Imagine for a moment, there is a tall building, packed full of ordinary people going about their lives. A criminal gang enter the building. Perhaps they are even let into it by a few of the residents who feel they have been poorly served by the police in the past and are looking for an alternative source of protection. Some members of the gang, perhaps as a show of strength, or even out of a bloody-minded fanaticism, decide they will take shots at people walking past on the street, and especially any policemen, who happen to come near the building. In fact, they proclaim loudly and clearly all police, their families and anyone who supports the police should be killed.
Before you know it, the building is surrounded by armed police and virtually all of the exits are completely sealed off - either by the gang, or by the police. Everyone is now trapped inside, whether a member of the criminal gang or an ordinary person just trying to get on with their life.
The police decide to shoot grenades into the building through any window from where they think a shot might have come from a gang member. If there happens to be an innocent family in the room where the explosion takes place, the police say it is an unfortunate outcome, but the innocent people were not deliberately targeted. The criminals were clearly using them as human shields, so the blame lies completely with the criminals, not the police.
Let us step back for a moment.
Would they be allowed to get away with this behaviour? Is the killing of innocents ever justified in the pursuit of criminals? If you are prepared to kill the innocent, does that not make you as bad as those you pursue? Does that not make you a hypocrite of the worst kind?
To continue our scenario. Imagine, when questioned about their justifications, the police were to excuse themselves by saying they text the people living in the room they are about to shoot the grenade into, to tell them to leave right now. The family in the room have less than a minute to grab any possessions they might have and rush into a neighbour's room. Family photo albums, children's toys, clothes and anyone just a bit too slow, are all destroyed.
And when people who don't live in the building become outraged with the police's tactics, they are told they are being anti-police and pro-criminal. The police point out that there are other places in the world where the authorities don't send warning texts and are far more indiscriminate with their killing.
The idea seems to be we are not allowed to condemn their practice, which results in the deaths of children, because there are other people who kill more children.
I wonder if there is any court in the world that let off a thief, rapist or murderer because the defence claimed there were other people out there who stole, raped and murdered more than their client?
Now before anyone accuses me of being one-sided or anti-this-or-that, let me say one of the things I am most proud of, with regard to the regular visitors to this blog over the years, has been the sheer variety of backgrounds people have come from: Christians (many different flavours), Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Pagans, Atheists, fence-sitters, teens, middle-aged, retired, singles, couples, parents, gay, straight, black, white, Asian, American, European, African, Australasian, Middle-Eastern, and the full range of social, economic and educational backgrounds.
Variety and inclusiveness are at the heart of my love of people and the world. On the flip side of this, I condemn us-and-them mentalities, because when difference is not celebrated, but used as an excuse to dehumanise and attack, the worst of atrocities take place.
As I have said before - whether you are a member of Al Qaeda, The US Army, the IRA, The Israeli Army, Hamas, The British Armed Forces, or any other armed organisation - if you kill non-combatants you are a terrorist and a murderer. There is no justification, ever, for killing innocent people to satisfy your political leanings.
And I am sick to my stomach at hearing the constant barrage of apologists and justifiers when the remains of small children are splattered among the rubble.