Friday, August 05, 2005

Kill 'Em All

According to Reuters, the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued new guidelines to its 20,000 members a mere two weeks before British authorities repeatedly shot a Brazilian suspect in the head.

The new guidelines: use deadly force to deal with suspected bombers. Shoot them in the head. Don't even bother asking questions and forget about investigating their answers. Kill 'em all.

So, what a are the guidelines for ascertaining whether a suspect is a bomber? They are fairly general:
Among signs to look for listed in the police organization's behavioral profile are wearing a heavy coat in warm weather, carrying a backpack with protrusions or visible wires, nervousness, excessive sweating or an unwillingness to make eye contact, the Post said.

The new guidelines also say the threat does not have to be "imminent" -- as in traditional police training -- an officer just needs to have a "reasonable basis" for believing a suspect can detonate a bomb.
The threshold has been lowered from "imminent danger" to "reasonable basis", from "arresting a suspect" to "killing a suspect". The establishment of what constitutes a "reasonable basis" is equally questionable. According to the above signs, a homeless person with an old coat might be a target. Anyone carrying a walkman or iPod would constitute a bomber. As for the person who demonstrates "nervousness, excessive sweating, or unwillingness to make eye contact," that could describe almost anyone who still uses public transit these days. Though now, it's not just the terrorist threat that creates this "nervousness," it's the possibility that the police will mistakenly shoot them in the head as well.

I know "Kill 'Em All" advocates will argue that though some innocent individuals could be killed, it will still drastically reduce the hundred that would have died from the bomber's blast. But I challenge the assumption of that argument. Besides the morality of equating suspicion to absolute guilt and finally execution, I believe there is no proof that such a system will prevent suicide bombers. As a matter of fact, the list of suspicious activity can either be avoided or completely ignored by using groups rather than individuals. The concept that terrorists continually use one technique over and over again is ludicrous. Even in Iraq, terrorists and insurgents are constantly evolving.

The final point is this: by giving into hysteria, the world is admitting defeat. The goal of terrorism is to cower a population by fear. The fear that causes groups to abandon their rights under freedom, to report location of terrorist cells, and the fear to continue turning the world economy.

This violent reaction to the London Bombings and terrorist violence worldwide will only serve to justify the terrorists. By not sticking to the guns of democracy and giving into fear and intimidation, the terrorists can rightly claim the democratic world is made up of hypocrites. As Benjamin Franklin so aptly put it:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.


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