Saturday, July 23, 2005

Have the Terrorists Won Yet? 

As you have read elsewhere, Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician who had no connection to the London subway bombings, was shot five times in the head ("They pushed him onto the floor and unloaded five shots into him," witness Mark Whitby told the British Broadcasting Corp. "He looked like a cornered fox. He looked petrified") for the crime of Wearing a Topcoat While Swarthy.

Our venerated colleague Avedon Carol asks: "If we're going to be terrorized by police, what the hell is the point?"

On the opposite side of the moral aisle, Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters laments that the death of an innocent man may lead British police to hesitate slightly before pumping five rounds into the skull of the next suspect:
Many people will take this time to second-guess the London police and British special services. They will note the tragic consequences of a shoot-first policy that killed an apparently innocent man just trying to get to work, although one would expect that an innocent man would have stopped when commanded to do so instead of running for the nearest subway car. The police themselves will now second-guess themselves when it comes to making split-second decisions that could mean death in either direction.

Debate on tactics has its place and its benefits, but when such debate comes, it has to take place in the proper context -- and that context is the war which Islamofascist terrorists have declared on the West.
In the mind of Captain Ed, "this shows the folly of treating captured terrorists as if they were POWs." Plainly he hasn't gotten the memo from Messrs. Gonzales, Yoo, et al, or he'd already know that we don't:
The Geneva Conventions exist to prevent civilian authorities to make these kinds of choices. It forces nations engaged in warfare to clothe their soldiers in recognizable uniforms so that civilians do not face these deadly consequences. The death of Menezes shows the wisdom of summary executions of infiltrators, spies, and saboteurs during wartime in order to discourage their use . . . . 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.
So, to reiterate: 1) By promising humane treatment and due process to detainees, who may or may not be terrorists, we condemn untold numbers of innocent civilians to death at the hands of jittery subway cops. If, on the other hand, we subject our captives to torture, extraordinary rendition, and perpetual imprisonment, the practice of terrorism will immediately cease, and dusky bearded men in coats will be free to ride the tube with impunity. 2) The threat of summary execution serves as a powerful deterrent to suicide bombers, who might think twice about blowing themselves to smithereens if they knew that police were prepared to shoot them for it.

Got that?

UPDATE: New details emerge. The Boston Globe reports that the house from which Menezes emerged had been under surveillance, and that he "entered the Stockwell station by jumping a turnstile" -- which may explain his intital instinct to run when "as many as 20 plainclothes officers pursued" him onto the train where he was killed. (A Guardian account suggests that he jumped the turnstile after police told him to halt.) The official statement from Scotland Yard does not indicate whether the plainclothesmen identified themselves as police officers; we're looking for an eyewitness account that might answer that question, and when we track one down we'll post it.

The Australian adds a few more specifics:
WHEN an alert flashed to the control room of Operation Kratos at Scotland Yard that a suspected suicide bomber was entering an Underground station, a senior officer was asked to make a snap decision.

His judgment that the London public was again under threat led to advice to officers at the scene that the man should be "neutralised".

Seconds later three plainclothes officers jumped on a man on a Northern Line train and one pumped five bullets from an automatic pistol into his head . . . .

The officer who fired the bullets into Menezes is now facing investigation and possible criminal charges.

So too is the "gold commander" - a deputy assistant commissioner or above, according to police sources - who gave the instruction to open fire if it was felt necessary.

Even Ken Livingstone, the left-wing mayor of London, admitted last week that police had to have a shoot-to-kill policy to counter the terrorist threat in the city.

But yesterday, in the cold light of the tragic mistake, the policy was under review.

Police sources said the officer who fired the shots would almost certainly be relieved from firearms duties during the inquiry but would not be suspended from the specialist counter-terrorist section of the metropolitan police's SO19 firearms wing.
The obvious question here: Menezes was under surveillance from the moment he left his house. According to the Guardian story above, "several plainclothes police officers" followed him onto the #2 bus he rode to Stockwell. If he sent up that many red flags, why wasn't he stopped and searched before he entered the tube station, where a bomb on his person would be guaranteed to do the maximum amount of damage?

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