What’s in a name?

May 25, 2017 08:58
Well-wishers pay their respects to all those affected by the bomb attack, following a vigil in central Manchester. Photo: Reuters

The aftermath of the Manchester bombing is a devastating tragedy for the dead, injured and their families and friends. Only those bereft of any human compassion will not react emotionally to the stricken grief of the parents and siblings of the child victims of this obscenity.

The identity of the killer was leaked by the US Administration at a time when the United Kingdom authorities wished not to disclose it. It is not rocket science to think of a number of valid reasons that the UK security forces had for not revealing it until they were ready to do so.

The relative sophistication of the device suggests that others were likely to have been involved and top priority must be to identify, locate and arrest them, especially if there is a cell involved. Trump’s administration is culpably negligent.

Terrorist organisations, as their description signifies, have as one of their principal aims the spreading of terror in order to achieve their objectives. Let us call every act designed to terrorise, social engineering by blackmail.

9/11, the Boston Marathon, the London bombings, the Nice and Westminster vehicular attacks, the Charlie Hebdo assassinations and the Manchester bombing amongst others, are all incidents intended to terrorise and responsibility for them is proudly asserted by various psychopathic groups who inspired them.

But every such attack on innocent civilians is either murder, attempted murder or at the very least causing grievous bodily harm or wounding with intent; offenses that have been on the criminal calendar for generations.

Some countries legislate emotive descriptions, usually involving the words terrorist or terrorism, to describe these offenses but the basic truth is that they are crimes and the people who carry them out are criminals.

So, why are they not called what they are, murderers?

Characterising these acts as “terrorist” offenses plays into the hands of the perpetrators. It lends a spurious legitimacy to murder simply because the murderers claim to have had a political or even religious motive for their acts.

Worse, by qualifying these common crimes by applying a motivational adjective, the offenders are provided a platform from which to trumpet their twisted mindset to the world at large.

Why should we be complicit in advertising and, inadvertently giving spurious legitimacy to criminal acts by according them the label of ‘terrorist’ that they so earnestly desire?

What does it matter that the murderer is an adherent to the aims of Daesh or Al Qaida? If he or she wants to claim this as justification, the trial judge will take it into account when sentencing but it makes not a jot or tittle of difference to the quality of murder committed.

These people are murderers, so call a spade a spade.

There is an important further dimension to this issue of labels.

Movements like Daesh aim to alienate young Muslims from both mainstream Islam and their non-Muslim host community. Manchester has a large Mancunian Islamic community. Salman Abedi was British born and educated, not an immigrant.

The Arena bombing was most probably intended to create communal distrust amongst Mancunians and create a backlash against the Muslim members of the city.

The minute Abedi is labelled an Islamic terrorist the connection to the Islamic community is immediate. But call him what he was, a murderer and disregard his political association and the crime is seen for what it was, mass murder.

As a mass murderer, he attracts the same opprobrium as moors murderer Ian Brady another psychopathic child killer.

For the Police and Security Services, the perspective is different. Motive is critical in both detection and prevention. Organisations of criminals who use terror attacks in the false belief that they will promote and progress their peculiar objectives must be identified and rooted out.

The Mafia in Italy and America, criminal gangs such as the Krays and Richardsons in the UK, Triads in Hong Kong and elsewhere, are all organisations using crime to coerce others to do their bidding. But their criminal acts are treated as such and when they are arrested, they are charged with whichever offense in the ordinary criminal calendar is appropriate. Because they are criminals.

Label someone a terrorist and they wear it as a badge of honor.

Murderer, honor?

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Queen's Counsel