Drone strikes in Syria are not just legally justified

Despite what the left thinks, they're morally justified too

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The Independent Online

The announcement from David Cameron that the Government ordered the killing of two Isis terrorists, Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin, has sparked a great deal of anger – much of it synthetic – on the political left. To be accurate, the Government will have agreed to the killing on the basis of available intelligence about their activities and the threats they posed, as well as advice from military commanders.

Let’s begin with some home truths. These were not a couple of British tourists. They were part of a barbaric organisation involved in systematic gang rape, torture and beheadings. They represent a vicious, hate-filled and medieval view of the world – a world they would, by force, apply to the rest of us. So, please, don’t start to tell me that they are some sort of victims.

What we are talking about are enemy combatants who have chosen to take up arms against the armed forces of their own country and its allies. Worse, they were part of a plot to murder and maim their fellow citizens at home as they exported their vile jihadist ideas.

Attention has now, spuriously, turned to the legality of the move. Precious little attention is being given to the duty of Government to protect us from terrorist threats or the moral justification for removing such an evil from our midst.

There is ample legal justification for this action, including that of self-defence, under international law. As the Prime Minister correctly pointed out, we were neither able to apprehend the pair with the help of the host government, nor did we have ground troops able to capture them and bring them to justice. The decision was taken to remove that danger, and quite right too.

There was no need for parliamentary sanction for this move, as I heard Andy Burnham foolishly suggest on television, since that authority already exists under the Crown and, anyway, Parliament’s approval would not have made legal something that would otherwise have been illegal under international law and convention.

Ministers will have agonised about the best way to present this information to the British people and it is to the Government’s great credit that it took the first opportunity possible to make the details known. Far from the “trigger happy” caricature that the left would love to paint, this was an example of accountable and responsible government acting in line with its duty to defend our national security.

There are, however, questions for others still to answer. I have heard several times over the past few days, from a number of commentators, that the “community” will want some answers. I take this to mean the ethnic communities from which these young men came – but there is a much wider community that will also want answers. The British people will want to know why those who have grown up and been educated in our country should hate us so much that they seek to kill our fellow citizens.

What are the forces that have produced such loathing of our people and their way of life and how can they be tackled? Who are the individuals still among us who seek to radicalise the young with their poisonous beliefs? And, let me be frank, how much of our taxes are swallowed up by the need for security service surveillance on those who would fatally harm their fellow Britons if they only had the chance?

These are the real questions that we need answered and we should not be distracted by red herrings which too often, intentionally or not, miss the real point.

Of course we need proper oversight of our security services, but this has recently been strengthened to make it one of the most robust in the free world. Of course we need accountability in the behaviour of our armed forces – but recent court cases have shown beyond any doubt how rigorous this process is. The transparency of the political decision making process, meanwhile, has been on full view in Parliament this week.

The behaviour of these young men was a conscious choice and all choices have consequences. In this case the consequences were fatal but that is, in the end, preferable to the scale of death and injury we saw in the 7/7 bombings in which the victims had made no choice at all.

Accountability, transparency and due diligence in the application of the law does matter. But so does the safety of our people, the first duty of Government. We must never lose sight of that.