Sunday, July 24, 2005

The War on Terror and Shoot to Kill

The "war on terror" is clearly being lost (of course this is not surprising, as it seems to be more about motivations rather than about actually ending terrorism). After the crazy events of Thursday where we were mercifully spared the misery of the 7th of July, Egypt also suffered a terrorist attack this weekend where as I write over 80 people have died. This takes place against the backdrop of the daily murders and suicide bombings taking place in the country that used to be Iraq (perhaps we should explain to the Islamic world that this isn't really democracy - after all, if their experience of democracy comes from Iraq since 2003 and Israel (and in particular the occupation of Palestine), it's not a surprise that they are not that enthusiastic about it).

What is just as concerning about the recent events is that the police shot dead an innocent man because he was acting suspiciously and was wearing strange clothing for the weather. Obviously we will need to wait for the full inquiry into the shooting before criticising those involved, as I'm not sure the media reports are giving a fully accurate version of what happened. The shoot-to-kill policy is undoubtedly necessary when suicide bombings are the weapon of choice of the state's enemy, but it raises real questions of how and when they can be justified in a specific instance. What constitutes suspicious activity? If a person's first language isn't English, how can this be taken into account when the police give a command, particularly if they are in plain clothes and one of them has a gun?

After all, would you like to be at the wrong end of a mistaken decision?

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