The news that Mohammed Emwazi (or "Jihadi John") has been in all likelihood executed by the United States in drone strike in Raqqa has received much coverage today. I'm not going to reflect here on justice of such a strike, the normative issues raised by the use of drones, or the question of the legality of such targeted assassination. I'm also certainly not going to defend Emwazi or ISIS in any way. But what struck me about the announcement was the degree to which Mohammed Emwazi was dehumanized by Pentagon and the apparent acceptability of joking about this execution. The Guardian reports Pentagon Spokesperson Steve Warren as describing Emwazi as a "human animal," before jokingly referring to Emwazi's driver (who also died and whose relationship - if any - to the murders for which David Cameron described Emwazi as "barbaric" is unreported) as "his worst best friend."
If justifiable, the death of four individuals as the result of a rocket strike seems to me to be a event that we should regret the necessity of. The levity with which Pentagon has imparted this news rests on an ability to dehumanize the victims of this strike. That act of dehumanization can only feed into the cycle of violence that has characterized US-UK engagements with the Middle East in the last decade and a half. Whatever the justifications for and consequences of killing Emwazi, the strengthening of a discourse in which our enemies are thought of as less than human is unlikely to contribute to, in Warren's word's, "making the world a better place."