This is a post that I’ve been wanting to make for a while now, but haven’t, because the facts still weren’t clear and there’s a part of me that aspires to journalism beyond pure blogging.
July 23, 2005. “Bomb suspect shot dead on Tube”.
July 24, 2005. “Police gunned down innocent man”.
Notably, police did not gun down “Bomb suspect”. Shoot first, ask questions later. Okay, whatever. They screwed up, they’re only human. So why am I jumping up and down about it (value of human life aside — because we know thousands of people in non-Western countries are being killed everyday and no-one blinks)?
If nothing else, their reasoning. The apparent lack of recourse.
“For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets,” police said, acknowledging they had shot the wrong man.
They are now trying to get the body of murdered Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes, back to his home land in accordance with the wishes of his family.
“The government expects the British authorities to explain the circumstances that led to this tragedy,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.
The Brazilian was “apparently the victim of a lamentable mistake”, the statement said.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim issued a statement in which he states his expectation the British authorites explain the events that unfolded. This is important: there has been no mention from the British of any further investigation or inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.
The actual nature of the killing itself, however, is also in need of explanation. Police, apparently, assessed the risk and determined the actions that would result in the murder (I use that word unflinchingly, for that is what this is) of an innocent man. Let us pause to collect what we know of the situation, from the statements of eyewitnesses.
The police were in plain clothes. Other passengers on the train had absolutely no way of knowing with any degree of certainty that the men weilding guns were, in fact, members of the London Metropolitan Police Service. Without indulging in conspiracy theory, to this day the only way the public can “know” this is by the [later, rather delayed] statements of the police force itself: the actual killers could quite easily have been a covert British force that unseen agreements neccessitated the blame being placed upon the Metropolitan Police.
The “Metropolitan Police Service”, wearing plain clothes, weilding several “heavy”-looking handguns (according to eyewitness Mark Whitby), start chasing after this man.
If we cut through the ideological obfuscation about how “terrorism has no effects on the population” whatsoever and “insert name of attacked city here will be strong!” rhetoric, just for a second, it’s pretty self-evident that terrorism does have very real effects, manifest in (amongst other things) a prevailing sense of paranoia. Terror, conceptually, is based upon the irrational. You are not statistically likely to be killed in a public place in London, but the fear is there. Similarly, a man wearing a New York tee-shirt and a coat that “looked out of place in the hot humid weather” (also Mark Whitby) would not, without the context of previous days, be considered a suspect, chased into a train carriage in a public place, and shot in the head at close range five times.
Terrorism, clearly, does have effects. Ignore the population: it has effects upon rational government. It makes our leaders pass ineffective laws that hamper the population but do little to prevent terrorism. In Sydney, about a week ago, the media started issuing demands that “radical” books in Islamic bookshops be — and I quote — “burnt”.
I’m sorry, did I miss something? Why is an increasingly “liberal” Western population reverting to burning books? Whilst we’re at it, can we burn all the works of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Marx, a host of other communist leaders, and, if we were to continue, the works of various French revolutionaries that would unequivocably be considered anti-establishment? Who cares what the establishment is — political violence is political violence, is it not?
Oh, no, apparently not. But everyone avert their heads from Vietnam and other instances of US-sanctioned political violence, just in case. That wasn’t about democracy, it was about stopping communism that had turned North Vietnam into an industrialised state with the fastest-growing economy in the region to which aid from Russia and China decreased whilst similar aid to South Vietnam increased and they became progressively more dependent upon the US.
But that was, of course, a huge digression that just threw me into a big pit full of Leftist writers. Ah, quick, let me out.
So let’s ignore the politics behind it for a second, and look at raw emotion. A man was shot in the head five times at close range on public transport. SOMEBODY, BLINK! I’m sure I’m missing something that makes all this perfectly fine — and don’t say prior acts of terrorism, because that’s been proven to be unconnected, remember? Terrorism has no effect on the population! Oh, what was that? I’m assuming imposed ideologies? Yeah, maybe.
Whilst I’m on this whole rant, I thought I’d mention tomorrow I’m going to blow up the Sydney Harbour Bridge…
…and the only reason I’m capable of doing this, is that I don’t yet have a national identity card to act as a restraining force upon me. I’m imagining they’d come out now, and the force it would have on me as I walked towards the center of the bridge wearing a large backpack… Oooh!!! It’s pulling me back!!! I can’t possibly detonate this bomb, because that would mean I’d destroy this beautiful work of holographic, biometric, forensic perfection! Oh, yeah, and they’d be able to identify me as the person who did it if it survived the blast. Because, seeing as I’m a suicide bomber, I do actually care a great deal about that.
To the Australian Government: whoever decides this is a good idea should be taken out on an excursion to Sydney’s public transport network. They should be pursued by people in plain clothes calling out to them to stop, weilding handguns. The public should obligingly step out of the way and accept this as normal. The member of the public service who is being pursued will trip, and fall to the floor in the doorway of a train carriage. They will cower, whilst three armed men come to the doorway of the train, and raise their guns in the air, pointing to the head of the person who is now powerless beneath them.
The floor of the carriage is red. “Everybody, please leave the carriage. This person was a suspect.”
Twenty other — now uniformed — people come running.
Two days later, a statement is issued. But we already know the ending. It has been realised in the actions that recursively lead to the the death of this pulpy combination of blood and flesh. A death of public freedoms has been realised, and the people have calmly left their carriage of liberties without further question:– afterall, the guns are held by someone else.
The terrorists have won.
If I were to write that in my HSC exam, as a short story or a work of fiction, chances are the paper would be considered a non-serious attempt, as has happened previously in at least one widely-publicised case with ‘excessive’ violence (If memory serves me correctly, this instance detailed a school shooting, I think). This violence is not only on our streets, and in our televisions: it is so pervasive in society that the institutions once assigned the role of preventing such now facilitate it gratuitously and without need for explanation. Remember, in all this, that the British government and bodies that constitute their public service (including the police force) have not identified the need for any further investigation into the procedures that have allowed this brutal murder to take place, and neither has any further investigation into why this man in particular was shot. As of the time of writing, the most recent press release available on the Metropolitan Police website is from the previous day:
“I can say as part of operations linked to yesterday’s incidents, Met police officers have shot a man inside Stockwell Underground Station at approximately 10am this morning. London Ambulance Service and the air ambulance both attended and the man was pronounced dead at the scene. I understand Stockwell tube station remains closed.
The information I have available if [sic] that this shooting is directly linked to the ongoing and expanding anti-terrorist operation. [Emphasis mine] Any death is deeply regrettable. I understand the man was challenged and refused to obey. I can’t go any further than that at this stage…”
– Sir Ian Blair
This information has since been proven incorrect, yet there is a prevailing silence from the authorities. Democracy requires a degree of openness that has not been allowed, here. Irrespective as to any “ongoing and expanding anti-terrorist operation”, announcing that an investigation is proceeding into this specific event is not only of no detriment to “anti-terrorist” operations, but a requisite aspect of democracy.