Monday, 16 November 2015

Jeremy Corbyn and Shoot-to-Kill

You can understand the thirst for vengeance. Last night, France flew sorties over Syria to strike IS targets in Raqqa, the capital of their ramshackle semi-state. They reportedly hit a recruitment centre and munitions depot. Other facilities on the receiving end of French ordinance were a hospital, a museum, a stadium, and a chicken farm. Still, "something" has been done. IS have had a taste of fire, even if civilians every bit as innocent as the murdered in Paris lost their lives in the French bombing.

Whenever there is an appalling outrage on Western soil, or mass civilian casualties mount overseas, as per the Tunisian beach murders or the bombing of a Russian airliner, politicians and media outlets combine their outrage with simple non-solutions that paint one half of the world in saintly white and the other in sinner's black. The complexity of the situation, of the drives that fuel IS support here and abroad, which few establishment figures are normally interested in anyway, are painted out. They're against us, so let's kill 'em. Alas, turning Raqqa and parts of Sinai and Yemen into the Moon will kill terrorists, but does nothing to address the causes of terrorism. Such is the folly of dressing ourselves in saintly white as against their sinner's black.

At times likes these, pointing out the bleeding obvious can at best be seen as an eccentricity. At worst, nuance is tantamount to flying the IS standard. This in mind, I wouldn't like to think some in the media have been waiting to turn the Paris tragedy into an opportunity to attack Jeremy Corbyn, but it would appear some were lying in wait to use the occasion to attack Jeremy Corbyn. Some were a bit quick off the mark, while others waited to see what Jez had to say. And so, tonight, after saying a shoot-to-kill policy on the streets of Britain is not a good idea. Cue outrage.

Let's be clear what a shoot-to-kill policy is and isn't. What it isn't is police getting into gunfights with armed terrorists, as per what happened in Paris. That is an armed response to an emergency situation and anyone in the commission of a terrorist outrage can expect to be held to account by a hail of bullets. That is, first and foremost, a police operational matter of which there is oversight after the fact. What a shoot-to-kill policy is is the gunning down of suspects. Not someone already attacking civilians. Not someone in a gun fight with police. So when Jeremy says he's against a shoot-to-kill policy, he's being highly specific. He's not suggesting armed response throw down their arms and risk themselves and civilian lives to lay the cuffs on someone spraying all and sundry with gunfire. What he is suggesting is that shooting people first and asking questions later, is something we might want to avoid. And you know what? He's wise to make this call. In the aftermath of the July bombings 10 years ago, as the police were on edge and London as a whole jittery, in a catastrophic failure of intelligence Jean Charles de Menezes was wrestled to the floor of a tube carriage and shot four times in the head by police. Do we want to see a repeat, really?

The spin, however, is very different. Jeremy would have us fight terrorists with tea and a slice of muesli, the editorials and front pages will say tomorrow. Like I said, if there are barrels to scrape there are plenty willing to reach deep into them and, again, the tragedy is that another moment to think creatively about and ask searching questions about the jihadi imagination and why some disaffected Muslim youth turn to IS will surely be lost.

19 comments:

Speedy said...

"At times likes these, pointing out the bleeding obvious can at best be seen as an eccentricity." Tell me about it.

You make a good point on shoot to kill. All police officers are trained to shoot to kill, never to wound because they are trained to fire at the trunk not the limbs (which are usually moving around a fair amount) in order to stop the person.

France has 128,000 armed police. The UK 6000. In the event of an attack on multiple targets, it is easy to imagine higher casualties due to a slower response rate.

Anyway, JC is correct. I also agree bombing ISIS is rather a waste of time. Personally I would like to see a full scale invasion, then the state partitioned accordingly. Let the Alawites and Christians keep Assad, let the Sunnis have their Salafists.

Meanwhile, reform our own society - the most obvious long term solution, but the one no politician wants to grasp: firstly by admitting that Islam is a problem for cohesion, and a bull that needs to be taken by the horns.

But keeping on killing Islamists won't change much, just keep them killing us.

Phil said...

An ambush, pure and simple. Is there any evidence that a shoot-to-kill policy is desirable or useful? Has anyone even suggested there is? No - the main thing we know about shoot-to-kill is that Corbyn's against it, so he can be prodded into saying so and generating headlines.

(Well, actually the main thing we know about shoot-to-kill policies is that they're best avoided if you're at all concerned about the summary execution of suspects who are unarmed (Duggan, Grainger, Savage, Farrell, McCann), or for that matter of a suspect who's not only unarmed but stark naked (O'Neill), or a suspect's mother (Cherry Groce), or someone who looked a bit like the suspect in a bad light (de Menezes), or some random bloke in the street with a table leg in a bag (Harry Stanley). But never mind that, let's go and kill some bad guys!)

Ken said...

All very true, but Corbyn walked straight into a trap there. He could easily have made the distinction you make between police (etc) shooting to kill when dealing with an armed attack, and 'a shoot-to-kill policy'. I'm sure he would have no problem in principle with the former, but has very sensible objections to the latter. He didn't make that clear, and he should have. What you call the 'spin' being put on his words in the media is the predictable consequence.

Howard Leigh said...

But whilst you may be right in your interpretation, Corbyn hasn't expressly said that. If you are a senior political figure your statements needs to be very clear and unambiguous. My reading is that police should not shoot to kill, period. And that is how most "ordinary" people will read it, not just right wing papers. Indeed even many Labour Party members spear to have read it!

Boffy said...

The problem is that Jeremy needs to go on to the offensive, to provide alternative solutions, rather than just be seen as negative in relation to the existing "non-solutions".

As I've written on my blog, the capitalist state can never provide real protection for the majority of society against acts of terrorism, any more than the police were able to stop the acts of rioters in 2011.

It is not geared to do that, and that is not its purpose. In fact, its there to defend the interests of the minority, against the majority of society.

So, Jeremy is quite right to argue against the inevitably ineffective measures, and knee-jerk responses, which equally inevitably mean an attack on the majority of society - Snoopers Charter, further attacks on basic bourgeois rights and freedoms, such as closing the borders, suspension of Schengen, greater police powers and so on. But, at the moment, he's left with a critique of those things that may be correct, but is necessarily limited.

Its necessarily limited, for one thing, because social-democrats/Fabians/Lassalleans - including those that call themselves Marxist-Leninists, continue to have a schizophrenic attitude towards the capitalist state. On the one hand, they criticise that state, when it openly fulfils its function as defender of the interests of the ruling class, via its bodies of armed men, and yet call on workers to place their faith, and their future in that state, when it comes to it acting in its more powerful role, of defending the interests of capital, via the welfare state. Then the social-democrats want that state to be given almost unlimited power and remit! As Marx and Engels pointed out, you can't have it both ways.

So, Jeremy like other social-democrats cannot use the logical argument that the police as part of that capitalist state cannot defend the interests of the majority, because that is not its function, because that would mean logically calling for that existing state to be scrapped, and something else put in its place.

But, that is precisely what a logical solution currently requires. Nor is it a call for socialist revolution now. Switzerland, for example, has a Citizen's Militia, where the entire population is military trained, and part of its civic duty is to participate in its own defence. The US Constitution includes the requirement for all its citizens to have the right to bear arms, again as part of a well regulated militia. These re not revolutionary socialist demands, but basic bourgeois democratic demands required for a free society, and defence against an authoritarian state.

That is why Marx and Engels argued for such demands too, as part of their minimum political programme. As Engels put it, universal military conscription, and the training in arms is the logical corrollary to universal suffrage, it is the way the majority of society is able to ensure that what it votes to do, cannot be overturned by some minority having a monopoly of violence to frustrate it.

Phil said...

To amend what was said earlier, apparently no civilians were killed in Raqqa as a result of the French bombing. Given the buildings that were hit, I'd regard that as a miracle.

Speedy said...

"Switzerland, for example, has a Citizen's Militia..."

So, Boffy, you're suggesting something along these lines? Are you serious?

jim mclean said...

The police do not need to "shoot" to kill, they can still kill as they please. The death of Sheku Bayoh in police custody in Kirkcaldy highlights how "terrorism" can justify any act. First reported as being armed with a machete and the "petite" WPC injured was under serious threat from a Large "Black" Man and in fear of her life it was only when it became known that the incident was captured on CCTV that the police story of a feared terrorist attack, in an empty street, in a housing scheme in Fife, began to unravel. The police have told a pack of lies, they have refused to make full statements to the Police Authority, no knives of any sort found, and as Scotland has a National Police Force under direct control of the SNP Justice Minister there is no political comeback in our one party state. Like I say, the ease with which Kircaldy Police used the "T" word to cover this death is worrying. In an area where over 90% of the population are white minorities have little support and no voice, If this had happened in an English city, in a country where the police are not under the direct control of the ruling party, in a country where the CCTV would be made public, this would not happen, lets be thankful these guys do not have guns.
http://www.irr.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/sheeku-graphic.jpg

asquith said...

If the French actions are successful, does that make it a French military victory?

Where are the neocons now? See, this is why as a sworn foe of Jezza, I won't be joining the Blairites, who thought the illegal war in Iraq was a good idea.

I think we should find a party which opposes mindless "interventions" in states which may be unpleasant but are keeping a lid on worse things than themselves, but at the same time doesn't actually go out of its way to support forign autocrats of any stripe. Where are they to be found? ;)

Paul Canning said...

At this point, Phil, if you have to explain what Jez *actually meant* like some Sarah Palin fan or someone reading tea leaves at the bottom of a cup there's a problem.

What Corbyn actually said was a word salad with multiple possible meanings. So anyone without yours has got to be an enemy, right?

Boffy said...

"I think we should find a party which opposes mindless "interventions" in states which may be unpleasant but are keeping a lid on worse things than themselves, but at the same time doesn't actually go out of its way to support foreign autocrats of any stripe."

Which, of course, does not describe what the Liberals did in Government, in advocating the war in Libya, to overthrow Gaddafi, which led to the chaos, we currently see! In which case, why attach yourself to a petit-bourgeois party like the Liberals, rather than the Labour Party, which although it may, at the time, have a leadership not to the liking of a socialist (which of course you are not) is still the party that workers see as their party, and is tied to the working-class.

But, whether you are a socialist or not, why is their a presumption that the process involved finding a party, whose current profile of policies presented by its leaders, meets your requirements? That is the politics of consumerism, whereby you look for a party based upon a fast food like desire for instant gratification, or where you want to just pick up an off the shelf suit.

Politics is not about simply consuming some already produced commodity, but of taking part in the process of production of those politics yourself, and for that reason it involves a consideration of the social forces, which lie behind any particular party, and the potential, therefore, to mould that party into one that is capable of developing the programme you desire.

I would not consider joining the Tory Party as a socialist, because its social base is within the class of small capitalists, and of the financial and landed aristocracy, for example. But, for all its flaws, and current policies, many of which themselves flow from the current level of development of the working-class itself, the Labour Party does have the potential to change, precisely because it is based upon the working-class, which objectively is pulled towards the kind of collective and co-operative organisation, that leads to the ideas upon, which socialism is founded.

Boffy said...

What Blair-right, and soft left MP's have to answer is how they reconcile their opposition to capital punishment, with their support for summary execution, without trial, which is what a "shoot-to-kill" policy is. It is the policy that the British State adopted towards the IRA in the 1980's, as illustrated in the "Death On The Rock" documentary and others, or which has been revealed at great expense through the "Bloody Sunday" Inquiry.

It is the policy that the police in the US have undertaken in Ferguson and other cities against black people, which then provoked riots, and understandable hostility by black communities against the police!

It is also interestingly the policy that Putin has employed in Russia, and in Britain, when he could not get the legal deportation of his opponents to be tried in Russia. Labour MP's supporting Cameron's summary execution of people in Syria, by drones and so on, should ask themselves, if they would then have nothing to say about Putin sending drones or bombers to take out a building in London, where Chechen jihadists were holed up?

When the West created the KLA, and then pressed for the independence of Kosovo, they created the argument for Putin to take the same approach in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Crimea and elsewhere. When they invaded Iraq and Libya, they created the basis for Putin to send his troops to Syria and elsewhere using the same argument.

BCFG said...

"When they invaded Iraq and Libya, they created the basis for Putin to send his troops to Syria and elsewhere using the same argument."

A little higher up the rankings is the fact they created devastation and displacement on an almost unprecedented level.

What amazes me is how spot on the predictions of the anti imperialist left have been.

If I were Corbyn I would make George Galloway my strategist for Middle East policy. Almost everything he said has come to pass. Almost everything his enemies have said has proved to be utter bullshit. Only in a society where the media is unfree is such a man seen as beyond the pale, while the war mongers who got everything wrong are hailed as the wise leaders.

Anonymous said...

Only where the media is free, and there is a right to free speech, is someone like Galloway free to spout his reactionary garbage.

Where do you think Galloway would be today, if he spoke out critically in your apparently beloved Saudi Arabia, or Russia?

Anonymous said...

"What amazes me is how spot on the predictions of the anti imperialist left have been."

Could you define "anti-imperialist left"? Which organisations belong to this category, and which do not?

Ari.

BCFG said...

"Where do you think Galloway would be today, if he spoke out critically in your apparently beloved Saudi Arabia, or Russia?"

You make the grand leap from my criticism of our media to me being a lover of Saudi Arabia and a supporter of their media model. This is the deleterious affects of an unfree media in practice. So thanks for that sobering illustration of how an unfree media that purports to be free corrupts the mind and corrupts discourse.

This reminds us how important the struggle for a free media is.

"Could you define "anti-imperialist left"?"

That would require a lengthy reply. I think anyone who supported the Iraq war on any grounds can be excluded from being an anti imperialist. The quick definition of imperialism is:

"a policy of extending a country's power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means."

I guess opposing these things would be a good start.

But there is much more to be said that can't be said here. So if you bother asking you would be wasting your time!

"Which organisations belong to this category"

Most certainly not the AWL for example. But I would say the All-African People's Revolutionary Party are.

Anonymous said...

"You make the grand leap from my criticism of our media to me being a lover of Saudi Arabia and a supporter of their media model. This is the deleterious affects of an unfree media in practice. So thanks for that sobering illustration of how an unfree media that purports to be free corrupts the mind and corrupts discourse."

No leap. Just the consequence of you previously failing to answer the question of what difference you were referring to between Saudi Arabia and Britain, and the fact that you constantly attack the actual freedoms that exist in the UK, whilst defending those regimes where no such freedoms exist, such as Saudi Arabia.

Anonymous said...

"That would require a lengthy reply. I think anyone who supported the Iraq war on any grounds can be excluded from being an anti imperialist."

Even the AWL opposed the invasion of Iraq, so I guess that definition doesn't really help!

""a policy of extending a country's power and influence through colonization, use of military force, or other means."

Doesn't every country seek to extends its power and influence by at the least "other means"? In that case isn't every country imperialist on your definition?

Did you really mean to include the AWL as being one of those in the "anti-imperialist" camp and the AAPRP as not, or did you just use too many double negatives?

Assuming that its the latter, how does this help in providing a useful definition in supporting your thesis? Even the AWL, for example, also thought that there would be the kinds of consequences of intervention that there has been, the point they were making was that having invaded leaving without creating stability and dealing with the potential for sectarian conflict would lead to worse outcomes than leaving.

In that case, the distinction "anti-imperialist" or not "anti-imperialist" in terms of predicting the likely outcomes does not seem a useful distinction.

In fact, it could be argued the other way around. Organisations like the SWP and Galloway's Respect, lined up with the sectarians and jihadists in Iraq to demand the US and UK leave, and the consequence has been sectarian conflict, a dominant Shia sectarian government that has oppressed the Sunni Minority that has then created ISIS!

In the same way the "anti-imperialist" lined up in 1979 with the mullahs to throw out the Shah, and ended up with the rule of Khomeini and clerical-fascism, which was even worse than the Shah.

That is one reason why the term "anti-imperialist" is pretty meaningless in such analysis, because what is significant is the question pro-socialist, or merely anti the status quo.

Ari.

SpiritSkill said...

Turns out there is a shoot to kill policy: http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2986318/shooting_to_kill_corbyn_the_coup_is_on.html