As I write this, the last day of campaigning is partway over before Britons go to the polls to vote in the snap election called by Prime Minister Theresa May. May's primary opponent in these snap elections is Jeremy Corbyn of the liberal-progressive Labour party, a leftist against whose die-hard views Bernie Sanders dims to a very pale shade of pink.
Before the most recent spate of terror attacks in Manchester and London, the focus was primarily on how the United Kingdom (UK) would approach the Brexit talks — a matter of great significance given the threats from European Union (EU) leaders in an attempt to soften official British positions on such key matters as residual rights of migration into Britain (or not) once it separates from the EU.
While Brexit still matters very much, it isn't a surprise that a great deal of attention is now being shown toward how the UK will respond from here forward to terrorists. It is of key importance to ordinary Britons, especially in light of the willingness of Islamic State (IS) to torque up sympathizers to commit horrific acts.
In the aftermath, as happens all too frequently, official public identification of the "shaheed" (martyrs in jihadi-speak) also involved embarrassing acknowledgements by police and security officials of perpetrators having been known to them before the attack.
One of the most recent revelations was particularly disturbing: Khuram Butt, deceased suicidaire, had participated in a British documentary called "The Jihadis Next Door" and had been filmed listening to firebrand extremist Islamic clerics and spreading the black ISIS flag. He had also allegedly attempted to travel to Syria to physically join ISIS in its Syrian "caliphate". Most incredibly, he had held a job at Transport for London, the government agency that runs mass transit in the greater London metropolitan area.
It's easy, as an outsider, to ask why Butt wasn't deported. In truth, he should have been, though I'm not sure our own government would have been effective in removing a guy like Butt. Although Pakistani-born, he was a British national through naturalization. Apparently their vetting is as ineffectual as ours. If the British had attempted to strip him of his citizenship, as a necessary precursor to removal based on his violent, extremist views, he would have claimed he was merely exercising his free speech rights.
And I have no doubt that if the government had attempted to take that course, it would have faced a firestorm of criticism from any number of progressive groups — and even within some quarters of Parliament and other official institutions — as being repressive, Islamophobic, and an overreaction. (Does all of this sound familiar?) Keep in mind that, at that point, he had not yet done what he was clearly — at least in his mind — destined to do. The only thing the police, security, and border services had at that point were all the indicia, plus the film. Not that any of that was insignificant.
Unfortunately, it's a matter of perspective: Seeing it all through the rear-view mirror of the attacks places it in a different context and it's all too plain. Before the fact? Maybe not so much. Western societies have become so politically correct and censorious that it has shaped and molded the way police, intelligence, and border agencies behave. They rarely risk the criticism they may get for undertaking the kind of action, in advance, that I've described. If they're lucky or very competent, they can pick off any number of these would-be jihadists through sting investigations, allowing them to incriminate themselves through undercover audio and video recordings, etc.
Here in the United States, the FBI has proven itself proficient in that regard. Yet the British police are, too, despite what you may think after the Manchester arena and two London bridges attacks. (If you doubt it, just Google "British police foil terror" or something similar; you will get back multiple evidence of my point.)
But good luck and competence can only carry you so far. That is one reason that immigration laws can and should be one of the tools in a nation's anti-terror toolbox. This is something I have written about several times before. Using the immigration laws allows a nation to selectively pluck such people as Butt, and his Moroccan-Italian jihadi accomplice Youssef Zaghba, out of the society where they intend to do their harm, and send them back to their origins.
Apparently Prime Minister May has gotten the message. In her remarks this last day before elections, she has said that if her Conservative party wins the elections, they will press not only for police and security service reforms and longer prison sentences, but also for more aggressive action to deport aliens who represent threats to the nation. She was immediately criticized by members of the Labour party for her indifference to human rights.
What about the rights of those people who were pulled, dead or maimed, out of the Manchester arena, off of the London bridge, and from the waters of the Thames? Do they count for nothing? We will soon see which way the British people vote.