“The government’s power to kill must be carefully controlled – or it could turn into a tyranny worse than terror.” – Former CIA lawyer
“How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” – Heather Linebaugh, former UAV operator.
“In the absence of better of options, they [extrajudicial assassinations] are not only effective but moral as well.” – Douglas Murray, Associate Director of Henry Jackson Society.
If there was any further evidence required that neoconservatism – not democracy – is driving the policies of the present government, David Cameron’s recent defence of the assassination of Britons abroad is it.
For the Love of War
Before analysing the justificatory rhetoric, it is worth looking at the context in which Cameron revealed this unprecedented action. The use of emotions, which is a staple neocon technique to influence public opinion, was demonstrated in the speech in the most twisted manner. Whilst pouring over the refugee crisis, he called for a “comprehensive approach that tackles the causes of the problem as well as the consequences.” Predictably, this meant “stabilising” Syria and Libya; a euphemism for more military escapades in the Middle East as explained towards the end of the speech:
“I believe there is a strong case for the UK taking part in air strikes as part of the international coalition to target ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq.”
The pertinent absence of the cause of the present mayhem which has now triggered the displacement of populations is conspicuously absent: the West’s militarist, hegemonic foreign policy, resulting in a genocide of Muslims; bitter sectarian conflict; and hundreds and thousands of refugees.
David Cameron in his speech said that in order to defeat extremism, the extreme ideology which underpins it must be confronted head on. I will confront an ideology which is already in power in Britain, and perpetuates fascism and violence in the name of values it does not believe in.
Looking back over the past decade, we witness the damage wrought by neconservatism in the US; the War on Terror which bequeathed us endless violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, civilian causalities amounting to genocide, torture, and the steady attrition of civil liberties thanks to legislation like the unconstitutional PATRIOT Act, which paved the way for unchecked power and increased surveillance. Muslim communities became the target of counter-subversion strategies and, what Professor Arun Kundnani calls, “COUNTELPRO 2.0” tactics:
“…the extensive surveillance of Muslim-American populations; the deployment of informants; the use of agents provocateurs; the widening use of material support legislation to criminalize charitable or expressive activities; and the use of community engagement to gather intelligence and effect ideological self-policing of communities. Significantly, such practices have been encouraged, organized, and legitimized by the radicalization models that law enforcement agencies adopted in the first decade of the twenty-first century.”
Over a period of time, certainly in the US, the neocons have become almost taboo for the crimes they perpetrated, and the destruction they brought to civil liberties. As one American writer notes, “Neoconservative dreams of creating a hard-edged, neo-imperial American hegemony over the world died in the rubble of Iraq and Afghanistan.” Obama’s recent diplomatic agreement with Iran has further pained the neoconservatives, who have been consistently calling for a war against Iran.
Approaching the weekend, news reports have focussed on the attacks in Tunisia, France and Kuwait. At the time of writing, the attack in Kuwait which targeted a Shia mosque killing 27 worshippers, has been claimed by ISIS. In France, the perpetrator decapitated his boss, and caused an explosion at a gas factory. His motivation is not yet ascertained. In Tunisia, a lone-gunman rampaged a beach killing 15 British nationals. He is believed to be linked to ISIS.
Innocent people have been killed and my heart sincerely goes out to the bereaving families.
The politics, however, sadly continue. Those who committed these atrocious acts had a motive and an agenda to fulfil. Such tragic events are also exploited by those who can trace their ideological inspiration to the architects of the disastrous Iraq War, which has undoubtedly escalated the violence and instability in the Middle East. David Cameron in his address in response to the attacks, like George Bush, stated that the terrorists opposed “peace, freedom and democracy”, thus directing the attack on “British values” and therefore the nationalism that has been aggressively architected over the past year. The rhetoric, once again, draws heavily upon Michael Gove’s book, Celsius 7/7, along with its false assumptions: just as Bush was patently wrong in his characterisation of the motivations Al-Qaeda (they hate our freedom), so too is Cameron. Boris Johnson notably urged London to be “vigilant” on the Underground as Parliament prepared to pass a motion for airstrikes targeting ISIS back in September 2014. And just as there is a conspicuous absence of 7/7-style terrorist attack in Britain before the Iraq war, foreign policy, will continue to play its part in exacerbating violence.