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Name: Antony Loewenstein
Home: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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Sunday, July 24, 2005

This is the future

"Police gunned down innocent man", states the Sydney Morning Herald. One day the Brazilian man, Jean Charles de Menezes, was a potential terrorist and the next an innocent in the wrong place at the wrong time (Stockwell station in London, to be precise, a few minutes walk from my former home.)

The London police are looking for a number of men allegedly behind last week's attempted attacks. It's an essential job and hopefully successful. This doesn't alter the facts that an innocent man has been murdered. Phil Gomes explains what is at stake:

"Jean Charles de Menezes was undoubtedly a man of colour, so he now automatically comes under suspicion because of circumstance and the tenor of the times, and of course Jean Charles de Menezes will just be considered collateral damage as far as those who wish to tighten a noose around our civil liberties. They’ll say 'but if he had nothing to fear he would still be alive', but Jean Charles de Menezes as a man of the global south probably knew better than any of us that police with unlimited powers are something to be feared."

We are seeing the birth of extra-judicial killings in the heart of Western cities. No longer hidden or kept secret by shadowy government officials, but committed under the mantra of "blame the terrorists." London mayor Ken Livingstone misses the point entirely: "The police acted to do what they believed necessary to protect the lives of the public. "This tragedy has added another victim to the toll of deaths for which the terrorists bear responsibility."

Tom Engelhardt reports on the logical extension of this new ideology, the kidnapping of "terrorism" suspects in various countries around the world by American authorities and then spirited away to dictatorships for torture. There have allegedly been over 100 of such missions since 9/11, but it's a figure impossible to clarify.

Make no mistake. John Howard would have little or no problem with introducing draconian measures to crack down on "terrorism." His suggestion this week that the London bombings had nothing to do with the Iraq war show how out of teach with reality he really is.

Let's not forget that this is a man who recently feted Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ("I salute somebody in President Musharraf who has led a transition of his country to a democratic state", said Howard dishonestly.) And now we learn that Pakistan "has continued to let [extremist] groups run military-style camps to train guerilla fighters." Turning a blind eye to such dangers is a familiar Western tactic. One of the main sources of Islamic extremism is Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and yet both governments are working closely with the Americans and British. What part of "blowback" do they not understand?

24 Comments:

Blogger Mike Jericho said...

Pure hysteria, Antony. And you are omitting a lot of information that your readers have a right to know about.

This was an "innocent man" who had - just an hour before - been observed leaving the residence of suspected Islamic extremists. He was wearing a thick, padded coat, even though the temperature was in the high twenties.

It was only after he had vaulted a turnstile and started to make for a train, ignored shouted police challenges to halt, and leapt aboard the train that they had to shoot him. Why? Because to not do so would have been criminally negligent.

It is SOP to shoot someone suspected of possessing a self-detonating device once they are in a position to kill many people. They are already at their target, you see.

If anything, the police used major restraint. The worst accounts have five shots being fired into him, some say as few as two. It is a normal directive in that situation that the entire magazine of a weapon (10-18 rounds depending on the type of automatic handgun) should be expended into the target.

This is not done for reasons of sadism. It is done so that the suspect (hopefully) cannot trigger the explosive. If he is merely wounded by one or two shots, he can still take them all with him.

Had the man simply stopped when challenged, he would not have been harmed. The police made no attempt to shoot him on the way to the train station, nor as he vaulted the turnstile and headed toward the train. As he ignored their challenges, still they did not shoot. Yet more restraint shown. They really wanted to take this guy alive, and were risking their lives, and that of the general public in order to do it.

But he didn't listen to their warnings, and instead leapt aboard a packed mid-morning train.

The policemen made a choice, Antony. One I like to think they would make again if they were forced to choose between the safety of a single terrorist suspect and that of a carriage filled with people.

We entrust the police with powers to enforce the laws of a country for a reason. So if one is in a city currently gripped by fear of an active terrorist cell, one specifically targeting trains and buses, one would do well to obey the powers of arrest that the police possess, and halt as directed, rather than behave precisely as a suicide bomber would.

Lastly, I take very serious issue with the allegation made by Phil Gomes. Race has nothing whatever to do with this. If you for one moment believe that if a white European had acted in exactly the same way, having just been seen leaving the home of terrorist suspects, would have been treated any differently, then you are woefully deluded.

Islam is a religion, Antony. Not a race. There are many devout Muslims who have fairer hair than you.

If you think that the police will ignore them, or risk the public in order to treat them in a more gentle fashion, you're ignorant as well.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 3:33:00 pm  
Blogger Comical_Ali said...

"London mayor Ken Livingstone misses the point entirely: "The police acted to do what they believed necessary to protect the lives of the public. "This tragedy has added another victim to the toll of deaths for which the terrorists bear responsibility."

I didnt think I would ever agree with you, but you are right he does miss the point. The guy needs to be more consistent. How could Ken blame the terrorists for this innocent man's death? How could he condone the police action? This is a pure war crime and state terror. Ken needs to face the music or risk being tried as a war criminal and state terrorist.

And when I say consistancy, I mean that Ken should have issued the following statement on suicide bombers in London:

"Given that they don't have jet planes, don't have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons. The British Labor party and Al-Qaeda are part of the same coin."

Thanks Ken

Sunday, July 24, 2005 3:35:00 pm  
Blogger Mike Jericho said...

Comical Ali, please imagine the following if you will:

You are a police officer watching the house of people suspected of being involved with the recent terrorist bombings.

You spy a man leave the residence early in the morning, wearing a thick padded jacket; a choice of clothing rather uncharacteristic considering the weather is warm. You follow him and realize he is headed toward a tube station.

When you get inside, you watch as he suddenly vaults the turnstile and runs toward a packed train sitting on a platform.

You and your colleagues shout for him to halt, you give chase, but he still doesn't halt.

He makes it onto the train.

What do you do? There is no-one else there who is going to affect the situation in any way. It is all up to you.

If the man is a suicide bomber, he will swiftly detonate the bomb and kill everyone in the carriage. Do you err on the side of his safety by not shooting, or the safety of the 20+ passengers, yourself and your colleagues?

If you choose not to shoot, you have, in effect, ignored every law enforcement directive there is regarding the treatment of suicide bombers and the protection of the public from said bombers. These are directives developed over decades of experience in counter-terrorism. You have, in effect, stopped being a police officer.

Now, bearing in mind that police officers take the whole "law enforcement" and "protection of the public" thing rather seriously, what do you?

Now tell me, would you have even been placed in the situation, and been forced to make such an awful decision, had it not been for the terrorists who created the high-security climate in the first place?

That one I'll answer for you.

No.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 4:03:00 pm  
Blogger Pat Malone said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 4:31:00 pm  
Blogger Pat Malone said...

Jericho, haven't you got your own blog somewhere? If I want to read your thoughts on this I'll go there. Your long-winded rantings here are akin to spam.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 4:32:00 pm  
Blogger Iqbal Khaldun said...

Pakistan's military establishment, which is the real bedrock of Pakistan the nation state, never gave up its investment in mujahedin (religious warriors) or madrassas (religious schools). The reasons for this are complex but no less criminal than America’s investment in Israeli tanks or Islam Karimov’s secret police. I think Musharraf feels he cannot make any serious attempt to remove the structures which create militant extremists because he fears his ouster. There exists in Pakistan a large band of mainly middle ranking army and military intelligence officers who were directly involved in the creation of the mujahedin, and who are quite attached to them. Musharraf and the present army elite are products of the period just around independence. They are the last generation of the British-educated, secular-oriented officer corp and they have a severe personal distaste for the more orthodox types. Of course, that did not stop them from supporting such elements out of opportunism.* The problem is that many of the middle ranking officers are more enamored to orthodox Islam, the ways of the Taliban, etc. They are a minority within Pakistan, but a powerful one. They have the potential to be even more powerful once Musharraf drops off the scene.

So what has the Western response to all this been? Perhaps something is happening behind the scenes, but I doubt it. Based on publicly availably information, it is difficult to see any significant Western dialogue with Pakistan’s mainstream, secular political parties. Pakistan’s economy is only surviving (and therefore, so too Musharraf) because of billions in American (and some British and other EU) aid. You can’t tell me that those billions don’t give the United States a powerful lever to drive Musharraf towards democracy, the removal of the religious schools, and, eventually his abdication. It might not be an easy, instantaneous process, but I struggle to find any evidence of such a process being promoted. At present, Musharraf continues to quite skillfully create a political environment in which, without him, there is a political vacuum in Pakistan, thereby making him indispensable to Western interests. To give but one example, we hear from time to time that some significant Al Qaeda figure has been captured in Pakistan. There’s rarely significant analysis of who exactly the person is. But the news reports give important political capital to Bush, Blair, et al because it ‘proves’ to the public that we are winning the war. It also avoids serious analysis of the social and political situation in Pakistan, which is dire.

* A fact Musharraf conveyed himself when he visited Australia. Of course, not in front of the mainstream press, but at a small dinner engagement hosted by the local Pakistani community. It suffices to say my spies were present. ;-)

Sunday, July 24, 2005 5:06:00 pm  
Blogger evan jones said...

AAP today:
But former London police chief John Stevens defended the tactics.
"I sent teams to Israel and other countries hit by suicide bombers where we learned a terrible truth," he wrote in the News of the World.
"There is only one sure way to stop a suicide bomber determined to fulfil his mission - destroy his brain instantly, utterly. That means shooting him with devastating power in the head, killing him immediately."
The collateral damage from the Israeli occupation just keeps spreading.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 5:42:00 pm  
Blogger Mike Jericho said...

Pat, there is no surer way to shut me up than evidence how and where I'm mistaken.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 5:54:00 pm  
Blogger David Heidelberg said...

they had to shoot him. Why? Because to not do so would have been criminally negligent.

Goodness Mike, that's a little extreme, even for you.

I vote that you go and explain that to the guy's family, and counsel the witnesses who now have to live with the image of an inocent man being shot to death in front of their eyes.

I like you Mike, but jeez you're an a grade arsehole.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 10:17:00 pm  
Blogger Vasco Pyjama said...

There has been an interesting point raised here in that it is now standard operating procedure for police to kill if someone is suspected of being a terrorist. The reason for this is that: If a suicide bomber is merely wounded "he can massacre in his final seconds of consciousness".

I do not know a lot about law. I am not a lawyer. But I am a humanitarian worker. And we are taught International Humanitarian Law (IHL). And I would have thought that what has occured would not even have been appropriate for IHL. A person who is a civilian, who is not visibly armed, who is under control of armed personnel, cannot be legally killed under IHL. If this is a war on terrorism, perhaps IHL is a relevant framework to use?

An interesting point is that the armed personnel for RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands) whether they be ADF, AFP, APS, or forces from other Pacific Islands have very strict rules of engagement. They cannot attack unless they are being attacked. They cannot even shoot someone who is armed, and a potential threat, but not shooting. These rules of engagement are clear.

But clearly rules of engagement in the London Underground are different.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 10:34:00 pm  
Blogger Mike Jericho said...

David, be honest. You despise me. Don't go all mushy and take away my reason for living.

My justification is that you, your wife and your little daughter, sitting hypothetically in the front row of the train, in a situation where a life-or-death decision must be made immediately (lest the choice be made by the suicide bomber instead) are more important than the man who has just ventured out from a suspected terrorist hideout wearing clothes seemingly designed to conceal a suicide vest, proceeded to flee from police challenges to halt and then made directly for a train juicily packed with victimy goodness.

You follow?

In that senario, I will live with a stupid bastard dying, even if he wasn't wearing a vest. Why? Because the next time, or the time after that, the guy will be a bomber, and you, or your two primary reasons for living, along with a whole lot of other precious people, will be turned into so much charred flesh.

I don't dislike you, so you'll forgive me if I don't wish that on you.

This is the reality of our time. And more innocent people will die. It's a sad consequence of facing the kind of adversary we do. They have thrust the necessity of change upon us.

A sad turning point in history.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 11:33:00 pm  
Blogger Mike Jericho said...

But clearly rules of engagement in the London Underground are different.

Precisely. On the underground, in a train, the rules change. Note; they did not kill him anytime before then. Had their intention merely been to kill this man they could have done so while he was still in his house.

It wasn't the fact that he was a suspected terrorist that got him killed. It was the immediate threat he presented to the public. His action, in fleeing the police and making for the target that these terrorists have chosen to suicide bomb time and time again - a train - he negated any chance the police had of simply isolating him and taking him into custody. He forced them to make a choice between the passengers or him.

Remember the suspect taken outside Downing Street? They didn't shoot him because the foot traffic in the area was light, and the officers at the time made the judgement call that if he were a suicide bomber, he wouldn't cause sufficient lethality to warrant killing him for pre-emptive safety. Plus, they had not seen him come from a suspect's house that very morning.

So they arrested him. In the future, aside from those silly people who hang out with terror suspects, wear thick jackets in summer, run away from police commands to stop, and run onto a bus or train, nobody else will be shot. They'll just be isolated and arrested.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 11:42:00 pm  
Blogger David Heidelberg said...

I don't despise you at all Mike. I don't like some things you say, but what am I going to do? I don't doubt your motives, just you method.

But answer this. How is a guy supposedly wearing a suicide vest, allowed to walk around London for an hour before entering a train station, and only then confronted? Shouldn't they have done it earlier?

It sounds like complete horseshit, and a feeble attempt to make excuses for a mistake. A horrible mistake.

Sunday, July 24, 2005 11:53:00 pm  
Blogger Shay said...

Mike,
Can you give me a link to a report that gives all the details you wrote? I haven't seen anything yet about Menezes leaving the home of a terrorist suspect. I did see a report (but it was a very preliminary report) that he vaulted a turnstile, but it said that he was being pursued by police at this time. So it may have been that police saw his coat (surely you've seen people wearing coats on a warm day before, however strange it might look!), challenged him to stop and that, whether he had committed a petty crime and was scared of being caught or whether he was just plain scared that a pack of police had suddenly pointed guns at him, he vaulted the turnstile and ran from the police. I don't know if this is a fact, but then neither do you.

If he ignored calls to halt by police officers, then despite his scared state he was pretty stupid, but I hate to think that I could be living in a state where people are shot dead extrajudicially simply for resisting police, being petty criminals, being stupid, or a combination of all three.

It is easy to say: "Had the man simply stopped when challenged, he would not have been harmed." But have you ever had a gun pointed at you? I have been stopped by militia with guns before, and I can tell you I would have done or said whatever I thought was most likely to keep me alive.

Monday, July 25, 2005 12:01:00 am  
Blogger djotefsoup said...

Let's say for example, that the police and intelligence services had actually bothered with doing their job in the first place, and had known about the existence of, membership of, and intentions of this bombing group.

That "leaving the residence of suspected bombers" is the lynchpin of the case against the shot suspect is a very poor showing for one of the most expensive security operations in the world today. Who was he? Dunno. Was he being set up to bomb something? Dunno. Were there explosives for him to use? Dunno. Where did he come from and why was he there? Dunno. Where's the money for transit checkpoints, bomb screening, tube security? Sorry - couldn't find money for that one, spent a bucketload creating two seperate failed state terrorist training camps in the middle east instead.

So obviously, rather than fixing all that - the solution is to just chase dark people, and if they run, shoot them in the head.

You know, I don't actually blame the police for following through with their training - doing that job takes balls. Attempting to justify idiot ballsup murders on internet message boards has no testicular weigh-in, however, and frankly if you love the taste of shoe leather that much I'm sure that your local paper has a services section where you can find your choice of woman/man/midget/horse who will treat you to it in privacy.

Have some self respect, for gods sake, mike.

Monday, July 25, 2005 12:06:00 am  
Blogger Vasco Pyjama said...

I just noticed that the policemen were in plain clothes. I wonder if that impacted on Jean Charles's reaction. I might find gunmen chasing me quite scary. But I suppose they would have yelled that they were the police. I wonder if it has anything to do with his understanding of police culture in Brazil, where he came from. From memory, Brazil's police have a strong zero tolerance and summary execution-type culture.

To be honest, I am not sure what the answer is, Mike. If I had children, and if I thought that harm might come to them, I too might kill someone. But I cannot help but feel some sadness for a young man's life cut short, because of what clearly is a bad judgement call on his part. I wonder what made him run. Maybe he had some marijuana on him or something. But I suppose we won't know now.

I suppose I am surprised that our rules of engagement in major 'Western' cities are more violent than the rules of engagement in active conflict zones like the Weathercoast in Guadalcanal. Mike, you think that this move is necessary? Would you approve of this type of SOP in your city? Do you think our rules of engagement in conflict zones are too limiting?

Monday, July 25, 2005 12:12:00 am  
Blogger Vasco Pyjama said...

Shay, this has the details on what he was wearing. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4706913.stm

Monday, July 25, 2005 12:16:00 am  
Blogger Shay said...

Try this one here: http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/to-his-family-a-tragedy-to-police-a-regrettable-incident-on-thetube/2005/07/24/1122143730007.html

So the guy "lived in the same block of flats" as a terrorist suspect. Well obviously he should be shot then. He was wearing a padded coat on a summer day... just remember he's a Brazilian in England, and last I checked there was no law against inappropriate clothing. And thanks Vasco for the tip - the cops were in plain clothes. So the guy has men he doesn't know, wearing plain clothes, pulling a gun on him... who can blame him for running? And nobody in such a hurry would waste time purchasing a ticket when he could jump the turnstile.

Sounds like a tragic balls-up to me.

Monday, July 25, 2005 1:09:00 am  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

And there's more on the guy here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/0,16132,1535565,00.html

Monday, July 25, 2005 12:17:00 pm  
Blogger Shay said...

While we're at it, can you believe Howard today refusing to say whether or not our police have been given shoot-to-kill powers? (http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200507/s1421367.htm). Surely people who know whether or not police can and will shoot them in the head are more likely to surrender rather than having their brains decorating the floor of the train, especially if, like Menezes, they are not planning to blow themselves up! And we would not have innocent people dying, nor police having to live with the fact that they shot someone.

Monday, July 25, 2005 1:53:00 pm  
Blogger Vasco Pyjama said...

Argh... just heard on ABC -- his visa had expired. Probably was the reason why he ran.

Monday, July 25, 2005 11:05:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

Heard the same report (and as Geoffrey Robertson said on Lateline, how many Aussies are in the UK also overstaying their visa?)

Monday, July 25, 2005 11:15:00 pm  
Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

What a mess. What next?

Monday, July 25, 2005 11:33:00 pm  
Blogger Antony Loewenstein said...

More innocents shot, more fear created, and I fear, little public outcry...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005 12:40:00 am  

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