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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  • Pete

    Craig, you’re right about the agenda of the security services/armed forces/governments in general who will use anything at all to justify further extensions of their power.

    And you’re right about the risk of being killed by a terrorist being a great deal less than the risk of being killed by a family member or friend.

    But I think you’re a bit out of touch with average thinking if you equate one killing with another. People (outside of government and media) aren’t completely stupid- they know that ordinary murders can never be entirely prevented, and many people also know that the huge drop in the murder rate over time has absolutely nothing to do with any actions or omissions by the government, still less by the police (indeed most of the drop occured before police forces existed). But knowing that some bad individuals exist in any society is very different from knowing that a significant minority community exists who seriously and honestly beleived that wholesale massacre of their fellow citizens is morally justified and even a relgious duty.

    Furthermore, when you allude to the small number of terrorist killings in this country, you’re discounting the possibility that the Security Services have prevented ANY attacks that might otherwise have happened. In the absence of inside information this seems unjustified.

    Finally, I think you’re oversimplifying when you ascribe ALL terrorist attacks on UK citizens to revenge for UK government’s attacks on citizens of Muslim countries. The ideology of IS, AQ, etc calls for the establishment of a worldwide Caliphate- all Muslims to be compelled to follow the Wahhabi version of Islam, all Christians and Jews to pay a special tax, all those not included in the above categories are fair game for massacre or enslavement. Yes of course citizens of countries that are fighting in the Islamic world are obvious first line targets but don’t kid yourself for a moment that this lets us off the hook permanently.

    Your fundamental error is that you assume that all the bad guys are either just misguided and confused, or else just selfish greedy amoral cynical gangsters like Foday Sankoh who can be bought off with money and empty tokens of prestige. You don’t accomodate the possibility that IS AQ BH Taliban etc are totally sincere and beleive they are doing the will of God.

  • @homeneara*

    We should hold our own real public enquiry. Not fronted by sir’s, or madams. I mean ffs, it’s a joke right? It’s like expecting America to adequate fairly over Israel/Palestine.

    Maybe one day this country will have one democratic institution, who knows maybe two. But there is fuck all atm.

  • Pete

    Incidentally Craig, I personally would be quite happy to do away with ALL the baggage checks, CCTV, email snooping, and the rest of it, and to ignore all bomb warnings (not that the Islamists ever give warnings- that was the IRA). One could argue that the resulting increased death rate was a price worth paying for privacy and convenience. But you might want to consider what might be the blowback against the British Muslim communities if we had a death rate from terrorism approaching that of Pakistan or Nigeria. The British public’s tolerant attitude might rapidly evaporate in that event.

  • @homeneara*

    “But you might want to consider what might be the blowback against the British Muslim communities if we had a death rate from terrorism approaching that of Pakistan or Nigeria.”

    How about considering why that might happen?

    Or are you a ‘they hate our freedoms’ type…..’thinker’.

  • @homeneara*

    “You don’t accomodate the possibility that IS AQ BH Taliban etc are totally sincere and beleive they are doing the will of God.”

    Actually I believe many of those in the British regime think they are doing the greater good. Working in MI5 MI6 GCHQ, Army’s of dehumanised men and women ready to kill without question.

    And they do, often.

  • @homeneara*

    I don’t know which form on indoctrination is worse, but I follow Veterans for Peace. When you think about the scale and depth conformity, and the things they actually know they do to ‘our own’ people in order to accomplish massive violence, abroad.

    Then you see them Fu—-g stand up and renounce it. That must take some doing.

  • HarryLaw

    Arthur Silber has this take on reasons for blow back “Assume the U.S.’s war crimes have resulted in one million deaths. That is roughly 1/26 of the total Iraqi population. An equivalent number of American deaths would be 11.5 million people. 3,000 Americans were murdered on 9/11. In terms of casualties, 11.5 million deaths represent 3,800 9/11s — or a 9/11 every day for ten and a half years.

    Let me repeat that: a 9/11 every day for ten and a half years”.

    Perhaps you think these casualty figures are highly inflated. Fine. Cut them in half. That’s a 9/11 every day for a little over five years.

    Every day.

  • Daniel

    The thing is, the State (and that means us) are paying this moron and others of his ilk large salaries to pontificate about, and initiate and influence, proven counterproductive and ineffectual policies on behalf of, the very State to which we are all a part of.

    Paying somebody a fortune to elucidate upon a recognized failed policy which has been proven to have a diametrically opposite effect of that allegedly intended, is madness beyond belief.

    I stress the word, “allegedly” because clearly the government must know the policy is such an idiotic one in preventing and tackling terrorism.

    Cost-benefit calculations of the kind outlined by Craig are made all the time as a means of formulating policy. So why do they not undertake this kind of strategic calculation with regards to something as important as this issue?

    Moreover, why on earth would they insist on persisting with the same failed policy again and again? It can only be because they WANT their wars OF terror to continue without end.

    What surely must be the ultimate paradox, is the supposed perpetuation of eternal warfare in order to bring about an everlasting peace. This paradox only makes sense when one realizes the fact that the industrial-military complex on which it is predicated, is a nice little earner for all concerned.

  • Dreoilin

    “3,000 Americans were murdered on 9/11.”

    No they weren’t. And I’m really tired of reading that.
    A total of 372 people with non-U.S. citizenship perished in the attacks.
    More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

    Most of those who died were U.S. citizens. The other countries with the highest losses are the United Kingdom (including the British overseas territory of Bermuda) with 67, the Dominican Republic with 47, and India with 41.

  • Ba'al Zevul

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

    If it’s any comfort, Blair sounded intensely flustered and his language was audibly evasive when the subject of who was delaying the process was raised by a BBC interviewer at Davos, the interview being extracted on R4 News tonight.

    My impression: He hasn’t delayed Chilcot personally…perhaps. Though he was certainly lying at some points*, it may not be him. It’s someone further down the food chain (please let it be Straw). Blair and whoever it is have taken care to distance themselves from each other from the beginning of the process.

    There was some rather disjointed flannel, too. Blair is looking forward to the report -he’s said this before – because it will give him the opportunity to explain why he Believed he was Doing the Right Thing. But that’s not the issue, is it, Tony? You know which major thoroughfare is paved with good intentions…

    *It’s far harder to deceive when your audience can only hear your voice. FACT.

  • nevermind

    What will the payback be for Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s 12 years without charge in Guantanamo? the torture and sexual abuse he suffered?

    “I was deprived of my comfort items, except for a thin iso-mat and a very thin, small, worn-out blanket. I was deprived of my books, which I owned, I was deprived of my Koran, I was deprived of my soap. I was deprived of my toothpaste and of the roll of toilet paper I had. The cell — better, the box — was cooled down to the point that I was shaking most of the time. I was forbidden from seeing the light of the day; every once in a while they gave me a rec-time at night to keep me from seeing or interacting with any detainees. I was living literally in terror. For the next 70 days, I wouldn’t know the sweetness of sleeping: interrogation 24 hours a day, three and sometimes four shifts a day. I rarely got a day off. I don’t remember sleeping one night quietly. “If you start to cooperate you’ll have some sleep and hot meals,” _________________ used to tell me repeatedly.

    Force Sex as a Torture Method

    “Then today, we’re gonna teach you about great American sex. Get up!” said ________. I stood up in the same painful position as I had every day for about 70 days. I would rather follow the orders and reduce the pain that would be caused when the guards come to play; the guards used every contact opportunity to beat the hell out of the detainee.

    “Detainee tried to resist,” was the “gospel truth” they came up with, and guess who was going to be believed? “You’re very smart, because if you don’t stand up it’s gonna be ugly,” ____________…..”

  • MJ

    “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 fellow obviously existed, we can see him hamming it up on a Paris pavement. He didn’t die during the filmed sequence because no bullets hit him but I can’t comment on what’s happened subsequently. Just watch the video and make your own mind up. Is that a real shooting or isn’t it?

  • Ba'al Zevul

    Christ. One of those bloody horrible Ospreys has just flown over me at about 100ft in hover mode. Sounded like the walls were falling in. Crash and burn, bastard.

  • OldMark

    ‘My impression: He hasn’t delayed Chilcot personally…perhaps. Though he was certainly lying at some points*, it may not be him. It’s someone further down the food chain (please let it be Straw). Blair and whoever it is have taken care to distance themselves from each other from the beginning of the process.’

    That’s my impression as well Ba’al; the media are easily led up the garden path in such cases. Only Blair’s name has been mentioned as a possible ‘stopper’ but it is more likely to be one or others of his cabinet. Of course, Chilcot could clear all this up now simply by revealing from whom he has yet to elicit a full response- but the odds on that are 100/1 against.

  • Becky Cohen

    The term “we caused it” is not only somewhat disingenuous but also borne of your privileged, white upper class, posh school educated male assumptions, Craig. Whilst women and comprehensive school educated working class people have miniscule representation in the upper echelons of the power elite then we share no blame in the mess that you toffs made whatsoever. I’m sorry if this upsets you or wounds your ego, but, after all, it’s upsetting when members of the power elite see fit to speak over the rest of us with the royal ‘we’ so perhaps an apology is due on your part too, sweetie boy?;)

  • mike

    Excellent post, Craig. Telescreens in every home? Sounds like the makings of a good book…

    It won’t stop until it’s stopped. Active verb.

  • mike

    Good points, Becky. But “no blame” whatsoever? Does that mean the “lower orders” are simply passive observers of whatever power-play is enacted by the elites? Perhaps it does.

  • Ba'al Zevul

    I thought “we” was just shorthand for “those who act in our name”, where “our” can mean anyone. Craig’s not now a member of the “power elite”, if he ever was – come to that, the majority of men who were not educated at comprehensives aren’t, either. Lighten up, please, before someone calls you a feminazi.

  • Peacewisher

    Good point about the Chilcot delay not just being Blair. I should think several ministers weren’t entirely happy with their US counterparts, especially regarding Abu Gharib, and wouldn’t want the contents of such correspondence to be aired in public. But that’s tough, they were represented in that fateful agreement in the Azores!

  • Je

    Becky Cohen – Unfortunately it was the “women and comprehensive school educated working class people” of Sedgefield who voted Blair in. Before and after the only invasion in history that gets called “going to war”.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    If They Had Given Me The Job..I would Have Told The Americans To Politely Go Away and Have a WAANK
    I am ENGLISH and You are a Bunch Of Useless Evil Idiots who don’t even know how to make love….
    Now Go Away..If You Don’t
    My Mate Know’s How to Handle You…
    Come On, Come On..See What You Can Do
    He’s on Our Side..Not For The First Time.
    I don’t know how to find her without searching for her for ages..
    It wasn’t a photoshoot…
    It was an Interview on The Saker’s website
    She came out wearing a machine gun..about 20 years old..
    In the East of Ukraine…She was the real thing not a simulation in a computer game.
    And she spoke in Russian..looking almost exactly like Lara Croft
    She said..You Nazi’s are bombing My Mum and Dad and my little brother and sister and Me..and You Have Destroyed Where we Live..
    We are just trying to live our lives here..we have had no trouble here before..and you are trying to kill us..
    How could I not Fall in Love With Her…
    She looked just like a Girl I found in a Greek Island…years before
    Give Me Your Gun Love..I Want To Help You.
    I want to fight for you. Tony xx (Serbia actually)


  • nevermind

    dear Becky, please put ‘Shannock’ into the search engine and read, that is the milieu Craig was brought up in, working class, a young aspiring and brilliant mind who had high ideals at one time, until he realised that colonialism has not really ended and is taken the same ugly form today as it did in the Victorian ages.

    This working class struggle rubbish does not wash anymore, because the working class has been betrayed, divided and made a laughing stock.
    Go and have a look at Tariq Ali’s mansion, look at the aspiring north London socialists, people such a Jess Asato, New labour careerists who sip champagne and at election time are being praised for nothing else but being a Labour acolyte and looking good.

    You are doing yourself a disservice by assuming Craig to be a toff, the typical response of a class ridden mind.
    get off it and think as an individual you might just forget about all this crap that was pushed into our minds at a young age.

    I take my hat off for Chico Mendez, at least he died for defending real sustainable values, not the ability to go on strike for a few pennies more and coloured screwdrivers, yippee.

  • Lance Vance

    Things seem to be taking a very sinister turn. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but it feels like the mid 1930’s. Something terrible is going to happen, something irreversible.

    The name of “our enemy” has changed so many times over the years, from communism and now Islamism, but generally it is any society independent of western power and occupying strategically useful or resource-rich territory.

    I hope I’m wrong, but I fear we may be going down a path from which there is no turning back.

  • Lance Vance

    C.S. Lewis described the road to hell as a gradual descent, a soft, moderate slope that is hardly noticeable until the destination is reached.

    We’ve started that decent already I fear!

  • Andrew

    Craig, you’re absolutely right about the underlying cause of the “terrorist” threat to Britain.

    Britain has been meddling in the Middle East – continuously, without any letup – for at least 100 years.

    It’s amazing we (and the French) haven’t been subjected to much greater “blowback”.

    Wonder if 2016 will bring any surprises (100th anniversary of the Balfour declaration, Britain’s unique contribution to the foundation of Israel).

  • mike

    Yes, Lance, the mid 1930s – with Russia cast as Nazi Germany. The US, and its petrodollar affiliates, know they have to be tackled at some point, along with China. Ukraine and the oil price crash are the opening moves in that. The US thinks that Russia can be forced into replaying the Cold War, but if they misjudge the needling and manage to provoke a military response, well, that’s how hot wars get started. And that would be a very unwise thing to do. Or “foolish” as the noble Lord Ashdown described the child-killers and the 478 they murdered during Protective Edge. Je suis…fuck off Bibi.
    Sorry for mixing my evils up there. I fancied a cocktail.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    I have posted absolutely nothing on this guy’s website.


    And I have no idea what he is Called

    But After Most of His Websites were being taken down because he wrote what he thought about the Charlie Hebdoo attacks..and no I didn’t agree with his analysis..but that what was not the Point..This Guy had just blown me away over the Previous 12 months with his reporting and analysis…
    I felt I simply was not worthy to post anything except

    Vineyard Saker – Journalist of The Year 2014..on his emergency backup website..he probably hasn’t seen it

    He’s in a League of His Own at Number 1

    Pepe Escobar comes in at No 2

    And at Number 3..It’s Paul Craig Roberts


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