Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Thin Blue Lie

     In the news in the last week or so, there have been two airline tragedies in which an innocent was killed. The other night, a Southwest airplane overshot the runway at Chicago-Midway and careened into a busy intersection, crushing two cars and killing a 6-year old boy. Now, I love flying. I almost always buy a window seat and I bring my camera onboard to take pictures of the landscape below. I love the feeling of taking off - the amount of power pushing me forward is exhilarating. But landing scares the bejeezus out of me. Of course, in almost every airport I've flown into, there's a hill or a lake or some other obstacle at the end of the runway which would seriously damage me if the plane didn't stop in time. I was surprised that a landing plane could just roll out to an intersection. So I pulled up Midway on Google Earth (my new favorite toy to waste time at work) and was shocked to see a small, square airfield in the middle of a neighborhood.

     This picture is probably what the pilot saw before the plane came down. The orange "X" on the top is where the plane ran off the runway and hit 2 cars. Yes, all those things around the airport are houses. I found a great picture on Comcast.net that shows a house right behind the nose of the plane. It's like what happens when you invite John Travolta over for Thanksgiving dinner.
     As disturbing and scary as that story was, the next one makes me feel far less safe. (As long as I'm not flying into Midway during a snowstorm, that is) Last Wednesday, Federal Air Marshals shot and killed an American citizen. Like the last case of shrunken Right to Life on the London Underground, this one raises more questions about how free we really are. As you might recall, in July, London police shot and killed a Brazilian immigrant in the subway. In fact, they shot him point blank in the head after he was on the ground. They then lied to the public, telling us that he was acting highly suspiciously, had been running through the subway station despite calls to halt, and was wearing a very heavy jacket on a very warm day. As it turns out, none of this was true, but it didn't keep wingnuts from declaring the shooting a victory in the War on Terror.
     Well, they're declaring another victory in Miami, because on December 7th, another innocent man was murdered. After claiming Rigoberto Alpizar had yelled that he had a bomb and was reaching for his pocket, federal officials have been backpedaling as it turns out it was not true. But while the wingnuts claim victory in the best case and overreaction in the worst, this is a very disturbing development in our backyard. (Your front yard, if you're reading this from South Florida) First is the fact that Alpizar was shot and killed, not in the high-risk environment of a flying plane, or even the tightly crowded environment of a landed plane, but on the embarkation ramp leading to the plane. Where shooting first and asking questions later might be good policy at 30,000 feet, American police don't (and shouldn't) operate that way. What's the police procedure for dealing with a man who may have a bomb? I have no idea. But keep in mind that this was a man who had been through at least one security clearance already. Second, why would air marshals think Alpizar even had a bomb? Not one of the passengers interviewed even recalled him saying the word "bomb". That's pretty rare, because in most stories like this, we hear conflicting stories. But not one other passenger heard "bomb". Which brings us to Third: Why are we being lied to?
     I have to say, I hate being lied to. Hate, hate, hate, hate it. I've gotten used to it, though, from this administration. I don't trust this administration. I do have to trust our police, out of necessity. But it's clear that they're as willing to lie as anyone with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on their driver's license. Shoot an innocent man? Make up a lie about him. Smear him in the press. Make him unbelievable and unsympathetic. I actually have a lot of respect for the Air Marshals, but if someone isn't harshly punished for breaching the public's trust on this, I will have lost a lot of it. Killing people and covering it up are hallmarks of the KGB or Nazi SS. Are they now going to be tactics of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)? We all say that if we behave we'll be OK. Is it true? We may never hear the full story on Alpizar because the MSM is too scared of real controversy. But if the police are allowed to get away with shooting one innocent man mere yards from his frantic wife and then lying about it to get away with it, what's to stop them from shooting you and making up a lie? They may already have a backup lie ready, just in case. Think about that the next time you're flying with a cranky 7-year old who might decide to get back at you by telling security you're a terrorist. And just hope to God you don't look South American.

9 comments:

Ben said...

Now wait a second. All I've heard is that the people on the plane did not hear the man mention a bomb while on the plane, but once he was in the skyway or whatever, they couldn't hear whatever was said. I can't imagine our cops would just shoot a man for the heck of it in this situation, I feel they had to have had a good reason. If evidence appears proving the marshalls lied, sure, they deserve punishment. If they were not lying, then they were completely justified. Regardless, it is the height of irresponsibility to bring a severly bipolar man on to an airplane (or to any public area) without proper medication. The man's wife is as responsible for this as the people who shot him.

Ben said...

Oh, I meant to add, I don't know anyone that thinks this is anything other than a tragedy. I've yet to see someone claim a victory for the war on terror, except you by putting words in people's mouths.

Argon said...

You overstate the "wingnut" position. I assume by "wingnut" you mean anyone who does not want to see innocent people in an airport get blown up. Nobody is claiming "victory" in this. Curious how you couldn't point out a link. It's tragic this man died, but you can't blame the air marshals or the administration for this.

The man was acting suspicious. He seemed nervous and was running off the plane. The marshals told him to get on the ground. He did not follow orders. He started to reach into his bag. In that split second they had to make a choice. Do I stop this man with force or wait to see what he's going to do next. Your hindsight review of the situation proves you don't completely comprehend what these marshals are asked to do.

Scott said...

OK Argon, so the man was shot. Tragedy, sure, but accidents happen. My two points:
1) It's the system I blame, not necessarily the cops. Had this guy been running around Miami Beach like this, he most likely wouldn't have been shot. You train Air Marshals for a job on a plane, but you can't let them police off the plane because situations are different. Just like you wouldn't hand a military rifle to an Iraqi war vet and tell him to keep peace in a high school lunchroom. His training is best suited for war - you're courting disaster if you think the same people who protect us in the Middle East are the right people to protect us on our city sidewalks.
2) Why did they lie?

Ben said...

I think they should be more sensitive to possible danger on planes than Miami Beach. That's why they have metal detectors at airports and not beaches.

I still haven't seen that they lied except from you. You seem to want them to have lied, though. That seems to be a running theme with you.

Scott said...

Ben, how clever of you to figure out the super-secret theme I have so stealthily hidden in the title of this post.

Sylvana said...

I did read a few articles on this and although I didn't see anything about what the witnesses heard, I did see a discrepancy in the stories that the air marshals were saying about the situation. Some stories quote the AM as saying that they were forced to shoot when he ran toward the terminal and reached into his bag, while other AM accounts said that they were forced to shoot him when he turned and came toward them aggressively. Sounds kind of fishy to me.

sideshow bob said...

I'm sure in the UK they couldn't imagine an innocent man being shot, seemingly for the heck of it.

I'm sure Scott doesn't want them to have lied, just like I'm sure Scott doesn't want America to be destroyed, even though he's a commie liberal pinko Osama-kisser, just like the rest of us liberals. It seems to me he's a little alarmed about they way overreaction is justified as necessary, because, after all, "9/11 Changed Everything!"

I do like the "blame the widow" idea, though...

ORF said...

Ok, so weirdly, that aerial view shows up in Firefox now, Scott.