African-American suspects, inevitably unarmed, have been repeatedly killed by police departments in recent months. Since we only have proof of police wrongdoing due to cellphone videos and surveillance cameras, how can we expect police to react to the new videotaped reality of police work?
Originally published by ANewDomain.net:
Fellow political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow deploys a character, Officer Friendly. The always-smiling 1950s-style cop is a clever meme because it reminds us of what has been lost to the militarization of local policing: the fictions that their job is to keep us safe and that they work for us.
In case you harbor any lingering doubts about the true nature of the relationship between us ordinary serfs and the constabulary, the Guardian reports that the Missouri National Guard “used highly militarized language such as ‘enemy forces’ and ‘adversaries’ to refer to citizen demonstrators” in Ferguson during the protests following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man:
Documents detailing the military mission divided the crowds that national guards would be likely to encounter into “friendly forces” and “enemy forces” – the latter apparently including “general protesters.”
A briefing for commanders included details of the troops’ intelligence capabilities so that they could “deny adversaries the ability to identify Missouri national guard vulnerabilities,” which the “adversaries” might exploit, “causing embarrassment or harm” to the military force, according to documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request by CNN.
And in an ominous-sounding operations security briefing, the national guard warned: “Adversaries are most likely to possess human intelligence (HUMINT), open source intelligence (OSINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT), technical intelligence (TECHINT), and counterintelligence capabilities.”
Isn’t that sweet.
Naturally National Guard officials are backtracking.
Captain John Quinn says that ‘enemy forces’ really means “potential threats” like — as Dave Barry says, I am not making this up — “inclement weather, heat, failing levees, etc.”
Incoming. Failing levees?
“It’s disturbing when you have what amounts to American soldiers viewing American citizens somehow as the enemy,” said Antonio French, local alderman and captain of the obvious.
Except, it ain’t “somehow.”
In many American cities, particularly those with majority white police forces in minority neighborhoods, the police are an occupying army. They view the locals not as citizens whose taxes pay their salaries, who are in fact their bosses, but as dangerous, troublesome rabble to be contained, controlled and suppressed. The militarization of domestic policing, which dates back to the 1950s and the establishment of the first SWAT team in Los Angeles, further separates gendarmes from civilians via training derived from warfare, heavy body armor and wildly excessive firearms.
Trust in the cops is at a record low, thanks in part to ubiquitous cell phone and security camera videos that document police abuse so meticulously that it’s no longer possible even for white law-and-order types to deny accusations by blacks that the cops are treating them like dirt. Look for the cop-citizen gap to widen further as the police increasingly treat whites — for example, during the crackdown against the Occupy movement — badly as well.
The cops have met their enemy, and he is us.
And now there’s no denying it.
America has a problem that afflicts both her foreign policy and domestic affairs: cowardice.A nation of wusses. That’s us.
That’s not how we see ourselves, of course. Whatever our flaws – impetuousness, naïveté, our sense of exceptionalism – few Americans count pusillanimity among them. For conservatives bravery as a national trait is a given; if anything, progressives wish we’d walk it back a bit, toning down the testosterone in favor of a little humility.
From the outside, however, we look like a nation happy to inflict all manner of mayhem on people all over the world, yet unwilling to put our own precious skins in the game.
Drones are the ultimate manifestation of America’s newfound risk aversion. After more than 12 years of remote-controlled aerial killer robot warfare, the statistics are undeniable: unmanned aerial vehicles are a ridiculously sloppy assassination method that kills anywhere from 28 to 49 times more innocent civilians than targeted alleged terrorists. With the myth of accuracy thoroughly debunked, drones remain popular with the public for one reason: they don’t expose American soldiers to return fire.
What we see as an advantage, however, sparks contempt among foreigners that our adversaries in this war for hearts and minds exploit in their recruitment and fundraising efforts. You see it in the faces of the Afghans and Pakistanis I have interviewed: if the United States military had any honor, they say, it would come and face our warriors man to man, on the battlefield, rather than pushing a button thousands of miles away. Every “terrorist” we blow up makes us look worse.
Moreover, cowardice is unproductive on a psychological level.
During the early years of the American occupation of Iraq, British forces (who patrolled the region around Basra) suffered lower casualty rates in the zones under their control than their American counterparts. One reason, according to military psychologists, is that British troops presented themselves as more willing to expose themselves to the Iraqi public and less afraid of being hurt or killed. Whereas US forces wore wrap-around sunglasses and set up checkpoints behind sandbags and blast walls, sometimes identifying themselves only by shooting at approaching cars – which caused confused Iraqis to floor the gas, prompting US forces to kill them – the Brits acted more relaxed, like traffic agents standing right out on the road. Americans covered themselves with Kevlar and automatic rifles; the British wore formfitting uniforms, eschewed helmets and satisfied themselves with sidearms. Sunglasses were banned. The American approach seemed safer, but the opposite was true. It’s easier to shoot at something – the Americans looked like fascist robots – than someone.
For a country that used to pride itself on a certain stoicism, the United States has become a land of whiny little boys and girls.
Oh, how we cried after 9/11. 3000 dead! Those “Wounded Warrior” TV ads asking for donations to support Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans – excuse me, but why am I spending 54% of my federal tax dollars on defense if I also have to donate to a sketchy charity? – use the same melancholy tone and weepy delivery as Sally Struthers’ classic “save the children” messages. Obviously, it sucks to lose your arms and legs, but let’s grow a pair. Fewer than 7,000 Americans got killed invading two countries they had no business in in the first place.
Let’s put those numbers into proper perspective, shall we? The Soviet Union lost 20 million people fighting the Nazis (who invaded them, by the way). France lost 11% of its population during World War I — the equivalent for us would be 34 million Americans. But the Russians or French don’t bitch and moan as much as us.
Speaking of which, Americans have a lot of balls calling Frenchman “surrender monkeys” considering that nearly twice as many French soldiers were killed in in the 1940 Battle of France over six weeks as the United States lost in Vietnam over the course of a decade. Meanwhile, we’re still whining about the 58,000 we lost in – no, invading – Vietnam.
Here at home, we’re infested with wimp cops.
In recent weeks, we have been treated to grand jury testimony in the shootings of two black men, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York.
Both killer cops are bruisers — big, muscular guys. Most of all, they are cops. Cops have partners. They have the backing of the state. They carry tasers. They have nightsticks. They go to the police academy, where they train long hours in the art of subduing human beings. And as we well know, they have access to military style hardware and defensive gear.
As these two sniveling wimps tell the tales, however, they were in desperate fear of their lives.
From two guys, both now dead, who were morbidly obese.
Not to mention unarmed.
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson (6’4″ 210) claimed that Brown (6’4″ 292) terrorized him. “I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan,” he testified. Brown “had the most intense aggressive face,” he said. “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon, that’s how angry he looked.”
The NYPD’s Daniel Pantaleo told a grand jury that, after he got his arm around Garner, he was terrified that the two of them would crash through the thick glass window of a storefront they were leaning against.
Both grand juries declined to indict the cops.
Sure, these were the testimonies of two heavily lawyered defendants following a script that has gotten countless white policeman off the hook for killing unarmed black men in the past. But you still have to ask: aren’t those big “brave” policemen ashamed of themselves? I’m not sure which is worse, pretending to be afraid of an unarmed civilian – in the New York case, the guy wasn’t even resisting arrest – or the possibility that they actually were scared.
There’s nothing wrong with being scared in the face of danger. Bravery, after all, is the act of keeping cool in the face of danger.
In the United States in recent years, however, bravery has been in short supply – even in the face of very little danger at all.
(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)
COPYRIGHT 2014 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
In both the cases of the police officer who shot unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the one who strangled Eric Garner to death in Staten Island, New York, grand juries and prosecutors bent over backward to consider evidence that they might be guilty. What if the system treated blacks suspected of killing white cops with the same deference?
From the New York Times, August 19, 2014: “Encouraging more participation in the democratic process in a community that feels alienated from political power – hence the demonstrations – seems like an obviously good idea; and one that’s particularly compelling because it’s so simple. Voting is an alternative to protesting in the streets.” The establishment, especially Democrats, are starting voter registration drives and using Ferguson as a rallying cry in black communities. According to the statistics, blacks are 7% short of no longer falling prey to trigger-happy white cops.
Watching our millionaire president hobnobbing with celebrities at his luxurious vacation in Martha’s Vineyard as Ferguson, Missouri convulses in rioting after a cop shot unarmed Michael Brown, it’s obvious that electing a black president isn’t enough to change reality for millions of less privileged blacks. The only thing that separates Michael Brown from Barack Obama is a thin veneer of borrowed privilege.
Pundits and politicians are looking forward to the “recovery” following race riots in Ferguson, Missouri. What will “back to normal” look like? Police randomly stopping young black men in the streets just because, checkpoints by heavily armed uniformed goons, police shootings of unarmed men, high unemployment and underemployment.