Life, Nasty Criminals, and Afghanistan: 10 September

I may be asked to take the funeral of the lorry driver who, it seems, killed himself after killing his 9 year old step daughter. Someone who lived for 40 years on the same estate told me that if there had been any suspicion that he was molesting girls, ‘they’ would have put an end to it. The estate has a strongly enforced moral code. The police sometimes leave criminals to local justice. What will the estate think if we welcome his funeral in our church?

Jesus saw no-one as evil, but many people as influenced by unclean spirits or demons. These spirits were not part of the people and could be detached – if the people were willing. We can become infected with these unclean spirits in various ways. Unclean spirits which push us to sexual depravity come in through pornography, among other ways. It is no coincidence that in a society where people encourage and push pornography to sell newspapers and much else, where children are clothed sometimes in sexually revealing clothes, some men are so taken over by evil. Not that the lorry driver’s victim was clothed like that at all. Evil, once installed, often doesn’t attack the guilty, but the innocent.

The editor of the excellent email newsletter Charity Matters makes a similar connection:

The 10 and 11-year-old Doncaster brothers who tortured and nearly killed two 9 and 11-year-old boys in a pre-meditated two-hour attack should be hanged, says the father of the 11-year-old victim.

The father of the 9-year-old victim has asked why the brother’s father, reportedly a violent drunk who forced his children to watch sadistic horror films, and mother, reportedly a drug-addict who has washed her hands of her children, are not facing charges of criminal neglect.

The attack has brought comparisons with the abduction and horrific murder of two-year-old toddler, James Bulger, in Liverpool in February 1993.This prompted the formation of charity Mothers Against Murder And Aggression (MAMAA) which supports the victims and families of victims of serious violent crime, as well as running a weapons/ victims awareness safety programme for schools, colleges, universities and youth projects. In development is a parenting programme, and the charity points out that 90% of young people involved in murder are known to the authorities, as was the case with the above.

Meanwhile, “slasher” movies and violent computer games, in which victims are killed in cruel and gory ways for entertainment are becoming more popular in our increasingly violent adult society

Gordon Brown has said that he questions whether to keep up the fight in Afghanistan. He says he always concludes that the cost is worth it. If our Prime Minister, who was instrumental in the decision first to go to war, can voice strong doubts, why can’t Church leaders inspired by Jesus who refused to use violence?

Instead all we hear is that the Bishop of London is blessing more troops to go to Afghanistan. I don’t have problems with Bishops blessing anyone, but such blessing, coupled with a complete lack of criticism of the military policy, gives the impression that the military have the full support of the Church. This gives the Taliban and their sympathisers the message that this really is another Crusade against them, that they are at war with this ‘Christian nation.’ It all makes terrorist attacks on us more likely.

Antony Feltham-White, British military Chaplain is quoted in the Church Times: ‘… a large number of deaths and injuries … really does serve to harden the resolve of everybody to get the job done, in memory of those we lose.’ Just so. In other words, the longer we are there, the harder it is for us to admit that it hasn’t been worth it and pull out. Soldiers dying mean more soldiers will die, and we won’t allow ourselves to ask the hard questions about whether it is worth it or whether another way would have been better.

There is another way: a LEGAL response rather than a military response. The following letter of mine was published in the current Tikkun magazine in America ( )

‘Treat terrorists as criminals rather than an opposing army. They are outlaws who need to be brought under the law. Treating them as enemy soldiers gives them dignity in their own eyes and in the eyes of their local communities. A military response necessarily involves damage to the terrorists’ local communities, not least because terrorists ensure such damage by hiding in and behind these communities. This damage strengthens the communities’ antagonism to the military power and their ties with their compatriot terrorists. A legal response strengthens the message that terrorists are criminals not to be harboured by their communities and separates out terrorists from their communities through measures like rewards for information.

International terrorists need to be dealt with by international law. It is high time America not only joined the International Court but strengthened the role of the court in combating terrorism. The first objective should be to have international arrest warrants issued for international terrorists. Then work out ways that police forces and communities can enforce these warrants. New developments are needed.

The International Court should be given power to investigate all sources of funding for international terrorists and to cut off their financial support. The court should be able to issue enforceable search warrants throughout the international financial and banking system. Technically this would not be difficult. Cutting off financial support is more effective than military action.

The history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland shows the strength of the legal response. At no point did Britain attack Irish Republican Army (IRA) bases in Eire. The aim throughout was to bring terrorists under the law. Troops were involved, but primarily to support the police and judiciary. The great change in Northern Ireland came not through a military surge but through cutting off funding for terrorists, especially the funding coming from the United States, after September 11. The cooperation of the U.S. administration in stopping IRA funding was crucial. This should be a model for all international cooperation to deal with terrorism.

We British, of all people, know that the legal response is the better response to terrorism. We, of all people, should have pointed the Americans to this alternative, instead of joining Americans in their exaggerated fear and consequent military response.

The difficulty with adopting the legal response is that it goes against cherished myths and beliefs, that it dethrones idols: the myth of redemptive violence; the American escape from corrupt European culture, including biased law; the American tradition of taking the law into their own hands; the Western idolatry of the banking system which must be allowed to preserve its cultish secrecy …

The legal response to terrorism is not an easy option. But let’s not forget that it is an alternative to the military response.’

The British and US governments are acting like moralizing international vigilantes proud to use their might outside the law – not unlike ‘they’ who enforce rough justice on some of our estates today.

Roger Harper

Please comment:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: