrier, not a legal barrier.

Chris
Editor
Chris
September 10, 2015 7:59 am

Just in case we start to forget why ISIS/ISIL/IBLIS deserve no pity; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-34205911

JamesF
September 10, 2015 8:22 am

Chris. I think we need to take the emotion out of this. We know that ISIL is an abomination. Its not about what ISIL ‘deserve’, nor is it about ‘pity’, its about finding the correct strategic approach to stop them – something we have failed to do so far.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 10, 2015 9:30 am

@Brian Black “…there is not the immediacy of an attack”…only if we take the very narrow view that “an attack” is a planned and identifiable terrorist outrage within the UK, which in my mind leaves us dealing with a hostile overseas entity as though it’s only relevance to us is as the planning framework for specific criminal acts against us here at home…as though in the course of the Blitz we were trying to identify those components of the Luftwaffe Staff planning raids against London, but studiously avoiding anyone working on the plan for Operation Barbarossa. Bonkers.

Da’esh have proved by their acts that they consider themselves to be at war with the UK, and that anyone anywhere with a UK Passport is a legitimate military target…as far as I can see their belief that if they happen across a UK Citizen anywhere in the world they can promptly cut his head off, or sell her into sex slavery (provided she is at least nine years old) ensures that the “immediacy” test is met pretty much all the time…we don’t know either where they are or where all our own people are…so unless we intend to suspend everybody’s passports and ban overseas travel, overseas work and overseas residence…so as not to “provoke” Da’esh into killing a few more of our people because they happen to be geographically available to be killed…the threat to our people is always immediate.

@James Fennel MBE…agreed…I’m looking for a legal form of words to that allows us to prosecute an unlimited war against an entity with some of the characteristics of a state…which might work…rather than continuing to treat that entity as a criminal conspiracy and deluding ourselves that we can deal with it one plot at a time as though it is a series of unrelated criminal acts…an approach that doesn’t seem to me to be working all that well.

I should add that when I say “unlimited war”, I don’t mean a full scale ground invasion (at present)…I mean one in which we will do anything at all that is lawful in a war situation, as and when it suits our purposes…

GNB

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
September 10, 2015 10:08 am

Have we actually declared war on anyone since WWII? It seems top me that in today’s world, many people are trying to apply civilian law to military operations. Those who oppose military action are turning to the law as it stands to try to prevent such action, and failing that tie the hands of the politicians and military to such a degree that effective operations are nearly impossible.

The current definitions of what can and cannot be done need to be amended to cover the changes in the way wars are now fought and more importantly the types of war now fought. Suggestions would be;

-A uniform does not need to be worn to be classed as an enemy combatant.
-An attack on a nations civilians anywhere is an act of war against the nation they originate from.
-It is a war crime to use civilians as a human shield and any casualties are their responsibility for doing so.
-Any person joining a state or organisation that has committed an act against a nation is subject to detention as a POW if captured, for the duration of said conflict.
-The UN needs to acknowledge a nations right to self defence against organisations and states that target their civilians anywhere in the world.

The last is a key thing in my opinion. Surely the UN can pass a resolution again ISIL and its affiliates, declaring them an enemy of humanity and authoring any means necessary to neutralise them. Both Russia and even China are having more and more problem with Islamic militants so should at least abstain. We also need to separate dealing with the Syrian regime and dealing with ISIL. The first is only a threat to itself whilst the latter is a threat globally. We need to deal with ISIL first.

ISIL is NOT a terrorist organisation. Terrorists to not take and hold towns and cities, armies do. Yes they are unconventional but as I mentioned above this is one of the areas international law needs to be amended. Calling them terrorists makes many believe they should be subject to civilian law. Fine if they surrender either overseas or to the authorities in this country then they should be detained but as POWs, under the protection of the standing treaties, but detained for the duration.

Observer
Observer
September 10, 2015 11:40 am

That is a very good point Lord Jim.

@James

I disagree that “deserve” should not be part of the consideration for the justification of execution of these people. After all, if they didn’t “deserve” it, would we even be considering airstrikes on these people? I severely doubt that the RAF is in the habit of randomly dropping bombs on some Tom, Dick or Harry who has not done anything worse than littering or jaywalking. It is because these people “deserve it” in the eyes of a large fraction/faction of the people that even the possibility of airstrikes is being considered.

JamesF
September 10, 2015 12:29 pm

ISIL control 2/3rds of Syrian terority and a fair chunk if Iraq. We can punish individual members for being traitors all we like, but it does nothing whatsover to change that reality. And plenty more idiots will fill these these guys boots. Yes they may have played a significant role in mobilising ISIL terrorism in the UK, and that is at least a better justification, but what exactly is the strategy for addresssing the barefaced reality that ISIL is now an increasingly dominant territorial power in the middle east? I take Lord jim’s point: because we are not fighting a war, we prosecute these campaigns as though we are a global police force. Preventing and investigating indivdual crimes and persuing the perpetators. It seems like ‘justice’ is being served. After all we targetted and killed a lot of individual Taliban guys for organising insurgency over many years in Afghanistan. But to what strategic gain? Not much in my view. In fact it smacks of a more refined and precise version of the the ‘body count’ approach taken in Vietnam. We measure our success by the number of individual leaders and organisers we have killed, the number of terrorism events we have prevented in the UK. Beyond these narrow objectives I assume we are also defining and measuring the strategic gains we need to have made in defeating ISIL – in terms of finding the fault lines within the organisation and exploting them. If not, maybe we need a new approach with wider and less ‘judicial’ but more game changing objectives. A hybrid approach, dare I say it.

Peter Elliott
September 10, 2015 12:35 pm

James I agree but unless or until we can get Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia lined up with the idea that they want to co-operate in shutting the conflict down then its a pretty tall order.

Other option is a western coalition that goes in studs up and mashes anyone who answers back, followed by a UN mandated international government. Can’t see that one getting past the Security Council either – Russia would kybosh it for sure even if the Chinese kept diplomatic silence.

So what’s left? Containement, airstikes, and trying to persuade the region stakeholders one small piece at a time that its not actually in their interests to piss so energetically in their mutual back yard.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 10, 2015 6:06 pm

Elliot…right then…declare war on the Da’esh entity under Article 51 on the grounds that they treat our people as legitimate military targets wherever they find them, and as we don’t know where Da’esh might next pop up and are not willing to place the entire population of the UK under house arrest, there is a permanent and immediate threat to British Citizens wherever they might be. And then “…go in, studs up” via Kurdistan. Recognising that:

> Our only real friends in these parts are certainly Israel, and possibly Kurdistan…

> The Turks and the Gulf Arabs need to be forced to choose which side they are on…allowing them to play both sides against the middle helps them but not us, long-term.

> No harm in letting Iran know that our current deal with them is functional and conditional… we like them no more than they like us, but are willing to park our beef with them for the time being…

>…if we don’t take the business by the scruff of the neck, Czar Putin will…do we really want that outcome?

> …and finally. taking a lead in this way might re-calibrate our relationship with the Cousins, as discussed on another thread.

As far as I can see, we need to act…or anticipate the emergence of “Halal Sharia” Tower Hamlets, Sparkbrook, Manningham Lane and others by the end of the decade…

GNB

HMArmedForcesReview
HMArmedForcesReview
September 11, 2015 3:01 am
stephen duckworth
September 11, 2015 3:48 pm

On the 24th of July 2015 Turkey submitted this statement to the UN Security Council explaining why it had chosen to start military action as part of the Global Coalition against Daesh stating their legal standpoint under UN regulations. Bar swopping the paragraph on 32 Turkish citizens being killed for the 30 UK dead in Tunisia and deleting the attack on the border post used word for word should let us do what we need to do in Syria.
http://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/s_2015_563.pdf

Nick
Nick
September 14, 2015 1:59 pm

@GNB

my point was that the law is as it is written or at least thought so. I dont really think that UK domestic or international law has changed that much since the 1970s so it targeted assassination is legal in Syria/Iraq, can we really claim the same practice is illegal here, if the same conditions applied (ie youre Tower Hamlets ISIL statelet).