Hard cases make bad law

Cameron's Government authorises the use of military force to kill British citizens, located in a Syria. This is an act of state assassination. It undermines 50 years of security policy, that fighting terrorism has civil and police primacy, based on a court supervised rule of law.

  1. This use of the military, is disproportionate, not court sanctioned and of dubious legality. It's interests me that the outrage is less than I'd expect. This story looks at Gary Younge's article, who is morally outraged, two legal opinions, from Rozenberg in the Guardian, who sympathetically explains, and argues that the action was a legitimate action of state self-defence and Murray on his blog, who tells us where and when the doctrine of pre-emptive defence comes from. The post finishes with a morally ambivalent piece from Rafael Behr of whom I expect better.
  2. One of the first and morally certain commentators is Gary Younge, who contrasts Cameron's paean to Magna Carta, only six months ago with the rule of law, and the deliberate, premeditated act of the use of military force. Younge's full article is here.
  3. He argues that the actions ignore the principle of innocent 'till proved guilty in court. He also points out that we don't use capital punishment in our civil courts, and finishes more practically with the argument that this sort of individual strike is not an effective anti-terrorist tactic, nor let us face it, an effective military one either.
  4. Younge finishes with the statement, 'Britain can now add extrajudicial killings to torture, rendition and occupation as tools in defence of “Enlightenment values”.'
  5. Terrorists are after revenge, renown and reaction. While Kahn may be dead, we don't know how many recruits his death will create nor how easily ISIS can replace him an alternative leader, if that's what he was, for any attacks on the UK.
  6. Critically it's a negation of a long held central principle of British counter-terrorism strategy, that of civil and police primacy.
  7. Joshua Rozenberg in the Guardian looks at the legality,
  8. and to me amazingly considers the act to be one of self defence, permitted under the U.N. Charter. I have to ask how can this be proportionate. (A drone costs about £7.5m.) For it to be a proportionate act of self-defence, one has to ask whether the death of a specific individual can actually make the citizens of the UK any safer. I suggest not which begs the question as to why it was ordered.
  9. Craig Murray explains the corrosive corruption of the UK's legal ideology, started of course at the time of the Iraq War, when the Government legal team felt that the war was illegal and told Blair so. We have now reconstructed the government legal team, indoctrinated it with a new ideology and redefined self-defence.
  10. It needs to to be self defence to be legal because aggressive war is not!
  11. Ralf Behr also looks at the issue, in a more political, less legal and arguably less human perspective.
  12. Behr writes,
  13. David Cameron told the Commons on Monday that Khan and his compatriots had been planning attacks on UK citizens. This is the legal justification for the assassination. There was no functional authority in Syria to assist with a capture, no option of arrest, and a case under international law for action in self-defence. It was us or them, so the prime minister pushed the button on them. And he will do so again. Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, confirms that the UK “would not hesitate” to use drones against British jihadis in the future.
  14. Behr's conclusion seems to be that ends justify means. It's clear that the Kahn and Amin were fighting for ISIS, which is a crime, and that there was no means of arrest, nor an effective civil power to effect an arrest or trial. He finishes making the point that none of this addresses the Syrian state that is as big a cause of death and oppression as ISIS. (Although I am not so sure.)
  15. I dispute that it was an act of self defence, and contend that end of civil primacy is in fact a defeat for the UK in "the war against terrorism".