That Old Chestnut

Tuesday 24th July

I know that we are in the silly season for news; and to be honest almost any news that isn’t Brexit or another Trumpism should be welcome.  But we now have the Death penalty back in the news.  Strange, or maybe it isn’t, but America (along with many other so-called Religious countries) insists on retaining the Death penalty; not in all states, but for certain crimes.  And, as we got rid of this barbaric measure in the 60’s, we have had a long-standing policy of NOT sharing intelligence with foreign countries where that intelligence may result in the death penalty being used.  But….we are dealing with ISIL, or fighters who were members of that group.  And so the argument goes – that they deserve what is coming to them.  And on the surface who can argue.  ISIL were a particularly nasty group who killed indiscriminately and vowed death to the West and all our liberal values.

But, apart from the old arguments, that you can never be that certain of a person’s guilt; that mistakes cannot be rectified, or that State killing is still murder – there are three other important things to consider.

One, is that if these men are killed by the Americans, they will undoubtedly become martyrs and heroes for a new generation of fanatics.  It is surely better that we try to educate them by our better example.  By treating them in a more humane way we may begin to redress the balance.  Also, these two would far prefer to be killed and further their cause by their own martyrdom than be incarcerated.

Secondly, the ‘intelligence’ we may have on these two may of course be wrong.  We now know (some of us knew at the time) that intelligence on Iraq was faulty.  There is no doubt that the intelligence services are not immune from fabrication in order to pursue their agenda. So, ‘justice’ may be impossible in this case.

Thirdly, and by far most importantly – once you make an exception for one group of individuals, in this case ‘terrorists’, you open Pandora’s box.  What about mass murderers, what about paedophiles, killers of police…and so on.

These questions usually need a bit more thought than simply reading headlines…