Hey, What Happened to Tony Blair's Clothes?

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The UK's director of public prosecutions, Ken Macdonald, has a view of the war on terror that's, um, a bit different than Alberto Gonzales'.

Sir Ken pointed to the rhetoric around the "war on terror"—which has been adopted by Tony Blair and ministers after being coined by George Bush—to illustrate the risks.

He 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', just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs'.

Macdonald was saying this to whack at Blairite proposals to allow "the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists without trial, later held incompatible with human rights by the courts, and the replacement law that permits suspects to be placed under control orders instead of being brought to trial."

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  1. Hooray for Macdonald!

    No martial law in our neighborhoods!

  2. Wait, you mean that we can use the rule of law and due process to identify and punish people who perpetrate violence? Even if they’re Muslim?

    To some, that is (sadly) a radical notion.

  3. Oops, fogot to change my handle after a post yesterday. Sorry.

    Absent-minded professor and all that.

  4. Sir Ken might want to start carrying a geiger counter with him when he goes to lunch. Not that I am the sort of person willing to insinuate that the American or British governments might try to silence this sort of surrenderist rhetoric.

  5. Hmm, if he actually prosecutes a few people who used war rhetoric to justify murdering an unarmed man, then I’ll believe he’s sincere.

  6. Whoa, tarran.

    The cops who killed that poor man didn’t use “pro-war rhetoric” to justify their actions. They used the fact that they thought we was bringing a live bomb into a subway station, which civilian cops in civil society acting according to civil law would do, regardless of the war.

    The repugnant editorial writers, such as those at National Review, who celebrated that killing even after learning the facts of the case – yes, they did, you can look back at their commentary from that week – are guilty of nothing but writing disgusting things.

    Who’s supposed to be prosecuted for what now?

  7. Back in the 2004 presidential campaign, when the Bushies accused Kerry of wanting to treat 9/11 as a criminal act instead of an act of war, I never understood why he didn’t respond with something like this.

    Kerry’s campaign really was never bright enough to think of changing people’s frame of reference.

  8. “They were criminals.”

    Exactly! Hooray, a voice of sanity in the jungle of war!
    It was a huge mistake to call 9/11 an act of war and proceed as if the enemy were a state having ordered its military into action on foreign soil. Now you need to reinterpret the rules of engagement between nations, fragile as they are, put the home front into war mode, seek for the enemy’s State backers and declare them a terrible threat. But of course when it now comes time to treat your captives as prisoners, you do anything you can to deny the rules of engagement.
    How come I can not get rid of the suspicion that this was no mere mistake on part of our Administration, but a deliberate, calculated move to take advantage of the situation and grab all the power you can?

  9. It would seem that Britons are more than willing to follow along with Blair’s rhetoric without care.

  10. joe,

    You’re right, I was sloppy in my language. It wasn’t war rhetoric used to justify the shooting after the fact. Rather, the bombing inquiry was being handled by a joint team of soldiers and police.

    The guys who identified Mendez as being one of the bombers they were looking for were

  11. No such thing as a war on terror. No such thing as a war on drugs. How about a war on taxes? Sounds like a war on death, doesn’t it? Okay, back to the drawing board.

    By the way, Dr. Thoreau, I’m a nuclear physicist.

  12. joe,

    You’re right, I was sloppy in my language. It wasn’t war rhetoric used to justify the shooting after the fact. Rather, the bombing inquiry was being handled by a joint team of soldiers and police.

    The guys who identified Mendez as being one of the bombers they were looking for were soldiers

    They repeatedly pumped bullets into his head at close range, despite the fact he was restrained and unresisting.

    Answer me this, if I and some friends were riding on a train and decided wrongly that he was a suicide bomber, jumped on him, and proceeded to bludgeon his brains out on to the floor, what would you call the crime?

  13. By the way, many apologies for improperly closing out my link tag on my first attempted post.

  14. Unlike other criminals and fanatists, these guys did recieve some training and support from groups overseas beyond the reach of traditional law enforcement, and so some talk of war is necessary. Scotland Yard can’t go into a terrorist training camp in Afghanistan, but the SAS can.

    I agree that this isn’t a traditional war, but it’s also not traditional crime-law enforcement either.

  15. Great, tarran, you broke the intertubes.

    On the substance, I agree, the entire episode demonstrates the problem with militarizing the threat.

  16. Edward-

    Cool! What kind of problems are you working on?

  17. Does anyone remember any public figures saying that the threat shouldn’t be militarized after 9/11? The only one I can remember is everyone’s hero, Ron Paul, who said something about issuing letters of marque against Osama instead of invading Afghanistan.

    I apologize if this is incoherent. I slept about 3 hours last night.

  18. “The cops who killed that poor man didn’t use “pro-war rhetoric” to justify their actions. They used the fact that they thought we was bringing a live bomb into a subway station, which civilian cops in civil society acting according to civil law would do, regardless of the war.”

    Joe, are you OK? You seem to be defending the actions of the police here.

    I think you are wrong in your interpretation of the events though. Clearly the London police were acting within the EXTREMELY charged atmosphere of a London that was anticipating terrorists and bombs and other dastardly things from criminals (or terrorist, or the non-uniform wearing soldiers of Al Qaida). If not for that charged atmosphere the London police would not have been thinking, “terrorist… bomb… etc.” I doubt that a London cop would have shot that guy to death in identical circumstances, in 1990 for example. I agree that though traggic, the actions of the London police were justified given the circumstances.

  19. Has the UK found a Sheriff Merrill or Sheriff Beloat?

    [cf: Mark Twain “The United States of Lyncherdom”.]

  20. wayne,

    Given the assumptions, their actions were correct. The problem lies in their assumptions.

    And if a London cop in 1990 thought a suicide bomber was about to pull his cord, I’m certain he would have done the same thing.

  21. And let’s not forget that the Bush/Blair mentality goes beyond killing innocents and the suspension of habeas corpus. Britain has more closed-circuit TV surveillance cameras than the rest of Europe combined. And Blair has stated he wants a sample of everyone’s DNA on file.

    The “war on terror” is a war on a tactic. It’s open-ended, metaphorical and generic. (Who would sign a surrender agreement?) And when we plebs buy into it, it gives these guys carte blanche to usurp our rights ad infinitum.

  22. To be clear, wayne, it was because of the “extremely charged atmosphere,” and the administrative procedures put in place in that atmosphere, that the cops came to assume poor Mr. Mendez was a suicide bomber.

    That is the failure here.

  23. “And if a London cop in 1990 thought a suicide bomber was about to pull his cord, I’m certain he would have done the same thing.”

    yes, i agree, but the point is that in 1990 the london cops were not primed and spring loaded to be looking for a young man carrying a backpack/satchel who is trying to evade the police and enter the subway. this guy was a victim of the time he lived in. it was a tragedy, but it was related to the war on terror.

  24. “it was because of the “extremely charged atmosphere,” and the administrative procedures put in place in that atmosphere, that the cops came to assume poor Mr. Mendez was a suicide bomber.”

    I agree, but I don’t see what else the cops should have done. I guess they should have been without fault, i.e. don’t shoot anybody that doesn’t need shooting and don’t fail to shoot anybody that does need shooting. That is a tough assignment.

  25. Abdul,

    “Unlike other criminals and fanatists, these guys did recieve some training and support from groups overseas beyond the reach of traditional law enforcement”

    The FBI has field offices and agents in damn near every country on the globe. They have successfully tracked down, kidnapped and prosecuted all kinds of criminals. The US criminal laws are imposed and enforced regularly for actions taken outside the US. If they wanted to they could do the same with terrorists. I guess I need not elaborate how different a position the US would be in now. Of course, Saddam, that “grave and immediate threat” would still be in power and the Gospel US Democracy would not have been brought to those masses yearning for life in freedom.

  26. I find it very interesting how leftists try to downplay 9/11 and the London/Madrid bombings as some sort of fluke perpetrated by a mere handful of “criminals”.

    Excuse me. The Gambino family are what we know as “criminals”. When they kill, they very rarely go after innocent civilians. Criminals, with the exception of true psychopaths, have some degree of humanity to them. Otherwise, we would have complete chaos.

    Terrorists, on the other hand, are a completely different breed. They are lunatics. They somehow believe that killing innocent people is the will of God. They have very little to no economic motive in their aggression. It is almost all based on vengeance. So the standard “criminal” model does not fit.

    And I will argue that terrorist action is even WORSE than an act of war. The Japanese committed the last true act of war against us at Pearl Harbor. Even though this was a sneak-attack, and a bit cowardly in retrospect, they at least had a standard military objective and a great majority involved were all fighting men.

    There is a lot of equivocating and outright apologist rationalization going on over here on this side of the Atlantic because we’ve had a lull since 9/11. But IF we have another terrorist situation on the scale of 9/11 (or even worse), than all this “don’t worry, be happy” blathering is going to backfire. No one is going to listen to opposing viewpoints and things may get really, really ugly.

  27. The fact that there was an obvious, necessary, clear-cut need for military action in response to the 9/11 attacks – the routing of the Al Qaeda facilities in Afghanistan, and the toppling of the Taliban government – has led to a great deal of misunderstanding.

    The fact that the Bush administration misunderstands the nature of the problem – believing that hostile states and their armed forces are the heart of the problem – has fostered the public’s misunderstanding.

    President Clinton/Gore/Kerry/Clinton/Dean/GHW Bush/Hegel/Warner/Hell, just about anyone else would have done a better job understanding, and clarifying, that the Afghan War was an anomoly, not the standard.

  28. MNG,

    Calling them criminals rather than soldiers is not “downplaying.” It’s not a quantitative difference, it’s a qualitative one.

    The Gambinos circa 1960 were quite a bit more dangerous than the Cambodian army, for example. You are just using the term “war” as a proxy for “really serious,” and “criminal” as a proxy for “not that serious.”

    That’s a mistake. When I talk about this being more like a criminal/intelligence problem than a military one, I’m discussing the right tool for the job, not the size of the job.

    “Terrorists, on the other hand, are a completely different breed. They are lunatics. They somehow believe that killing innocent people is the will of God. They have very little to no economic motive in their aggression. It is almost all based on vengeance. So the standard “criminal” model does not fit.”

    Was the Manson Family a military problem, or a criminal one?

  29. I think the problem is this – neither the terms “war” nor “crime” accurately capture the essence of stateless political violence. “Terrorism” doesn’t really work either as that simply describes a tactic (scare people) but doesn’t speak towards the underlying objectives of the people doing such things.

  30. The cops who killed that poor man didn’t use “pro-war rhetoric” to justify their actions. They used the fact that they thought we was bringing a live bomb into a subway station, which civilian cops in civil society acting according to civil law would do, regardless of the war.

    Shoot the guy before he has a chance to respond, then try to lie and say he was wearing a bulky coat, looked like he had a bomb belt on, vaulted the turnstile, ran away from them, etc… Yeah, sadly, that is pretty close to the way civilian cops act. And in the UK, it’s probably pretty common that in questionable shootings by police, there’s just no “usable” surveillance footage around.

  31. MNG-

    Drug lords are probably the best analogy for terrorists, given that they operate in areas where local authorities are some mixture of corrupt, incompetent and complicit. And that they have an interest in sneaking people (smugglers in one case, operatives in the other) and physical items (drugs in one case, weapons in the other) across our border.

    The motives may be entirely different, and what they do here may be entirely different, but in terms of how the leaders are operating and where they are operating, and what it will take to find and capture those leaders, the similarities are substantial.

    Again, there are huge differences, but in terms of what it will actually take to get the leaders of the organizations, and the chain of clues that will get you from an event on US soil to a hideout overseas, the similarities are substantial.

    We have successfully captured, tried, and incarcerated many drug lords without completely abandoning criminal procedures. We can do the same with terrorist leaders.

    I never thought I’d invoke the drug war as an example of good law enforcement. God help me.

    Anyway, I’m hitting the road this afternoon. I’m interviewing all day tomorrow. And then I’ll spend several days biting my nails. Hopefully this will culminate in the title of “Assistant Professor” instead of “Adjunct Professor.” (What’s the difference between an adjunct and a grad student? The grad student has more job security.)

  32. Who’s supposed to be prosecuted for what now?

    They had agents riding with him on at least one of the two busses he took to get to the Tube (he took 2 busses because the first Tube station he tried was closed so he took another bus ride to the station where they gunned him down).

    Accordingly, they could have arrested him out in the open air in at least one of the following places:

    (1) before he got on the first bus;

    (2) after he got off the first bus

    (3) before he got on the second bus.

    (4) after he got off the second bus.

    However, they did not arrest him in any of these places. instead they let him escape into the Tube station. That is what they should be prosecuted for. Well, that and any CCTV footage that they destroyed. And the after-the-fact forgery in the evidence log (adding the word “not”).

    It is possible that the police would have bungled this just as badly if they regarded themselves as police, rather than military, but we will never know for sure.

  33. haywood’s proxy,

    How does the word “criminal” not capture the essence of violence?
    That the motivation is political, is totally irrelevant. Lots of crimes have been prosecuted where the perpetrator had “political” motives. Calling them soldiers successfully legitimises their actions in the eyes of their supporters.

    Joe,

    “The fact that the Bush administration misunderstands the nature of the problem – believing that hostile states and their armed forces are the heart of the problem”

    Do you really believe there is merely a misunderstanding? If there were, they have had every opportunity to correct their views.

  34. We have successfully captured, tried, and incarcerated many drug lords without completely abandoning criminal procedures. We can do the same with terrorist leaders.

    I never thought I’d invoke the drug war as an example of good law enforcement. God help me.

    Well, you were doing OK until you hit that morass. The best hope is to pursue terrorist without the institutionalization and idiocy of the drug war. That actually should be more possible than with something like drug prohibition.

  35. Eric-

    Yeah, the one big difference between the drug war and fighting terrorism is that at least it’s possible to fight terrorism without producing more terrorists. (It’s also possible to fight terrorism in a way that acts as an effective Al Qaeda recruiting poster, but we’ll leave that aside for now.) OTOH, fighting drugs is ultimately a Sisyphean task, because every successful crackdown drives up the price, motivating other drug dealers to expand their operations.

    Anyway, at least the arrest and prosecution of drug dealers proves that our courts can deal with people operating in areas where local authorities are some mix of corrupt and/or complicit and/or incompetent. And that they can maintain at least some semblance of due process while doing so.

  36. Eric,

    You are missing an important point – the cops thought he had a bomb not because of what he was wearing or doing – not just mistake in the judgement of the individual cops on the scene – but because the paramilitary forces at this apartment told them he was carrying a bomb.

    martin,

    The existence of objective evidence that contradicts their understanding is not sufficient for people whose primary means of evaluating an idea is to compare it to their ideological predispositions. Like global warming deniers or Kennedy assassination theorists, they already know what the answer is, and exert their minds only to the extent required to come up with a explanation for why any piece of evidence confirms their understanding.

  37. Joe,

    Your reference to global warming illustrates the importance of being precise. Warming itself is objectively measurable. But is the cause humans or nature? That’s where the ideology kicks in.

    If someone is too stupid to think it through and relies on emotions rather than reason, at least they have an excuse, nature has deprived them.
    I do not think those pushing the “anti-terrorism” policies are stupid. They are shrewd, calculating and ruthless. In that respect they have a lot in common with all despots and with terrorists.
    Let me point you to an excellent article. The author is perhaps a bit over the top at times, but in general I think he has a point that ties in here. I’d like to discuss this further. (++ Hint to Reason for a thread ++)

    The New totalitarianism by Keith Preston

  38. joe:

    C’mon. I already qualified my statement with “the exception of true psychopaths”, which includes Charlie and his gang of hippies. Obviously, that whole deal was an aberration, since people to this day still look back on it and scratch their heads.

    I guess in all my ramblings I’m trying to make a point that terrorism is something that falls outside our day-to-day understanding of “crime” and “war”, that it is pointless to try to shoe-horn it in either one.

    The phrase “war on (insert social ill of the day)” has been so overused that an already stupid and lazy term has become totally meaningless.

    Instead of “war”, I think a proper frame of reference could be “extermination”. Terrorism is a cancer of the human race, and the human race should have ZERO tolerance for it.

    Of course, politicans yelling “EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!” would be a little too Dr. Who.

  39. Dude (martin) – the shrewd, calculating, and ruthless anti terror types certainly use emotion to fuel their arguments. Completely. And I cannot tell if you applaud the anti terror types for exploiting the stupid people or not…

    And how about addressing the larger point joe (11:54) raises – the interesting one – how arguments surrounding the WoT and the War in Iraq are often framed with the conclusions first, the “evidence” second.

    “Calling them soldiers successfully legitimises their actions in the eyes of their supporters.”

    No. Their supporters feel the terrorists are liegit, and this tactic is legit, as it’s their only source of power.

    Remember the court case in the 90s – the one where Kurt Tucholsky’s famous line was brought up? Same thing. At least until 1999 when (IIRC) the law was given up. Judging from your email, you probably had a strong opinion about that whole scene and followed it closely.

    Why does it have to be an either/or? There is an appropriate place, way, and scope for military action, just as there is the same for legal action. The Constitution gives more clear guidelines, IMO, for ethical legislation than the sources do for ethical war waging, but there are still philosophical frameworks for both.

    This citizen believes that, in a state such as the US, it is important for us to adhere to these philosophical frameworks. I also happen to believe that these shrewd anti terror people have overstepped the constitutional boundaries as well as some of their behaviors in war.

    Basically echoing the 1/2 a bee (11:42 am).

  40. You are missing an important point – the cops thought he had a bomb not because of what he was wearing or doing – not just mistake in the judgement of the individual cops on the scene – but because the paramilitary forces at this apartment told them he was carrying a bomb.

    I wasn’t alleging that they thought he had a bomb because of what he was wearing or doing – I was pointing out that they fabricated that he was wearing bomb-hiding clothing, hopping turnstiles, running from them, etc. after they killed him. That sort of cover-up is a real and known police tendency.

    Mind you, swooping down on a guy, restraining him, and blowing his head off on someone’s say-so isn’t exactly what one generally wants out of a civilian police department in a liberal society. I think we can survive terrorism without “we think he has a bomb” justifying summary execution.

  41. “The FBI has field offices and agents in damn near every country on the globe. They have successfully tracked down, kidnapped and prosecuted all kinds of criminals. The US criminal laws are imposed and enforced regularly for actions taken outside the US. If they wanted to they could do the same with terrorists.”

    Right, we should have dealt with 9/11 by calling up the FBI field office in Kabul. They could have just worked with the local authorities to arrest Osama. Then we could have used the extradition treaty between the US and Afghanistan to have him sent to the US to face criminal charges…oh wait…

  42. 1/2 a bee and joe:

    Without checking out the posts immediately after the shooting (summer 2004? summer 2005?), IIRC, you two are basically arguing the same point from different angles.

    But otherwise, the money quote, “I think we can survive terrorism without ‘we think he has a bomb’ justifying summary execution” is one that those hell-bent on the WoT cannot seem to reconcile.

    Adam – like how we figured out Lockerbie. And how special forces went into Bosnia and captured those 5 accused war criminals. But that seems besides the point – it seems like a straw man here. The larger point seemed to be that there is a range of possible reactions, and as 1/2 a bee notes, we also have a responsibility to the Liberal society or the Constitution in this battle.

    In situations, such as Lockerbie, investigation is important. Post 9/11, kicking ass was appropriate. Bosnia is a tricky one – I was against the military action there 100%, but some bad guys were extracted. hell. time for a drink.

  43. martin,

    I was being precise. Reason’s Science Editor was writing posts denying the evidence of a warming trend as late as last year – 2006!

    I don’t think the adminstration is stupid, either. I think they’re in the thrall of a Grand Unified Theory that Explains Everything, much like 20th century Marxists. And as we can see from the inclusion of brilliant scientists and writers in that latter group, that shortcoming has nothing to do with intelliegence.

    MNG,

    I see. I thought you were arguing for the “it’s a war” camp.

    Eric the .5b,

    I see. I agree that the coverup afterwards is some pretty scary stuff in its own right. But on the “someone’s say-so” point, I’ll point out that the “rules of engagement,” so to speak, called for exactly that. Those cops weren’t freelancing that.

    Adam,

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that there are no anti-terror efforts that require military action, just that the existence of those situations and the severity of the attacks do not amoung to a reason to consider the entirety of our counter-terror efforts as a military operation.

  44. But on the “someone’s say-so” point, I’ll point out that the “rules of engagement,” so to speak, called for exactly that. Those cops weren’t freelancing that.

    The rules of engagement called for them to arrest him before he went in the Tube.

    If you think someone might have a bomb, then you arrest him outside so that the bomb does not go off in an enclosed area.

    The cops were freelancing in that they waited for permission (permission to kill, that is), rather than simply arresting the man while there was still a doubt about his identity.

    The obvious inference is that they wanted to shoot this man, rather than merely arrest him. That is the apparent way in which militarization of the UK police impacted the de menezes situation. The safety of the police mattered more than the safety of the alleged perp. Traditionally, that is a soldiers attitude about the enemy. that is why so many civilians die in war. It is sort of novel when domestic police start to take on this attitude (cf, Kathryn Johnston, Peyton Strickland, Donald McCray).

  45. Joe, I’m only reacting to:

    They used the fact that they thought we was bringing a live bomb into a subway station, which civilian cops in civil society acting according to civil law would do, regardless of the war.

    I took that as you saying civilian cops in civil society would have swooped down, restrained, and summarily killed the (by all non-discredited accounts) non-resisting guy, which I only buy in the sense that yeah, cops occasionally pull that sort of thing and often get away with it. That’s all I’m saying, and if that’s not what you meant, never mind.

  46. martin said:

    haywood’s proxy,

    How does the word “criminal” not capture the essence of violence?
    That the motivation is political, is totally irrelevant. Lots of crimes have been prosecuted where the perpetrator had “political” motives. Calling them soldiers successfully legitimises their actions in the eyes of their supporters.

    I admit that I can’t quite put my finger on it, it’s just that to me at least the term “crime” has a connotation that is different from something like the 9/11 attacks.

    Perhaps one could say that a criminal is one who commits an illegal act with the intent of receiving a tangable benefit as a result, while one who commits policial violence is attempting to affect widespread change to a system or society.

  47. They used the fact that they thought we was bringing a live bomb into a subway station, which civilian cops in civil society acting according to civil law would do, regardless of the war.

    No, civilian cops in a civil society, acting according to civil law, *don’t* kill people just because they *think* people are bringing bombs onto the subway. They have to be pretty damn sure that the people *are* bringing bombs on, and that they are going to set off those bombs before anything can be done to restrain them. “My superiors told me he had a bomb that we was going to set off before we could restrain him, and that he therefore needed killing” just wouldn’t cut it.

  48. Seamus,

    They had better evidence than the Air Marshalls who shot that poor nutter on the plane in Florida – they had anti-terrorism troops telling them that this guy was a suicide bomber.

  49. they had anti-terrorism troops telling them that this guy was a suicide bomber.

    That part is not clear. Because the investigation has not been transparent at all.

    During the bus rides, the command center was telling them the person may or may not be a suicide bomber.

    One might fairly draw the inference that they were ordered to go Operation Kratos him 8 times in the head more because he went on the train than because they had firmed up the identity.

    Now if this had been treated as a true investigation of police activity, then we, the train riding public, could know what really was said on the radio and what the CCTV cameras showed.

    BUT, this is treated like a military thing in a war, so the investigation is slow and secretive.

    They are hoping we draw inferences favorable to the police in the absence of true info. I think the absence of info actually militates for opposite inferences to be drawn.

    Don’t be fooled, joe.

  50. Sam,

    I have to admit, the government has been less that trustworthy in describing the events that led up to this.

  51. They had better evidence than the Air Marshalls who shot that poor nutter on the plane in Florida – they had anti-terrorism troops telling them that this guy was a suicide bomber.

    “Better” is not a synonym for “adequate”, especially when we’re talking cops attacking unarmed civilians with what looks like the intent to kill.

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