I have mixed feelings about the news that there is a “high degree of certainty”, confirmed by Reuters, that the British islamic murderer Mohammed Emwazi has been killed in an American drone strike in Syria. These feelings do not include any degree of sorrow or sympathy, except perhaps for his family. We do not know the precise reasons as to how or why Emwazi got involved with ISIS and now we probably never will, but has the west done the right thing?
We will all have our opinions, won’t we? I am not sad that Emwazi has suffered the fate of those he murdered, but I am sorry that he will not stand trial. Not only will he not stand trial, he will not have to spend the rest of his life behind bars reflecting on what he has done and have to live with the consequences. That is not to say that he might in any way feel regret for what he has done – given their sheer barbarity you wonder how he could? – but imagine 50 years in prison to think about it, to be reminded about it, knowing that there would be no parole, no hope, no forgiveness.
And what is the media calling Emwazi today? Why, Jihadi John, that’s who, an almost affectionate nickname, named after John Lennon, a man rightly associated with peace, not terrorism. Emwazi’s fellow murderers were presumably known as, with equal affection, Paul, George and Ringo, then. It defies common sense, it’s irrational, it’s downright wrong. The media always says “the man known as Jihadi John” but no one outside the cosseted world of the media calls him that. Talk to your family and friends and I doubt that ordinary folk refer to Emwazi in such friendly tones. Stripping away any moral aspects of his killing, very few people will be sad he is dead and indeed many will hope that he suffered terribly, just like his victims.
Without “boots on the ground”, there was realistically no real prospect of taking Emwazi alive, so the argument can be made that the west could do nothing else. This is not a conflict that can be resolved by diplomacy or negotiation – how can you negotiate with people who set fire to, drown and behead those they capture? – so what was left? Air strikes, drone strikes and then what?
Emwazi died believing in what he was doing. He never had to answer for his barbaric crimes, he had no interest in anything other than the caliphate. It is hard to understand how on earth any human being could believe in the evil he practised and now we will never know.
But like us, ISIS now know there is no hiding place. We are faced with the constant threat of terrorism, they can run but they can’t hide. I am not sure how they can be defeated though, given the hydra-like nature of their killing group.
Personally, I don’t think this changes anything but I hope that if one thing changes it’s the cartoon character nickname given to one of the most evil men ever to walk this earth. He is, or was, Mohammed Emwazi. He may become a martyr to the sick and the evil, but let’s not glamorise his memory.