Saturday, 8 June 2013

How to compare Apples and Oranges

The recent killing of a serving soldier on a street in London has stoked up several age old debates. One of which is what is terrorism, well for once I think UK law gets about right according to the Terrorism Act 2000 as modified, defines it as

Section 1.
(1) In this Act "terrorism" means the use or threat of action where-
(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government [or an international governmental organisation][2] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious [, racial][3] or ideological cause.

(2) Action falls within this subsection if it-
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person's life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.


(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

The US gets it wrong by saying it has to be performed by sub national groups or clandestine agents. Given that the definition of Nation is not very definitive it creates all sorts of problems but lets the USAF off the hook, though potentially not the CIA.
Now the government wants to spend a small fortune on increased intelligence and other measure that may or may not save lives in the future, they will definitely involve intruding on the freedom and privacy of a lot of innocent people and it will cost a fortune.
The hard monetary facts come down to lives saved per pound spent. Working out the numbers of people killed per year by "terrorism" is difficult because you have to work out when the cycle started but if we go from the 7th July bombs to today that is about 7 people per year.
In 2011 there were 1,901 deaths on the UK roads, now while some of them will be self inflicted and larger number will be innocent individuals in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fatal injuries at work in the same period 150, apparently 12,000 preventable hospital deaths and 640 Murders. Everyone one of them traumatic for the families involved. Each one of them with some connection to government policy.
Why should the particular murder of a serving soldier cause talk of changes to the law, legal intrusion into the lives of innocents and potentially massive government expense.
Is it that in some way a soldier's life is worth more than a civilian? Well if that's the case the equipment policy the MoD and its predecessors has been criminal for a very long time. Is it that the methods used were totally different to those used every before, again while it was unpleasant there have been plenty of more horrific murders.
It is neither of these, what annoys the government is that some foreign entity should want to kill its subjects, this is far more a challenge to the state's pride, than subjects killing each or other, or the agents of the state killing the subjects.
It is true that in several countries British Forces are engaged in action and that some people claim they are doing it for us. They aren't. They do it because the government told them to and they had agreed to do what the government told them. They are no more doing it for a large portion of the population than the killers of Drummer Rigby where doing it for the Muslim community. Simply being prepared or actually killing people to order is the problem, it can only ever be justified in self defence and then only if you do not deliberately put yourself in harms way.
The killing of drummer Rigby was done by people attempting to get a change in the way the UK acts, they were encouraged by those with far less respectable or open aims.
If they carry on killing us at this rate, they will not get anywhere as the population is fairly strong, what may make the public force the government to change, is if the government, in its pride, seeks to stop the murder of its subjects by foreign powers by such draconian measures that the people react and over throw it, that would be a genuine victory for those who encourage the murderers. A victory for the citizens of the UK would be if we stop the UK government doing unpleasant things in our name because we find its action in remote parts intolerable rather than the way it treats us.


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