American Justice? It was a Hellfire missile launched from a US Predator Drone like the one pictured above that killed the New Zealander, Daryl Jones. New Zealand’s prime minister did not object. According to John Key most "average, run-of-the-mill New Zealanders" would not have put themselves in harm's way by going to Yemen. He does not anticipate, nor in all probability will he receive, many complaints.
THE AVERAGE, run-of-the-mill, New Zealander would not be in Yemen, says the Prime Minister. He’s right. Apart from the odd diplomat, business-person or, very occasionally, the even odder tourist, who in their right mind would be found dead in Yemen?
Daryl Jones is the New Zealander who springs to mind. He was found dead in Yemen because someone in the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had him targeted for assassination. Sometime last year; somewhere far above the New Zealander and his companions; a circling “Predator” drone locked onto the convoy of vehicles Daryl was travelling in and launched its Hellfire missiles.
If God was feeling merciful that day, Daryl wouldn’t have felt a thing. If God was somewhere else, Daryl’s final moments would have been agonising.
All we know for certain is that someone in Langley, Virginia gave the order, and Daryl Jones was found dead in Yemen.
Was he in his right mind? The Prime Minister tells us that Daryl put himself in harm’s way. We are encouraged to believe that he travelled to Yemen with the aim of becoming a Jihadi – a warrior of the faithful – and that he may have made contact with the terrorist organisation known to the CIA as Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
The principle aim of AQAP is to bring down the House of Saud – the royal family that has ruled most of the Arabian Peninsula since the Early Twentieth Century. Few would dispute either the brutal character of the Saudi regime, or the crucial role the United States plays in guaranteeing its survival. In the course of his alleged “training”, Daryl would have been spared few details concerning the grisly fate of those who fall into the hands of the Saudi security forces. The evil reputation of the Kingdom’s torturers and executioners is well-deserved.
Not that AQAP’s goal of toppling the House of Saud has anything to do with establishing a Western-style liberal democracy in its place. Not at all. The jihadists’ ultimate objective is the creation of a radical Islamic state, governed under Sharia Law. The nearest historical precedent among the English-speaking peoples would be Oliver Cromwell’s puritanical republic, “The Commonwealth” (1649-1659).
So, was Daryl crazy? If he was, then there are many Americans who merit the same description. A United States governed according to a strict, fundamentalist interpretation of The Holy Bible is the dream of millions of conservative US citizens. If theocratic beliefs are now the benchmark for not being in your right mind, then Daryl wasn’t short of company.
But that’s not how the average, “run-of-the-mill” Kiwi thinks about people like Daryl, is it? The average, run-of-the-mill Kiwi isn’t the slightest bit interested in comparing the goals of twenty-first century jihadists with seventeenth century puritans. Nor is he interested in teasing-out the similarities between Radical Islam and America’s Religious Right. When President George W. Bush declared: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”, the average, run-of-the-mill Kiwi hadn’t the slightest hesitation in coming down on the side of “us”.
Sometime towards the end of last year, the CIA got wind (quite conceivably from our own GCSB’s intercepts) of an AQAP-led operation against the United States. As a precautionary measure the US temporarily shut down its diplomatic posts in the region and escalated its drone strikes.
Having already eliminated a large fraction of the organisation’s leadership in earlier attacks, the list of targeted assassinations was expanded to include “lower level militants”. In the course of nine separate strikes, one of those lower level militants, a decidedly non-average and a nothing like run-of-the-mill New Zealander, Daryl Jones, lost his life to an American Hellfire missile.
New Zealand’s prime minister did not object. No protest was laid with the US Government. And even though being in the wrong place, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, is not a capital offence in New Zealand, most average, run-of-the-mill Kiwis remain disinclined to complain.
This essay was originally published in The Dominion Post, The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 23 May 2014.