Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A flaw in the democratic process?

I wasn't quite sure what to make of the story in the news about the 21 year old student who stabbed her MP in London. Roshonara Choudhry has been imprisoned for life for stabbing the Labour MP Stephn Timm's of East Ham. Apparently he supported the war in Iraq and for that reason, Miss Choudhry felt it was her religious duty to stick a knife in the man's stomach. The timing of this story, so soon after it is alleged that bombs sent from Yemen had been sent by courier to the United States, strikes me as a bit odd. Anwar al Awlaky is again in the headlines, as a matter of fact a British politician has recently requested that US service providers remove his videos from their networks. But what is al Awlaky actually saying? Nobody seems to quote anything specific this man says which is against the United States, and secondly there are dozens, if not hundreds of clips on the internet where the speakers are far more blatant and explicit in their plans and intentions towards the United States, but it seems this man in particular is the subject of much attention.

Regardless of how serious a danger this person is perceived to be towards the West, one thing that I found perplexing about this whole affair was the idea the judge had of peacefully making known one's dissent with a political decision taken by a government. What can be done when the majority of a population, such as was the case in the UK, opposed an invasion of a sovereign country for no clear or legal reason, and yet the government did not take heed? What is there to be done when the political process, or the peaceful method of dissent is not sufficient in averting a political or humanitarian catastrophe? I don't really know the answer to that. The Nazi party in Germany took control through entirely democratic means and their government was entirely legitimate to start with, but they did the most horrendous things. What would the judge have said if this woman, however misguided she was, had stabbed a Nazi politician in 1939 for supporting the invasion of Poland? I'm not sure there is a clear-cut answer to that. Britain prides itself on its "reasonableness" and the common sense of the "man on the Clapham omnibus", but, I notice from observation that its political and legal establishment are notoriously weakened with "shoe on the other foot" arguments and desperately try to avoid being trapped by that logic. British reasonableness should go both ways, and not just when it suits the status quo. This case brings up some difficult questions, not that there will be anybody in any of the main newspapers who will be posing them.

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