It should have come as no surprise to us that a New Zealander has been killed in a drone attack in Yemen. I wrote earlier about the citizens of New Zealand, Australia and other western countries joining Islamic fundamentalists in global jihad and possibly getting killed.
More importantly, I wrote about such individuals coming back, trained and further motivated, to kill persons here, as in the case of the murder of Lee Rigby in London (‘Terrorism, propaganda and war’, June 2013). We could take comfort from the fact that the individual concerned in this case will not return to carry on jihad. We might also be gratified that our intelligence services knew where he was and what he was doing and would (hopefully) have alerted the relevant authorities had he returned.
But this is not the issue that that seems to have concerned most commentators in New Zealand. Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s informed (i.e. intelligence-based) account of what ‘Muslim bin John’ was doing in Yemen at the material time, the media is continuing to talk of ‘assassination’ and ‘extra-judicial execution’ and generally suggest that what was done was somehow morally or legally indefensible. We need to be very clear here. There is a kind of war going on and Muslim bin John is a ‘foot soldier’ (The Australian) in that war. We might regret (and, indeed, his family might regret) that this New Zealand convert to Islam should have travelled all the way to Yemen to join up with al-Qaeda but the fact is that he did.