Monday, July 18, 2016

Morning in Ameristan

As the urban blight in Cleveland is temporarily masked this week by a paranoid buildup of militarized police forces and high tech weaponry for purposes of protecting the wealthy against the rabble during a glittering week of corporate excess and political theater, the Philosopher King once more was forced to emerge from his cave to tell Americans to just get along. 

It had been a bloody Sunday in Baton Rouge, scene of the second lethal attack on police officers in the United States in less than two weeks.

"My fellow Americans," intoned Commander in Chief Barack Obama, "Only we can prove, through words and through deeds, that we will not be divided.  And we’re going to have to keep on doing it 'again and again and again.'  That’s how this country gets united.  That’s how we bring people of good will together.  Only we can prove that we have the grace and the character and the common humanity to end this kind of senseless violence, to reduce fear and mistrust within the American family, to set an example for our children."

To set an example for the children, Maryland and Maine police arrested 80 citizens protesting state-sponsored violence over the weekend. Since July 7th, 24 more people have been killed by police officers.

Now, about those words and deeds and example-setting: Obama recently returned from a trip to Europe, where he'd effusively praised the lethal weaponry of the United States Navy, announced another permanent military presence in Eastern Europe, bragged about a trillion-dollar upgrade in the American nuclear arsenal, and redeployed nearly 600 more troops to Iraq. Just prior to his trip to boost American military might abroad, he'd announced that the 15-year-old war in Afghanistan, the longest in US history, will continue to be an open-ended one. As soon as he returned to the White House, he admitted that his drones have killed about 100 innocent civilians - out of the many hundreds or even thousands who have been killed in actual fact. Those kinds of killings have been deemed "legal" by his team of lawyers. They're in the "all in the American family" category, because few family members have so much as whispered about staging an intervention to stop them.

Obama made no mention of the fact that the Baton Rouge shooter was an honorably discharged member of the United States Marines Corps, and that one of his victims was also a former Marine. Nor did he mention that one of the Dallas shooter's victims was a fellow Iraq War vet and another a former Marine who'd then gone on to train unaccountable private security forces. He did not mention that both skilled police assassins received all their highly advanced firing and tactical ambush training from the Pentagon.

The wars have come home to roost. The two most recent attacks on police officers appear to have been motivated by self-destructive impulses as well as by racial hatred. They were as much suicides-by-cop as they were murders of cops.

 Veterans, who take their own lives at the rate of almost one every single hour, are also given precedence on civil service recruiting lists. In 2012, while he was running for re-election and anxious to reinforce his toughness cred, Obama began awarding more than $100 million in grants to municipalities still reeling from the financial collapse. The federal government funded the police department salaries and benefits of returning vets who'd served in the post-9/11 military for at least 180 days. Precedence was given to cities and towns with "high crime rates."

Vice President Joe Biden even admitted, in the official White House press release, that the jobs of soldier and cop are essentially the same: "Since we got into office, the President and I have been committed to helping our returning heroes find jobs and transition back into civilian life. A lot of them want to keep serving now that they’re back, and these COPS Grants help give them that chance."

And then-Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, who also authored the secret legal opinion authorizing presidents to assassinate far-away people with Predator and Reaper drones, enthusiastically chimed in:  “Today, we step up our support for recent veterans by offering them the chance to pursue meaningful careers in law enforcement. At a time of budget shortfalls, these grants will provide opportunities for much-needed, highly-trained professionals – with a proven commitment to service - to continue their careers in communities all across the country.”

In the wake of the spate of police shootings and in the interests of Democratic Party identity politics, departments seeking renewal of their federal COPS grants are this year being asked to provide proof of such "community policing initiatives" as the polite questioning of LGBT defendants in custody.

At the same time, despite some new limitations imposed last year (no more bayonets and hand grenades!) the administration is still providing these police departments with surplus military gear - including MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles), sound blasters, water cannons, and even weaponized robots of the type used to blow up the Dallas shooter. As the L.A. Times reported after Obama's cosmetic "reforms,"
One analyst called the president’s order a half-measure that does little to change the perception that the police are a military organization working against the people they’ve sworn to protect.
“The symbolic aspect is really important,” said Pete Kraska, chairman of the graduate program in justice studies at Eastern Kentucky University, who writes about and studies the militarization of police. “They wanted to change the ethos from a warrior mentality to a public servant mentality. But allowing the discards of war to still be transferred, albeit with some new restrictions, to our local police sends them the message that they’re engaged in this warlike endeavor where they need warlike machinery.”
Meanwhile, sales of automatic military rifles to the general public have also increased, skyrocketing with every new mass shooting. The closed feedback loop of violence grows and festers exponentially. In Cleveland, site of the GOP convention, everybody who wants to open-carry their personal weapons will be allowed to do so despite the increased political "tensions."  It's the law. It's the American way.

Hot in Cleveland (New York Times)

"And that is why it is so important that everyone -- regardless of race or political party or profession, regardless of what organizations you are a part of -- everyone right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further," Obama lectured on Sunday evening.  "We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric.  We don’t need careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda.  We need to temper our words and open our hearts -- all of us. 

"That’s who we are, and that’s who we always have the capacity to be," Obama ironically vowed. And that’s the best way for us to honor the sacrifice of the brave police officers who were taken from us this morning." 

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, meanwhile, will hold his own Law and Order convention in Cleveland. Ignoring the reality that the Baton Rouge shooter was a Marine, he chose again to blame "radical Islam" for the latest carnage. "We are trying to fight ISIS, and now our own people are killing our police.Our country is divided and out of control. The world is watching," he blustered.

Hillary Clinton, who never met a war she didn't like, and who was caught on camera gleefully gloating over the gruesome murder of Libya's Qadaffi ("We came, we saw, he died"), also waxed indignant over the latest green-on-blue murders in the Homeland: "Today’s devastating assault on police officers in Baton Rouge is an assault on all of us," she exclaimed from the safety of her heavily guarded compound. "There is no justification for violence, for hate, for attacks on men and women who put their lives on the line every day in service of our families and communities."

At her own party confab in Philadelphia next week, Clinton will even set aside one special night to employ the mothers of several African-American police state casualties as political human shields. As Amy Chozick of the New York Times reported, she's been flying them in, courting them, collating them, and using them for joint campaign appearances since last spring:
The Clinton campaign named this sisterhood forged in the shared loss of a child the “Mothers of the Movement,” and they have become an unlikely linchpin of Mrs. Clinton’s success in the Democratic primary. At campaign stops, Mrs. Clinton introduces them as “a group of mothers who belong to a club no one ever wants to join.” The mothers will arrive in New York this week to help Mrs. Clinton compete in the primary on Tuesday.
Having these women by her side has provided Mrs. Clinton with powerful and deeply sympathetic character witnesses as she makes her case to African-American voters.
The perks of being in Hillary's Bereaved Moms Club don't quite extend to holding the men who killed their children criminally liable for their actions, however. Instead, "we must do more to have national guidelines about the use of force by police, especially deadly force,” Clinton told CNN. “We need to do more to look into implicit bias, and we need to do more to respect and protect our police. Look at what happened in Dallas. Those police officers were protecting a peaceful protest.”

Campaign 2016: Blame ISIS for homegrown American violence, drop more bombs, scapegoat and deport more refugees, hire more military vets with PTSD to be domestic cops, voice shallow support for endlessly deployed troops, ramp up the jingoism, support your local sheriff, and then make vague, simpering promises to "look into" talking about racism at the same time that they effect and defend de facto racist policies, both at home and abroad.

1 comment:

Ste-vo said...

We don't have TV at the lake where I live in the summertime and Comcast is on summer maintenance at the house in-town. I arranged with a neighbor to stop by in the evening to watch the conventions, Cleveland and next week Philadelphia.
I sat in stunned silence last evening, listening and watching.
I was sickened and disgusted.
I know I will feel the same next week, from a different perspective for sure, but sickened and disgusted just the same.
I am numb really.