We should not despair over the death of Britons who leave to join ISIS, like Sally Jones, regardless of circumstance – security must be the main concern.
The death of UK-born ISIS recruiter Sally Jones may be considered regrettable for one reason, and one reason only. Had she been captured, she might have given us valuable information concerning the methods used in the recruitment of terrorists. Under the circumstances, though, her death could not have been avoided. As far as her son is concerned, one can argue that he was born at the wrong time, into the wrong family. Much as the countless Syrians, Iraqis, and Yazidis, whose lives have been written off as collateral damage, the child is a regrettable, but unavoidable casualty of his mother’s cruelty.
Our sympathies must end there, however, and we must not shed a single tear over the death of either. Sorrow and indignation at her death would be a salient mark of disrespect for the hundreds of victims of terrorist attacks in the West and for the unimaginable suffering of those under ISIS. One can argue, ad infinitum, as to why she ended up where she did, fighting a merciless war against the very societies in which she was born and raised. Yes, she might have been, in the end, brainwashed by a religion overflowing with anachronisms, inconsistencies, and barbarism. I do firmly believe, however, that the excuses end there, because nobody forced her to join ISIS and declare a holy war on Western civilisation. She made a choice that was wrong, but it remains a choice, all the same.
“Sorrow and indignation at her death would be a salient mark of disrespect for the hundreds of victims of terrorist attacks in the West and for the unimaginable suffering of those under ISIS”
An opinion article in the Guardian questions the legality of such a “preemptive” strike, especially considering the possible death of Jones’ son.
“The question of legality is most starkly thrown up by the death of her [Sally Jones’s] child, if he was killed. The big issue [in establishing a legal justification]is the requirement under international humanitarian law that any threat should be imminent.” The attorney general’s interpretation of that issue…was controversial.
The sanctimonious and lecturing tone adopted here, is astounding. Perhaps the Guardian would prefer to deliver their message to the families of victims in London, Paris, Brussels or Manchester. In this war against a many-headed monster, the West has seemingly tried to abide by the rules of civilisation, in an attempt to not cause even more death and destruction. Yet it seems that, straitjacketed by its own noble principles, the West cannot win, and it thus finds itself in a catch-22 situation. The fact that suspected terrorists are allowed to walk freely in our cities, on the grounds that they are labelled as not being ‘an imminent threat’, seems to reflect a contradiction in terms, namely – “suspected terrorist” and “not threatening”. Either you are a terrorist, or suspected to be one (and should be dealt with accordingly), or you are not. There is no middle-ground.After every attack, the security services get a ticking off when it is revealed that they had prior knowledge of the perpetrators once the terrorist attack occurred. It now seems that some would persist in ensuring that the very same security services also get reprimanded when they eliminate someone who is actively participating in terrorist activities. The critique is based on the legality of neutralising a known terrorist in a foreign country resulting in limited, albeit regrettable, collateral damage. I would like to know what on earth these individuals, declaiming from soapboxes, expect us to do: keep on apologising, and making sure that things are 100% legal – something which does not seem easily determinable anyway – while recruited assassins keep on blowing us up, or running us over with rented cars? I think not.
“It now seems that some would persist in ensuring that the very same security services also get reprimanded when they eliminate someone who is actively participating in terrorist activities”
Lex talionis – ‘an eye for an eye’
The term Lex talionis refers to the law of retribution in kind – an eye for an eye – which allows a person who has injured a third-party to be penalised to a similar degree. This principle of punishment is not used today. We like to believe that human civilisation has risen above it. The modern version of Lex talionis usually results in the victim receiving an estimated value of the injury in compensation, depending on the circumstances of the injury, and its long and short-term consequences.
It goes without saying that interpretation of this law should be morally acceptable when dealing with ISIS. We are dealing here, however, with barbarians who have dragged us back to a time of savagery, where the present-day rules of our Western civilisations do not apply. In an attempt to eliminate terrorist cells, indiscriminate bombing that causes widespread civilian casualties, must be condemned. The same cannot be said of this case – a pin-point action, aimed to neutralise a well-defined target.
The case of Sally Jones
Sally Jones was such a target. During her time in ISIS, she was a key recruiter and was responsible for the indoctrination of women, some of whom went on suicide missions. Her elimination was on the agenda of the UK and US governments for a considerable time, both countries wanting to severely curtail ISIS actions abroad. Jones left the UK for Syria in 2013 and has been acting as an online recruiter. She was also responsible for the publication of online propaganda, including a photograph of herself dressed up as a nun, and pointing a gun at the camera. You and I are the cameraman, and that’s why our governments should certainly weigh the risks of their actions against terrorists, but act quickly.
Although she was apparently trying to flee the Caliphate, it doesn’t change the fact that she was not forced to travel to Syria in the first place. Once in the grasp of ISIS, there is no going back, something that one of her relatives in the UK was fully aware of, saying that, “I don’t think she quite understands the position she’s put herself in. We all have choices in life and she’s made hers.”
U can’t just sit there with ur tea & scones ordering RAF drone strikes on UK brothers with no comeback from the Islamic state. – Sally Jones
Confronting the true causes of radicalisation
It is high time to face the fact that we know little about the true causes of radicalisation, and the motives of lone individuals or terrorist groups to act in such an insane way. Our response to these dreadful acts is becoming outdated and ineffective, in the age of high technology and social networks. More often than not, we depict the attackers as victims of radical Islam and all that is inherently wrong with our societies. The unfortunate truth that is emerging is that most of them actively seek radical Islam, or have sought to be part of the ISIS system of enslavement for other reasons, and are far from being feeble-minded, passive recipients of Islamic fundamentalism.
“The unfortunate truth that is emerging is that most of them actively seek radical Islam, or have sought to be part of the ISIS system of enslavement for other reasons, and are far from being feeble-minded, passive recipients of Islamic fundamentalism”
Sally Jones was such a person. While in the UK, she spent most of her time online, becoming more and more pro-Iraq, in the aftermath of the Gulf War. It was online that she came into contact with Junaid Hussain, an ISIS hacker, who persuaded Jones to travel to Syria, with her son, in 2013. Her son was certainly an unwilling and helpless victim of ISIS ideology, but Sally Jones had made a choice to actively participate in her own radicalisation.
We can discuss all day, in the comfort of our living-rooms, how and why religious terrorism occurs. The question of whether religion or bygone Western colonialism is the culprit is irrelevant when we are confronted with the daily atrocities carried out by religious terrorists. Whilst our public intellectuals, who fancy themselves as erudite commentators on the law, are busy philosophising, people like Sally Jones, are actively recruiting and indoctrinating recruits into committing acts of mass murder on our street corners. Drones may come in handy, after all.
George is a British/French national. He has a passion for oral microbiology (obtained a PhD in Lyon, France) and a passion for philosophy and politics.