Liberal anger over Sajid Javid’s decision to allow the possible execution of two Islamic State militants is dangerously misplaced, argues Comment Writer Harpreet Pannu
The UK Government has managed to embroil itself in yet another controversy but, for once, it is not about Brexit. The Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has faced sharp condemnation for his decision not to stand in the way of the US planned extradition of two ex-IS militants to its courts, because they could being the operative word face the death penalty. According to the Independent, this action constitutes a major departure from the traditional cross-party consensus of opposing the death penalty abroad in all circumstances as a matter of principle, and liberals have been quick to heavily criticise the government over their decision.
Whilst this was going on, IS launched a series of surprise suicide bombings in what was previously a relatively safe area of southwestern Syria, killing more than 200 people. Many more were kidnapped. This was a devastating attack even by the brutal standards of Syria war; yet comment from the West was virtually non-existent. Apparently, liberal commentators were so concerned for the plight of the IS death-squad members potentially facing the death penalty in America that they barely noticed a couple of hundred innocent people being murdered in cold blood by the same terrorist organisation.
The funny thing is, I am not even a conservative. If I were, I could just roll my eyes and tell myself liberals for you, putting criminals first. Actually, I am a card-carrying Labour member who voted for Jeremy Corbyn twice, which is why I am so concerned about the left’s fixation with an issue about which a majority of voters do not really care, according to the most recent poll. The left is always stereotyped by conservatives as supposedly caring more about criminals and terrorists than victims, therefore criticism of the Home Office decision is very likely to please tabloid editors who have spent the past two years claiming that Jeremy Corbyn.
Of course, it is a very good question to ask what exactly America has to do with this in the first place. These two men are UK citizens and arguably should be tried here. However, the idea that we should be outraged at the possibility of the death penalty being applied is laughably out of touch with the British electorate. The typical rebuttal to this argument is that opposition to capital punishment is not about votes, but about morals.
My question, therefore, is where have those morals gone when a majority of ostensibly liberal commentators and politicians are happy to support bombing campaigns in poor Muslim countries that end up killing hundreds of innocent civilians? Where are these moral principles when Yemen and Gaza are carpet-bombed with Western support? Why is the concept of executing a terrorist convicted after a full trial seen as so appalling, yet wholesale slaughter of civilians is ignored?
Two years ago, the Labour leadership attempted to hold the Government to account over its support for the bombing of Yemen, which has destroyed an entire country and killed thousands of children; more than 100 Labour MPs did not even bother to show up to vote. In the US, Barack Obama famously referred to the death penalty as deeply troubling. Yet, drone strikes against suspected terrorists who receive no trial or any other rights afforded to convicts on death row increased tenfold under his presidency. These are not hard-right reactionaries; these are liberals, yet their disregard for human rights is no less evident.
Many liberals go even further; most liberal politicians are fervent supporters of Britain nuclear weapons. Some even attacked Jeremy Corbyn for refusing to endorse the concept of a retaliatory nuclear strike. In other words, killing a million more innocent people in revenge for a million innocent people killed on your side. Taking lectures about how capital punishment is abhorrent, from someone who holds these views, is utterly beyond parody. Ironically, opinion polls from 2016 suggest that the percentage of people who want nuclear weapons scrapped is similar to that supporting capital punishment.
In short: before judging someone as being a far-right nutcase for supporting the death penalty for these two men, it might be an idea to stop and think about just how ethical your own views are.