'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, November 08, 2010

Targeted Killings 

I came across this incident by accident, after encountering it in a post by Jason Ditz of antiwar.com:

A 21-year-old student has been jailed for life at the Old Bailey for trying to murder Labour MP Stephen Timms because he voted for the war in Iraq.

Roshonara Choudhry, of East Ham, stabbed the 55-year-old MP for East Ham twice in the stomach at a constituency surgery in Newham, east London, in May.

She was found guilty of attempted murder and two counts of possessing a knife on Tuesday.

Choudhry, of Central Park Road, was jailed for a minimum of 15 years.

Justice Cooke's condemnation of her actions was, shall we say, a bit peculiar:

Mr Justice Cooke told Choudhry: You said you ruined the rest of your life. You said it was worth it. You said you wanted to be a martyr.

You intended to kill in a political cause and to strike at those in government by doing so.

You did so as a matter of deliberate decision making, however skewed your reasons, from listening to those Muslims who incite such action on the internet.

I also hope that you will come to understand the distorted nature of your thinking, the evil that you have done and planned to do, and repent of it.

You do not suffer from any mental disease. You have simply committed evil acts coolly and deliberately.

During the trial the court heard Choudhry had made a list of MPs who had voted for the Iraq war. Choudhry would continue to be a danger to MPs, the judge added.

Of course, Tony Blair, George Bush and all of those in the Congress and House of Commons who authorized the invasion of Iraq intended to kill in a political cause. They also committed evil acts coolly and deliberately. Yet, in Blair's case, he's now a Catholic in good standing. Furthermore, Blair, like Choudhry, was also influenced by the Internet in regard to his decision to launch the war.

Beyond this, there are the additional facts, outside the record, so to speak, that the US and Israel frequently seek to assassinate people in the Middle East and Central Asia, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. In addition, they do so in circumstances that frequently result in the deaths of others who are misfortunate enough to be near the intended target. Choudhry, by contrast, attacked Timms in a setting that put the lives of no one else at risk.

So, we are left with a puzzler. What was it about Choudhry's attack that so angered Justice Cooke? As already implied here, it can't be because she sought to kill Timms for political reasons. Bush, Blair and those who supported their policies have done the same. Nor can it be because she did so coolly and deliberately. Bush, Blair and those who have supported their policies have done that, too. Rather, it appears that Justice Cooke was outraged because she wanted to be a martyr.

As noted elsewhere in the article:

Following the attack she told officers it was a punishment and to get revenge for the people of Iraq, the Old Bailey heard.

Choudhry, who had refused to appear in court, told her barrister Jeremy Dein QC she did not accept the court's jurisdiction and did not wish him to challenge the prosecution case.

Oh my, now that's not good. For if there is one thing we know about Bush and Blair, we are certain that they were not intending to martyr themselves when they invaded Iraq. Indeed, both, particularly Blair, have done quite well for themselves as a result. Killing for profit, killing for geopolitical advantage, killing for the purposes of political manipulation, that's acceptable, but seeking to kill someone for ideological reasons and taking responsibility for it, that's something not to be tolerated.

I go through all this not to make light of what happened to Timms. I'm sure that it has been a frightening and painful experience for him, although he has undoubtedly gotten better medical care for his injuries than most Iraqis wounded by US/UK weaponry. Nor do I do it to suggest that Choundhry's response to Timm's authorization for the war was legitimate. Instead, I do so to emphasize that those who live by violence should not be surprised when others decide to conduct themselves as violently as those who purport to exercise a monopoly over it.

Last year, I was having a discussion with my co-host on my KDVS public affairs program about gang violence. Not surprisingly, being the liberal sort that he is, he started complaining about the pervasive violent conduct described in a lot of hip hop songs. But, also rather predictably, he didn't mention the possibility that when young people frequently encounter the leadership of this country, including the President, perpetually using violence and the threat of it to achieve their objectives, that they, too, come to the conclusion that violence is an acceptable means to an end. If so, they rightly perceive violence as yet another form of privilege, like inherited wealth, social status and cultural reproduction, one that they therefore attempt to arrogate to themselves. Nor did he consider the potentially even more alarming possibility that life in our society is inescapably violent, rendered even more so by the attempted oligopolization of it by nation states and elites, and that the real challenge is how to transform it.

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