Has Cameron crossed the Rubicon?


By Dr Upul Wijayawardhana

On Monday 7th, David Cameron virtually dropped a bombshell when he announced to the British Parliament that he had authorised the use of a drone to kill a British Citizen fighting for the so-called ‘Islamic State’ in Syria. Since then, all the media are buzzing with the heated debate over the rights and wrongs of the UK's use of the drone that killed Cardiff-born Reyaad Khan, 21, who was the target, but also killed Ruhul Amin, 26, from Aberdeen, who was travelling in the same vehicle in Raqqaon 21 August.

Both the US and the UK have been using drone attacks to kill terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they are in a state of war. USA had used drones in Syria too but UK had not used as British MP’s rejected military action in Syria two years ago, which was a surprise defeat for Cameron. President Obama authorized the killing of the well-known preacher and al-Qaeda leader called ‘the bin Laden of the internet’, Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in September 2011, the first and only US citizen to be targeted and killed by the CIA with a drone attack. Number of other American have been killed in drone attacks but they were accidental

David Cameron explained to the Parliament that the intelligence services had provided convincing information that Khan was planning an attack to kill British Citizens and as the attack was imminent he had no choice but to agree to the drone attack. The Attorney-General has ruled that it was legaland the government justified its decision to launch the strike under Article 51 of the United Nations charter, which says member states have an "inherent right of self-defence" if an armed attack is occurring or is believed to be imminent.

Khan came to prominence by appearing in an IS video that was used extensively to entice other young British Muslims to join IS. Though Cameron failed to describe what Khan was planning to do, the speculation rife in the tabloid press was that he was planning to assassinate the Queen. Listening to the debates, it appeared that Cameron has convinced the majority that he has taken the right action. Even those who raised objections were mostly concerned about the lack of details. The other question raised was the accuracy of intelligence more so because of the perception that intelligence failure led UK to join the Iraqi war, a question that may be answered by the Chilcot report whenever it is belatedly published.

Whatever the rights or wrongs, it is a historical moment in that it is the first time a British Citizen was killed by a British Drone in a country where there is no active involvement in the war. This raises the question whether Cameron, or, rather the United Kingdom has crossed the Rubicon?

‘Crossing the Rubicon’ is a term used to indicate ‘reaching the point of no return’ and the phrase originates with Julius Caesar's seizure of power in the Roman Republic in 49 BCE. Roman generals were strictly forbidden from bringing their troops into the home territory of the Republic in Italy. Caesar led his army across the Rubicon River, crossing from the province of Cisalpine Gaul into Italy, starting a civil war which he won. This was the beginning of the Roman Empire.

Islamic State is a bunch of terrorists whose ideals of total religious intolerance has manifested as atrocities of many facets and great magnitude, the latest being the decimation of the great historical city of Palmyra in Syria. Before they destroyed the city they beheaded Khaled Asaad, the 82-year-old scholar who worked for over 50 years as head of antiquities in Palmyra and hung his body in one of the columns. Having joined such a group and planning to kill on British soil deserved what he got.

Unfortunately, David Cameron fails to recognize that other countries too have the right to defend themselves. When we defended our country, successfully, against another terrorist group he took the side of the gossip-mongers purely to satisfy donors to his party funds.

Whether Cameron has crossed the Rubicon or not, what it confirms is that he is a hypocrite of the highest order.

May be he has changed his views now. Perhaps, if this happened before CHOGM, we may have been spared his theatrics.

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