Daniel Hannan: From "Inventing Freedom" to Ignoring It
Dan Hannan, the famously Euroskeptic Member of the European Parliament from the United Kingdom, could once have been considered a friend to the cause of enlarging human freedom. There are few who can match him when it comes to issues of economics or leaving the European Union, and there's certainly something to say for someone who regularly quotes Shakespeare. However, his romanticism of western history leads him to gloss over imperialism past and present.
For example, it would not be unreasonable to expect one of the foremost critics of the European Union to disavow their role in helping to overthrow an elected government in Ukraine and establishing a puppet government alongside the United States. Instead, Hannan went on to criticize Putin for his response to being purposefully provoked by the western powers. Now it's not unreasonable to criticize Putin, but to do so exclusively is to completely ignore the fact that everything he did was in reaction to the U.S. and E.U. trying to enact a new policy of containment against Russia by overthrowing his elected puppet government and installing their own. Regardless, the man who constantly rails about the undemocratic nature of the European Union had nothing to say about them overthrowing a democratically elected government.
Hannan's western romanticism is never more obvious than in his book, Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World. In his book Hannan goes on to talk about how the west, and Britain in particular, brought the world due process. After quoting Article 29 of the Magna Carta, Hannan states,
Note, again, that phrase “the law of the land.” What is the source of that law? Obviously not the King, for he is here agreeing to bind himself to it. Nor yet the bishops and barons who sealed the charter alongside their sovereign: they, too, are pledging to abide by something bigger than they are. What the Great Charter enshrined, in statutory form, was that the supreme power in the land was not the executive, but a set of fixed legal principles; and that, in any clash between the two, the law would prevail over the government.
Notice that Hannan does not say "the law would prevail over the government, unless the government decides in a secret and arbitrary fashion that the accused is an enemy combatant." However, that seems to be his actual position.
In light of the news that David Cameron ordered the assassination of two British nationals via drone strike in Syria, Hannan went on to praise the Prime Minister for his actions. He defended his position by stating,
This, however, merely begs the question. Hannan claims these people betrayed their country, plotted to kill innocent civilians, etc, but he never mentions how he knows this or why these people are assumed guilty rather than being given the presumption of innocence due process requires. In his book, Hannan is saying that due process is one of the great freedoms given to the world by the west, and yet he's saying here that it can be arbitrarily ignored.
The objection might be that due process is given to criminals not terrorists, but this doesn't address any of the problems. How do you know they're terrorists? What evidence do you have? What process is in place to protect the innocent? What is the fundamental difference between the guy living in London who plans to blow up a building, and the guy who goes to Syria for training to go back to London and blow up a building? The former would be merely be arrested and given a trial while the latter can evidently be assassinated. Why? Where is that difference spelled out in the Magna Carta Hannan seems to love so much, but conveniently ignores when it suits him?
It's clear that Hannan has no actual belief in due process rights, otherwise he would be opposed to the Prime Minister unilaterally assassinating British citizens with absolutely no due process whatsoever, despite the fact that he may think people guilty of those crimes are legitimate military targets. The people killed by David Cameron's government may have been guilty of terrible crimes, but if we support human freedom then we have to give even "the Devil benefit of law," for our own safety's sake.