You know, if I had my own terrorist organisation I would be fabulously rich. And I wouldn’t have to hurt anyone. I’d just recruit a few people with British citizenship, send them on holiday to north west Pakistan for six weeks (it won’t be necessary to train them to shoot guns and make bombs), then have them arrested. If I can get them arrested by the Americans, I’ve hit the jackpot. The Americans will rough them up a bit (you know, by not reading them bed time stories, giving them cold cocoa at night, not fluffing up their pillows, that sort of thing) and then when they get released and sent back to Blighty they can slap in a claim that their human rights were abused. And our government being so hide-bound by mostly EU-originated laws and an astonishingly simplistic world-view will pay them a million pounds each. I will have had contracts signed with these guys beforehand to split the proceeds 50-50, so ten of them will net me £5 million, fifty will net me £25 million, and the sky’s the limit. What will I call it? Al-Cashpoint sounds good.

MI5 and MI6 pay out £12m to Britons held in Guantánamo

Of course, there is no suggestion these guys were actually involved in terrorism, but if I were a terrorist it would be a great inspiration to me.

Here are some earlier posts by me on the theme of how we treat enemy combatants and conduct the war on terror generally:

How goes the war on terror? A round up of recent news
What part of “We’re at war” do you not understand?
The problem with treating enemy combatants as civil defendants. It doesn’t work.

Bin Laden: A Death on the Field of Battle

Some people find it difficult to square the killing of Osama bin Laden with the actions of a law abiding state. There are questions in some quarters about extrajudicial killings, even of execution, and suggestions that he ought to have been captured alive – at any cost – and put on trial like the Nazi leaders of Germany were after the Second World War. But I think that confusion is entirely the result of regarding al-Qaeda “operatives” as ordinary criminals who should be prosecuted according to civil law. That is wrong. al-Qaeda is at war with us, and consequently, we with them.

It is true that we have developed the concept of war crimes since Nuremberg and we now have a permanent international court to aggressively prosecute anyone, including heads of state who offend international morality. Former President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic is the most recent high-profile defendant to have been arrested and brought to trial. He died before his trial was completed, but the warning is currently being given to Colonel Gaddafi of Libya and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria regarding the mass murder of their respective civilian populations.

However, in all of these cases, prosecution followed, or would follow, the end of hostilities. The war with al-Qaeda is still on-going. So yes, bin Laden had a case to answer for war crimes, but that had to take second place to dealing with him not just as an active combatant, but as the leader of al-Qaeda. He was actively engaged in planning and directing continuing acts of terrorism against the West. He had a “second front”, as it were, against other Moslems who did not conform to his radical vision of Islam and his legacy is that he killed more Moslems than Christians.

Any reasonable person should accept that bin Laden was actively directing al-Qaeda from his Abbottabad compound and that he was not just a legitimate military target, but a necessary target. His death was therefore no different to any other combatant on the field of battle. An opportunity to surrender is not always offered to an enemy, a soldier’s first duty is to himself and his comrades, especially with an enemy who uses suicide as a weapon of war. As it is, the actions of the US Navy SEALs will go down in history as one of the outstanding commando raids.

In brief, we are at war with al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden was tracked down and killed at a location where he was actively planning and directing a war against us.

It is a nonsense to regard al-Qaeda as civilians and to put them through civil courts and prosecute them in the ordinary way, as if they had committed a traffic offence. These people are at war with us and their chosen weapon is terrorism. The fiasco of Guantanamo Bay shows the folly of such an approach, releasing combatants to go back and resume fighting against us when they should remain locked-up for the duration. We didn’t treat German prisoners of war that way, nor Argentines taken prisoner on the Falklands. We didn’t hand them their weapons back and say, “Now don’t do it again.”

I have blogged on these aspects before:

The problem with treating enemy combatants as civil defendants. It doesn’t work.

What part of “We’re at war” do you not understand?

The problem with treating enemy combatants as civil defendants. It doesn’t work.

The scene: The Old Bailey, sometime in 1942. Four German Luftwaffe airmen are in the dock charged with dropping bombs over England.

Defence Counsel rises: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, my clients emphatically deny the charges you have heard today that they did deliberately drop explosive bombs on the Assembly Rooms in Bath, Somerset, causing the deaths of several residents of that fine city. The prosecution have presented no evidence whatsoever to link those bombs which tragically fell on the city that night, to my client’s aircraft, a Ju 88 manufactured by Junkers and Company of Dessau, Germany. My clients were in just one of many aircraft flying in the area at the time and any one of the others may have accidentally released the bombs with unfortunate consequences. Yet the prosecution have singularly failed to arrest any of them as suspects or even to question them as witnesses. The case against my clients is therefore one entirely of speculation. My clients were on an innocent pleasure flight, wishing only to enjoy by moonlight the pastoral scenes made famous by such renowned artists as Mr John Constable, RA, and to admire the architecture of some of our great cities, assisted in their exploration by a guide to Great Britain published by that noted Anglophile, Herr Karl Baedeker, a copy of which they had with them on their journey. It has to be said that their treatment as visitors to our country has been deplorable. They were quite outrageously attacked and shot at by a Royal Air Force fighter plane, causing them to crash land and to sustain whiplash injuries which may keep them away from operational duties for days if not weeks. The unprovoked attack on their aircraft, from behind, was a cowardly act completely disproportionate to the offences for which my clients stand accused and which they emphatically deny. Furthermore their subsequent treatment at the hands of the police fell far short of that expected in a civilised society such as ours. The police failed to provide wurst and sauerkraut when requested, and served instead tea with cucumber sandwiches from which the crusts had not been removed. Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I am sure you share a deep sense of shame at what has been done to these fine young men in the name of our country, and I urge to you find them innocent of all charges.”

Verdict: Not guilty. Crown ordered to pay compensation to the aircrew, and damages to the German government for the loss of their aircraft.

Further news: An un-named RAF pilot has been arrested and charged with causing criminal damage to a Junkers bomber.

Further further news: A former poet has been jailed for life for race hate crimes after inciting violence against the residents of Slough, Berkshire. Sir John Betjemen said as he was lead away to prison, “I weep for my country.”