by Joe Gandelman
The dead man was identified as Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old Brazilian, described by officers as an electrician on his way to work. If you look at this case, and the unfolding police dragnhet and security in London, it's clear that there is indeed a danger in the war against terror that some innocents may be killed by a new kind of "friendly fire."
"There is no point in shooting somebody's chest because that's where the bomb is likely to be. There is no point in shooting anywhere else because if they fall down they detonate it. This is drawn on the experience from other countries including Sri Lanka," London's Police Chief Ian Blair said about the way Jean Charles de Menezes was killed on Friday in South London's Stockwell underground station.
It is a tragedy, but how can officials solve this one? Waiting too long could mean if the person is a suicide bomber police, bystanders, etc could be blown up. Shoot quickly could mean someone who panics at the wrong time, misunderstands what's going on and is either highly suspcious or flees, etc. could wind up on a slab in a morgue.
It's the quintessential debate about balancing rights of the individual and the common good — and it's likely be a huge debate particularly if there are more innocent deaths.
So what is the alternative when you have to make a mega-split second decision?
WARNING: We hope policymakers and police realize that this death and the likely controversy over it raises a NEW DANGER: that terrorist forces may try to set up a situation in which innocents are killed, which would then accentuate any existing controversies.
But the bottom line in the war against terror seems to be this: you are faced with suicide bombers and they ARE going to blow themselves up. And security forces have to act before they can do so. What, if any, safeguards can they use? What precautions should individuals use to make sure they don't get caught in a police crossfire? (Actually we can answer that: common sense.)
BUT THAT'S JUST OUR VIEW. THERE ARE MANY VIEWPOINTS ON THIS ISSUE AND HERE ARE JUST A FEW:
Really, it should be quite unlikely for the same sort of thing to happen again, just as it's very unlikely that anyone will ever again hijack an airplane with a small knife. That method of hijacking an airplane ended on the morning on September 11, 2001, when everyone who might in the future ride on an airplane received an unforgettable lesson that they must respond actively and rush the hijackers and restrain them at any cost to themselves. Similarly, everyone — at least in London — now knows not to run from the police, especially not onto a train and while wearing bulky clothing.--Donklephant:"I can’t imagine what the man’s family is going through. Say a prayer for them if you’re so inclined."
--Sideshow:"I'm watching people on TV tell me that all that spiffy shoot-to-kill stuff yesterday netted an innocent Brazilian guy. The talking heads seem almost to be pleading with Muslim spokesmen to say it's okay if the cops are running around with guns all trigger-happy. I don't know about you but this whole thing is making my stomach hurt. If we're going to be terrorized by police, what the hell is the point?"
The question remains: what do you do? Don't like "shoot to kill"? Well, I don't like it either. But what do you replace it with? You have a suspect who looks like he might be carrying strapped-on explosives under a heavy, padded coat, who's going into a subway station, and who upon hearing "Stop! Police!" ("He spoke English very well," says his cousin, Maria Alves) sprints ahead, jumps over turnstalls, and leads the police on a wild chase into a train carriage.
--Michelle Malkin:"Confronted with a furtive individual who reportedly refused to obey orders, dressed suspiciously, and fled over a turnstile towards the subway train, London authorities made a fateful split-second decision in a moment of great danger. I have a feeling that no one who works in law enforcement--here or around the world--will blame the police for the actions they took, and I doubt the majority of Britons will either."
I confess myself mystified. Why did the man who was killed run from several armed officers? What followed was always going to be Darwinian in it's simplicity. Why did eyewitnesses say they saw a bomb belt yet there is absolutely no mention of whether he did in fact have one in the police statement? If he didn't have any connection to the blasts of Thursday, was he entirely innocent?
There's more to this than meets the eye. Hopefully the investigation will not be a whitewash of the incident and more details will emerge as it progresses.
--Dean Esmay:"To be a little cold-hearted about it, given the circumstances this young man was a fool to be running from the police. That said, he probably counts as another victim of the terrorists--they might not have shot him if they hadn't been worried about another attack."
The death of Menezes shows the wisdom of summary executions of infiltrators, spies, and saboteurs during wartime in order to discourage their use. The use of deadly force on people in civilian life in part because of a poor choice of outerwear during a hot summer season directly relates to the kinds of attacks that al-Qaeda has conducted on civilian populations......
This is why civilized nations saw the need to agree on conditions for war as an exchange for proper treatment of the combatants. It protects the combatants — but more so, it protects the non-combatants. Al-Qaeda hides its operatives among non-combatants to not only avoid their own capture but also to maximize collateral damage in our response. Encouraging this by granting their terrorist minions GC protections only guarantees more of the tragedy that took Menezes' life.
--David Cohen:"If three officers are going to hold someone down in the subway car while one of their number pumps 5 bullets into his head, they really need to make sure that they're right. Good call on remembering the suicide bombers should be shot in the head. Bad call on the execution style murder of the innocent. I suppose, though, that they could recast this as a victory in the war against illegal immigration. I know some Americans who would cheer them on, in that case."
--Atrios says the problem is GWB and the right. A small taste 4 U:
Nice deflection. This issue is not those who are second-guessing cops who are frequently in horrible positions. I wasn't there and I don't know what they knew or what they thought they knew or what their orders were. Some of that will be revealed. The issue is the cheerleaders of the "shoot first ask questions later" attitude, and the critics of those who dare suggest that shooting someone the government has labelled "terrorist suspect" absent trial is problematic....It's long past time for the Right to take responsible for its own actions and rhetoric, and stop trying to pawn it off on those on the front lines.--In an extensive post, John Cole blasts Atrio's analysis. A tidbit:
This has nothing to do with the rhetoric of ‘Bush and the right.’ It has nothing to do with any glee even the biggest fools at Free Republic might have expressed. And to suggest otherwise, to pretend that ‘Bush and the right’ and their ‘rhetorical tricks’ has anything to do with the sad facts on the ground is absurd and a lame attempt at a smear.
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