State Sponsored Kidnapping: Britain, Israel and the USA

1 Britain: Conscientious Objectors1

The British army was a volunteer force in 1914 until the war lost its popularity. The actuality of slaughter reduced the numbers of men volunteering. The government passed the Military Service Act in January 1916 to ensure that losses were replaced by a secure supply of men. Men were conscripted into the armed forces as a legal duty. A clause in the Act offered appeals against conscription, which were held in local tribunals. Tribunal members usually regarded an appeal as a sign of cowardice. The Military Service Act created a new crime: conscientious objection.

Conscientious objectors were imprisoned and subjected to a savage regime. This was intended to break their will and force them to accept conscription. British authorities soon felt this was insufficient. A programme of kidnapping was introduced. Men already in custody were taken to France. Once there, refusal to fight was reclassified as mutiny.

Following a court martial they were sentenced to death, which was usually commuted to ten year’s hard labour. The court martial offered a fig-leaf of legitimacy to a criminal act.

2 Israel: Adolf Eichmann2

The Holocaust was the outcome of the Nazi programme for slaughtering the Jewish population of Europe. Adolf Eichmann was one of its principal managers. He was chillingly efficient. The destruction of the Jewish community in Hungary in 1944 was the culminating act of his gruesome career. Once the Nazi regime was crushed, Eichmann went on the run recognising that his actions would be reclassified as crimes. After a few years in Germany he followed the well-trodden SS route to Argentina.

The aftermath of the war brought the Nuremberg Trials for Nazi war criminals and many executions. To the disappointment of the Israeli state the desire to punish Nazis evaporated with the passage of time. Eichmann’s blatant presence in Argentina and his principal role in the Holocaust made him a target for the Israelis. They sent elite Mossad agents there to kidnap Eichmann and bring him to Israel for trial.

However legitimate the trial looked it was actually a coup de theatre. Israel had no jurisdiction over Eichmann. Israel hadn’t even existed during Eichmann’s SS career and he was a German national living in Argentina. Their jurisdiction over him was based on national myth. The trial offered a fig-leaf of legitimacy to a criminal act.

3 The USA: Extraordinary rendition3

The US military hoovered up a large number of alleged combatants in Afghanistan. Many were brutally questioned there but a large number, loosely called the ‘worst of the worst’, were flown to Guantanamo Bay prison camp. There they were tortured. The US spin on torture, which is illegal, is to brand it as enhanced interrogation techniques. The justification is that Taliban secrets could be revealed thereby protecting US military lives.

Interestingly the USA was provoked into extraordinary rendition by a desire to get justice (revenge?) for the 9/11 atrocity. They’ve poured millions of dollars into Guantanamo Bay – at the maximum 775 detainees – but gained no significant military intelligence. Yet as of summer 2018, 40 men remain illegally detained. Unlike the British and Israeli examples, the USA used kidnapping without an over-arching plan.

There have been no trials notwithstanding the purpose built courtrooms and there isn’t a fig-leaf to conceal their illegal action.


All three examples are criminally amoral. In the British example, the barbaric cruelty was challenged immediately in parliament. The Israelis’ justification was revenge (thinly disguised as justice) with a self-serving announcement that they were righting historic wrongs. The USA’s use of extraordinary rendition has no Machiavellian, military, or political justification at all. What links all three is a use of the over-weaning power of the state, by politicians with a tragic sense of entitlement.-

1 Records of the local tribunals which heard appeals against conscription were destroyed after the first world war apart from two. This is the record on the only one in England. The clause in the Military Service Act January 1916 offering appeals to conscientious objectors was a sham as can be seen from the actuality see parliamentary debate here

2 A quick summary of Eichmann’s career and trial can be found here The provocation that Nazis in Argentina gave to the Israeli’s can be found here. Eichmann was only thinly disguised in exile and gave every impression of being proud of his role in the Holocaust.

3 Following the 9/11 attacks the USA retaliated against those they believed to be responsible. The Saudi perpetrators of 9/11 were based in Afghanistan, which the USA attacked. Their counter-attack was poorly conducted and failing when they resorted to extraordinary rendition. The USA hoped those they kidnapped would reveal Taliban secrets. For a brief summary see There were many governments implicated and none of those kidnapped were brought to the USA mainland but are kept in a base in Cuba: Guantanamo Bay prison camp. For a quick summary of British involvement go to For a list of detainees go to For courtroom see


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