Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why didn't the New York Times report on Indian police refusing to shoot the terrorists?

From an interview in the British press with a photographer who took a photo of one of the terrorists in Mumbai as the attacks were beginning:

[W]hat angered [the photographer, Sebastian] D'Souza ... were the masses of armed police hiding in the area who simply refused to shoot back. "There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything," he said. "At one point, I ran up to them and told them to use their weapons. I said, 'Shoot them, they're sitting ducks!' but they just didn't shoot back."
As the gunmen fired at policemen taking cover across the street, Mr D'Souza realised a train was pulling into the station unaware of the horror within. "I couldn't believe it. We rushed to the platform and told everyone to head towards the back of the station. Those who were older and couldn't run, we told them to stay put."
The militants returned inside the station and headed towards a rear exit towards Chowpatty Beach. Mr D'Souza added: "I told some policemen the gunmen had moved towards the rear of the station but they refused to follow them. What is the point of having policemen with guns if they refuse to use them? I only wish I had a gun rather than a camera."
Mickey Kaus looks at how the New York Times reported on that story the next day:
Read the Times story and you'll see a numbing litany of "systemic" problems with Indian security, including "Ill-paid city police [who] are often armed with little more than batons," and "little information-sharing among law enforcement agencies" and all that inadequate equipment, including "old, bulky bulletproof jackets" and lack of  those high-power scopes and "no technology at their disposal to determine where the firepower was coming from ..." It reads like the budget-increase proposal submitted by the Mumbai police bureaucracy--The Indian Omnibus Anti-Terror Funding Act of 2009.  Nowhere in the NYT story will you learn what American blog readers learned a day earlier when Instapundit (among others) linked to the Belfast story: Police had lots of guns, and no problem seeing who and where the terrorists were, but they wouldn't shoot at them.
I'm used to a sort of Liebling-like hierarchy of news sources, with twitterers and bloggers being fastest, but maybe less reliable, while the grand institutions of the MSM weigh in later with more comprehensive and accurate accounts. But that's not what is happening with this Mumbai story. The "fast" sources are telling you what happened. The "slow" MSM sources are using their extra time to sanitize what's happened, to build euphemistic assumptions into their very reporting of the events themselves--in this case, it just so happens, liberal assumptions: 1) the idea that there is no problem that can't be solved by greater funding for government bureaucracies and more interagency taskforces[,] 2) the predisposition to think widely-distributed small arms and a willingness to use them can never be a good idea and 3) an antipathy to any suggestion that an aspect of foreign culture is inferior to nasty American culture. (Maybe we Americans are trigger happy. But do we think that a handful of terrorists could have gone on a similar rampage in New York City without quite quickly encountering a fair number of cops who would have shot back--let alone armed civilians who did the same)? ...
I don't actually know if Kaus is right about this. Maybe the photographer's story lacked credibility for one reason or another and the Times was being more cautious in not simply taking one person's word as the story.

If we're going to be skeptical of the mainstream media's analysis, we should be even more skeptical of bloggers' critiques of the mainstream media's analysis.

But Kaus's distinction between cut-to-the-heart-of-the-matter bloggers vs. kid-gloves mainstream media has the ring of truth.



Unknown said...

It's not really surprising at all that the Indian police were unable to shoot the attackers. They were demonstrating perfectly normal and expected human behavior. Or at least expected by those who understand how humans react to combat. I guess it was not expected by the average movie-watcher or video-game player.

Look up SLA Marshall: He found that soldiers will only fire their weapons at the enemy 15% of the time. The natural human reluctance to kill another human being is difficult to overcome -- even when your own life is threatened.

Also look up LTC David Grossman: he also discusses these matters.

The solution is proper training. After the Pentagon discovered only 15% of troops would shoot at the enemy in WW2, training was drastically changed. By Korea, firing rates were increased to 50%. By Vietnam, firing rates were >90%. But this depends on the right kind of training.

And police -- Indian or American -- don't get that training. That's why they didn't shoot back. Not because they're cowards, but because they are human and lacked proper training.

Unknown said...

From an article in Harpers:

"Despite our entertainment industry telling us otherwise, it is not easy to kill. In his groundbreaking and highly influential study of World War II firing rates, S.L.A. Marshall, a World War I combatant and chief historian for the European Theater of Operations during World War II, interviewed soldiers fresh from battle and found that only 15 to 20 percent of the combat infantry were willing to fire their weapons, and that was true even when their life or the lives of their comrades were threatened. When Medical Corp psychiatrists studied combat fatigue cases in the European Theater, they found that “fear of killing, rather than fear of being killed, was the most common cause of battle failure in the individual,” Marshall reported. Marshall’s methodology is now in question, but his findings have been replicated in studies of Civil War and World War I battles, even in re-creations of Napoleonic wars. And the effect of his findings on the military has been profound."

Training methods have since changed:

"By the Korean War, the firing rate had gone up to 55 percent; in the Vietnam war, it was around 90 to 95 percent. How did the military achieve this? As Grossman writes, 'Since World War II, a new era has quietly dawned in modern warfare: an era of psychological warfare—psychological warfare conducted not upon the enemy, but upon one’s own troops. . . . The triad of methods used to achieve this remarkable increase in killing are desensitization, conditioning, and denial defense mechanisms.'

"Training techniques became more realistic and varied. Soldiers no longer stood and fired at a nonmoving target. They were fully suited up, down in foxholes, and shooting at moving targets, targets that resembled other humans. Simultaneously, the “enemy,” whether North Korean, North Vietnamese, Russian, or Arab, was purposefully dehumanized. Killing people was described graphically, and with relish. As Dyer notes, most recruits realize the bloodthirsty talk of drill sergeants is hyperbole, but it still serves to desensitize them to the suffering of an 'enemy.'"

The Indian police obviously didn't receive the kind of training that would make it easy for them to kill other human beings.

Agnostic Monk said...

It's worth noting that the terrorists had machine guns and the police had old fashioned rifles. If memory serves me right, each low level inspector is only allotted two bullets. So them not firing does not surprise me.