Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sir Ken Macdonald on Terrorism

There is no war on terror in the UK, says DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions]

Times of London, Lucy Bannerman, January 24, 2007

There is no “war on terror” on the streets of Britain, the country’s most senior criminal prosecutor said yesterday.
Those responsible for atrocities like the July 7 bombings in London were not “soldiers” in a war, but “deluded, narcissistic inadequates” who should be dealt with by the criminal justice system, Sir Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions, added.

He gave warning against allowing the threat of terrorism to trigger a “fear-driven and inappropriate” security response which damaged Britain’s traditions of freedom.

In what will be seen as a criticism of government measures such as control orders for terror suspects, Sir Ken called for a “culture of legislative restraint” in passing terror laws. Sir Ken’s comments to the Criminal Bar Association put him at odds with Tony Blair and the Home Secretary, John Reid, who have justified tighter security laws on the grounds of the threat posed to Britain by a new kind of terror.

Instead of viewing the problem of terrorism as a “war” threatening the very life of the nation, it should be dealt with as an issue of law enforcement, added Sir Ken, who leads prosecutors in England and Wales as head of the Crown Prosecution Service. One of the “primary purposes” of the violent attacks carried out by supporters of international Islamist terror was to tempt countries like Britain to “abandon our values”.

Sir Ken said: “London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7, 2005 were not victims of war.
“And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, ‘soldiers’.
“They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists.

“We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a war on terror. The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement.”

Sir Ken said that it should be an article of faith that crimes of terrorism are dealt with by the criminal justice system. And he made clear his concern over the threat to civil liberties from repressive legislation introduced in response to a perceived terrorism emergency.

The criminal justice response to terrorism must be “proportionate and grounded in due process and the rule of law”, he said. “We must protect ourselves from these atrocious crimes without abandoning our traditions of freedom.”
Sir Ken said that “a culture of legislative restraint is central to the existence of an efficient and human rights-compatible process”. And he appeared to challenge the Government’s decision to invoke threats to “the life of the nation” in order to opt out of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights which bar detention without trial.

“Everyone here will come to their own conclusion about whether . . . the very life of the nation is presently endangered.And everyone here will equally understand the risk to our constitution if we decide that it is, when it is not.”

“We wouldn’t get far in promoting a civilising culture of respect for rights amongst and between citizens if we set about undermining fair trial in the simple pursuit of greater numbers of inevitably less safe convictions,” he said.
“Otherwise we sacrifice fundamental values critical to the maintenance of the rule of law — upon which everything else depends.”

He got it right, you know.

That was two years ago, right after Tony Blair threw in the towel. This article attempts to reframe the Iraq adventure and America's response to the attack on the World Trade Center. Unfortunately seven years speaking and writing about a global war on terrorism makes his clear thinking seem odd.

I recalled this article as I read Dr. Pearl's anguished column,
The Normalization of Evil , in the Wall Street Journal, which I linked a couple days ago. I cannot imagine what feelings and images the word "terrorism" must evoke in him. The murder of Daniel Pearl, his son, was an unspeakable evil deed but it was not done, as Sir Kenneth says so clearly above, by a soldier, but a group of "deluded, narcissistic inadequates" who are beneath contempt.

Dr. Pearl is correct when he points out that barbarism has been elevated to a higher level of respect than it deserves.

...somehow, barbarism, often cloaked in the language of "resistance," has gained acceptance in the most elite circles of our society. The words "war on terror" cannot be uttered today without fear of offense. Civilized society, so it seems, is so numbed by violence that it has lost its gift to be disgusted by evil.

I believe it all started with well-meaning analysts, who in their zeal to find creative solutions to terror decided that terror is not a real enemy, but a tactic. Thus the basic engine that propels acts of terrorism -- the ideological license to elevate one's grievances above the norms of civilized society -- was wished away in favor of seemingly more manageable "tactical" considerations.

That much is clear. But the metamorphosis of terrorism from barbarism to "legitimacy as a 'resistance' movement" started the moment that catchy phrase Global War On Terror was coined. As Sir Ken points out, it is not a war, nor has it ever been. No state is involved (although to sell the idea of waging war Iraq had to be the designated location to hang "flypaper"). No soldiers are involved so it is necessary to speak of "insurgents" instead of "rebels." No prisoners of war are involved so we must ust the term "detainee." No recognized rules of war are being followed, not because history fails to furnish any but because the United States of America chose to disregard or cherry-pick the old rules, preferring instead to adopt the chaotic -- yes, lawless -- universe in which terrorism thrives.

Judea Pearl's article and the comments left at the WSJ opinions forum bear overwhelming witness both to the accuracy of his main argument and a widespread subscription to his false conclusion. For me it is a deeply troubling situation. We find ourselves years after the outset of what began with the best of intentions, having created instead an even larger population of terrorists than would ever have come into existence had we not treated them as adversaries instead of the criminals they really are. And that started well before Jimmy Carter opened his mouth about Hamas.

It is a sad day when otherwise good and respected people malign the peacemakers among us. Among my own peers are many who no longer regard the Nobel Prize with high regard because their animus toward old-fashioned attempts at peacemaking has become too sour to tolerate. They do not see that the only alternative is a fight to the death, because no space remains for reconciliation.

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