Saturday, July 23, 2005

Is Britain Going Mad? part 2

FINAL UPDATE 24/07/05 *** "On leaving his flat on Friday, he [de Menezes] was followed by armed plain-clothes police. He took a bus for the three miles from Tulse Hill to Stockwell. It was only when he crossed the road to the tube station that the police intervened and called on him to stop."

For those who believe Police Intelligence to be an oxymoron, this is a gem.

So, the police let a suspected suicide bomber board a BUS and travel three miles. Erm, what if he had been a genuine suicide bomber, intent on blowing up a bus? It just shows that the planning was non-existent here.

As for the argument about needing to shoot suspected suicide bombers in the head, suicide bombers will no doubt devise mouth operated timers that they can bite on to set off their payload. What then? Trying to tackle suicide bombers when they have their dynamite strapped to them is a mug's game. If a suicide bomber puts on their explosives an hour or two before they leave on their mission, that leaves ALL THE TIME preceding that moment to intercept someone. Apply police logic to conventional suicides. You wouldn't have The Samaritans, you'd have guys wandering the streets with blankets trying to catch anyone who jumps off tall buildings.

UPDATE 24/07/05 *** Jack Straw is busy using the "tragedy defence" (see end of post), this today on Guardian

"We have to ensure that clear rules are operated but we also, tragically, have to ensure that the police do have effective discretion to deal with what could be terrorist suicide outrages about to take place. That's the dilemma."

And Britain's police chief, Ian Blair, weighed in with more wisdom (same article)

"This is a tragedy. The Metropolitan police accepts full responsibility for this. To the family I can only express my deep regrets." ***

It does not surprise me how irrational people are, particularly in the wake of bomb attacks. But there is no defence for what the police did when they executed Jean Charles de Menezes, and I will go into the argument a little here, to prove those who say "it is a price that must be paid in the war against terror" are wrong.

Firstly, in this modern world, it is very very easy to rationalise the death of another when we don't know them personally, when they're just a name and a photo in a newspaper, on a website, on TV. It's as easy as it is for people to do the seeming opposite, and grive over someone they never met (ie: Diana, the Pope, etc) as if they lost a member of their own family.

If we apply Kant's ‘Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law’, we may get somewhere, once we start to envisage the consequences for Everybody of Rationalising Away an Innocent Man's Death as Acceptable.

Firstly, the man yesterday could've been any of us. Me, my father, one of my friends. Would I want plain-clothes police to be able to execute them in a public place as they were going about their business? Would I accept that it was "part of the price to be paid in the war on terror"?

Answer: No. And I don't think many people would find that acceptable. It does not violate Kant's principle to contend otherwise, but we must then also recognise that to others, we too are strangers, and accept that others then have a right to rationalise our own deaths as a price worth paying. I don't subscribe to that. I believe that those who put forward the "price worth paying" argument do so mostly on the basis that "it wasn't them AND they don't know the deceased." I would compare this to being sat in a swimming pool that you cannot climb out of, and watching a shark eat someone you didn't know. You may delight in rationalising that the hungry shark was obeying its impulse to feed and that the man made a hearty meal, but you are unlikely to be holding to such a reasoned position when the shark is swimming towards you.

So. I believe that the life of a stranger is equivalent to my own or that of my associates. I don't believe that the police force should be at liberty to execute innocent civilians and that these people can be racked up as "acceptable losses." There is a problem with the rhetoric here, and it has to do with the phrase "war on terror." There really is no way that I want the fight against terrorism to be prosecuted as a war, if that means all the conventional logic that flows from such a framing. Are we to then accept that our cities are battlefields?

This is our own soil, and we must not allow politicians to foist "collateral damage" type arguments, arguments that may be fine upon a genuine battlefield, upon us; we must not accept the logic of conventional war on our own doorsteps. I see such an acceptance of this killing as the first step along such a road. If we cede basic rights such as the right not to be murdered by the police, what comes next? Checkpoints? ID cards, Security Walls? Peace, Israeli style? Would people in Britain really want a Divided Country, segregated communities a la Northern Ireland, Muslims on one side of the fence and everyone else on the other.

If this was so desirable, why are Northern Ireland and the Occupied Territories quite so far down the list of Popular Holiday Destinations!

People must say NO to assassination on Britain's streets. The police are plainly not ready for a licence to kill. It is sadly, probably fortunate, that the dead man was not a young British Muslim - who knows how much hurt and fear and anger that would've caused.

The framing of this as "tragedy" must also be resisted. Hamlet is a tragedy, Othello is a tragedy. This was not a tragedy, it was a direct result of flawed Home Office policy. If nothing changes, expect regular "tragedies."

Anyone who wants to come back and counter my position is welcome to do so.


Blogger HF said...

Yes. The struggle in the war on terror ist to keep to our own moral and ethical standarts. To keep an open, liberal and pluralistic society in the face of terror. An enormous challenge."But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." Matthew 5:38-40, Is this what it boils down to?

8:52 AM  
Blogger Claypot said...

I probably shouldn't comment until I know the facts- I just caught a brief bit of this on the news. But the narrowmindedness and inability to think of some people never ceases to amaze me. The police are defending their actions by saying he didn't stop when they yelled at him to. Did they consider he might not speak English? Or be deaf? Or might be in a panic to get out because people were saying there was a bomb? And to shoot him several times in the head? If they really were suspicious and wanted to bring him down, could they not have shot him in the leg or something? This is unbelievable. But I should probably go find out some more about it. Great posts as always Jason.

9:40 AM  
Blogger L said...

Scary as hell. I'm waiting for this to happen in the States as well -- we're a whole lot more paranoid and racist than everyone else...

8:20 PM  

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