Whether by drone or by gun, killing the bad guy is never that simple | Victor Gregg

Most Britons may support killing terrorists by whatever means, a poll shows, but such acts always come with 'collateral damage'

A survey carried out for the defence policy thinktank RUSI has found that the British public is broadly supportive of the assassination of terrorists both at home and abroad. It is even more at ease with the targeting of kidnappers and pirates. Those polled seemed split on the concept of the assassination of scientists working on Iran's nuclear programme. This seems, on the whole, to suggest that our nation is happy to kill the bad guys as long as we miss the good guys. I would say that it never quite works out that way.

The bombing of Dresden in 1945 showed that in trying to destroy the bad guys, the good guys are inevitably affected – just as civilians in London and Coventry were killed and maimed by the German bombing campaigns. Collateral damage seems an expression intended to hide the consequences of targeting the enemy, but what is collateral damage if not killing civilians?

I lived through the aftermath of the bombing of civilians in Dresden. I witnessed women with their hair and clothes on fire clutching their babies, being sucked up into a roaring red ball of flame into the night sky. I listened to the screams of people being boiled to death because they thought that jumping into large concrete vats of water would save them from the fires that surrounded them. I would have no qualms about seeing off any invader of the shores of my country. However, if you are of the opinion that the answer to bombs is more bombs, then I would refer you to the school shootings in the US where the easy availability of guns leads to the shocking loss of young lives, such as at Sandy Hook elementary school, for example.

As far as the Middle East is concerned, it is my conviction that it all started with the Balfour declaration of 1917: promising everything to everybody was perfidy at its worst. Even though Britain was engaged in a war of survival in which the possibility of the western allies going under was very real, in my opinion, honour should still prevail. Instead, the situation has progressed through the years to the present mess. The answer cannot be bombs and yet more bombs, whether by conventional or "smart" bombs or by the latest drones, which are never as accurate as they promise to be.

There is a real conflict of opinion in Britain as to whether we should actively engage in the killing of all these international troublemakers by whatever means possible. The pirates of the African shores of the northern Indian Ocean are a case in point, with the answer from a good percentage of the population being to kill them. There is another answer: leave them to their own waters, go around them, sooner or later the political situation in the area will alter.

This is not a pacifist statement but simply an alternative to getting involved at a large expense, which the country can ill afford and for which the results will always be negligible.


Victor Gregg

The GuardianTramp

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