Turnabout-is-fair-play dept.

When I saw this item last week, I knew it rang a bell:

Britain has refused to grant diplomatic immunity to armed US special agents and snipers travelling to the kingdom as a part of President George W Bush’s entourage next week.

In the case of the accidental shooting of a protester, the American in Bush’s protection squad will face justice in a British court as would any other visitor, Home Secretary David Blunkett was quoted as saying by the Observer here today.

The issue of immunity is one of a series of extraordinary US demands turned down by Ministers and Downing Street during preparations for the Bush visit.

Obviously, it would be hard to come up with anything more insulting to the Brits than the suggestion that the court system that is justly their pride and joy couldn’t be trusted to give Americans a fair trial.

What’s truly astonishing is that the proposal was made at a sufficiently formal level to force a member of Blair’s own Cabinet to turn it down, rather than hinted at delicately to see if it would fly. Talk about leading with your chin!

But there was something more nagging at me. Finally today I – duh! – figured out what it was. It’s a passage from an old list of grievances:

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation, For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us [and] for protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States.

So I suppose there’s a message here for those of Her Majesty’s subjects who find the proposition a tad offensive: What goes around, comes around, even if it takes a couple of centuries.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com