I wonder if Mr Obama and Mr Cameron talked about the value of human lives and military interventions?

I am proud of western values. These for me include the idea that every person matters, and we should all enjoy the right to certain freedoms. We do not think some people are of greater worth than others by dint of birth or acquired status – all must be equal under the law. We think that all who face allegations of criminal conduct deserve to be told of the accusations and have a fair trial to assess the validity of those claims. The basic freedoms in Magna Carta, topical this year, should unite the transatlantic brothers, as they are part of our shared heritage. If people are thought to be immediately dangerous our system allows for their detention pending trial with charges known.

It would be good to think that the two leading ancient western democracies, the UK and the USA, can now do some soul searching on how we preserve and enhance our system and our beliefs in an age of terrorism, asymmetric warfare and fundamentalist revolts. Mr Cameron did have to raise again the issue of Guantanamo Bay. It was no great advert for western freedoms and liberties. The argument that if people are bad enough they deserve to be locked up without trial does not fit neatly into our belief that the accused should stand trial to establish his guilt, and only if established then face an appropriate punishment. To those who say it is naïve to give to violent thugs the same rights as to other citizens, I say no-one said it was easy defending freedom, but who is to say who should be locked up without trial? And what if they locked up the wrong people?

It would also be good to think that instead of considering how best to pursue further military conflict in Iraq and maybe other places, the two great democracies also paused to consider what good has been achieved by recent past Middle Eastern military interventions. What can be learned from the collapse of law and order in Libya and the absence of effective government, once a nasty autocrat was successfully removed by force? What has been learned from the long and difficult campaigns in Afghanistan? And what effects have drone attacks across the borders into Pakistan had on those the allies wish to defeat? Can Iraq survive and prosper as a united nation, now Sunni,Shia and Kurds wish to fight each other for control of parts of their country?

The west was rightly horrified by the deaths in Paris at the hands of terrorists’ guns, and went on a peace march to show solidarity against the evil ones. The west continues to be appalled by the barbaric actions of ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and offers limited military help to local forces fighting ISIL on the ground, seeking targets to bomb from the air. The west condemns the even greater brutality of Boko Haram in Nigeria( as measured by numbers of reported deaths in recent attacks) but does not intervene militarily there, giving limited advice and training to Nigerian forces when requested. Which of these responses is the best? Why are they so different?

If a young thug travels from the UK to Iraq to join ISIL our treatment of him changes. All the time he is plotting murder and mayhem in the UK we proceed by collecting evidence with a view to arrest and trial. If he reaches Iraq and plans murder there, he may be blown up by a smart bomb sent to his address or attacking a vehicle he might be using. Again we need to think through our varied responses in these difficult times.


  1. Martyn G
    January 17, 2015

    “…… but who is to say who should be locked up without trial? And what if they locked up the wrong people?” Well John, the EAW for a start. Already there is clear evidence of UK citizens being deported to another country where this can and does happen if accused of a crime that may or may not be a crime within the UK, the principle being in many EU nations of ‘guilty until proven innocent’. Well done Mr C and Parliament, thank you so much.

    1. Hope
      January 18, 2015

      Why worry about other countries when the Tories have an open door policy to everyone in the EU including those with convictions for murder, who are allowed in the country to commit further crimes. Cameron thinks the EAW will make us safer, Does he take us for complete idiots when his actions have clearly made us more insecure. In addition May continues to fail to deport criminals and deport illegal immigrants at a larger scale than Clarke when he resigned for such incompetence!

      1. William Gruff
        January 18, 2015


        … does [Cameron] take us for complete idiots …

        Is the Pope a Catholic?

        Cameron’s a politician and an over-promoted marketing mediocrity, of course he takes us for complete idiots, and we’ve more or less confirmed it by voting for him.

  2. Peter van Leeuwen
    January 17, 2015

    It seems as though we all suffer from asymmetric thinking. People blown up in London or killed in Paris have a different value than innocent mothers and children co-killed in any drone attack in countries like Pakistan or Jemen. When one has to move from deterrent (threatening warship movements, nuclear weapons) to military intervention, the weakness of this approach becomes clear. In asymmetric warfare that will not be different. You cannot exterminate all “terrorists”.
    More attention (research) must be given to non-military approaches, conflict prevention and conflict resolution, so that more often such approaches will be chosen in future.

    1. Max Dunbar
      January 17, 2015

      Glib talk of ‘conflict resolution’ is all very well from a comfy armchair but if the bullets start to whiz around your house between rival factions I would guess that bringing the mind to bear on ‘research’ may prove challenging. Have a word with Geert Wilders about ‘prevention’. I hear he is a bit of an expert on it.

      1. Peter van Leeuwen
        January 17, 2015

        @Max Dunbar: You’re a bit late if you start thinking about non-military approaches while the bullets are already whizzing around your house. Stances against Islam which are poisoned by power mongering populism bring no good to society. So no thank you.

    2. Gordon
      January 17, 2015

      Yes Peter, and in Utopia that’s how it is, but not here my friend.

    3. Narrow Shoulders
      January 18, 2015

      People blown up in London or killed in Paris have a different value than innocent mothers and children co-killed in any drone attack in countries like Pakistan or Jemen

      I do not know what you are implying here Mr PvL but mothers and children killed in Pakistan by drones, can’t happen to me. People blown up in London or killed in Paris (by religious, fanatical, unhinged followers) could happen to me and mine.

      Therefore I care more about it.

      Keep your eyes on the horizon Mr PvL, I will keep mine in front of me while occasionally ensuring the horizon is still there. I will be safer than you unless others prevent that.

      Unfortunately my government and your EU seem happy to allow those who would blow me up (the horizon) to come to me. That is a shame and I care more about death near me than further from me.

  3. Lifelogic
    January 17, 2015

    Indeed but we have the UK and EU extradition arrangement which are both an outrage and we then have the US engaging in torture with perhaps UK complicity.

    I see the dreadful EUphile, lefty, anti-democratic, Lord Patten (& Cameron’s dreadful choice to chair the BBC trustees and ex European Commissioner) has been suggesting Cameron should continue on his present Libdum, EUphile, expensive energy, high tax, open door immigration, anti democratic approach for the next election.

    Why on earth did this dreadful man ever join the Tories and why did the Tories ever let him join.

    Well if Cameron wants to throw another election indeed he should do this. At the moment he dare not even face Farage. This as he knows his line on the EU, open door immigration, 299+ tax increases, IHT ratting, cast iron ratting, expensive religious energy, grammar schools the dysfunctional NHS ……. are simply indefensible in a rational argument even by a good debater.

    Then again he could start to listen to the voters (who largely want sensible wing/real Tory/UKIP policies and could easily win.

    Low taxes, cheap energy, sensible selective immigration, jobs, far less EU and a real UK based democracy and what voters want.

    Patten even said: – Mr Miliband was “highly intelligent” and a “good debater”. Yeah sure. Is it highly intelligent to suggest a new rent act, energy price controls, still higher taxes, a yet larger state sector and other absurd and hugely damaging bribes to the electoral. The man is basically the voice of the already over paid state sector unions.

    Cameron is indeed the better debater. The trouble is he is always trying to defend totally indefensible positions all the time. Were he to defend sensible, more Farage like policies and a fair deal for England (just for a change) he could still easily win.


    1. Lifelogic
      January 17, 2015

      Cameron & Lord Patten’s policies are essentially those followed by John Major. Once the electorate had sussed out what John Major really was, it ended with the greatest defeat in modern history of any right-wing party. The Tories have not been in power since even throwing the last sitting duck election.

      Do the Camerons, Pattens, Ken Clarkes & Parris’s of this world never learn anything from history? Do they ever talk to real people outside the EU/Westminster BBC bubble?

      1. Mitchel
        January 17, 2015

        Why talk to when you can get away with talking down to?

      2. Max Dunbar
        January 17, 2015

        The Tory Party has not been Right-wing since Thatcher and even then it was infested with Wets. Most of the cabinet need to be passed through a mangle feet first in order to dry them off and even that would only get rid of a few drips. An hour in the tumble drier at ‘woolens’ may be the answer.

        1. Lifelogic
          January 17, 2015


        2. William Gruff
          January 18, 2015

          Max Dunbar:

          A ‘short sharp shock’ would do them good. Birch them and put them in the army for two years.

          That sort of thing?

  4. Antisthenes
    January 17, 2015

    A case can be made that detaining terrorists without trial does not fall under habeas corpus as those been detained are prisoners of war. Although war has not been declared by Western states it has been by a myriad of groups closely tied by ideology who wish to see our overthrow and destruction and so is de-facto a war.

    As for those from Western countries travelling to fight in conflicts abroad on ideological grounds is very little difference from those who went to Spain to fight against Franco(one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter). Of course the difference between then and now is those returning from Spain did not have murder in their hearts for people of their own or adopted country.

    What is being waged now is not what could be described as a traditional type of war but it is war none the less. So those we fight and capture deserve only the rights granted under the Geneva convention and those of our citizens who fight for those who are our avowed enemies are in essence traitors and should be treated as such.

    1. zorro
      January 17, 2015

      I think the USA used the phrase ‘battlefield combatants’ to try and justify the elongated detention after Afghanistan. They may well have pointed to the example of the Soviet Union when they detained German POWs in camps for years after WW11…… Of course, the USA made good use of their German Nazi POWs by arranging their transportation and subsequent use in the USA on their various weapon programmes (Operation PAPERCLIP)….. Which probably goes to show the nature of how the US/UK look at the value of human lives.


    2. Denis Cooper
      January 18, 2015

      “A case can be made that detaining terrorists without trial does not fall under habeas corpus as those been detained are prisoners of war.”

      As a general, but not universal, rule you can readily identify those who should be treated as prisoners of war. When a defeated unit of a well-organised uniformed army surrenders then you know straight off that those soldiers are your prisoners of war and should be treated as such. It gets more difficult if some of them strip off their military uniforms and try to slip away dressed as civilians, and it gets even more difficult if they are not wearing military uniforms in the first place or if they are only loosely organised so that many of them do not accept that they are bound by any formal act of surrender made by an officer or leader.

      The fact is that many of those detained as terrorists were not terrorists, and nor had they been involved in any military operations either in or out of uniform so nor should they have been classified as prisoners of war.

      Moreover if somebody has been classified as a prisoner of war, correctly or incorrectly, then surely they should be treated as a prisoner of war; and there are rules for their humane treatment which have long been accepted by civilised countries, going back even before the formal Geneva Conventions; but it seems those rules were widely and knowingly disregarded by the US government and members of its armed forces on the contradictory basis that these people were terrorists and did not deserve to be treated humanely as prisoners of war.

  5. Richard1
    January 17, 2015

    Let’s hope they also find a few moments to agree they will be more robust with those ‘allies’, such as (name removed ed), which flagrantly violate human rights, suppressing free speech and practicing torture. People in positions of power in countries which torture, and who condone or sanction it, should be shunned.

    1. Richard1
      January 17, 2015

      That’s interesting my post needed censorship. It is OK in a post above for the US to be accused of torture but not the country which I mentioned, which could not be classified as a democratic or free under any definition, even by its own government. It seems there are some countries with very unpleasant regimes which just cant be criticised?

  6. stred
    January 17, 2015

    Listening to part of the news conference yesterday, anyone would have thought that they had nothing to do with the dreadful outcome in Syria. That they had not backed rebels hoping for Western democracy and getting the Headchopper State Nor that they had both recently tried to intervene in another war against the other side after dubious information about chemical weapons and only stopped by MPs in Westminster and Congress following suit.

    They are both experts in saying one thing while doing another. Maybe this is why Obama has taken to his Bro in deception. They seem to have the ability to even fool themselves.

  7. agricola
    January 17, 2015

    Your pride and beliefs are not reflected by our government, it’s opposition, or the party you belong to. If people are thought to be dangerous to the community at large, our government both local and national supports them and their families financially. The police, the DPP and ministry of justice bends over backwards to avoid prosecuting them, as it would were they Anglo Saxon in origin. Think of the racial hatred that has spewed out of them for years with no reaction from the above bodies or the obscenity in Rotherham that was allowed to exist for years until the authorities were forced to react. Witness the Law Society and such institutions as the Archbishop of Canterbury encouraging the operation of a totally alien system of law in our midst. The continued absence of the Chilcott report is a shining example of there being one rule for people with influence and another for the masses.

    Guantanamo was a mistake in that it was allowed to drag on for so long. The small numbers involved could have been settled by trial long ago. We and the USA did much the same thing in WW2 on a much greater scale, but that was a case of isolating people who might have been harmful to our cause. It was not to waterboard them.

    If you ignore ISIL or Boko Haram, how long before they turn from a local murdering rabble into a wealthy enough entity to buy nuclear weapons from a sponsor who needs some wealth. I think better to eliminate them for the long term good of the areas in which they exist and our own security.

  8. Lifelogic
    January 17, 2015

    B”ritish businesses should increase the wages of their staff and pay the living wage for lower paid workers as they enjoy record profits in the wake of the fall in oil prices, David Cameron has said”

    Like most PPE graduates he does not seem to have grasped basic economics. If a company pays the living wage and its competitors do not they will win out and ultimately the living wage company will go bust. Unless it is state sector that is. Companies unlike government have to compete in the real world.

    He claims record profits in the wake of the fall in oil prices – well it has only just fallen. The record profits are largely due to the fact that with lower CT and high income tax & NI levels it is better to retain the profits within the company rather than pay them out.

    Also given the in work benefits it is often stupid to pay more as the worker just loses benefits pays more tax/NI and is no better off. The company then has less to reinvest. The only beneficiary is the state sector who with then piss the money away on green crap HS2 or other such Cameron drivel.

    1. William Gruff
      January 18, 2015


      … he does not seem to have grasped basic economics. If a company pays the living wage and its competitors do not they will win out and ultimately the living wage company will go bust …

      The only point in working for another is to obtain a living and a job that does not pay a living wage is not worth doing. That seems to me an element of ‘basic economics’ that isn’t hard to grasp. To force people to work for less than a living wage is to make slaves of them, and giving people the right to choose their masters and change their rulers does not liberate or enfranchise them.

  9. Leslie Singleton
    January 17, 2015

    Whilst it is true that if they locked up the wrong people a few–relatively very few–people are inconvenienced, admittedly very badly indeed. it is also true that if they locked up the right people the deaths of possibly thousands of totally innocent have been prevented. This is unarguable and if the President believes that the people involved are in the latter category his duty is clear. Evidence-based proof and all the rest has nothing to do with it–he either believes it or he doesn’t. Treating the people involved as if they were ordinary domestic criminals would be ridiculous. Surveillance and troops and lawyers do not scratch the surface.

    1. Denis Cooper
      January 17, 2015

      You cannot simply dismiss the need for evidence, even if you are going to make an exception and work on the civil law standard of balance of probabilities rather the normal criminal law standard of proof of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

      1. Leslie Singleton
        January 17, 2015

        Denis–Belief is belief and if you are the President and it is your responsibility you do what you have to do assuming of course you have the power to do so as Obama had

        1. Denis Cooper
          January 18, 2015

          If those in power do what they think they have to do without taking into account all the available evidence then they are likely to make matters worse not better, and that is what has happened.

          1. Leslie Singleton
            January 18, 2015

            Denis–Of course the President will have taken all available evidence in to account. However sufficient evidence for a Court of Law, especially with hyperactive and overpaid American lawyers involved, is a very different matter

          2. Denis Cooper
            January 19, 2015

            Then why do we see somebody who was held for years as a dangerous terrorist, but eventually released, on TV saying that he had done nothing wrong and there was never any reason for him to be imprisoned and complaining about the inhumane way he and other detainees had been treated? That does our cause no good at all, exactly the opposite.

  10. Matt
    January 17, 2015

    There have always been different rules for civil law enforcement and for warfare.
    The problem I think we’re having is that the distinction between the two has been blurred. It seems to me that this is our enemy’s doing and not ours.
    In a time of war, captured enemy soldiers are kept prisoner until the war ends. But the beginning of the war is not well defined, nor will the end be. The enemy troops do not identify themselves as such by any clear means (for example by wearing uniforms).
    If the enemy respects none of the traditional rules of warfare, can we?
    Some of the enemy soldiers are in fact our own citizens. Do we charge them with treason?
    How to we tell an enemy soldier from a civilian who is sympathetic to the same ideas, but not engaged in warfare against us?
    What part of this idealogical conflict between Islamic fundamentalism and (as far as I can tell) absolutely everybody else on the planet is a civilian law enforcement issue and governed by those rules; what part is warfare; and what part is beyond normal warfare and fits into neither.

    I’m dubious about Gitmo myself, always have been. But as I understand it most of the prisoners held there are illegal combatants under international law and are not protected even by the conventions of war. I would perhaps have more concern for their rights if they and their leaders treated the prisoners they take with the slightest respect or dignity.
    No doubt in my mind who are the good guys here. Gitmo is not perfect, but I’ve yet to see them chop off a prisoner’s head on video.

    Of course without any kind of legal process, as our host quite rightly points out, there is the terrible risk that the innocent could be held prisoner for many years without being given a fair hearing. That’s the beginning of the end for our way of life. Still with western political, spiritual and community leaders talking openly about taking away our liberties so as not to upset Islamic fundamentalists, we’re surely seeing the beginning of the end anyway.

    If they’re not civilian criminal suspects and they’re not enemy soldiers, our history and established rules are short on guidance as to how to handle them.

    1. Denis Cooper
      January 19, 2015

      “Of course without any kind of legal process, as our host quite rightly points out, there is the terrible risk that the innocent could be held prisoner for many years without being given a fair hearing.”

      And it seems that is precisely what has happened in some cases.

  11. Gordon
    January 17, 2015

    Mr Redwood as always you are the epitome of good sense, and there is too little of that about these days. Gordon

    1. Leslie Singleton
      January 17, 2015

      Gordon–Unfortunately, for all his top notch analytical abilities our host tends towards being a do-gooder on social issues which as I see it is why he is not Prime Minister, again unfortunately

      1. Gordon
        January 17, 2015

        Hi Leslie, John actually resigned his front bench seat from the previous Conservative administration, and in any event can you see the Socialist Cameron giving John a job! Gordon.

        1. Leslie Singleton
          January 17, 2015

          Gordon–No doubt that he is very hard working. The point is that he had a chance once and blew it. He was to me somehow a combination of too emotional and not emotional enough’ the latter giving him the name Vulcan, which you don’t hear any more. People couldn’t make him out, even his own side. He was once alleged to be the standard bearer of the Right but today you would never guess.

      2. Gordon
        January 17, 2015

        PS: He is my MP by the way, and is very hard working.

      3. zorro
        January 17, 2015

        Leslie, I don’t think that is the reason why JR is not PM. If JR is regarded as a ‘do-gooder’ on social issues and that is the reason why he is not PM, then that means that Cameron is either less of a ‘do-gooder’ or a ‘do-badder’ in order to be PM – a proposition which is out of sink with all reality…. Cameron wants (or at least doesn’t oppose) more public spending than JR would advocate

        So, perhaps there is another reason….. 🙂


        1. Lifelogic
          January 17, 2015

          You gotta be cruel to be kind!

          1. William Gruff
            January 18, 2015


            I’ve found, time and time again, that, like the pithy aphorism ‘you make your own luck’ (ie, you behave dishonestly), those who repeat that line rarely like to have practised upon them what they preach and I have rarely heard people express gratitude to those who have treated them cruelly or remembered them as kind.

  12. Alan Wheatley
    January 17, 2015

    Many good points.

    As to what can be learnt, well a lot can be learnt from Iran when we failed to support the Shah. He and his country were friendly towards the UK.

    But there were aspects of his rule that that were deemed unacceptable in the West. His removal was seen to be a good and positive thing to happen.

    However, what actually transpired was the opposite. And we are still living with the adverse consequences.

    When it comes to international relationships it can be the case that, overall, we are better off working with governments that are less good that we would wish because what replaces them can be a whole lot worse. Friendly relations with poor governments gives the prospect of influencing the poor to become better; with ideological, bad government there is no chance.

    It is a shame that lesson had not been learnt as things in and arround Syria, now, could have been a whole lot better overall.

    1. zorro
      January 17, 2015

      Sometimes, when countries are getting a little too strong or independent, the West likes to stir it up a bit (divide et impera)…..


  13. Peter van Leeuwen
    January 17, 2015

    Just a little tease:
    Is Britain perceived taller when it stands shoulder to shoulder with its transatlantic “brother”, which just like the UK apparently is an “ancient” democracy. The two are starting to look like twins!

    1. Mitchel
      January 17, 2015

      Twins?…..more like a master and his faithful old retainer!

  14. Kenneth
    January 17, 2015

    All of the mainstream parties have colluded to allow undesirable people into our country while saying that foreign military action will ‘protect our streets’.


    What will protect our streets is to control our borders properly and have a proper visa or deposit based system for anybody entering the UK.

    We need to bring immigration down to a trickle and bring most of our servicemen and women back to the UK.

    Human lives should not be lost due to an outdated and failed ideology.

  15. Denis Cooper
    January 17, 2015

    “The west was rightly horrified by the deaths in Paris at the hands of terrorists’ guns, and went on a peace march to show solidarity against the evil ones.”

    That hasn’t been universally true even among non-Muslims in the west, where there are those who are prepared to act as apologists for the terrorists, and as might be expected from reactions to similar past events that attitude is unfortunately much more frequent among the Muslim populations in the west even if it still only a minority attitude.

    As for attitudes in the rest of the world, there have been large scale demonstrations in Pakistan, with one march headed by a banner saying:

    “Making blasphemy cartoon of the prophet is the worst act of terrorism,

    The sketch-makers must be hanged immediately”.

    And as for the “peace march” in Paris, personally I would not have joined in the chorus of “Je suis Charlie” even before I had learned that about 18 months ago the supposedly freedom-loving Charlie was running a petition to President Hollande to ban the National Front because Charlie didn’t like their views.

    There are circumstances under which it is legitimate to proscribe an organisation even if it impossible to obtain enough evidence to secure criminal convictions against its leaders or members under the normal system of criminal justice, and there are circumstances under which it is legitimate to intern individuals without charge or trial, but these are draconian measures which should only be introduced with great reluctance and as a last resort and with strong safeguards to prevent abuses of power.

    Even if every Muslim around the world had passively accepted what the US government and its agents did at Guantanamo Bay, and none of them had been provoked to a violent reaction, I would still have said that it was utterly deplorable and unworthy of a country which lays claim to being the home of the free and a staunch upholder of the rule of law – “a government of laws, not men”, as John Adams famously put it – let alone a bastion of democratic government.

  16. English Pensioner
    January 17, 2015

    In the US. the government can prohibit travel to designated countries without prior permission. Whist this can’t stop people going to such countries, they can be prosecuted on their return and imprisoned. It is far easier to prove that someone did this, than to prove that they committed a crime in, say, Syria which is required under our present legislation.
    We should also consider whether we should allow our citizens, who travel to such countries without permission, to return to this country by depriving them of their citizenship. Whilst this would be controversial, it could be argued that they had deprived themselves of their citizenship by going to a prohibited country and that they had been warned in advance.
    As an aside, I am getting increasingly annoyed with some of the media, and in particular the BBC, who constantly refer to people who are concerned about what is happening as suffering from “Islamophobia”. The dictionary definition of a phobia is the irrational fear of something. I can assure you that there is nothing irrational about my fear of what is happening in Europe and in my country, my fear is very real and has been strengthened by recent events.

    1. William Gruff
      January 18, 2015

      English Pensioner:

      Deprivation of citizenship is not something to enact lightly: making someone stateless makes of them a refugee and asylum seeker, and we have rather a lot of those to deal with ourselves. We shan’t be able to do so without a great deal of international co-operation and we are less likely to obtain that if we are creating the same problem for others.

  17. Denis Cooper
    January 17, 2015

    “If a young thug travels from the UK to Iraq to join ISIL our treatment of him changes.”

    I think we have to be very careful about automatically characterising all such people as thugs. Some may be, but others are basically idealists who believe that they should be prepared to fight and if necessary die for their ideals. There is a kind of parallel with the International Brigades in the Spanish civil war, and I well recall that it was considered a badge of honour for somebody like the trade unionist Jack Jones to have gone to fight in that war as a young man, and the approbation was by no means restricted to the political left in this country. One crucial difference, which makes the present situation much more dangerous for us, is that few of those who were prepared to travel to Spain and risk their lives in this world for the sake of their ideals assumed that if they died they would be amply rewarded in a next world.

    I also think that it is very foolish to prosecute and punish somebody who has come back after his family have voluntarily alerted the authorities, as happened in this case:


    “The police say ‘mothers come forward’, you can trust us, we will help. But now they will see what happened to my son. What kind of person would go to the police if they think their son will get 12 years in prison? Nobody wants to do that. I did not want that.”

    1. Max Dunbar
      January 17, 2015

      Good points Denis.
      Although most of the International Brigades were communists who went to fight against Franco, they could not be categorised as potential assassins on return to the UK. Nevertheless they did pose a very serious indirect threat to their own country on return.
      There is a monument to these people in Glasgow on the banks of the River Clyde which is topped with a stylised statue of La Pasionaria, a charismatic Stalinist communist, below which is the familiar aphorism ‘Better to die on your feet than live forever on your knees’. A number of known British communist traitors were active in Spain at this time.

  18. Bert Young
    January 17, 2015

    Liberty and freedom in any society requires obedience and human nature – being what it is , needs to be controlled by a system of regulation and the laws to back it up with . Those who flirt with “I will see how far I can go” mentality have to be contained by all the constraints possible . When they “have gone too far” it is then a question of how to stop others emulating failure .

    The media have a major role to play in communicating to the world the need for good behaviour and should never show a bias against the law . Often this is not the case and the public read their own beliefs between the lines . The rules that apply to the media are flexible and not stiff enough – recent cases have exposed this fault line .

    Internationally those who have the force to reach their objectives hold sway over those who cannot and if the supervisory agents have not the means to interfere , force always wins . The Middle East is a hot-bed of turmoil now (and always has been) , outside forces have failed by influence and physical presence to create a balance of peace . The evidence illustrated in the blog today details the failures of intervention by the “force” nations . The UK should not be involved in this mess and should set an example to the world by keeping out of it .

  19. Denis Cooper
    January 17, 2015
    1. Lifelogic
      January 17, 2015

      Indeed Lord Patten for the BBC, Lord Hill for the EU, fires Patterson and Gove.
      What else does Cameron have to do to show that he is a Ken Clark. Ted Heath, John Major type to his core?

      A green crap, high tax, pro EU, anti-democratic and essentially a socialist career politician. Doubtless that was his plan when he decided to study Oxford PPE.

      He just pretends to be a tine bit “Farage” before elections and his subsequent serial ratting.

  20. Lifelogic
    January 17, 2015

    “Britain deserves a pay rise” says David Cameron.

    Just how stupid can people be? Does he ever ask himself what are the main things preventing pay rises?

    It is of course the lack of productivity & competitivity caused very largely by Cameron’s tax borrow and waste, over paid, bloated and largely incompetent government, endless barmy regulations, pointless wars, loans to the Euro basket cases, expensive green crap energy, a poor NHS, second rate schools, over taxation of everything, over complex taxation, daft employments and equality laws and the prospect of worse under Miliband in May.

    That and the undercutting of employment rates with his open door immigration policies.

    Does he ever think for a second before opening his mouth?

    1. Leslie Singleton
      January 17, 2015

      Lifelogic–Someone ought to explain to him how competition works and that one earns a pay rise, otherwise it would be what’s called a gift. The man is pathetic in what he will say to garner popularity

      1. Lifelogic
        January 17, 2015

        Indeed and does it even garner popularity?

  21. Kenneth R Moore
    January 17, 2015

    Does Magna Carta mean nothing to Mrs May?…

    1. Lifelogic
      January 17, 2015

      Clearly not.

    2. agricola
      January 17, 2015

      Along with Habeas Corpus it means nothing to those conservatives in the current government. I hope a large mass of UK citizens make it clear to this sham UK government that they do not appreciate having their rights cancelled with the European Arrest Warrant and vote accordingly. History will damn Cameron’s government for the way they have defrauded their people.

  22. agricola
    January 17, 2015

    As a further example of governments reluctance to deal with very real problems, I would cite the Birmingham Trojan Horse debacle.

    Then of course there was the duplicitous way in which the European Arrest Warrant was bulldozed through by Cameron. Please don’t tell me it was necessary to deal with terrorists and serious crime. It’s most high profile use to date was to hound two parents for wanting the best treatment for their child, utterly disgraceful.

    Your government have kicked the tenets of Magna Carta and Habeas Corpus into the category of historic memory, much like Morecombe and Wise. They are no longer part of our heritage thanks to your leader. We are no longer a democracy.

  23. Javelin
    January 17, 2015

    Agreed with everything you said.

    I think the word ‘evil’ could be replaced with something more exacting and not religious in nature. Because it’s a religious word the narrative sets itself too closely to that of the terrorists. Perhaps words like oppressive or dictatorial would be better.

  24. lojolondon
    January 17, 2015

    John, I think you need to read more US media – they would have spoken about golf, holidays, wind farms vs solar, global warming. No mention of Boko Haram, because that is not cool.

  25. John E
    January 17, 2015

    If the young thug takes up arms against this country then it is right that our approach changes. He has declared himself our enemy. Those returning should be charged with treason. If their acts are not treason, what is?
    This is not like George Orwell et al fighting in the Spanish Civil War. They were fighting for a cause but not against their country.

    1. backofanenvelope
      January 17, 2015

      On returning to England, they should be arrested and interrogated to gain intelligence. We should then hand them over to the Syrian or Iraqi governments for trial. Let us not forget that what they are about is commonly called murder.

    2. fedupsouthener
      January 17, 2015

      Unfortunately we are not allowed to prevent these ‘thugs’ returning. Why would we want to welcome people back who hate us and everything we stand for? Why should we put our children and innocent people’s lives at risk from scum? They know why they have gone and I don’t care if they are ideals or beliefs – they have turned their backs on the country which in many cases put a roof over their heads, educated them and cared for their health. There is no excuse for violence wherever it comes from. Once they commit a crime here we are the ones who have to pay for their stay in HM prisons. Another waste of our money!

    3. Denis Cooper
      January 17, 2015

      Even if some persist in denying the fact we are fighting a war here, a war that we did not seek but which has been declared against us; and it won’t help us to win that war if we are indiscriminate in our treatment of those who are tempted to take the other side, irrespective of their motivations or their understanding of what they are doing.

      So, yes, I have no qualms about bringing treason charges in some cases, nor about deprivation of citizenship and deportation where serious treason has been proved, and I would go so far as to say that if somebody has given his allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State then deportation could be to a convenient part of the territory it controls if no other state will accept them.

      On the other hand there are cases where much gentler treatment would be appropriate because of the youth of the person, their naivety at the time they went off on their jihad and their regret at having done so, and in some instances they and perhaps members of their families might even be persuaded to become useful agents on our side.

      In my view the police and presumably then the CPS were very foolish to behave as described in the case I mentioned above:


      “We had no choice but to arrest and charge the pair on their return.”

      The CPS always has a choice whether or not to prosecute:


      The second step in the decision-making process being the “public interest stage”.

      1. John E
        January 17, 2015

        I agree about treating each case on its merits, but I also think we should be very clear to young people about the consequences of their actions.

        Sometimes we have to draw a line and be clear about the consequences for people who cross it. I actually think doing so would help the moderates argue their case.

        I would also add Homage to Catalonia to the core English curriculum in schools in the hope that some at least some hotheads might think what they are getting themselves into before jumping.

        1. Denis Cooper
          January 18, 2015

          I very much agree about drawing lines so that the position is clear, and in some cases that argues for exemplary sentences. I recall that one young man who was charged with soliciting murder pleaded at his trial that he hadn’t realised that it was a crime to publicly call for people to be beheaded. To be fair I guess that he wouldn’t be alone in not having it clear in his mind that it’s always a crime to incite a crime, and you can’t go around urging that people should be murdered without the authorities taking an interest and possibly acting against you, not if they are performing their duty.

      2. zorro
        January 17, 2015

        From previously doing very little about returnees, they came down like a sledgehammer on this one, notwithstanding the fact that his mother had given him up….. If I was more cynical, I might think that this was done to actually discourage reporting….. but to what benefit?


  26. agricola
    January 17, 2015

    Your ” Western Values ” are only theoretical. In practise some people are deemed to be of greater worth by dint of their birth or acquired status. Think of all the paedophile reports that mysteriously disappeared from, I believe, the home office. Someone was protecting the accused who by birth or status were considered beyond the law.

    If you really want to demonstrate “Western Values”, then impound all the Whips Office files from all parties and hand them to a panel of three judges. Both MI5 and MI6 must have lots of interesting files on the peccadilloes of the great and the good, hand these to the same three judges for investigation. We might then have more faith in your theory of equality under the law.

  27. Timaction
    January 17, 2015

    Please remind me which party is signing us up to the European Arrest Warrant where we can be carted of to many primitive judicial systems in Europe without any oversight or Court review process in the UK? Magna Carter, Referendum lock as more sovereignty is given up? Many have already suffered at the effects of the European Arrest Warrant, languishing in foreign prisons for years without trial.
    LibLabCons= EU Parties.

  28. DaveM
    January 17, 2015

    Western democracy and western values are just that – western. Western democracy depends on people who live in those countries living by western values which are inherent in westerners and reflected in our laws. I’d go even further and say “Anglo-Saxon” rather than western. As has been discussed on this site many a time, English nationalist democracy and law is far more capitalist and hierarchical than even Scottish and Welsh ideas of nationalist democracy. And continental European democracies are different again.

    Internment never worked in NI, and Blair might have considered pointing that out to Bush and Obama.

    Aaah – Blair and Bush, the two great war leaders who had never picked up a weapon, let alone heard a shot fired in anger or seen a human body destroyed by modern weapons.

    Arab countries don’t suit western democracies any more than western countries suit dictatorships. We spent nearly 15 years trying to impose a non-starter of a democracy on people who didn’t understand it or want it. They would have sorted it out themselves eventually. Now we are too burned out to pick up arms against an evil which threatens our world.

    In my opinion we need to reinforce the fact that the law of this country is built on centuries of common law which reflects the values and consciences of the majority of people who live here. We must NEVER allow extremism of any kind to eke its way into our laws or way of life, whether it be Sharia (which works for SOME middle eastern tribal cultures) or extreme right-wing supremacist doctrine. We must reinforce the common law which has been developed by our ancestors in accordance with the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. The ECHR is ludicrous in many respects, and socialist continental law does not suit us.

    Only when we revert to our natural way of living and ensure everyone lives by those values can we move forward.

    I believe, at this time, as a member of HM Forces, that we have wasted billions of pounds and hundreds of lives fighting unwinnable, badly planned, ill-led wars with spurious and dubious aims, in order to avenge 9/11. I had nothing against the Iraqi Army – they were merely patriots trying to defend their country from a foreign invader; they hated Saddam for the most part. I despise the Taliban, but having spent a considerable amount of time in AFG and with Afghan people, I understand why they were in charge there. Ultimately, I saw no reason – initially – to interfere in their lives. However, IS and Boko Haram are an inherently evil bunch of deluded cowardly lunatics, and the destruction of those organisations should be regarded as a moral obligation rather than as a political aspiration.

    Your third paragraph hits the nail on the head Mr R – politicians today never seem to learn from history, recent or modern. They just jump in with both feet because they consider nothing other than how best to secure votes at the next election.

    Your fifth paragraph is also on the money – in this country they are criminals and should be treated as such; in combat zones, carrying weapons, they are combatants. I am sick of hearing about “fighters” and “commando-style attacks”. Anyone who – for idealist purposes – willingly attacks unarmed civilians with firearms, blades, or any other weapon is nothing but a murderer. And a cowardly one at that.

    If people cannot live by our laws and values they should have only two choices – move abroad where they can live by local values, or go to prison.

    1. Kenneth
      January 17, 2015

      Well said.

      I would take your arguments further.

      There is a pecking order that evolves in any civilisation, often through force. As bad as that may seem, it eventually settles into some kind of accommodation and eventually peace. However an outside power that attempts to impose its own values upsets that fine balance and can cause tribal conflict for decades to come.

      All societies have their moral compass set in different positions. Attempts to impose our values on others are bound to lead to resentment.

      Put it this way: many in the west deplore the way that girls are prevented from getting an education. Many in the East deplore the way we sexualise girls.

      Nobody is right and nobody is wrong. We are all different.

      What we should be doing is looking after our own country and society and allow others to look after theirs.

    January 17, 2015

    I desperately love your picture of our country. It is the one etched deep into my soul from birth. I cannot tell if “Great Meadow: An Evocation” by Dirk Bogarde is well written as far as the World of Literature is concerned. That it could not be written better, I can tell.
    For some reason he liked living in France.

    Your words echo his words and my thoughts. It is not true our country has always behaved evenhandedly and decently to its people. After the war in my locality people of every station in life were certainly encouraged to seek homes in Rhodesia and South Africa. Ex-soldiers, coalminers, glass workers as well as those with cut-glass accents none of whom were thought to be racist settled there.

    Suddenly they were said to be racist and bad in every respect. Native guerilla armies were certainly encouraged and some say financed by the British Government against its own sons and daughters. Many children, still with British citizenship, were literally …butchered in their cribs.

    President Barack Hussein Obama is probably as well-read and well-travelled as anyone else. Ex-Rhodesian and South African British and Afrikaaner have certainly had to make their next home there. I guess he will have spoken with them. I wonder what wisdom and opinion Rt Hon Mr Cameron will share with him about America’s duty in the world.

  30. ian
    January 17, 2015

    All propaganda to justify the stealth stealing of your money and freedoms by the state,

  31. Margaret Brandreth-J
    January 17, 2015

    The main problem is that Boko Haram are completely anti west. Their approach is far more brutal in that innocent women , children and men are slaughtered in their thousands, villages are wiped out and there can never be any reasoning with them as these people are blind bigoted murderers.No research will dampen down evil , but whose responsibility is it?

    1. Max Dunbar
      January 17, 2015

      Possibly Boko Haram is responsible.

      1. Margaret Brandreth-J
        January 17, 2015

        Ok. The responsible parties should be held to account in the country they reside ( or attempt to take over) right ? and in accordance with that Country’s rule of law?

      2. Margaret Brandreth-J
        January 17, 2015

        The American Bar Association are taking the initiative in trying to upgrade a deteriorating’ rule of law’ particularly in Central Africa.

  32. Max Dunbar
    January 17, 2015

    Describing volunteers for ISIL as ‘thugs’ is unhelpful and must simply reinforce the notion amongst Muslims, even so-called moderate ones, that this sort of generalisation is typical of the Western view, which is incomprehension of their beliefs, their doctrines and motivations.
    I make no apologies for these fanatics, but young people are very susceptible to the propaganda of a ruthless and seemingly glamorous band of brothers with whom they can identify. The dragon’s teeth have been well sown here and if we continue to deny the unpleasant facts and refuse to countenance the most urgent and necessary means by which these people can be defeated in our own country then it is all over.
    The greatest danger in the near future is not bombs or assault rifles from known terrorists but the conversion to Islam of non-Muslims. These people tend to adopt their new ‘religion’ with great enthusiasm and can pose a real security hazard. This is the most dangerous ‘fifth column’ of all and the one that is of the most pressing importance.

  33. ian
    January 17, 2015

    It”s a stitch up

  34. They Work for Us?The
    January 17, 2015

    Our political system can be summarised by the majority electorate being concerned about issues A,B, C etc.
    Out come the manifestos which either do not mention A,B or C at all or promise vaguely that something might be done (but the hidden intention is to do nothing or the opposite of the concern).The last thing a politician wants to do is what the electorate want. That is why there is disillusionment with the system and the rise of a new party.
    What is happening to English Votes for English Laws? There is no intention to actually do anything.

  35. Terry
    January 17, 2015

    Your final paragraph John appears ambiguous. Are you saying we should not investigate but encourage them to go to their deaths? Good idea.

    If he, the thug, is plotting murder and mayhem in this country but the security forces lack the evidence to arrest him then he should be permitted to go to Iraq++ to fight with our enemy BUT he should NEVER be allowed back. Case closed.

    I believe Mrs May used such an exclusion order on family members who had gone to their homeland, Pakistan, for a holiday, while many other members of the family in the UK had gone to fight for the IS.
    These exclusion orders should be used at every opportunity and announced publically so that the radicals are named and shamed. Hopefully that will deter some others from following their destiny with IS.

    Also, MI5 AND Imans should establish why and how these people are so brain washed to give up life in the free UK. But I do not see many positive moves from the Imans at all.

  36. ian
    January 18, 2015

    When may bill on counter terrorism and security bill get through parliament this site will have to shut down john, coupled with the civil contingercies bill which is already through but not yet implemented, are game changes. Your days of going round the country and saying what you like are coming to a end. Mind Internment without trail, just for having a thought or thinking out loud or writing something on your site. The poor will not be able to say a word, in the usa if you feed or give money to the poor you will be told if you do it again you will be put in jail. Thank for that law john, that a bag packer. I hope the voters on this site are pleased.

  37. Richard
    January 18, 2015

    It is wrong for us to attempt to force our democracy and type of government on the tribes in the ME.

    Neither should we be determining their tribal boundaries.

    Of far more importance is for our rulers to ensure that our country is free from :

    Slavery, FGM, polygamy, first-cousin and forced marriages, misogyny, religious intolerance and homophobia, “honour killings”, multilingual institutions, no-go areas, electoral and financial corruption and communities with sets of laws different to our own

  38. Mondeo Man
    January 18, 2015

    Britain is operating under unofficial and unspoken ‘blasphemy’ laws.

    We are no longer a free country when one strand of thought is protected above all others.

    Theresa May’s “We will ban ALL forms of extremism” when only one is causing problems guided by the same rationale that sees old ladies stripped searched at airports and when everyone is banned from otherwise harmless activities.

    The aparatus for dictatorship are being formed. The Je Suis… posters in the hands of politicians are both pathetic and sickening.

    I don’t see how anyone with a brain can vote for them.

    1. Mondeo Man
      January 18, 2015

      Further to my last comment:

      I mentioned that Theresa May’s cowardly “We will clamp down on ALL extremism.” when only one form of extremism is causing the problem is what causes old ladies to be searched at airports and the banning of otherwise reasonable behaviour (carrying knives in public) because of a minority.

      In order to protect paedophiles ALL adults must prove that they are not paedophiles if the want to volunteer in Mr Cameron’s Big Society (Hmm. Whatever happened to that ?)

      The feeling is most uncomfortable when the notoriously incompetent government departments are late in responding to a charity’s request to check out a volunteer, “There has been a problem.” being the only response.

      This is not freedom, John.

      Your colleagues do not stand for freedom, John (despite the stupid and meaningless – in the hands of politicians – Je Suis … posters)

      Your response to any bad behaviours by minorities ?

      ALWAYS to take away freedoms from the majority so as not to upset that minority.

  39. Stephen O
    January 19, 2015

    But should we think of such people as suspected criminals or are they closer to being prisoners of war (PoWs)? For PoWs the convention is they are not tried, except there is evidence of war crimes and are held in custody for the duration of the conflict. And they are held because of who they are (enemies) rather for what they have done.
    Of course unlike soldiers in an interstate war they wore no uniform when captured to confirm their status, they do not represent a recognised state and this war may not end even after 10 years or more. But if they are indeed enemy combatants then like POWs they should not be released as they can be expected to go back to fighting against us and we would be undermining our own efforts which we are asking our soldiers to risk their lives to achieve.
    Perhaps the real problem is they do not fit comfortably into either category and are neither PoWs nor suspected criminals but a mix of the two and there are not the laws in place to deal with them, nor indeed has there been proper consideration of what those laws might be.

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