As I’m sure you know the London police shot a man dead, who they suspected to be a suicide bomber, but who turned out to be an innocent man from Brazil. This is a great tragedy.
And it does force us to consider a few questions. That it was a mistake is obvious, and such mistakes are bound to happen with a shoot-to-kill policy. Does this mean that the policy should be abandoned?
Clearly, if you are to stop a man with a belt of explosives who are headed for the underground it will not be sufficiant to shoot him in the legs – he can still press the detonator, and set off the bomb killing tens of people. And with the threat so strong and obvious as it is, I think the policy can still be defended – despite tragedies like this one, where completely innocent people loose their lives. The alternative is worse, and would result in even more innocent people dying. This is the terror of suicide bombers. We can only choose between existing options, and as I see it those are the two we have: a shoot-to-kill policy that will take down terrorists but will also lead to fatal mistakes, or not having that policy and therfore not being able to stop some of the suicide bombers which means an increased number of victims for terrorism. Neither are good. The former is better than the latter. Hopefully policemen will be better trained to see who’s a terrorist and who’s a regular passenger, albeit one that is oddly dressed and running away from the police. It’s not an easy job sometimes, and the decision needs to be made in an instant. A correct judgement would save lots of people from being blown to pieces – a mistake will mean the death of an innocent.
I don’t envy the police, for having to do this, but it needs to be done. And should we hesitate to do what needs to be done, and instead give in to terrorist demand, if only ever so slightly, the terrorists around the world will be emboldened and the threat will become ever greater. Defeating terrorism will require patience, cleverness, a vast amount of measures, and it will result in heavy losses. But it needs to be done, and we all have to do our part.