i Editor's Letter: Does the end justify the means?


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The Independent Online


Now that the bombers are either dead or in custody, questions are being asked about the draconian decision to lock down Boston in the attempt to capture them on Friday. One million people told to stay indoors and not go to work or school in an attempt to locate and capture suspects who turned out to be the Tsarnaev brothers.

No planes, T, buses, cars, schools and offices. Imagine. Imagine as compliant a population as hard-nosed Bostonians. Make no mistake, they were in shock. Terror had once again shattered the peaceful certainties of another major city, and – as with New York in 2001 – a frightened urban population was looking for leadership; for someone to be seen doing something.

For Rudy Giuliani after 9/11, read Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino, straight-talking in a way that is startling to the British ear, used to trying to work out what Dave, Ed, Nick or Boris mean when they speak. Menino, struggling with the after-effects of a broken leg, agreed with Police Commissioner Ed Davis and other authorities that the city be shut down as the suspects were so heavily armed and capable of inflicting more damage. This was  confirmed when the first shoot-out revealed a huge weapons arsenal.

The second shoot-out, which may have ended with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev shooting himself in the mouth, not only produced the alleged “perp” but  another arsenal.

Bostonians and Americans will be happy they got their man (men) dead or alive, and that no one else will die, if still horrified at the past week’s events. To them the end  justified the means. Did it?

They got lucky. Perhaps too, you make your own luck. But they could have been a whole lot luckier if they had acted upon Russian intelligence warnings about the brothers in the first place. Proactive private action based on intelligence and understanding may have negated the need for a brute, reactive public display of force.