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.