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On Jeremy Corbyn, “shoot to kill” and stopping terrorists in the act of murder

Jeremy Corbyn, in the cross hairsYou can understand the thirst for vengeance. On Sunday night, France flew sorties over Syria to strike IS targets in Raqqa, the capital of their ramshackle semi-state. They reportedly hit a recruitment centre and munitions depot. Other facilities on the receiving end of French ordinance were a hospital, a museum, a stadium, and a chicken farm. Still, “something” has been done. IS have had a taste of fire, even if civilians every bit as innocent as the murdered in Paris lost their lives in the French bombing.

Whenever there is an appalling outrage on Western soil, or mass civilian casualties mount overseas, as per the Tunisian beach murders or the bombing of a Russian airliner, politicians and media outlets combine their outrage with simple non-solutions that paint one half of the world in saintly white and the other in sinner’s black. The complexity of the situation, of the drives that fuel IS support here and abroad, which few establishment figures are normally interested in anyway, are painted out. They’re against us, so let’s kill ’em. Alas, turning Raqqa and parts of Sinai and Yemen into the Moon will kill terrorists, but does nothing to address the causes of terrorism. Such is the folly of dressing ourselves in saintly white as against their sinner’s black.

At times likes these, pointing out the bleeding obvious can at best be seen as an eccentricity. At worst, nuance is tantamount to flying the IS standard. This in mind, I wouldn’t like to think some in the media have been waiting to turn the Paris tragedy into an opportunity to attack Jeremy Corbyn, but it would appear some were lying in wait to use the occasion to attack Jeremy Corbyn. Some were a bit quick off the mark, while others waited to see what Jez had to say. And so, last night, after saying a shoot-to-kill policy on the streets of Britain is not a good idea. Cue outrage.

Let’s be clear what a shoot-to-kill policy is and isn’t. What it isn’t is police getting into gunfights with armed terrorists, as per what happened in Paris. That is an armed response to an emergency situation and anyone in the commission of a terrorist outrage can expect to be held to account by a hail of bullets. That is, first and foremost, a police operational matter of which there is oversight after the fact.

What a shoot-to-kill policy is is the gunning down of suspects. Not someone already attacking civilians. Not someone in a gun fight with police. So when Jeremy says he’s against a shoot-to-kill policy, he’s being highly specific. He’s not suggesting armed response throw down their arms and risk themselves and civilian lives to lay the cuffs on someone spraying all and sundry with gunfire. What he is suggesting is that shooting people first and asking questions later, is something we might want to avoid.

And you know what? He’s wise to make this call. In the aftermath of the July bombings 10 years ago, as the police were on edge and London as a whole jittery, in a catastrophic failure of intelligence Jean Charles de Menezes was wrestled to the floor of a tube carriage and shot four times in the head by police. Do we want to see a repeat, really?

The spin, however, is very different. Jeremy would have us fight terrorists with tea and a slice of muesli, the editorials and front pages will say tomorrow. Like I said, if there are barrels to scrape there are plenty willing to reach deep into them and, again, the tragedy is that another moment to think creatively about and ask searching questions about the jihadi imagination and why some disaffected Muslim youth turn to IS will surely be lost.

26 Comments

  1. John Penney says:

    Good article, clear and well argued.

    It has to be said though, as a Jeremy Corbyn fan myself, that by not perhaps being as completely clear as he needs to be in his explanations of his positions on “shoot to kill” or the reasons for not currently supporting an increase in bombing by the RAF in Syria, (without a much broader , believable, conflict resolution process involving the surrounding powers and their major power supporters, being underway alongside ), he has recently giving his permanently disruptive hostile enemies in the PLP and the Tories and the capitalist press, too much room to misrepresent his positions.

    Jeremy does now need to distance himself from the grossly simplistic “only US Imperialism is the enemy and the cause of the current disaster in the Middle East” position peddled remorselessly by the cynical old Trots behind the Stop the War Coalition movement – which has always run away from also putting blame for the current disaster in the Middle East on the more localised imperialisms of theocratic neo-fascist Iran – and the now second rank imperialism of Russia.

    The Stop the War mob (and too many others on the Left ) trapped in this simplistic narrative can’t even face up to the harsh reality that the warlordist barbarians of Islamic State are a form of clerico-fascism, and simply have to be smashed. “Stop the War – Stop the Bombing” as a slogan for all situations in the Middle East is juvenile drivel. If the mixed gender Kurdish Peshmerga fighters struggling for their very survival , and national liberation, need an air strike to take out a Islamic State artillery unit or tank assault , I for one do not care if it is the Russians, the US, France, or the UK which supplies that air support – even though neither I nor certainly the Kurds with their history of imperialist betrayal, can have any illusions in the underlying goodwill of these various imperialist powers..

    1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

      It’s not just, “cynical old Trots,” that are promoting the largely self evident position that, “only US Imperialism is the enemy and the cause of the current disaster in the Middle East” it’s a perspective on recent history actually being taught as a mainstream history course in American Universities, the CIA in the 3rd World, for example or 20th Century American Foreign policy and what’s been done in North Africa and the Middle East is completely consistent with previous US foreign policy in South America, the far East, Viet-Nam etc or even the annexation of about 3 thirds of Mexico and it’s point I’ve made here repeatedly.

      Also given what the CIA admit to having done previously, (including murder and terrorism,) it’s a far from safe conclusion that all these atrocities are always all that they’re purported to be.

      But the Americans dislike the term empire and prefer to use the archaic description that means pretty exactly much the same thing, “hegemony.

      It’s not without some justice that mindless and counter productive attack on Libya for example, has been described by some cynics as simply the worlds most successful bank robbery.

      1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

        With extraordinary prescience Dwight Eisenhower, in his farewell address as president of the US warned about the threat not of communism, but of Military-Industrial complex.

        The military–industrial complex, or military–industrial–congressional complex, comprises the policy and monetary relationships which exist between legislators, national armed forces, and the arms industry that supports them. These relationships include political contributions, political approval for military spending, lobbying to support bureaucracies, and oversight of the industry. It is a type of iron triangle. The term is most often used in reference to the system behind the military of the United States, where it gained popularity after its use in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17, 1961, though the term is applicable to any country with a similarly developed infrastructure. In 2011, the United States spent more on its military than the next 13 nations combined.

        What we’re dealing with in areas described above and previously, is war for profit; and not for security or even ideology, what the Americans themselves are calling military Keynesianism.

        1. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

          Unfortunately for everyone involved in this bloody mess, knowing all that doesn’t really help us find a workable solution.

          It probably a bit like finding out that you’ve got an incurable cancer.

          I know of someone; working in a support role in one of those war zones, (an ex serviceman,) who put quite bluntly, that they were on bloody good money here doing this, and if they were in the UK they’d be on the minimum wage and a zero hour contract as security guard or the dole if they could get it.

          It’s the logic that’s at the very heart of American foreign policy and it’s hard indeed to argue with it, although we still have to.

        2. David Ellis says:

          Western bombing of ISIS in Iraq has killed many civilians. It is cavalier and callous and is a very racist view which mirrors that of the terrorist. The only good arab is a dead arab the story goes. Only a racist war criminal would support such bombing in Iraq or Syria especially in Syria where the only possible beneficiary on the ground is the genocidal maniac Assad backed by Putin and Iran but you don’t care about that. You clearly like StWC welcome the participation of Russian imperialism in the situation. The West had an opportunity in 2013 to help the Syrian people by imposing a No Fly Zone and stopping the bombing but it declined. As if the West has any interest in the emergence of democracy in the semi colonies. It is not cynical old trots behind StWC its cynical old Stalinists like you who continue to back Russia uncritically despite its transformation from Stalinst shit pit to gangster imperialist kleptocracy.

  2. gerry says:

    Jeremy Corbyn – yet another pathetic mistake, easily painted as pacifist, pro Islamist pro terrorist appeasement on a grand scale. Why did he start this pointless conversation about “shoot-to-kill” three days after jihadis gun down innocents as they have done for the last 20 years in nearly every country in the world, all in the name of Allah? What was his political goal?

    And yes the disgusting pro Putin appeasers of his organisation Stop the War are now apparently in charge of our Labour foreign policy. John Penney is largely spot on…no working class voter is going to give us a hearing on anything if he allows our party to be seen as a do-nothing 30s style jihad appeaser. Jon Lansman – can’t you tell JC and Seumas Milne et al how dreadfully all this is going down with working class voters?

    1. John P Reid says:

      If a cop isn’t allowed to use shoot to kil,they have to approach a suicide bomber ,trying to shoot the detonator out of his hand or shoot him in the leg,and the suicide blows himself up killing the cop,then whoever said don’t have shoot to kill,should be done for corporate manslaughter,and the right to life under the HRA and the health and safety at work act,

  3. Sue says:

    Re above comments I think JC does explain himself adequately but of course the press are selective re what they report and how they report it. He is right re this and bombing Syria is not going to stop a terrorist threat at all. It can only increase it as things stand.

  4. ThreeQuidder says:

    The problem for JC is that these attacks – even if not fair – aren’t totally ridiculous. For any serious politician an attack like this would be laughed straight out of the court of public opinion…

  5. Richard Tiffin says:

    I think we need to start thinking seriously here people.
    If Jeremy Corbyn was to appear on tv tomorrow with stigmata on hands and feet and walk on water across the Thames to the House of Commons the press would call him a fake because he hasn’t got a crown of thorns.
    It doesn’t matter what he does because they fear and loathe what he represents which is the working class rattling its chains. Worse than that, Corbyn is proposing they organise, that they have control of their party and start to make changes in a time of economic uncertainty.
    It doesn’t matter they think Corbyn is a harmless reformist, which is why they let him on the ballot in the first place to the chagrin of some. What matters is where all this uncertainty might lead. Do any of us honestly know how far the membership would take this and how many would join if we got started, I mean really started? If we made fundamental reforms that appealed to our constituency? Neither do those who call the shots in the media, and that scares them.
    The logic of this is of course they distort his position, they would do that, wouldn’t they. When he gets it right they make it look bad but when he gets it even slightly wrong they are going to ride a bus through it. This is before they exploit every ounce of chauvinism in those who should support Corbyn, that’s a whole new opportunity.
    If we take this as a given, and I think the evidence is strong, then it’s about a strategy to combat this. We cannot expect Corbyn to get it perfect, but that doesn’t matter because they are going to distort in any case. So what to do?
    The far left, in particular those on Marxist.com are really good at this. The day an event or anything that they feel requires comment takes place they are there with their perspective. Clear, uninterpreted, accessible language and so on. It seems that Corbyn needs to do the same, at least that’s what I would argue. Let him get his perspectives out there. His version of events. His criticisms of the lies and half truths that are published against him. In short, a daily paper or leaflet that is internet based. If he has nothing he wants to set straight then he can discuss an issue of concern and if pushed for time I am sure there are a ton of folk willing to contribute and Corbyn and Milne need simply to edit.
    If proven successful it could be expanded at a later date, that’s for him to decide, but right now his perspectives are simply not getting out there.
    Why does this matter?
    Corbyn is the lefts greatest asset and if we lose him and fail to get a representative of the left on the next ballot then you can wave goodbye to those hopes, say goodbye to it ever happening again, pasokification awaits.

  6. Bazza says:

    Shooting to kill should be only the very, very last resort (as self defence) to protect human beings but even then could you shoot in the leg to temporarily disable?
    Funny they dart Rhinos and Elephants to knock them out but when usually men face other men why does it have to be lethal?
    And how politicians of all colours (apart perhaps usually from real red) will support killing human beings at a drop of a hat, because I would argue they lack imagination, and wisdom.
    I like JC , he makes you think – I understand he is a vegetarian too when many of us perhaps are omnivores (happy for others to do the killing of animals) and I think it would be good to have a World Leader like Jeremy who is a Peacemonger amongst other (mainly males) who adopt simple and often violent solutions.
    Someone once said, “Violence is the last resort of an exhausted mind.”
    Many human beings I think are sick of all the killings.
    Yours as a democratic socialist in peace.

    1. John P Reid says:

      The police are told not to shoot in the leg,as the bullet can go through,or ricochet, hit someone else,it also doesn’t stop, the Persian and from firing from along way ,away,it’s only James Bond who’s that good a shot,

  7. John P Reid says:

    A suspect with resonate information they’re abou to blow themselves up, and shooting them in the head, rather than the chest is the only way to stop them detonating,so a shoot in the stomach,Amy give them a few seconds to continue,trying to detonate, it’s a sensible policy,and brave police who would be rushing towards a potential suicide bomber, have to know they have the right to shoot in the head ,to stop it,or face themselves being caught in the explosion,if they shot someine in the stomach,who then ha the ability to continue and still detonated themselves

    They’re not just suspected terrorists,there’s information that goes with it,and stopping police being able to shoot to kill, not only outs their lives at danger ,it puts the publics lives at danger,and preventing police being a pile to protect themselves is wrong,and denying reality is wrong,

  8. John P Reid says:

    Mentioning Jean Charles demenezes, do we really want to see a repeat of July 7′ after all it was stopping July 21 that saw JcMs tragic death,do we want to see a repeat of Keith blacelock,where unarmed police were protecting white firemen,and ambulance drivers,anti white racist rioters ,were trying to kill.

  9. Jim Denham says:

    Corbyn, it has to be said, has badly mishandled this – even to the point of contradicting himself (according to the report I read in the Graun) by initially telling the BBC he opposed “shoot to kill” under (it seemed) *all* circumstances, then issuing a clarification stating he supports “existing policy” (ie shoot to kill in extemis). WTF is going on here? Unfortunately, JC’s commitment to the “everything’s the fault of the west” dangerous clown of Stop The War and the likes of Seumas Milne, are making him look like a pacifist in the Lansbury mold, and playing into the hands of Ukip.

    1. James Martin says:

      Yes, he has made an avoidable mess of this, not helped by his continuing adherence to StW which has long appeared to me to be a classic SWP front and little else.

      The starting point for groups like ISIS are that they are in political terms on the same level as fascists, and so what I find odd about Corbyn’s approach is that he doesn’t seem to start from that obvious point. We know we can’t debate or negotiate with fascists, and usually have to end up being physical to stop them. Corbyn knows that, I’ve heard him talk about Cable Street a number of times and make the correct points about the alliance against the Blackshirts from socialists, communists, Jewish groups etc., and yet he can’t seem to make the same basic connection with jihadists – because what is seriously lacking here is a *socialist* call for working class international unity between Europe and our with brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria against them and a modern day version of ‘they shall not pass’ – Corbyn could do that brilliantly and cut the legs from under the reactionary right in our own country that have started their anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant rants again, but he hasn’t and it is bloody frustrating to have to endure!

    2. David Ellis says:

      Naturally the Ziofash supports a shoot to kill policy as they operate one themselves so just as naturally the Zionist and pro-imperialist Denham supports one too. The point of the terrorist sectarian state of Israel is to pose as the bulwark against Islamism an ideology whose growth is largely down to their existence in the first place and which merely mirrors Zionism. They appear opposed but are in fact identical sectarian, terrorist, land grabbing, fascistic movements.

      As for blaming the West well the West is repsonsible for ISIS just not in the way StWC pretends. They say the West is at fault for not supporting Assad against the revolution but in actual fact it is at fault for not supporting the revolution against Assad. But hey when did the West ever support the emergence of democracy in the Middle East? You can’t have imperialism withouth semi-colonial tyranny.

      In actual fact Corbyn, the Labour Right and the Tory press and party are converging on jumping into bed with Assad and Putin and bombing ISIS. Corbyn just wants a UN resolution first. Putin may well propose one but we should oppose this bombing with or without a UN resolution. It will kill civilians and help the mass murdering butcher ~Assad which in the long run helps ISIS. The neo-Stalinist left will support it because they support Putin and Assad. Denham will support it because he’s a Zionist poseur.

  10. David Ellis says:

    StWC thinks that the West is to blame for Paris because it failed to support Assad against the Syrian leg of the Arab Spring. The opposite is true. ISIS in Syria is the product of the West’s callous turning of its back on the Syrian people whilst Assad hacked his way through half a million of them. The fascist ISIS immediately exploded moving not against Assad but into the territories liberated from him by the revolution and began slaughtering democrats, socialists, trades unionists, workers, minorities, revolutionaries. Now we have Tory MPs who voted against a No Fly Zone in 2013 which would have hurt Assad who are intent on voting for the bombing of ISIS in Syria which will help Assad. Under these conditions the West will be seen not as the bringers of liberation but of genocide. The brutal Assad tyranny and its Iranian and Russian backers will make the short term gain whilst ISIS will gain in the long run. In fact every time the hyporcritical Western imperialists cosy up to the old tyrannies and prove their opposition to democracy in the Middle East ISIS gains. Their biggest boost came last week when Cameron gave the Egyptian tyrant Sisi the red carpet treatment. Most likely outcome of the West linking up with Putin and Assad is the spread of Isis including to the big one Eygpt.

    As for shoot to kill as the article says any terrorist engaged in action can expect and does expect to be shot dead but if one becomes capturable a shoot to kill policy is about as anti productive as is possible for three reasons. One, the opportunity to gather valuable intelligence is lost; two, it will not deter as these people are on a suicide mission; three, it makes those pursuing the policy look like the death cult it is supposed to be opposing. Even the French police not known for their liberalism in the middle of the situation are not operating such a policy as we see pictures of them arresting suspects on a daily basis.

    1. prianikoff says:

      “…we have Tory MPs who voted against a No Fly Zone in 2013 which would have hurt Assad, who are intent on voting for the bombing of ISIS in Syria which will help Assad”

      So presumably Ellis thinks the 30 Tories who rebelled on Syria in 2013 should have voted with Cameron against Miliband?

      Let’s assume the NATO enforced no-fly zone which Ellis advocates had been enacted over Syria in 2003. What would the result have been?

      It was tested out in 2011 over Libya, where the French air-force was directly involved in killing Muamar Ghadaffi (some say to cover up his deals with Sarkozy)

      Did this lead to a “democratic revolution”?
      No – for the simple reason that the forces which NATO provided air-cover to were not democrats!

      Much the same situation exists in Syria now.
      Except that if NATO tried to enforce a no-fly zone that grounded the Syrian air-force, it would lead to a direct confrontation with Russia.

      I can only conclude that Ellis is calling for World War 3.

      1. prianikoff says:

        “2003” should read 2013

      2. David Ellis says:

        Oh dear, how naive and silly you are. Neither Cameron nor Obama had any intention whatsoever of coming to the aid of the Syrian Revolution. They were far more interested in rapprochement with Iran but they were also more than happy for the idiot left to take the blame for the continued mass murder by Assad. There is no doubt that a No Fly Zone would objectively have helped the revolution whatever happened in Libya and for that reason I certainly would not have opposed it if it had happened but I would never call for imperialism to help a revolution because that would only create illusions. Your position is clear cut neo-Stalinism. As for Gadaffi, who cries for that mad dog except the degenerates?

        1. prianikoff says:

          If I’d ever suggested that Cameron or Obama wanted to “aid a revolution” in Syria, you might have a point, but you just invented that one.
          Unlike you Cameron and Obama understand the difference between revolution and counter-revolution. They want to steer the outcome of events in Syria in their own interests.
          And they’re quite capable of using your Stalinist slogan of a “democratic revolution” to do so.

          The “Coalition” is doing this by moulding opposition groups – e.g. the mafia style hit which eliminated the leadership of Ahrar-al-Sham in 2014 and replaced it with Turkish agents, the creation of Jaish al Islam by the Saudis – and by the use of its air-forces over Syria.
          Establishing an uncontested no-fly zone over Syria would enable the Coalition fulfil its strategic objective of regime change by providing air-cover to these militias.
          It would also enable them to neutralise Al-Nusra and ISIS.

          However you spin it, you support this strategy, because you totally obscure the support being given to these militias and give open support to an no-fly-zone.
          Your get-out clause that “I would never call for imperialism to help a revolution because it would create illusions” is just a piece of evasive nonsense.

          Putin’s illusions in re-creating the wartime alliance notwithstanding, there’s little-to-no prospect of NATO and Russia uniting to carve up Syria in the interests of a non-existent ultra-imperialism.

          Where I differ from the resident Left-Unity windbag Penny is in his lumping together of the YPG-J and the largely fictional FSA. The latter need a no-fly-zone because it’s the only chance they have to win power in Syria. That’s why they oppose the StWC.
          The former are a mass movement with real support in the Kurdish regions of Northern Syria.
          They have as much right to arms and air support as the Yugoslav Partisans did in WW2.
          Of course, having received millions of rifles and tons of ammunition from Britain, the Partisans made sure that British and American troops stayed out of Yugoslavia at the end of the War.
          Which is what the YPG-J should do too.

          1. David Ellis says:

            Look we get it. You are a neo-Stalinist who supports Putin and his puppet Assad in the name of some deluded idea of `anti-imperialism’ whilst I am an unconditional supporter of the Arab Spring which has been abandoned by the degenerate Western left and conspired against by Western imperialism. As for Penny he’s a New Labour refugee who happens by some accident of fate to have found himself in Left Unity.

  11. Robert says:

    The problem is not that Corbyn is wrong or right for that matter, but he makes these comments and then does not go into detail, he leaves himself open not so much to the Tories but the hilariously called moderates or as they are known the Progress lot.

    Unless Corbyn starts to explain in detail what he means, he had better say nothing at all because if he carries on he will be open to a hit from the Progressive democrats or progress again.

    new labour is now dead what they mean is the name New labour is dead the new name now is Moderate or Progressive democrats.

    The issue is Corbyn has to state something and then explain it in detail we all know about the Right wing media, but also the right wing labour party are jumping onto the band wagon.

    IF Cameron now asks the labour party to back the strike in Syria or anywhere else the labour right will now go against Corbyn and back Cameron.

  12. David Pavett says:

    Phil BC says that we should be clear about what a ‘shoot to kill’ policy is and is not. The problem is that both he and Jeremy Corbyn are completely unclear. Corbyn’s response was an ill-considered off-the-cuff response. Phil BC says

    What a shoot-to-kill policy is is the gunning down of suspects. Not someone already attacking civilians.

    But where is this policy and who has advocated it? An armed response to a terrorist assault does not amount to such a policy.

    I am afraid that this whole article is about a figment of Phil BC’s imagination. That has not prevented a stream of responses discussing whether or not this imaginary policy is justified.

  13. Bazza says:

    Perhaps we defeat So Called Islamic State by demonstrating our humanity.
    When the named Paris atrocity planner and 2 others were taken out in a Paris police raid I kept thinking of the last words of the young woman, shouting to neighbours, “Help me! Help me! Help Me!”
    Perhaps she was just a young woman (like many young people) searching for something in life,, and perhaps realising her 6 month flirtation with So Called IS may have been a mistake.
    I also remember a comment by a British soldier who fought in Afghanistan saying how they were often up against barely kids, (de-educated in religious schools in the likes of Pakistan, often sent there by desperate poor parents who thought they woûld get an education and a meal).
    Humanity wins by trying to understand and pity dehumanised human beings, and using our collective imagination and intelligence plus art, music, comedy, critical thinking, analysis, and love to promote the equality of all human beings; we are the many of all religions (and those of none). So called IS hate the Grey Zone (diverse human beings – black/white, LGBT, Disabled, people of all regions and of none) coming together.
    I think as the Red Zone we add much to his cause.
    Yours in peace, love & international solidarity.

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