Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A conservative responds to the shooting

A conservative reacts to the shooting in London---Telegraph Opinion Don't wait for a marksman - get stuck in.

If the defence of what happened to Mr de Menezes is that it was the right treatment but the wrong patient and we'd better get used to it, perhaps the British Tourist Board could post signs at Terminal Four: "BIENVENUE A LONDRES! WE SHOOT TO KILL!" On the other hand, the day before the Met inaugurated its new policy, three suicide bombers managed to escape through Tube stations full of people. At Mr de Menezes's station, Stockwell, according to passenger James Boampong, "an olive-skinned man" mumbled a final prayer and then attempted to self-detonate on the Northern line. It was, fortunately, a damp squib. But he left his smoking backpack on the floor and fled at the Oval, up the down escalator and out to the street. Three passengers and the flower seller outside the station attempted to stop him but failed. Where was everyone else? Were they, like Tube drivers on the Bakerloo later that morning, downing tools and withholding their labour?

"Defiance" has to be more than just the latest disposable cliché of the headline writers. It would have been better had the "olive-skinned man" been caught and Mr de Menezes had been allowed to go to his electrical job. To do that you need not killer cops but an alert citizenry that understands, when you're on a train underground and something funny starts, there's unlikely to be any elite marksmen down there to take care of it. It's up to you.

And in the broader sense, the pathetic public execution of an innocent man on July 22 joins the events of July 21 and July 7 as a reminder of why a narrow, reactive law-enforcement approach to terrorism will always penalise the populace more than the terrorists. You win this war militarily (in the badlands of Pakistan and elsewhere) and culturally (which is a much tougher battle). Shoot-outs on the Tube aren't going to be much help - though, if they advance from Brazilians at Stockwell to theatregoers at Leicester Square, overcrowding at the Olympics isn't likely to be a problem.

He's right. The problem is that I think this will end up defining a new reality for a lot of people. If the bombings don't end, everyone will clamor for it.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if you have seen a semi-related story re: 5 British tourists who were arrested in Times Square, after boarding a tourist bus ---- they were suspicious because of backpacks, purchased tickets in advance and fannypacks.
It is a new reality.


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