Who Is The Enemy?

On July 21, 2014, I met Monique Hamburger and she told me about an article she had just written: a short piece that reflected on the trend to facilitate the deployment of the armed forces within the territory of what once were liberal democracies -- countries like Britain, France, the US, Germany, or Spain. All of these countries have already seen various governments succumb to the temptations of power, by opting in favor of a surveillance state and security state. A state that in fact makes citizens more insecure while making those elected more secure in their arrogance that they do not have to listen to the majority of the population, and that they do not have to keep the well-being of the population at heart.

It is not a nice idea that we are paying, with out taxes, for our own disempowerment as citizens, and that millions and millions of tax dollars and endless working hours of public employees who could accomplish more beneficial and truly useful tasks are wasted in order to collect the most trivial, but also the most private information on us.

While our smartphones, the ipad, ipod, digital television set, modern electrical oven and refrigerator, the electronically monitored central heating, the smartmeter that is said to simply measure the minute-by-minute (or second-by-second) fluctuations of our water consumption, but also our credit card and the black box in our car keep track of whatever we do, when, where, and for how long (and with whom, in many cases, as well), the intransparency of big government and big business increases from year to year.

And the media? Many just rock us and sing us to sleep. Which newspaper informed you, dear reader, about the fact that between 2006 and 2013, the local police in the United States received ninety-three thousand seven hundred and sixty-three machines guns? 93,763 weapons you would need in a civil war!  Which newspaper, which television station told you that the U.S. army sold five hundred and thirty-three of its planes and helicopters to local police authorities? What for, I beg you? 

The planes our police forces got are military planes -- so-called "surplus tools of combat" that became dispensible for the army after troops returned from the illegal war in Iraq. A war that was justified, as it were, by George W. Bush's lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons did never threaten us because -- as the American government later admitted -- they didn't exist. But now the soldiers that fought and killed in Iraq are no longer needed there, and surplus weapons become a commodity that must be sold and provide cash for the Pentagon. 

In the last seven years, the American government sold local authorities military weapons worth 1.4 billion US-dollars. Imagine that! How much soup we could have handed out to those 40 million Americans who go hungry day by day -- all those called "food insecure," by the bureaucrats! How many missed mortgages payments could have been possible with timely loans, during the long economic crisis we are dealing with. How many families might have been spared a sad experience -- that of homelessness, of being forced to sleep in cars, or under bridges, or in tents pitched by the riverside. 

They say the army has to get rid of all those weapons. The army considers them dispensible.  Aren't these weapons dispensible at home, too? Do our police officers really need them? Against whom? Against an unarmed  Black American teenager who wants to surrender to the police? Against peacefully demonstrating, yet angry citizens who conduct a sit-in in a city that is facing an invasion of militarily armed police, SWAT teams,  and national guard -- sent by whom? For what? To FRIGHTEN THE PEOPLE? To KEEP THEM FROM EXPRESSING THEIR ANGER AND THEIR OPPOSITION TO PRACTICES THAT AMOUNT TO THE COLD-BLOODED, UNMOTIVATED TAKING OF HUMAN LIVES? Justified, again, by lies? 

Whom should we trust, while in God we trust? 

Those who lied and lied again? 

Yes, we trust the fire department and we thought we could trust the police. It's a long, long time since we last trusted most politicians in Washington. But we want them, nonetheless, to answer our questions. Who is your enemy when you equip local police forces with military hardware worth 1.4 billion dollars? We, the people? Have we voted our enemies into office? WHO ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU UP TO?

Ron Paul, yes. And Dennis Kucinich. Congressman Wyden, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson Jr., and a handful of others. What about the rest? Who among you backed that sale of hardware? You, Mr. President? Is that the CHANGE you talked about? A change towards an internally militarized America -- because you're external enemies don't suffice?

Don't tell us you expect them to come here to do a lousy job of murder and terrorism. For all we know, our troops have killed a-plenty abroad. And --  sadly --  torture, drone assissinations, reckless killing of families, including children, by brutalized American soldiers entering their living room were part of the story. And it still continues. Can we expect something of the sort at home in the times ahead, those times that are a-changing for the worse?

We have seen a brutal police officer kneel on the helpless body of an old, homeless Black American woman.

We have witnessed a cop shoot a cripple in a wheelchair, a man who had just one arm and one leg left. 

Is that the new American way? Perhaps it is the old American way. The striking miners at Cripple Creek, Colorado, back in the days of Mother Jones, found out what security forces are capable of. The demonstrators assembling in Haymarket, in the windy city, were taught a lesson, too. It did not help them to be conscious of their democratic rights, eager to oppose America's entrance in a war between imperialist powers, a war between countries in Europe -- all equally vain in their competitive eagerness to plunder the rest of the world.  And weren't the four civil rights workers, Medgar Evers, and the others, left unprotected by sheriffs in Mississippi who saw what was going to happen to them?  And yet, one these so-called servants of the people did nothing, except, we know, aid the assassins, complicit, as we know now, in a Ku Klux Klan plot... And then, Kent State. Isn't that a telling example of the good use our governments could make of the PROUD National Guard? But what are they proud of? Of their ability to shoot at unarmed college students? Shoot to kill -- was that the order? And covered up with lies, and by ordering evidence to be hidden from the public for so many years? 

And so we demand an answer. Tell us, Mr. President, tell us, Mr. Hagel,  tell us, all you Congreswomen and Congressmen, WHY did our mayors and police chiefs -- by law the servants of the people -- buy, for internal use in our cities, four hundred thirty-two mine-resistant Ambush protected armored vehicles from the army, since 2006?  And WHY did you okay the sale, and perhaps push for it?

Which LIES will they offer us to justify that strange decision? It is with derision, it seems, that our public servants in high office view provisions in the Constitution, rulings, posse comitatus.

You ordered the Air Force TO CONDUCT A RAID IN LAS VEGAS, OR AT LEAST MADE IT POSSIBLE, MR. PRESIDENT - by changing the rules.

Why? What are you up to? Which story are you going to tell us, to dispel our worries and put us to sleep?

Yes, those who are not put to sleep remember the government's lies about the reason for expanding the war in Vietnam. The American government invented the Gulf of Tonking affair -- a fake thing, a shabby public relations effort -- and then used that to justify more killing. But it was good for business, good for the arms-makers. 

Then the government  cheated and lied about the Iran-Contra affair. 

They lied about Iraq, about Afghanistan. REMEMBER THE ROEMERBERG TALKS: Remember your threats made to the Afghan diplomats. Either Unocal gets the pipeline contract or you will regret it, they were informed. They refused. A little later, there was the tragedy in New York -- a dark, bitter event, we wish you would not keep us in the dark about. And then -- there was the war. First, in Afghanistan. Then, in Iraq. All justified by a president who smiled, contently, it seemed to some of us, when he went on television for the first time after the tragic event.

Can we trust such people -- who invent reasons for wars abroad, and who plan for the worst at home?

And why, we beg you, tell us were four hundred thirty-two mine-resistant Ambush protected armored vehicle not enough for use by local police in these United States? Why did they need another four hundred thirty-five armored army vehicles, cars as well as trucks? Why do our local police units need in these United States both mine-resistant vehicles and other armored cars, and in fact more than 800 of them? 



Seems that we will have to talk to all the good, sensible police officers -- people like Ron Johnson, of the highway patrol unit in St. Louis. You know. these guys are THE PEOPLE, TOO. The ones you fear. One point four billion dollars, that's a lot of money spent above and beyond what you normally spent on internal security. But nohing is normal anymore. Military equipment for local police was never normal. Seems that those who run the government, though elected by us, have forgotten their duty, and their obligation to the people. If so, their fear is justified. If so, they have become, unnoticed by us, enemies of the people.

- Jacob Hauser

go back to Street Voice # 14, Contents



Thomas Spang of the German daily Frankfurter Rundschau wrote about the heavy presence of the police in Ferguson, Missouri, in an article published on Aug. 16, 2014 that the "nationwide militarization of the police" in the U.S. "apparently contributed to the escalation" in that city.  In Ferguson, a city of the St. Louis metropolitan area inhabited by a large majority of Black Americans, yet featuring a white mayor and a white police chief, the unarmed teenager Michael Brown had been shot by a police officer, resulting in an angry response of many citizens who peacefully took to the street, demanding justice.
Spang notes the many "sharpshooters with night vision pieces," equipped with automatic rifles and wearing bullet proof vests and steel helmets. He notes that these members of the police are accompanied by mine resistant armored vehicles. And he says that this reminds him "of Falluja in Iraq" - BUT IT IS HAPPENING IN A SMALL TOWN WITH A POPULATION OF ONLY 21,000 INHABITANTS, IN THE MIDDLE WEST. He then asks, rhetorically? "And the enemy?
That's the citizens who who demand an answer why the 18-year-old Michael Brown had to die." (Michael Spang, "Brown: Ferguson Cops im Radpanzer,"
in: Frankfurter Rundschau, Aug. 16, 2014) 

In a second article published in the same paper on the same day, Daniel Haufler notes that "the police, due to their brutal way of dealing with the protestors, caused fear and terror."  In his view, GOVERNMENT BASED ON RULE OF LAW ceased to exist due to the way the police acted.
(Daniel Haufler, "USA, Ferguson, Brown: Polizei im Kampfmodus," in: Frankfurter Rundschau, Aug. 16, 2014)

This paper reported also that a United Nations committee leveled charges of [racist] discrimination at the U.S. authorities. The paper reported also the observation of a witness that Michael Brown was shot down and killed by the police officers after turning around, and facing him with his hands up. 

On Aug. 17, 2014, the French news media Mediapart noted that the "American police has slowly [step by step] adopted a style and a way of intervening that is more characteristic of an army."
(Editorial staff of Mediapart, "Ferguson : comment la police américaine s’est militarisée," in: Mediapart, Aug. 17, 2014)

See also: Jamelle Bouie, "Ferguson: comment la police américaine s'est militarisée," in: Slate, Aug. 14, 2014

Alliance for Progressive Values
Giving your Values a Voice

Barney Fife R Us
By apvonlineblog on August 14, 2014

This just in: citizens of Gaza have tweeted advice to citizens of Ferguson, Missouri on how to deal with tear gas. The tweets included such sage advice as…
Don’t Keep much distance from the Police, if you’re close to them they can’t tear Gas. To #Ferguson from #Palestine
Solidarity with #Ferguson. Remember to not touch your face when tear gassed or put water on it. Instead use milk or coke!
And one tweeter, Mariam Barghouti noted…
It feels so weird using my experience from #Palestine and Israeli oppression to give advice to #Ferguson. Much love and solidarity!
Indeed, it is weird, but when you consider that former Police Chief Tim Fitch studied Counter-Terrorism in Israel with the Israeli Defense Forces in April 2011, and that the weapons and tactics deployed in Ferguson in the last few days closely match weapons used in military occupations from Iraq to Afghanistan to Gaza, than it’s not so much weird as inevitable. In fact, many US veterans of those conflicts are tweeting that Ferguson police are ‘better armed’ than the initial invading troops for Operation Desert Storm.
To put this in context, Ferguson is a small town that spans just six square miles. It has a population of 21,203 people, and one ZIP code. Ferguson has about 40 robberies per year, a couple of homicides, almost no arson cases and a crime rate only a bit higher than the national average. Nevertheless, last night, Wednesday, August 13, some 70 SWAT officers showed up to ‘quell’ the unrest surrounding the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen killed by a Ferguson police officer. They arrived in full body armor with machine guns atop mine proofed personnel carriers trained on the crowds. Now, even I, unschooled in the most rudimentary of police work would know that this is not how you pacify a crowd or win hearts and minds. The opposite would seem to be the case: this is how you escalate a situation. Naturally, chaos ensued. An alderman was arrested, Washington Post and Huffington Post journalists were arrested. The Al Jazeera news team was harassed and tear gassed and after they fled, the police decided to ‘confiscate’ their equipment. Local citizens had to contend with rubber bullets and rounds of wooden pellets that “aren’t as lethal as live rounds”….always good to hear.
According the Riverfront Times, tear gas was so ubiquitous that reporters said they could not go from the police station on one side of the town to their cars on the other because of tear gas en route. Officers reportedly marched down streets ordering protesters to leave as they fired tear gas into the backyards and homes of individuals who stood on their own property with their hands up.
That a small town police force might be incompetent is not especially surprising—I always think of Barney Fife on these occasions. A periphrastic buffoon, Fife, played by the inimitable Don Knotts on the Andy Griffith show delivered a comic version of a small town police deputy so enthralled by the gadgetry of law enforcement that to give him live ammunition was to risk accidental death and mayhem. The sheriff of Mayberry wisely never allowed him to carry a loaded weapon. Like Fife, the police of Ferguson appear to be knuckle heads—they blew the situation in their hometown by over reacting. This morning the Governor of Missouri stepped in and said that the Ferguson police force would no longer be in charge of protecting Ferguson—which will come as some relief to those who have been ‘protected’ thus far. What is surprising, or sad, or just plain weird, is that we should be giving a small town police force enough military equipment to lay siege to their own township and a half dozen municipalities, besides. It’s like giving Barney Fife a bazooka, with sufficient live ammunition to level Detroit.
Unfortunately Ferguson is part of a nationwide trend where local police forces are supplied with surplus military equipment, a process that started back in the 90s when the ‘war on drugs’ was in its prime, and escalated dramatically after the 9/11 attacks. Now up to 4.3 billion dollars worth of military equipment is in the hands of our indomitable Barney Fifes. Among the gear transferred: tanks, aircraft, and machine guns, as well as 181 grenade launchers, for all those times when cops just have to launch a grenade at someone. And since they have all this equipment, our Barneys feel obligated to use it, too, otherwise, of course, all that deadly goodness is just going to waste. So now, fully outfitted ‘SWAT’ teams equipped with canons and grenade launchers and AR-15s and armored personnel carriers carry out such mundane tasks as serving warrants to skin flint husbands skipping out on alimony payments and so forth. Which might not be so bad, except when you’re walking around with half a million dollars worth of equipment whose sole function is to kill something, sometimes bad things occur.
For example, this April, a SWAT team badly burned a toddler when they dropped a flash grenade into his crib while searching for a relative they thought might be carrying drugs. And in 2010, a SWAT team shot and killed a 7-year-old girl when they accidentally raided the wrong house. Even when innocent humans don’t die, it’s common for police in these raids to shoot pet dogs on sight. So despite the millions of dollars of equipment, we are not getting any safer. On the contrary, an ACLU report released this summer – examining just 800 incidents of the estimated 45,000 annual Swat team deployments in America– found the opposite: seven people were killed and dozens were injured– and 61% of people impacted by drug-case Swat raids were minorities.
Kara Dansky, the chief author of the ACLU report, said that “the unnecessary use of paramilitary policing tactics tends to escalate the risk of violence to both civilians and officers.” But there is no central tracking system of the military equipment going out to local police departments – just as there is no oversight on how the equipment is used, or any reporting requirements other than hitting drug-enforcement numbers that bring in more cash—to pay for more weapons, of course.
To add to the mix, since 2001, the Department of Homeland Security has encouraged further militarization of police through federal funds for “terrorism prevention.” The armored vehicles, assault weapons, and body armor borne by the police in Ferguson are the fruit of turning police into soldiers. According to the ACLU, police training material encourages departments to “build the right mind-set in your troops” in order to thwart “terrorist plans to massacre our schoolchildren.” According to a Mother Jones report, it is possible that, since 9/11, police militarization has massacred more American schoolchildren than any al-Qaida terrorist.
There’s been almost no public debate on police militarization: it was part of our overreaction to 9/11 which has whittled away our civil liberties, started two unnecessary wars overseas, while transforming our own neighborhoods into war zones. In many ways, our reaction to those attacks have done more to destroy ‘our way of life’ than any destructive fantasy Osama bin Laden might have dreamed. The result? Well, I’d say, imagine Mayberry RFD with Barney Fife in charge, but you don’t have to imagine– just watch what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri.

Posted in: Militarization of Police Forces, Protest, Uncategorized | Tagged: Ferguson, Missouri 


See also Monique Hamburger's article