Lessons of the London butchers

By Nicholas Wapshott
May 23, 2013

The sickening scene from Britain of a blood-spattered man spouting Islamist hatred, who had just beheaded an off-duty British soldier in broad daylight, sends shivers down the spine. Is this the face of modern terrorism? If so, is no one safe anymore?

After the initial horror at the barbaric butchery on a leafy London street come questions about our attempts to prevent terrorism. Eleven years on from the attacks of September 11, we are still left grappling with some basic questions: What exactly is terrorism? And what can we do, if anything, to prevent it?

The British prime minister, David Cameron, his colleagues, and top officials and police have been careful not to jump to conclusions. They have avoided the rush to judgment that so many in the United States urged on the Obama administration in describing the motivation of the killers of ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi. It is not that they do not take the killers at their word; it is because they simply do not know.

Cameron was careful not to prejudge or speculate on the motives of the two suspected culprits, who made no attempt to escape and waited for the police to come and arrest them. “There are strong indications that it is a terrorist incident” was as far as he would go. It was even left to French President Francois Hollande – Cameron was in Paris ‑ to let slip that the British authorities knew the victim was a soldier.

The Metropolitan Police chief was even more cautious. “We understand concern about the motivation, and we will work tirelessly to uncover why this occurred and who was responsible,” he said. “I understand people want answers, but I must stress we are in the early stages of investigations.”

The British have a meticulous approach to preventing the prejudicing of evidence and juries that the American First Amendment does not allow. In the United States, we guess first and investigate later. Even by the morning after the attacks, Cameron remained reluctant to acknowledge that the jihadist language used by one of the killers in the immediate aftermath of the killing automatically made him a terrorist.

Instead, he went out of his way to distance Islam from the slaughter. “We will never give in to terror or terrorism in any of its forms,” he said. “This was not just an attack on Britain and on the British way of life, it was also a betrayal of Islam and of the Muslim communities who give so much to our country. There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.”

This has put the official jostling to avoid jumping to conclusions in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi killing of four Americans in a fresh light. There has been widespread scoffing that no one dare call the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens a terrorist act, though it had all the characteristics of terrorism. The suggestion has been made that the to-and-fro over how the attack should be described must have been politically motivated.

Sometimes it is important for law enforcement officials to stay mum rather than jump too quickly to conclusions, even if the motive is misconstrued. The CIA considered the ambassador’s premises in Benghazi a crime scene that might provide them with proof that would bring the killers to justice. Agents now have five suspects in their sights, under 24-hour surveillance, but are waiting until they have enough evidence to surely convict.

The CIA appears to have learned lessons from the roundup of al Qaeda suspects after September 11. There are already too many untried detainees held in Guantanamo – at least 45 of them genuine cold-blooded terrorists – without enough evidence against them for the CIA to ad five from Benghazi. Maintaining the rule of law is important for a civilized nation, but it comes at a price. Sometimes, justice is not served.

The failure to allow Gitmo detainees to be repatriated to face trial on American soil has caused, by the reckoning of a joint CIA, FBI and Pentagon task force, 86 innocent men to be held indefinitely by American forces. That is shameful, which is why President Barack Obama’s new initiative to provide justice to those at Gitmo is so welcome. Hypocrisy is the lifeblood of politics, which perhaps explains why the very constitutionalists who most conspicuously praise the principle of the rule of law are often the same as those who demand lynch law for suspected terrorists, even when they are known to be innocent.

The cases of the butchers of London and the Boston bombers raise an even more fundamental question: What exactly is terrorism? When Osama bin Laden was running al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and coordinating terrorist outrages around the world, the shape and modus operandi of terror networks was well established. In the 11 years since 9/11, however, the central management of al Qaeda’s operation has been defeated and the duty to continue the Islamist fight passed to individual jihadists.

But when is a murderer a terrorist and when is he simply an egotistical killer eager to grab the headlines? There is an iteration of Islamist terrorism that learned from the Allied invasion of Afghanistan and the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq that they were no match for the Western military and its sophisticated technology. Islamist terrorism has largely devolved to individuals who work independently or in small cells and perpetrate well-planned or opportunistic horrors using everyday equipment bought in pharmacies and hardware stores.

How to deal with hydra-headed terror without impinging on our liberties is the greatest puzzle yet to be solved by contemporary law enforcement. Eternal vigilance is not particularly effective, even when accompanied by saturation eavesdropping by street cameras. But as the London outrage has shown, we may be in another phase.

Almost everyone now has a cell-phone camera, and brave souls are prepared to tackle armed terrorists. The heroine of the hour in London is a woman Cub Scout leader, Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, who, hearing the blood-drenched killer yammer, “You people will never be safe,” and threatening “war in London,” calmly replied, “You’re going to lose. It is only you versus many.”

Both the London and Boston killings appear to have been perpetrated by disenchanted young Muslim men. Despite one of the Boston bombers’ travel to Chechnya and their reported reliance upon an al Qaeda handbook to build the pressure cooker bomb that killed three and maimed 264, exiled Chechen separatist leaders fiercely denied connections with the pair and so far the FBI have failed to establish a direct link between the bombers and Islamist terrorist leaders. And until Scotland Yard establishes a connection between the London killers and a known terror network, they will be cagey about calling the two suspects terrorists.

The British have a long history of countering terrorism. From the start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, the Irish Republican Army waged wave after wave of terror attacks on soldiers and civilians, including an annual bombing campaign on Christmas shoppers. The IRA’s fighters were well disciplined and had a clear aim and an ideology. Because of the nature of their business, they attracted psychopathtics without any ideals or ideology only too happy to kill for fun.

That is why sorting real terrorists from the murderous insane must remain at the heart of counterterrorism. Wild talk about revenging the sins of Muslims in general may be good business for a tabloid cable news station catering to xenophobes, but it cannot be the standard of a democratic government and its instruments of law and order. Merely shouting “Allah is good!” as the London killers did, does not define a crime as an act of terrorism.

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” He was wiser than he knew. As the British like to say, we are all going to have to “keep calm and carry on.”

Nicholas Wapshott is the author of Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics. Read extracts here.

PHOTO: A police forensics officer investigates a crime scene where one man was killed in Woolwich, southeast London May 22, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

 

18 comments

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So basically, if I disagree with you I’m a xenophobe that watches a tabloid cable news station. Hmmm, so you’re all the journalism anyone should need? How’s your ilk doing so far? Not so good, so I think you should work on being the watchdog for the citizens of a democracy, and let us citizens decide where we get our information.

Posted by mercyme | Report as abusive

There are a couple of words that need to simply go away. 1. Terrorist. A soldier is not a terrorist. A resistance fighter is not a terrorist. An arab who commits violence is not a terrorist. This word is so abused that any context it is now used in is misleading.
2. Civilian. The line between soldier and civilian went away a long time ago. Is someone who works in a weapons factory a civilian? What if they work in the accounting department? What if they work for the bank who gives loans to the weapons company? Is an off duty soldier a civilian? What about someone who lives in the same house as a soldier who is actively engaged in warfare? Stop calling people civilians – it is so misleading it would be better to tell outright lies.
3. Innocents people – Someone whose name escapes me once said those without sin should cast the first stone. I see a lot of people described as innocent. I see a lot of people casting stones.

Posted by BidnisMan | Report as abusive

In answer to your simplistic question “What exactly is terrorism?”, I would give the standard reply, which is “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”.

You point out the classic example (mistake) of the “Troubles in Northern Ireland” and the IRA as the classic example of terrorism, but the “Troubles of Ireland” go back much further to when they became the first British Colony (i.e. casualty of the expanding British Empire), which really dates back to the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169, and then in earnest with the reconquest of Ireland by the Tudors in the 1530s.

Since then the British have systematically attempted to destroy the Irish people in every way possible, including starvation, which amounts to genocide no matter how you look at it.

————————–

Instead of the truth, you state, “The British have a long history of countering terrorism. From the start of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s, the Irish Republican Army waged wave after wave of terror attacks on soldiers and civilians, including an annual bombing campaign on Christmas shoppers. The IRA’s fighters were well disciplined and had a clear aim and an ideology. Because of the nature of their business, they attracted psychopathtics without any ideals or ideology only too happy to kill for fun”, which is not only egregiously in error, but treatment of the Irish people as the British have done, which is somthing less than human.

You also fail to mention the “terrorism” of the Chinese against the British Empire during the Opium Wars in the late 1800s, during which the British managed to overthrow the legimate Chinese government, which is the real reason that China is now Communist.

So what offense did the Chinese emperors give to the British to cause them to attack and overthrow the Chinese government?

The Chinese wanted “hard cash” to pay for the British trade, which was draining the treasury of the British, so in revenge they decided to get the whole Chinese nation hooked on Opium. In effect, the British Empire became the first global drug dealers.

Then there is the Middle East, where if you examine the “terrorist” groups, they are the result of British interference with their governments, all to increas the profits of the British Empire.

And, of course, there is the “troubles” in India …

The list of British atrocities against other people goes on indefinitely.

What is even more egregious their former colony is that the former North American colony is now engaged in EXACTLY the same policies as the now defunct British Empire, and for the SAME REASONS.

Care to pose your question again?

Only this time, you should rephrase it to be more meaningful, as in “What exactly (CAUSES) terrorism?”

I predect that Britain’s former North American colony will end up the same way as they did, and for exactly the same reasons.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

In terms of the “troubles” in the Middle East, I forgot the most important reason of all for the “terrorism” there.

British semi-secret attempts to create a homeland for the Jewish people out of a nation that already existed called Palestine.

THAT is where the Middle East “troubles” of today began, which may lead possibly to nuclear exchanges in the near future, with the potential for global economic collapse.

The even uglier truth is that their North American colony is currently engaged in attempting to destabilize the legimate Iranian government — again — for much the same reasons.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

I forgot to include this link to back up my statement about Israel and the real reason for the terrorism in the Middle East.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Man date_for_Palestine

The truth is that Arab “terrorists” — or are they really “freedom fighters”, in spite of what popular news says — have been fighting European and US hegemonic designs on their land for a very long time.

ALL of what I have said can be easily verified, if you want to know the truth, that is.

I am tired of reading disgusting “propaganda” like this article, especially since most of it goes totally unchallenged.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

This is the historical “background” to what eventually led up to the “British Mandate for Palestine”.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Man date_for_Palestine_%28legal_instrument%2 9

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

In terms of the British involvement in Palestine and the present situation of the existence of Israel today, you need to read and understand this link — Sykes–Picot Agreement — which is the key to understanding the “troubles” and “terrorism” in the Middle East today, and whihc clearly demonstates the duplicity of the European nations towards the Arab people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sykes%E2%80 %93Picot_Agreement

The Sykes–Picot Agreement, officially known as the Asia Minor Agreement, was a secret agreement between the governments of the United Kingdom and France,[1] with the assent of Russia, defining their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East should the Triple Entente succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The negotiation of the treaty occurred between November 1915 and March 1916.[2] The agreement was concluded on 16 May 1916.[3]

The agreement effectively divided the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire outside the Arabian peninsula into areas of future British and French control or influence.[4] The terms were negotiated by the French diplomat François Georges-Picot and British Sir Mark Sykes. The Russian Tsarist government was a minor party to the Sykes–Picot agreement, and when, following the Russian Revolution of October 1917, the Bolsheviks exposed the agreement, ‘the British were embarrassed, the Arabs dismayed and the Turks delighted.’[5]

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British-Zionist discussions during the negotiations

Following the outbreak of World War I, Zionism was first discussed at a British Cabinet level on 9 November 1914, four days after Britain’s declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire. At a Cabinet meeting David Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer, “referred to the ultimate destiny of Palestine.”[7][8] Lloyd George’s law firm Lloyd George, Roberts and Co had been engaged a decade before by the Zionists to work on the British Uganda Programme.[9] In a discussion after the meeting with fellow Zionist Herbert Samuel, who had a seat in the Cabinet as President of the Local Government Board, Lloyd George assured him that “he was very keen to see a Jewish state established in Palestine.”[7][10] Samuel then outlined the Zionist position more fully in a conversation with Foreign Secretary Edward Grey. He spoke of Zionist aspirations for the establishment in Palestine of a Jewish state, and of the importance of its geographical position to the British Empire. Samuel’s memoirs state: “I mentioned that two things would be essential— that the state should be neutralized, since it could not be large enough to defend itself, and that the free access of Christian pilgrims should be guaranteed… I also said it would be a great advantage if the remainder of Syria were annexed by France, as it would be far better for the state to have a European power as neighbour than the Turk”[7][11] The same evening, Prime Minister H. H. Asquith announced that the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire had become a war aim in a speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet.[12]

In January 1915 Samuel submitted a Zionist memorandum entitled The Future of Palestine to the Cabinet after discussions with Weizmann and Lloyd George. On 5 February 1915, Samuel had another discussion with Grey: “When I asked him what his solution was he said it might be possible to neutralize the country under international guarantee…and to vest the government of the country in some kind of Council to be established by the Jews”[13][14] After further conversations with Lloyd George and Grey, Samuel circulated a revised text to the Cabinet in the middle of March 1915.

Zionism or the Jewish question were not considered by the report of the de Bunsen Committee, prepared to determine British wartime policy toward the Ottoman Empire, submitted in June 1915.[10]

Prior to the departure of Sykes to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov in Petrograd on 27 February 1916, Sykes was approached with a plan by Samuel. The plan put forward by Samuel was in the form of a memorandum which Sykes thought prudent to commit to memory and destroy.[15] Commenting on it, Sykes wrote to Samuel suggesting that if Belgium should assume the administration of Palestine it might be more acceptable to France as an alternative to the international administration which she wanted and the Zionists did not. Of the boundaries marked on a map attached to the memorandum he wrote:[7]

“By excluding Hebron and the East of the Jordan there is less to discuss with the Moslems, as the Mosque of Omar then becomes the only matter of vital importance to discuss with them and further does away with any contact with the bedouins, who never cross the river except on business. I imagine that the principal object of Zionism is the realization of the ideal of an existing center of nationality rather than boundaries or extent of territory. The moment I return I will let you know how things stand at Pd.”[16]

Conflicting promises
Main article: The territorial reservations in the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence

Lord Curzon said the Great Powers were still committed to the Reglement Organique Agreement regarding the Lebanon Vilayet of June 1861 and September 1864, and that the rights granted to France in the blue area under the Sykes–Picot Agreement were not compatible with that agreement.[17] The Reglement Organique was an international agreement regarding governance and non-intervention in the affairs of the Maronite, Orthodox Christian, Druze, and Muslim communities.

In May 1917 W. Ormsby-Gore wrote “French intentions in Syria are surely incompatible with the war aims of the Allies as defined to the Russian Government. If the self-determination of nationalities is to be the principle, the interference of France in the selection of advisers by the Arab Government and the suggestion by France of the Emirs to be selected by the Arabs in Mosul, Aleppo, and Damascus would seem utterly incompatible with our ideas of liberating the Arab nation and of establishing a free and independent Arab State. The British Government, in authorising the letters despatched to King Hussein [Sharif of Mecca] before the outbreak of the revolt by Sir Henry McMahon, would seem to raise a doubt as to whether our pledges to King Hussein as head of the Arab nation are consistent with French intentions to make not only Syria but Upper Mesopotamia another Tunis. If our support of King Hussein and the other Arabian leaders of less distinguished origin and prestige means anything it means that we are prepared to recognise the full sovereign independence of the Arabs of Arabia and Syria. It would seem time to acquaint the French Government with our detailed pledges to King Hussein, and to make it clear to the latter whether he or someone else is to be the ruler of Damascus, which is the one possible capital for an Arab State, which could command the obedience of the other Arabian Emirs.”[18]

Many sources report that this agreement conflicted with the Hussein–McMahon Correspondence of 1915–1916. It has also been reported that the publication of the Sykes–Picot Agreement caused the resignation of Sir Henry McMahon.[19] However, the Sykes–Picot plan itself stated that France and Great Britain were prepared to recognize and protect an independent Arab State, or Confederation of Arab States, under the suzerainty of an Arab chief within the zones marked A. and B. on the map.[20] Nothing in the plan precluded rule through an Arab suzerainty in the remaining areas. The conflicts resulted from the private, post-war, Anglo-French Settlement of 1–4 December 1918. It was negotiated between British Prime Minister Lloyd George and French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau and rendered many of the guarantees in the Hussein–McMahon agreement invalid. That settlement was not part of the Sykes–Picot Agreement.[21] Sykes was not affiliated with the Cairo office that had been corresponding with Sherif Hussein bin Ali, but he and Picot visited the Hedjaz in 1917 to discuss the agreement with Hussein.[22] That same year he and a representative of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs delivered a public address to the Central Syrian Congress in Paris on the non-Turkish elements of the Ottoman Empire, including liberated Jerusalem. He stated that the accomplished fact of the independence of the Hedjaz rendered it almost impossible that an effective and real autonomy should be refused to Syria.[23]

The greatest source of conflict was the Balfour Declaration, 1917. Lord Balfour wrote a memorandum from the Paris Peace Conference which stated that the other allies had implicitly rejected the Sykes–Picot agreement by adopting the system of mandates. It allowed for no annexations, trade preferences, or other advantages. He also stated that the Allies were committed to Zionism and had no intention of honoring their promises to the Arabs.[24]

Eighty-five years later, in a 2002 interview with The New Statesman, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw observed “A lot of the problems we are having to deal with now, I have to deal with now, are a consequence of our colonial past. .. ..The Balfour Declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis – again, an interesting history for us but not an entirely honourable one.”[25]

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

I think ALL of what I said above is nicely summarized by the final paragraph in the last comment above. I don’t think I could have said it better myself, but not only with the Middle East.

—————-

Eighty-five years later, in a 2002 interview with The New Statesman, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw observed “A lot of the problems we are having to deal with now, I have to deal with now, are a consequence of our colonial past. .. ..The Balfour Declaration and the contradictory assurances which were being given to Palestinians in private at the same time as they were being given to the Israelis – again, an interesting history for us but not an entirely honourable one.”[25]

—————

I rest my case.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive

Human beings are cruel to each other… have been since, well, forever. This is news?

Posted by silliness | Report as abusive

the savages have caught up to the civilized — happening in Europe, North America and we need another place to escape — a new planet to escape off to! aaaah won’t it be grand.! call me PIncorrect — but the simple fact is that the more developed and more civilized peoples are being “inundated” by their backwards cousins.

Posted by bfar | Report as abusive

A typical liberal reaction to something like this. Someone butchers somebody on the street rambling on about his Islamist ideology, and the liberal asks, “what is this exactly? Is it crime? Is it terrorism?”

I suspected, and it was confirmed, that the upshot of the article is to assert that no one question the immigration imperatives set out by the British elites, which demand that the British people be forced into an immersion with these foreigners, who are about as British as I am Camaroonian.

Expect a deluge of dissembling by people like Wapshott, to keep the British people as confused, befuddled, and passive as possible.

Posted by Calfri | Report as abusive

Firstly, this is a murder. It is tragic and my thoughts go out to the family and friends of Lee Rigby.

But we must stop using the word terrorism. Forever, young men have struggled to find their way in the world. Some are more successful than others. When frustrated in their endeavours, some turn to violence. This issue is magnified in today’s world by the availability of powerful weapons, information to produce weapons and those who want to exploit this misplaced youthful energy to their own ends. Included in this description are probably the Woolwich killers, Brevik, school shooters, Denver cinema killer, the guy who blew up the FBI base. The link is that they are young men with the means to do terrible damage whose energy is channeled rather into study, sports, or climbing the career ladder than into destruction. Interestingly, when Australia made its guns ban both mass killings and suicides dramatically reduced.

Bin Laden knew that he need to capture the minds of these people. By entering into the language of terrorism, we helped draw lines of us and them that further can motivate these terrible acts and played into Bin Laden’s plans.

The law for centuries has sought to remove motivation from evidential requirements. Crimes do not require motive to be proven. Removing the terrorism label removes the motivation from the discussion that is a strong anti terrorism tactic. If only Bush and the Neocons had understood this after the 9/11 attacks, maybe there would have been less war and the criminals still pursued, prosecuted and punished. This would have been a worthy lesson rather than the declaration of war against terrorism and the oft times lazy erroneous mixing this with the West against coloured muslims that is simply racist.

Posted by EWDT | Report as abusive

“There is nothing in Islam that justifies this truly dreadful act.”

How silly. EVERYTHING in Islam justifies this. Read the Koran and the hadiths.
Mohammad personally:

## Led dozens of bloody raids to steal treasure to support his early followers.
## Gave the order to assassinate two poets who had written verses mocking him.
## Gave the order to behead 800 just-captured Jews. And kick their headless bodies into a ditch.
## Gave the order to rape 100s of just-captured girls and women.

And that’s just the start. Today there are DOZENS of deadly Islamic terror attacks worldwide. Mostly far worse than this one.

Posted by Stevebee3 | Report as abusive

What is the lesson?
Simple. All Muslims must go. They bomb us in Boston. They behead us in London. They riot and burn cars in Sweden.
They all must go.

Posted by Stevebee3 | Report as abusive

The “lessons” of a disastrous immigration policy have already been learned, despite the attempt of globalist elite commentators to downplay the consequences.

Posted by bluepanther | Report as abusive

@econCassandra, whole lot of posts
and one big lie that leaps out,
There has never been a nation of Palestine.
so that knocks aout the majoirty of your arguments, and the rest is the whole arab blame/shame mindset for their attempts to screw their fellow arabs and blame the christians.

/sucks to be unable to acknowledge your own problems.

Posted by VultureTX | Report as abusive

If so, is no one safe anymore?

Just re phrase, is it even western soldiers are not safe in their Home land. With drone attacks many civilians were un safe.

Posted by daffa | Report as abusive

@ VultureTX –

No Palestine. Really?

Apparently, a lot of people througout history seemed to think otherwise.

Sucks to be as stupid as you are and willing to display that ignorance to the world when all it would take is a bit of reading, which I provided for you.

You can read, can’t you?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Definitions _of_Palestine

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive