I don’t know what to make of the “drone” killings in Syria of Reyaad Khan from Cardiff and Ruhul Amin from Aberdeen. All I know is that David Cameron made a statement in the House of Commons today that he had taken the decision to have them killed. Khan, the PM said, was plotting “barbaric” attacks on the streets of the UK. We will never be shown the evidence to show the killings were legal because Cameron said there was a “long standing convention” that governments never published legal advice in such circumstances, so we will have to take his word for it and I hate taking any politician’s word for anything.
Cameron must know something, I suggest quite a lot. He said: “My first duty as prime minister is to keep the British people safe. There was a terrorist directing murder on our streets and no other means to stop him. This government does not for one moment take these decisions lightly. But I am not prepared to stand here in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on our streets and have to explain to the House why I did not take the chance to prevent it when I could have done.”
I suppose I should not speculate on what’s happening because we have been told so little, but I will anyway. Despite parliament voting against strikes in Syria, the PM authorises a drone killing on the basis of strong intelligence. Today, on BBC Radio, the PM’s former defence secretary Liam Fox is arguing for boots on the ground in Syria in order to deal with the threat from ISIS. Are we being softened up for a ground war? I rather think we are. Just last week, Cameron said taking in refugees would not deal with the fundamental problems in Syria. So he was saying there had to be another way. Is that war? And The Sun newspaper launched a full frontal attack on all four Labour leadership candidates for not yet supporting strikes on Syria, calling them “cowards”. Could Murdoch’s propaganda sheet really be part of the process? It’s happened before.
The drone attack, on 21 August, has raised the stakes considerably. Drones have been used before, but not like this. But there are many thousands of so called ISIS fighters and the government must know it will take more than few drone attacks to destroy them all.
Every prime minister likes his war. Blair had his wars, Thatcher hers. Cameron presided over the Libyan fiasco but he hasn’t had a proper war of his own, apart from the one in Afghanistan he inherited from Labour. I’m not suggesting he will lead us to war on an egotistical whim, of course not, but looking at what happened in Iraq which remains a basket case to this day, I can’t help but feeling that there is more than a hint of inevitability to where we are headed.
The forthcoming spanner in Cameron’s works will be the impending election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new Labour leader. Will Cameron seek the authority of parliament for air strikes on Syria if Labour opposes them? And what will he do next? Nothing?
The government and the media has upped the ante today. Whether the timing of Cameron’s announcement of the drone strike is anyway connected to Corbyn’s impending election is a coincidence, who knows? To the outsider, it all looks extremely complicated but you can bet that with a crafty and utterly cynical tactician like George Osborne lurking in the background, plotting and planning for any short term gain, the Tories are up to something.