Jeremy Corbyn was right about Jihadi John - if you listened to his victims' families, you'd know that

On the surface, this seems like the perfect opportunity to attack pacifists as weak and anti-patriotic. But take a look at what the victims' families said

I will not lose any sleep or shed any tears over the apparent death of ‘Jihadi John’, also known as Mohammed Emwazi. Graphic reports of the beheadings of two British aid workers, David Haines and Alan Henning, back in 2014 remain prominent symbols of the current struggle against Isis – and Jihadi John was central to the videos of the murders released by the terrorist group. So when Jeremy Corbyn said this afternoon that it would have been ‘far better’ for the militant to have been tried in court rather than killed, I was not surprised at the initial backlash.

On the surface, this looks like just another line for someone to use to attack pacifists as weak and anti-patriotic. But when you take the time to understand the complexity of the situation, it seems that we have only given Jihadi John the honourable killing – the sensational martyrdom - that he sought from the beginning.

David Haines’ widow said after her husband’s passing that the only way families could achieve some form of ‘moral satisfaction’ would be with the capture and imprisonment of the terrorist. The family of murdered American Steven Sotloff hoped that Jihadi John would be ‘caught by American intelligence officials, brought to trial in the United States, and convicted for the crime of beheading their son.’ Elsewhere, the executed James Foley’s mother said that the strike gave her no satisfaction, and that her son was a peacemaker who wouldn’t have supported such state-sponsored murder.

Who is 'Jihadi John'?

‘It saddens me that here in America we are celebrating the death of this deranged, pathetic young man,’ she said during an interview on ABC News, before answering the question, ‘It gives you no solace?’ with ‘No, not at all. Had circumstances been different, [my son] might have befriended him and tried to help him.’

Killing Emwazi is no great victory for the West; instead it is a quick-fix solution that allows leaders to pretend we are winning the war against Isis.

What we have done today is simply plaster over a major problem that Western governments continue to dodge. We talk about dropping thousands of bombs on Syria, and there is still no real strategy to stop the Isis threat, or its accompanying dangers of mass radicalisation.

We have no plan to curb the attraction of joining the terrorist organisation; we can’t even stop young British citizens from leaving the country to do so. The victims’ families are those who are most important today, and no real justice has been achieved for them: they have been crystal clear on that. Their loved ones, they have told us, would have felt no great triumph – even if the US media continues to pump out a militaristic ‘We got him!’ gung-ho approach, as though the entire enterprise is a high stakes game.

An unmanned aircraft dropped a bomb from the sky that blew a man to pieces. We didn’t even take the chance to levy charges against him, to demonstrate how dangerous his ideology can be, to show the public that we are serious about bringing an end to this warping of minds.

No attempt was made to force ‘Jihadi John’ to accept what he did, to punish him in a manner that would have forced him to live with the trauma that he created and even attempt to make things right. There was no sentence given that would have brought closure to those who have suffered at this man’s hands, directly or indirectly. Instead, we did what was easy, and we did what works for TV. We blew him up.

Don’t tell me that I’m a sympathiser or a weak, unpatriotic pacifist for thinking so. This should have been a case of justice, for the families who lost their loved ones, for the men and women that fell at the hands of this vile, barbaric man. Instead, it was an exercise in the failure of Western foreign policy.

If we are to get serious about defeating Isis, then we better realise soon that giving the terrorists what they want is not, and never will be, a viable solution. And it may be counterintuitive, but it’s true: they want death – especially at the hands of a perceived western enemy.

It is too easy to offer simplistic solutions to brutality. It is time to face up to the danger and confront it strategically, logically and without clouded nationalistic emotion. That is the least we owe to those murdered by the likes of Jihadi John. 

For the other side of the argument, click here

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