U.K. Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson reveals some details about the London Bridge terrorist who killed two young Cambridge graduates with a knife on London Bridge.
I’ve already blogged on the early release from prison that allowed Usman Khan, who had been part of a plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange, to be on the London Bridge that day.
But the back story has another startling element: Usman Khan was regarded as an example of the wonders of rehabilitation by the group to which his two young victims, Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, belonged. Khan was attending an event sponsored by their organization, Leaning Together.
Usman Khan had become a bit of a poster boy for the well-meaning Cambridge academics. The 28-year-old’s bearded face appeared on their literature.
There was even talk of the man who once plotted to set up an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan becoming a student at the university.
Jack Merritt, in particular, thought he had formed a bond with Khan and was delighted to play his part in reforming a jihadist. The Learning Together course co-ordinator, Jack had organised a 10km run to raise money to buy Khan a laptop.
Normally, the movements of such a serious ex-offender would be restricted. However, Khan had attended a previous LT conference where he behaved like a model British citizen (exactly as he had promised in a handwritten, contrition-by-numbers letter asking to attend a deradicalisation course). On that occasion, he had been escorted by police.
On Friday, he travelled alone to join a gathering that included students and convicted murderers out on licence. Astonishingly, there was no security at Fishmongers’ Hall. Perhaps Jack, Saskia and the other young idealists felt that guards would indicate a regrettable lack of trust in their rehabilitated guests?
If so, the decision revealed a dreadful naivety that was to cost two lives, leave several people badly injured, expose Londoners to grave danger and catapult the early release of terrorists bang into the centre of the general election campaign.
Khan’s rampage was stopped by a Polish kitchen porter, Lukasz Koczocik, and a convicted murderer, James Ford. Unlike the Cambridge types, these worldly guys could recognize a really bad dude when they saw one. Pearson speculates:
Maybe that’s the untold story of the world: the clever and the privileged are allowed their enlightened experiments so long as there are hardmen like Lukasz and Ford to protect us from the consequences of their wishful thinking.
Theodore Dalrymple has a piece in CityJournal on the London Bridge attack that dovetails nicely with Pearson’s column. He, too, proposes that the release of Khan was based on wishful thinking, which he breaks into three parts. He calls these parts “superstitions:”
The first superstition is that terrorists are ill and are both in need of and susceptible to “rehabilitation,” as if there existed some kind of moral physiotherapy that would strengthen their moral fiber, or a psychological vaccine that would immunize them against terrorist inclinations.
The second is that, once terrorists have undergone these technical processes or treatments, it can be known for certain that the treatments have worked, and that some means exist to assess whether the terrorists still harbor violent desires and intentions. The third is that there exists a way of monitoring terrorists after their release that will prevent them from carrying out attacks, should they somehow slip through the net.
All three superstitions are false, though they have provided much lucrative employment for the tertiary-educated and have contributed greatly to Britain’s deterioration from a comparatively well-ordered society to a society with one of the West’s highest rates of serious crime.
Their broad public acceptance is evident in the remarks of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who, after the attack, said that terrorists should undergo rehabilitation rather than serve full prison sentences. Meanwhile, the father of the slain young criminologist said that he would not want his son’s death to be “used as a pretext for more draconian sentences.”
Modern, supposedly sophisticated societies have a hard time recognizing that wishful thinking is not the answer to men like Usman Khan.