Tuesday, 22 March 2016

No we're not at war

Like many people, I vividly remember the Birmingham pub bombings. And, since I was only 13 and we didn't own a TV, it took quite something for a news story to get my attention. As the caption above shows, it was one of the very worst terrorist incidents in England - topped only by the London bombings of 2005.

We weren't at war with the IRA. They were criminal terrorists who acted from a political motive and they wanted to be at war with the British government. They weren't.

So I am reminded of that wise choice when I hear this sort of comment:

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, speaking after a crisis meeting called by the French president, says “we are at war. We have been subjected for the last few months in Europe to acts of war.”

However terrible an act it may be - and this is a truly terrible act - these are still acts of criminal terrorism not acts of war. Yet we know - for this has been so for every terror group from the Black Hand Gang through the IRA, PLO and Baader-Meinhoff to today's Islamists - that the terrorists want us to believe we are at war. This legitimises their particular struggle, allows them political protection and validates the deicison to become a terrorist.

I care little about the motivations of criminal murderers except in so far as those motivations allow us to catch them and bring them to justice. Just because someone lays claim to religious or political justification for their acts of murder doesn't change the fact that they remain murdering terrorists to be dealt with through the criminal justice system not the rules of war.

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