Inevitable Payback 140

In this globalised world, if we launch weapons of great destructive power into communities abroad, incinerating and shredding women and children, we cannot avoid the fact that those who identify with those communities – ethnically, culturally and religiously – will take revenge on people here. If we are lucky it will be revenge on combatants. If we are unlucky it will be on our innocents. But either way, the truth is this. We caused it.

We caused it by our invasions, occupations and bombings of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, none of which had ever attacked the UK. We caused it by all the dead women and children that British bombs, missiles or bullets killed accidentally. We caused it by the terrible deaths of the people we killed deliberately, who were only defending their country from foreign invaders, just as most of us would do. We caused it by the detainees killed or tortured. As a country, the United Kingdom caused it.

This is not the 19th century. Imperialist aggression now brings a danger of retaliation from empathetic communities embedded in western societies. This is so obvious as not to need stating. The danger of terrorism from Islamic sources would be much reduced if we just minded our own business on the international scene.

All that is very obvious. It does not, however, seem to have occurred to John Sawers, immediate past head of MI6, who has no sensible thoughts at all of the causes of terrorism. The right wing like to think that anyone opposed to the West is, by definition, spontaneously evil. If only they could look in the mirror sometimes and ask why people hate us, that would be a major psychological breakthrough. I have known John Sawers a great many years, and he is somebody who looks in the mirror very often. Sadly, not for that purpose.

At least he has the intellectual honesty to admit an open advocacy of the extreme big brother society. Abandoning the notion of smart intelligence, he has come out with a justification of the mass surveillance society which Snowden revealed. We cannot prevent terrorism without spying on innocent people, he declares.

In a sense, that is a truism. I have very often argued that it is impossible to prevent all evil and daft to try. You have a far, far higher chance of being murdered by a member of your own family than you have by a terrorist. Over the last 10 years terrorists have been responsible for almost exactly 1% of all murders in the UK. Let me type that again. In the last ten years terrorists have been responsible for almost exactly 1% of all murders in the UK. And about 0.007% of woundings. It remains true that the most likely person to kill you is in your own family. It is worth remembering that the number of people who died in the Charlie Hebdo atrocity was the same number murdered in France on average every week.

Now assuming the aim is to prevent murder rather than make propaganda, let us concentrate for a moment on – don’t worry, you will never in your life be asked to do this again, unless by me – let us concentrate on the 99% of murders which are not by terrorists. To take the John Sawers system, if we had permanent CCTV monitoring of every kitchen in the UK, we could probably prevent quite a few of those murders and a vast amount of non-fatal violence. It would take an enormous police and security service, of course, but we are getting there anyway. Sawers’ point is completely correct in logic – you cannot prevent all murders without massive surveillance of the innocent. It would have been even more correct if you just stopped the sentence at you cannot prevent all murders. Precisely the same is true of the tiny risk to individuals that is murder by terrorism.

The surest way to reduce the terrorist threat in the UK is to stop bombing or invading other countries. That simple fact needs to be screamed from the rooftops. The next thing you can do is solid old fashioned evidence-based police and intelligence work. The least effective thing you can do is simply trawl the email and online chat of millions of people. That clogs up the intelligence system with a vast mound of undigestable information, and results in the conviction of fantasists and boastful men who, while unpleasant, are guilty of nothing but thought crime. It is exactly the same result as if you tackled murder by arresting everyone who in an email or chat wished harm to their husband or wife. It is wrong to express that, but the percentage who would have really gone on to murder would be vanishingly small.

The great worry is the presumption which is sneaking in to the mainstream media narrative that it is the responsibility of the state to prevent all crime before it happens. It is not, and that is not an achievable goal. The restrictions on liberty it would entail would do more damage to society than crime itself, which mankind has managed to live with since civilisation began. The entire debate around terrorism needs to be recalibrated. The answer is not the ultimate Big Brother surveillance state. The answer is to stop our hideous violence towards communities abroad.

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140 thoughts on “Inevitable Payback

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  • KingOfWelshNoir


    ‘The payback theory only fails if the incidents are completely faked or are false flags.’

    I think most of them are, or least largely perpetrated by dupes being manipulated by the security services – check out former SBS counter terrorist expert Martin “Abdullah” McDaid who allegedly converted to Islam and radicalised the 7/7 bombers. In the aftermath of all the major terror plots since and including 9/11 it transpired that the alleged perps were being monitored by the security services. In each case they wrung their hands afterwards at their failure to join up the dots. Was it really a failure? They seem to be awfully good at surveilling unstable Islamists and then apparently letting them slip through their hands.

  • MJ

    “The payback theory only fails if the incidents are completely faked or are false flags”

    That is certainly one of the conditions under which it fails.

    “But that does not mean that all terrorist incidents are fakes or false flags”

    I don’t recall saying that they are.

    “You seem dangerously close to suggesting that nobody really died at Charlie Hebdo”

    I’m saying that the footage of the alleged shooting of a policeman shows it to be a contrived piece of street theatre. Check it out for yourself, you don’t need to take my word for it. The best version is here:

    Watch the “shooting” sequence close up, frame by frame.

    I have seen no evidence regarding any of the other victims.

  • bevin

    Spot on Craig, and King of Welsh Noir puts it into perspective

    “..the truth is, this has nothing to do with saving lives, it is clearly about social control.”
    And it has to be understood, too, that it is this perceived need for social control which is what is very disturbing. It is not, as Craig’s line of argument might seem, on a casual reading, to imply, irrational to act as the Establishment is acting on this matter.
    Social control is vital because enslavement, albeit in a novel and unfamiliar guise, is the objective. It is so because, absent social control, the socio-economic system (it is a bit more complex than the term capitalism suggests) is no longer sustainable.
    Marry official insistence on the need for ever more complete surveillance with the swift and uninterrupted rise, over the past forty years, of the incarceration complex and the steady decline, in the same period of living standards and the quality of life (in particular financial security and personal ‘sovereignty’ ) and the picture becomes clear.

    The limits of growth having been reached the exploiters must now turn back and intensify the exploitation of the masses that, during the expansion of the system, was hit and miss, almost incidental, and meant that every form of freedom was possible and that opposition was a welcome source of new ideas and could be incorporated to strengthen the Establishment’s rule.
    The choice really is one between democracy (which Luxemburg called socialism) and barbarism. Not even the Barbarians will benefit from their continuing to win.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Those were very significant, fast-acting, well thought-out and successful legislative changes.
    But they didn’t leave the ghost of a notion of individual freedom, did they?
    The captives in a globalised economic death camp have to believe they are free agents, though – they’re no such thing, of course – because they have to consume as well as produce for the scam to work. They must be encouraged to want stuff, allowed the means of getting it and encouraged in the notion that the more stuff you’ve got the more successful you are.

    In that connection Mao Zhedong once remarked that there was no difference between being happy and just thinking you’re happy…

  • N_

    Not even the Barbarians will benefit from their continuing to win“. So they’re stupid, then?

  • N_

    Ba’al Zevul – Yes, agreed.

    It’s getting ever more schizoid (‘slavery is freedom’ – and watch Yahoo’s ‘favourite’ videos while supposedly getting fevered up against barbarism by the news reports) and a big cull is likely. The contradictions are under control.

    The consumed ‘stuff’ to which you refer is changing.

    In Britain the petty guards are straining at the leash. They’ll love getting the OK when they get it.

  • Vronsky

    Sitting down he pub with friends in the days after ix/xi I remarked that it was payback, and suggested The Alamo as analogy. A wiser friend said that it was more The Little Bighorn. After that, all and any measures against the barbarians were pardonable.

  • Miss Castello

    Mary @ 10.37:

    “Sir John Sawers said a terrorist attack in the UK was “highly likely”

    Meaning ‘he hopes’. His raison d’etre.

  • Mary


    Sir Lawrence Freedman contributed to the preparation of the 1999 Chicago speech in which Tony Blair set out the ‘Blair doctrine’.

    During the 2003 Iraq invasion, Freedman wrote an article for The Independent newspaper in which he said:

    “Another familiar refrain in Washington is that the US has long since given up expecting to be loved but is content to be respected. Even if it takes time to dislodge Saddam’s regime, the US – and also Britain – will emerge from this conflict hardened in their power and ready to exercise far greater influence over not only the development of Iraq but also the wider Middle East. For them the key question will be whether, having carried so much of the burden of the war effort, they can also carry the post-war effort without much wider international support, and the extent to which they are prepared to share influence to obtain it. The problem of coalition formation will not stop with the war’s end.”[10]

    Freedman is the Official Historian of the Falklands Campaign and author of The official history of the Falklands Campaign (2 vols, London: Routledge, 2006).[11]

    Freedman’s principal areas of interest include contemporary defence and foreign policy issues.[12] He has written extensively on nuclear strategy and the cold war, as well as commentating regularly on contemporary security issues. His recent books include an Adelphi Paper on “The Revolution in Strategic Affairs”, an edited book on Strategic Coercion, an illustrated book on The Cold War, a collection of essays on British defence policy and Kennedy’s Wars that covers the major crises of the early 1960s over Berlin, Cuba and Vietnam. In addition, a book on deterrence was published in 2004.[13] His most recent book, A Choice of Enemies: America Confronts the Middle East (New York: PublicAffairs, 2008), won the 2009 Lionel Gelber Prize and the 2009 Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature.

    Freedman, Professor of War Studies!! at Kings College is a scribe for the war criminals/gangsters-in-charge.

  • Mary

    Rentoul, biographer and supporter of BLiar, is on Sky defending the delay. ‘The job has to be done properly’ he said.

    Last night on the Sky News paper review, some journalist, Julia Hartley Brewer (ex Express newspapers), and someone described as a ‘comedian’, except he did not seem at all funny, both defended the Iraq war, said they fully supported it and that it was totally legal having gone through the HoC and the UN.

    Appalling propaganda under the guise of opinion.

    PS This was the ‘comedian’. All becomes clear.
    Matt Forde

    Comedian, writer, presenter

    Matt Forde is a Nottingham-born comedian, comedy writer, radio presenter and former political advisor for the The Labour Party

  • Ba'al Zevul

    He would not answer any of the questions put to him by the waiting journalists.

    Never mind. We can read glowing accounts of his contribution on:

    The Tony Blair Faith Foundation website
    The Africa Governance Initiative ditto
    The Climate Change Initiative ditto
    The Tony Blair Sports Foundation ditto
    The Office of Tony Blair ditto
    The Office of the Quartet Representative ditto

    …shortly: and all our questions will miraculously be answered. Including why is he banging on about his triumph in Iraq instead of discussing religious tolerance with a rabbi, an archbishop and a leading Islamic scholar. Which was what was on the programme.

  • Republicofscotland

    “I have known John Sawers a great many years, and he is somebody who looks in the mirror very often. Sadly, not for that purpose.”

    How very droll.

    I wonder if, Andrew Parker has Narcissistic tendencies as well, surely he must have.

    As for the reasons why Westminster can’t see why many of the worlds countries, loathe the British, its simply a case of those at Westminster have superior pr*ck attitude, stemming back to the empire.

  • Jemand

    How does this explain the activities of Boko Haram? How does it explain the absence of Latino terrorist activity in the US despite its record of brutal interference in South American countries?

  • Republicofscotland

    Meanwhile the head of the Treasury Sir Nicholas Macpherson has admitted it did everything in its power to thwart the SNP and independence, the Treasury a supposedly impartial body, didn’t even deny that they leaked, the Royal bank of Scotland’s intention to move its headquarters out of Scotland.

    The BBC’s economic editor Robert Peston claimed that the source of the leak was the Treasury, and the Treasury have since not denied the claim.

    Denis Canavan and Stewart Hosie, are calling for an inquiry, and if its proven Her Majesties Treasury (Of whom the Queen remained neutral allegedly) took a biased approach, then surely Sir Nicolas Macpherson’s position is let untenable.

  • Republicofscotland

    The Chancer of the Exchequer, Gideon Osborne, has spoken out at a select treasury meeting, on new tax powers for the Scottish parliament.

    Awful Osborne, said “English voters wouldn’t be happy, about the prospect of SNP MP’s influencing the UK budget.

    Now Osborne knows how the Scots feel, when the unelected House of Lords influences Scottish policies.

  • Republicofscotland

    Blair McDougall, the man who ran the Better Together campaign, has had his 30 pieces of silver, paid, in the form of director of Policy for Scottish Labour.

    McDougall’s remit, is to plan Jim Murphy, and Kezia Dugdale’s assault, on the General Election in Scotland.

    I hope he fails miserably, along with the Labour branch in Scotland.

  • N_

    @Miss Castello

    Sir John Sawers said a terrorist attack in the UK was “highly likely”

    “Meaning ‘he hopes’. His raison d’etre.”

    Remember this is MI6. Their main role isn’t British security.

    Got to wonder what they think north of the river, in MI5, when they hear the head of ‘the opposition’ make such a speech on their patch.

    Probably keep their heads down as usual.

    In the Foreign Office, Diplomatic Service, MI6, MI5, one thing you must never question is Britain’s position as a United States protectorate. If you did, the question of who controls the US might start to be of interest, And we can’t have that!

  • N_

    Osborne’s such an idiot. I thought the British budget was passed by…which parliament is it again? When he says “English”, he means “Tory”. Don’t make the same mistake.

  • Republicofscotland

    The biggest vote on this country’s ties to ­Brussels for 40 years saw 80 per cent say they no longer want to be in Europe, the ­Daily Express can reveal.

    It marks a huge leap forward in this news­paper’s crusade to get Britain out of the EU.

    Some 14,581 people voted – 11,706 of them want the UK to quit compared with 2,725 who want to remain part of the EU.

    The mini-referendum – the first on the issue since 1975 – was organised by two senior Tory backbenchers and a prospective Tory MP.

    They believe the overwhelming result, which will be presented to David Cameron today, will force him to bring forward his planned in-or-out vote on the UK’s future in Europe to next year instead of 2017.

    The landslide result heaps further pressure on the Prime Minister to act as it comes just days after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker compared British membership of the EU to a doomed romance and suggested it was time for Britain to get a divorce.

    The Tory poll was organised across three neighbouring parliamentary constituencies by Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering, and Tom Pursglove, who is standing as Tory candidate for Corby and East Northamptonshire at this year’s general election.

    Scotland may get a second shot at independence, sooner than we think.

  • @homeneara*

    But ‘ours’ are just killings. Did you not see the justice stickers on the bombs.

    Imo we are living in a society or mass cognitive dissonance. And mass racism. Just like Nazi Germany in many ways.

    Just look the outcry for France or any of the comparatively small things we have faced. By all accounts we sould be having this get together for each weeding party blown up, and god knows what the appropriate human response is to the much bigger slaughter of innocents. But racists don’t think that way.

    It will be the innocent who continue suffer, while the perpetrators get nice cushy jobs. It’s sick.

  • nevermind

    I wish those accused in the Chilcot inquiry would get their payback, they truly deserve all nuances of payback they have asked for.

  • @homeneara*

    I really make ZERO distinction of those in this country who see their killing as just, and people who think JUST the same thing in other places.

    The only difference is ‘ours’ (Mafia government) is on a bigger scale with more advanced weaponry. The ideology is a mirror of fundamentalisms.

  • KingOfWelshNoir


    Thanks for the links, I’ll check them out


    Social control is vital because enslavement, albeit in a novel and unfamiliar guise, is the objective. It is so because, absent social control, the socio-economic system (it is a bit more complex than the term capitalism suggests) is no longer sustainable.

    Spot on.

  • glenn

    @MJ : “We are told that Islamist extremists killed 17 people in France, yet in the video of one of the shootings, it is clear that no real shooting takes place. A blank is fired over the head of a man in a policeman’s uniform, who then plays dead. It is simply a piece of street theatre.

    So what’s the real story, MJ – did this fellow not die? Didn’t he ever actually exist – or perhaps choked he on an olive, and they decided to spice up the story a bit?

    The coroner was doubtless in on it too, along with all attending medics, fellow police, and so on, and on, and on.

    Do you have any idea how ridiculous it sounds when you start down that road of paranoid fantasy?

  • @homeneara*

    nevermind, Agree, I think i’d also include some in Chilcot as well as investigated by them.

    It’s a sick farce and they are all culpable for misdirecting justice.

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