The premise for these practical proposals, outlined in Part I, is that ISIS is a technically skilled murder gang whose aim is to instigate inter-communal violence within Europe. I fear they are very likely to succeed in that — I hope they do not, but hope is not a strategy.
These practical proposals follow from that.
Practical Proposals I
It is remarkably hard to persuade someone to become a killer, harder still to persuade them to be a suicide bomber. For every suicide bomber there must be a dozen or so others who were sounded out for the mission. Amongst those sounded out there must be another dozen who were considered. It’s a jihadist web of relations with members, non-members, sympathisers, friends and cousins.
Each line of the web holds the other intact.
The Paris killers discussed their plans on Facebook and via text messages.
The strategic goal should be to not wait for the events but to intercept them before they have came to their murderous conclusion.
The obvious lesson from The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie is that without Franco’s insurrection, without the caliphate in Iraq and Syria, there would be no story.
The important lesson is that Jean Brodie is betrayed by Sandy, of all the Brodie Set, the best, the brightest.
The strategy to address the existing ISIS infrastructure in Scotland, in this, the quiet days before inter-communal violence, should be betrayal-focussed and based on the old internment laws of the Republic Of Ireland.
Someone living in Scotland, or a returned (or wanting to return) jihadi should be able to:
- walk into a police station
- be taken to a special court that day
- be able to plead guilty that day and receive a 15 year sentence
- be able to sign themselves out that day and return to their lives on license
These need to be public courts, subject to public scrutiny, but the details of the persons pleading guilty should be protected, as under the Rehabilitation Of Offenders Act.
The purpose of this regime would be to enable the gullible, the naïve, the scared, the hopeless, the I-got-in-too-deep, the I-was-an-idiot, the my-brother-is-an-idiot, the I’m-evil-but-also-a-coward, the I-don’t-want-to-kill and the I-don’t-want-to-die, the my-mum-found-out and the my-sister-clyped to betray the networks and help them be rolled up.
The Scotland Act reserves powers pertaining to Terrorism — sharp drafting and delicate eschewing of that term would be necessary to make the legislation competent — but is not beyond the whit of man. What is Westminster going to do? Prorogue Holyrood like they did Stormont?
The key is the nature of the declaration that they need to sign themselves out with.
In the Republic of Ireland it was one that recognised the courts as institutions of the sovereign Dail Éireann — the IRA Army Council regarded themselves as the successor to the 2nd Dail — so by signing yourself out of jail, you signed yourself out of the IRA.
Recognition of freedom of religion under the law would probably do the trick — which is problematic in Scotland, with its state church. We would need to, and should, send a strong message that Muslims are as equal in Scotland as anyone else.
A simple 2 clause bill disestablishing the Kirk (but making provision for the Queen, in her succession and Protestant majesty, etc, etc) should do. What’s the point of having the world’s most famously flexible constitution if you can’t flex it?
If it causes Jacob Rees-Mogg to retire to Somerset with the an annotated copy of the Act Of Settlement and a butt of sack, it’s a price I am willing to pay.
The point isn’t to go easy on the Muslims, the point is betrayal. Don’t co-operate with the police, go to jail, get up to your old tricks, go to jail.
Practical Proposals II
It is hard to see how internment will be avoided if tit-for-tat killings start. The state of emergency in France shows that it might even precede them.
Internment will be a political problem in a state like the UK with multiple jurisdictions.
The history of botched internment lie heavily on our history. The 1972 round in Northern Ireland which tried to quell inter-communal violence by interning one side only back-fired spectacularly.
More recently mass internments in Iraq had terrible outcomes. The core organisation structure of ISIS was founded in internment camps. The Ulster cliché “the jails were our universities” went unheeded. That in turn was a lesson unlearnt from 1916 and ollscoil na réabhlóide at Frongoch — the university of revolution.
The security problems that flowed from internment in ’72 led to Westminster proroguing Stormont.
The Government of Ireland Act 1922 and the Scotland Act 1999 are quite different — so comparisons are not worth much — but suffice to note that Westminster has neither policemen nor prison officers north of the border — and an ‘all military’ solution to the jurisdictional problem would be a disastrous outcome for everybody.
The central economic ratio of internment camps is the ratio of guards to prisoners. The lower it is the cheaper the camp, and the more likely that the interned organisations will run the internal life of the establishment (copy and paste every childhood book you read about Coliditz here).
You can smuggle anything into prison that you can get up your bum, and in the modern world you can get a lot up yer bum. You can get more computing power than put a man on the moon up there, and still have room enough to be a snout baron. Prisoners in the Maze had guns and radios — Jihadis will have phones and internet. Cheap drones make this problem worse.
Large numbers of poorly selected internees thrown into improvised camps with low numbers of guards — most poorly trained — is a fast and cheap way to build a machine that cranks out political and military enemies.
Internment facilities should be small, numerous (and hence expensive). They need to be dispersed and hard to access — preferably with no mobile phone connectivity. Achieving this in Scotland will require planning.
Planning needs to start now — which is a problem — because planning for internment can and will raise tensions and can trigger clashes. Given that ISIS is committed to making this happen by slaughter that risk needs to be faced.
One of the problems that we have is both Labour and Tory governments have tried to smuggle in interment by the back door — in the form of indefinite detention.
Internment is supposed to be an emergency measure — whilst the political causes of the crisis is addressed — and needs to be even-handed. Getting that part of it wrong can be even worse.
The Westminster parties have displayed monumental incompetence so far — Labour in losing a war in Iraq and the heirs-to-Blair repeating that catastrophe in Libya.
Given that they spout the nonsense that massacres carried out by gunmen shouting “this is for Syria” have nothing to do with Syria, it would be a mistake to leave the planning to them.
Practical Proposals III
History is clear — multi-national states that start and lose wars tend to fall apart. Even winning wars can do that — the centenary of the Easter Rising approaches.
The Yoons might not like, those who pledge their all to history except the reading of it, but it remains true.
It is forgotten that Irish independence was not ushered in by the Easter Rising and the executions that followed, they merely move Irish politics onto another track.
The Redmondites were wholly undone by the conscription crisis of 1918 — mothers’ sons to the grave popping the joints of a weakened body politic.
The Scottish points have already been switched and this explains the dull incomprehension with which the SNP were regarded during the Syria debate, the ‘robotic lack of dissent’. And in its turn, the dull incomprehension with which the SNP gazed back at the tremendous production of 4 jet fighters for Syria. For all the world like two trains, running alongside each other. For now.
This war-that-is-coming is both a crisis of the victors architecture of international organisations and the victors themselves.
France, Russia and the UK are enmeshed in this war in Syria and Iraq — three old men drunk, and dad dancing.
The last crashing crises of British foreign policy have been world-shaking; the collapse of Libya, the destruction of the Iraqi Army and the Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea. A crisis of foreign policy usually remain contained and unconnected from the core concerns of voters. Usually.
The overwhelming disparity of force between us and our enemies have kept our wars from the domestic front — but a state of emergency at home in a state already weakened could soon turn that into a domestic crisis — especially if it is bodged.
You can fly to Berlin and then drive, or take the train, freely without going through border controls, to Oświęcim in Poland. There you can visit the terrible, terrible room with the children’s clothes, the worst of all the terrible rooms. Here a wee wumman will show you round, and she, or maybe her elderly mother — retired to Tel Aviv, or dead now, was there in that camp as a child.
And you can leave Auschwitz-that-was and freely return to Germany. That is the glory of our Europe, our European Union, our European home.
This political crisis that grips this state, that was a sliver from ending so recently, is a sideshow to the main political crisis. Without question that is the crisis in Europe, and a crisis of the victor’s United Nations and Nato.
The new world will look a lot more like the European Union and less like the unipolar world we now see. The caliphate cannot be undeclared, even if the soi-disant Caliph is a monster. It speaks to the pan-Arab state promised and denied at Versailles. The state attempted falteringly by the Nasserites and even almost in parody by the old Ba’ath.
We in the SNP need to prepare for that world.
The old fear that the UN must be exalted above all for one day we might need it against the Brits is over. The old fear that led us to vote to bomb Libya — that legal means right — is gone. It is possible to be legal and stupid as in Syria.
It may be that in the convulsions that will roil Europe, Scotland finds itself popping out of the UK. The French 4th Republic, collapsing in the aching labours of Algeria, was pregnant with the 5th. The UK is gravid with twins, at least, maybe more.
All the social attitude surveys showing that ‘we are all the same’ count as nothing in an institutional crisis. From the last day of the 4th Republic to the first day of the 5th they would have registered not a tremor — but still it fell.
Perhaps like Slovenia, it will be a fast exit, driven to escape something worse, some catastrophe, our own Bombay Street.
Or perhaps it will be to escape the horrors of endless emergency. The UK is committed to an insane political strategy — all enemies are Hitler with whom we must not treat. All wars are to be fought from a distance, preferably by unmanned drones, lest we suffer casualties. All the boundaries between peace and war must be washed away in the name of security. We have had an escalating war for nearly 15 years now.
Endless war abroad and endless emergency at home does not describe a country in which I wish to live.
I hope that ISIS fail in their attempt to set Europe aflame, but hope is not a strategy. I hope internment never happens, but hope is not a strategy. I hope an independent Scotland is not born under a hedge as British cities burn, but hope is not a strategy.
This is not some rerun of 1916. The Dáil Éirann was a parliament of internees and the Pàrlamaid na h-Alba will be a parly of interners. There will not be an uprising or Scottish-English violence or any such nonsense as that.
On the other side of this there will still be Muslims in Europe, turning up like King Offa’s golden penny, as there have been continuously since the Moors named Gibraltar in 711.
The SNP must stand true and oppose this faux world-power with its 4-aircraft nonsense of Syria. It should defend the European Union in its grace and glory, while rejecting and denouncing the death from the air, the hellish drones and the extrajudicial murder of any of our citizens, or other people’s citizens.
Simply put that is what we will need to do, to live with our Muslim citizens in peace when this is all over.
The tensions between a Holyrood that is dominated by a forward looking Scottish Nationalism focussed on the 2050s and a Westminster still scarred of the Empire’s demise in the 1950s will not go away. In George Osborne’s declaration “Britain has got its mojo back”, back is the operative word.
The Irish State is not a 100 years old, and for over 50 of them the Irish Army served as Blue Helmets in Egypt and Lebanon. There it did more for peace in the Middle East since WWII than ever the British Army did.
We need to develop, advocate and build an economy-first, and political response to this hell — the lessons of post-war Europe must be painfully re-applied. The mechanistically repeated failed military tactics of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya cannot be repeated.
For I believe that there are people now-born who will show folk round a new synagogue in Baghdad, and drive the bus to Jerusalem from Damascus.
But that better future lies on the other side of the river, a river of blood.
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