Cameron, over-hasty as always on rhetoric, has to retreat over action on ISIS

Cameron on Friday was waxing bellicose about a “greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before” because of ISIS.   Compared with Hitler in 1939?   Compared with the IRA during the 1980-90s?   But Cameron’s statement to the House yesterday was remarkable not only for the way he has been forced to backtrack over the weekend because of the legal and political constraints, but also for its very limited focus on British jihadis.   There was nothing about the central issue of how to deal with the ISIS threat on the ground, and nothing either about how to counter the radicalisation of young Muslims which is at the heart of turning them towards jihadism.   It was restricted entirely to trying to stop fighters returning to the UK, as it is estimated some 250 out of 500 have already done, and the proposals even on this were weak on detail and effectiveness.

One proposal was to restore something akin to the old control order regime, plus the idea of relocating round the country those subject to it so that they would find themselves in a less hospitable environment if they tried to abscond, as several have under both the control order and TPIM (terrorist prevention and investigation measures) regime.   But the problem with both regimes is that they dispense with the central requirement within democracies for open and transparent justice.   Cameron’s second proposal was to stop British jihadis returning from the Middle East, but that seemed to require revoking their citizenship which is prohibited under at least two of Britain’s treaty obligations, and anyway would not necessarily be in the UK long-term interest since we want other countries to accept back deported criminals.   His third proposal was to permit police and immigration officials to remove fighters’ passports at the port of entry on return to the UK.   But that invites scepticism about how judiciously this new power would be used when the attribution of ‘terrorist’ can be a highly contentious matter in the absence of trial evidence.

The obvious and right solution to this limited issue within the much bigger and more demanding problem is a trial and, where proven, conviction in an open court.   The only block on this is MI5/GCHQ insisting that such open justice would reveal the methods by which they often obtain the evidence.   But after Snowden’s revelations that is now known by everybody, and the government shouldn’t allow the security services to hold the criminal justice system to ransom.   Even then Cameron’s response to the real issues – how to contest ISIS in the Middle East and how to stop young Muslims being radicalised in the first place – remains unanswered.

 

2 thoughts on “Cameron, over-hasty as always on rhetoric, has to retreat over action on ISIS

  1. A good, clear headed and sensible post with which I completely agree from an MP who has been described as, whilst in government, as having an excellent command of a complex brief, (but particularly so when contrasted with Cameron and co, who once again display their usual and characterisability short sighted knee jerk reaction to a complex, challenging and difficult problem. and a clear inability to find their way home from the pub without a note pinned to their chests?)

    According to the Home Office, (their PREVENT strategy,) there are already far more potential terrorist in UK than they can keep track off.

    For anyone with the time and patience, the televised proceedings of parliament yesterday, (which are often repeated,) were particularly interesting covering as they did the work of the parliamentary committee dealing with 2 of the inquiries into the Trojan House plot in Birmingham, which I found particularly interesting and informative in this context.

    But then non of this is really about ISIS, it’s all far more about Cameron’s real enemy: UKIP, who unsurprisingly seem to doing extremely well these days and particularly it’s about getting Nigel Farage’s smug mug off the front of the SUN at any cost.

    The other issue is extent to which the shadowy, uncountable and opaque intelligence and security services have got a strangle hold on government; and that on the basis of, “fighting terrorism,” anything now goes.

    I doubt that Cameron who is basically a dangerous crank, (and like Blair before him,) has given a even moment’s thought to the risk of untended consequences, despite some deeply worrying historical precedents.

    This poem is so famous that it’s almost become a clichés, but is no less true for all that.

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.
    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
    “When Pastor Niemöller was put in a concentration camp we wrote the year 1937; when the concentration camp was opened we wrote the year 1933, and the people who were put in the camps then were Communists. Who cared about them? We knew it, it was printed in the newspapers.
    Who raised their voice, maybe the Confessing Church? We thought: Communists, those opponents of religion, those enemies of Christians – “should I be my brother’s keeper?”
    Then they got rid of the sick, the so-called incurables. – I remember a conversation I had with a person who claimed to be a Christian. He said: Perhaps it’s right, these incurably sick people just cost the state money, they are just a burden to themselves and to others. Isn’t it best for all concerned if they are taken out of the middle [of society]? — Only then did the church as such take note. Then we started talking, until our voices were again silenced in public. Can we say, we aren’t guilty/responsible? The persecution of the Jews, the way we treated the occupied countries, or the things in Greece, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia or in Holland, that were written in the newspapers
    I believe, we Confessing-Church-Christians have every reason to say: mea culpa, mea culpa! We can talk ourselves out of it with the excuse that it would have cost me my head if I had spoken out.

  2. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe Mr Cameron as a ‘dangerous crank’ but, like Blair, he is an incorrigible self-publicist who gives the impression that he is motivated by self interest. In a prime minister, that is dangerous. He also falls short on diplomacy and manners.

    I very much hope that Cameron and the West, generally, will cut the rhetoric and give Presidents Poroshenko and Putin room to manoeuvre during their ongoing talks which, we understand, are on the point of achieving a settlement. These two, alone in private and without the background politico-babble, should be allowed to sort out their own internal disputes. The rest of us should shut up.

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