Update [2005-7-25 15:43:13 by susanhu]: Below the fold, Larry Johnson and Pat Lang answer my question about the London shootnig.

There are natural relationships — correlations — between “shoot-to-kill policies” and civilian anxiety, fear and, in no time, hatred and more attacks.

  • “Shoot-to-Kill Policy to Remain” – BBC, July 24, 2005

  • “UK shoot-to-kill policy draws fire” – Mail & Guardian, South Africa, July 25, 2005:

“Now public trust in the police in ethnic communities, which holds a key to identifying terrorists, has understandably been badly shaken,” The Guardian said in an editorial.

“It was silly for Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, to deny yesterday [Sunday] that this was not a serious setback for the police.”

There are countless apt examples of the consequences — or “blowback” — of such policies. Today’s L.A. Times (sub. free) features a correspondent’s story, “Civilian Deaths Turn Iraqis Against U.S.”

Shots to the Heart of Iraq
Innocent civilians, including people who are considered vital to building democracy, are increasingly being killed by U.S. troops.

Three men in an unmarked sedan pulled up near the headquarters of the national police major crimes unit. The two passengers, wearing traditional Arab dishdasha gowns, stepped from the car.

At the same moment, a U.S. military convoy emerged from an underpass. Apparently believing the men were staging an ambush, the Americans fired, killing one passenger and wounding the other. The sedan’s driver was hit in the head by two bullet fragments.

The soldiers drove on without stopping.

This kind of shooting is far from rare in Baghdad, but the driver of the car was no ordinary casualty. He was Iraqi police Brig. Gen. Majeed Farraji, chief of the major crimes unit. His passengers were unarmed hitchhikers whom he was dropping off on his way to work. (Emphasis mine.)

There are hundreds of articles on the London shooting of an innocent Brazilian electrician, including a NYT piece, “Regrets, but No Apology, in London Subway Shooting,” July 25, 2005.

BELOW, with a POLL: What does Middle East and intelligence expert Col. Patrick Lang — writing at Larry Johnson’s blog — think of the London shooting? And what of a policy that says the only way to stop a suicide bomber is to “destroy his brain instantly, utterly.”

Update [2005-7-25 15:43:13 by susanhu]:

I asked both Larry Johnson and Patrick Lang to comment on the London shooting. Here are their replies:


The Police and Security services of Israel are largely, “manned” with Jewish and Druze citizens of the state. Their methods reflect their sense of alienation from the Palestinians. In both interrogation methods and a bias toward shooting “early and often” their sense of “separation” from them is evident.

The British police should consider that reality before accepting Israeli methodology uncritically.

There is also the possibillity of the use of the “dead man’s switch.”*

Patrick Lang



The fear factor leads to poor decision making. I still don’t
understand the rules of engagement on this shooting. If they shot because they thought he had a bomb I’d want some stand off. It is also not clear whether they identified themselves or not. This will produce blowback that will make it more difficult to react in the future when they need to. I’m with Pat that the Israeli methods are counterproductive generally.



Footnote: I looked up the term that Pat used — “dead man’s switch” — at Wikipedia. Among the many uses for the term is this: “Dead man’s switch devices have also been used in suicide bombing, to trigger the explosive if the bomber is shot or overpowered. This is a fail-deadly mechanism, rather than a fail-safe mechanism.”


On July 23, Pat Lang (bio) — who testified Friday at the Senate/House Democratic “Hearing on Security Implications of Revealing Covert Agent’s Identity” — wrote a commentary at Larry Johnson’s blog, No Quarter:

“LONDON – The man shot and killed on a subway car by London police in front of horrified commuters had nothing to do with this month’s bombings on the city’s transit system, police said Saturday in expressing their regrets.” (Yahoo News)

Well, he COULD have….. Maybe it is a good idea that the British police are normally not armed. This should do wonders for the tourist trade in London.

Another piece of this story says that he was shot under “police observation.” Three in the head while a couple of cops are kneeling on you is pretty close “observation.”

The British police are reputed to have been getting training and doctrinal advice from the Israelis lately. Good idea. It has worked so well for the Israelis.

Pat Lang

Every article I’ve seen on the shooting refers to the training that “teams” of London police have received in Israel. Today’s NYT story says:

Portraying the working environment of his police officers as “terrifying,” he said that “there is no point shooting at somebody’s chest, because that is where the bomb is likely to be.”

Instead, for the first time, police used special aim-for-the head tactics under a plan adopted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. The plan is described on the official London police Web site as a four-stage “coordinated response to suicide attacks.”

The police declined to discuss the guidelines used, but they are based partly on those used by Israel in stopping bombing suspects.

Lord Stevens, Sir Ian’s predecessor as the London police commissioner, wrote in an opinion piece in Sunday’s News of the World that he had sent teams for training to Israel and other countries hit by suicide bombers. There, he said, he had learned that, “There is only one sure way to stop a suicide bomber determined to fulfill his mission: destroy his brain instantly, utterly.”

Here’s a fascinating bit of history about “Bobbies” and the use of weapons — and the very difficult dilemma faced by today’s London police:

Previously armed police were instructed to shoot at an assailant’s body to disable or overwhelm them. Stevens explained that he engaged in the policy change from experience gleaned in Israel.

Blair said: “It is drawn on the experience from other countries including Sri Lanka.”

A small minority of police patrolling Britain’s cities and villages carry firearms.

Just 2 060 of Greater London’s 31 000 police officers have guns.

Three hundred and fifty of them in the Metropolitan’s plice’s elite S019 special operations unit are especially concerned by what Blair called “a shoot to kill in order to protect policy”.

But it is a far cry from the notion of policing by consent that early 19th century Home Affairs minister Robert Peel advocated when he created the police constables who gained their nickname of “Bobbies” from him.

Although practice varied between regions, apart from a period between 1884 and 1936, British police were allowed little more than a truncheon on routine patrol. Revolvers were kept under lock and key for exceptional events.

A wave of killings and record levels of gun crime in Britain, especially London, in the late 1990s — despite some of the toughest gun laws in the world — brought about more routine use of armed police in recent years.

According to senior officers, guns also brought a new challenge to British police, and the new rules of engagement against defiant suicide bombers have added to the pressure.

“It is a huge ethical dilemma and it takes special quality of individual to put themselves in that situation,” said Ken Jones, head of a committee dealing with terrorism for the Association of Chief Police Officers.

“This is a new world for us. We have been talking about this for some years, but it is now an operational reality on the streets of the United Kingdom. We have dreaded this day,” he added.

Sapa-AFP – Mail & Guardian, So. Africa, July 25, 2005

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