Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Review of the News, November 22
Tased and Confused
In the welter of partial disclosures and contradictory eyewitness accounts that are emerging about the Taser attack on UCLA student Mustafa Tabatabainejad, two facts have achieved saliency:
First, the UCLA officer who used the Taser, 43-year-old Terrence Duren, who has been a policeman since 1988, has a somewhat dubious employment record, having joined the UCLA force after being fired from the Long Beach Police Department sometime in the late 1990s. Officer Duren, who at first glance appears to be a solid and respectable guy (that's an important part of this story, one I'll return to shortly), has been involved in controversial use-of-force incidents on at least three previous occasions, including an incident in which he shot a mentally ill vagrant.
The second interesting fact is that Officer Duren served in the first Gulf War. This is significant, in my view, because it illustrates the ever-deepening amalgamation of law enforcement and the military, both in terms of the shared talent pool and the increasing reliance on military tactics, training, hardware, and – most importantly – mind-set by local police agencies.
Consider the explanation given for the fact that Duren used his Taser five times on the UCLA undergraduate. As paraphrased in the Los Angeles Times:
“The officers decided to use the Taser to incapacitate Tabatabainejad after he went limp while they were escorting him out [of the computer lab at the UCLA library] and after he urged other library patrons to join his resistance, according to the university's account.”
If the student was “limp,” nothing prevented the officers (there were four of them, after all) from lifting the student and carrying him bodily from the room. Yes, it looks bad, albeit not nearly as bad as resulting the Abu Ghraib mise-en-scene -- a screaming student, surrounded by armed, uniformed men, with other students looking on in horror.
Both Tabatabainejad and several eyewitnesses add a key element missing from the official account, specifically that the Taser was used because he went limp. The student insists that he went limp when one of the officers refused to let go of his arm. He was leaving, in other words; he simply didn't consent to being dragged bodily from the room like a criminal.
Tabatabainejad, after all, is a California-born American citizen. He objected to the demand to show his ID, according to his account, because he suspected he had been singled out for harassment on account of his Iranian ancestry. (As someone who has been mistaken for an Iranian, a Saudi, an Egyptian, and various other ethnic types, I can sympathize somewhat with his complaint.) It's understandable to me why Tabatabainejad would insist on retaining a particle of dignity, and any legitimate peace officer – whose priority in a situation of this sort is to de-escalate – would permit the young man that insignificant moral victory.
But Officer Duren, like nearly everybody else employed by the Homeland Security State, is not a peace officer. His objective was to make the subject submit to the State's power – to “win” the engagement and hold the territory. His actions, and those of his comrades, reflect a military mind-set.
In chapter seven of my 2001 book Global Gun Grab (which may still be available from my erstwhile employers; if so, snag a copy), I cite a key insight from Diane Cecilia Weber, a law enforcement analyst at the Cato Institute: “[T]he mindset of the soldier is simply not appropriate for the civilian police officer. Police officers confront not an `enemy' but individuals who are protected by the Bill of Rights. Confusing the police function with the military function can lead to dangerous and unintended consequences – such as unnecessary shootings and killings.”
Tabatabainejad was shot five times – by a Taser, a “non-lethal” weapon that has proved to be quite lethal in too many recorded incidents. I'm of the opinion that providing Tasers to police officers has actually abetted the unnecessary use of force, rather than containing it.
What we're dealing with here is not a hardware issue – firearms vs. Tasers – but a “software” issue – a military mindset vs. that of a peace officer.
For decades – beginning in the late 1960s, and escalating through the Nixon years – Americans have been indoctrinated to believe that the struggle to contain street crime is a literal “war.” (Go here for a clip from a very popular 1980s prime-time cop show that offers, via a very badly written and dubiously directed monologue, a version of this propaganda trope.) The “war on crime” soon spun off subsidiary “wars” on drugs, child abuse, and other marketable pathologies that dealt with discrete portions of the population.
With the advent of the “war on terror,” everyone's a suspect – and when the demands of State agents are met with anything other than instantaneous and unqualified submission, a citizen/subject/suspect becomes the “enemy.”
As I mentioned above, Officer Duren doesn't strike me as a malefactor. He's probably a decent guy, as are most of those who fill the ranks of the Homeland Security State. But as Isabel Patterson warned, most of the evil done in the world is done by “good” people.
The Wrong End of the Telescope
Here's a very brief excerpt from my next book, which is very much a work in progress:
“When it comes to protecting individual rights, too many Americans are examining the issue through the wrong end of the telescope, as it were. They tend to obsess over distant and improbable threats posed by governments half-way around the world, while ignoring or minimizing the very tangible dangers to liberty posed by the government ruling us right now. Americans also dwell on the atrocities committed by the worst regimes in history – National Socialist Germany, Soviet Russia, and other mega-murdering tyrannies of that type – while ignoring clear and compelling warning signs that our own country is rapidly succumbing to similar totalitarian tendencies right now.”
Here's a splendid example of what I'm describing:
"The dirty little secret of the computer industry is that leading American computer companies are helping the Communist government of China spy on Chinese citizens. Firms accused of enabling the Chinese police state include high-profile names like Microsoft and Google. Now, another company, Cisco Systems, is facing investor backlash for its part in helping the Communist regime in Beijing....Every so often it is important to be reminded that evil triumphs only when good people do nothing. The shareholder revolt at Cisco highlights the importance of an informed citizenry taking an active stance against the perpetuation of evil.”
Bully for Cisco's rebellious shareholders, I say – even as I ask what may be a more pertinent question: When can we expect a similar shareholder revolt against the tech industry's collaboration in the efforts of our Regime to build a comprehensive surveillance system in this country?
Civil liberties advocates of various stripes have filed a total of 48 lawsuits against various telecom giants – including BellSouth, Cingular Wireless, Sprint, MCI, Verizon, AT&T and Comcast – for their involvement in the Regime's warrantless wiretap program. A federal judge has ruled – suh-PRIZE! -- that the Regime is not required to comply with a freedom of information act request filed by advocacy groups seeking documents about the number of wiretaps and the program's chain of command.
It's a “national security” issue, y'see.
Beijing says exactly the same thing about its domestic surveillance program, too.
And many – if not most – of the people building Beijing's Big Brother system are doing exactly the same thing here, only our version is much more advanced than theirs.
So ... isn't it an exercise in mote-plucking and beam-avoiding to focus on what's going on in China?
Hey, I'm just asking.
Heroic Security Officers Wounded in Fatal Clash with Insurgent ...
... or, at least, that's how the killing of 92-year-old Atlanta resident Katherine Johnson during an armed drug raid is being depicted in the “free” press.
Every time I read something extruded by Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations, I'm prompted to remember that “Caligula” meant “little boots" (the despicable little creature's given name was Gaius). Little Max is Caligulan in his perverted appetite for power and his disdain for freedom. Taking a page from the syllabus of mortal errors made by ruling class of late Imperial Rome, Max – along with a fellow think-tank Babbitt -- insists that the US should look to rented foreigners to defend the empire's far-flung garrisons:
“Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, and Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, have proposed allowing thousands of immigrants to serve for four years in the military in exchange for U.S. Citizenship....More than 40,000 noncitizens are serving in the U.S. military on active and reserve duty, and about 8,000 permanent residents enlist for active duty every year. Margaret Stock, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and a professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, said that a recent change in law has given the Pentagon authority to bring foreigners to the United States to serve in the military, but that the Pentagon has not exercised the option.”
Call it Imperial Outsourcing – turning to immigrants for coffin-stuffers because going abroad to kill and die on behalf of our ruling elite is a job Americans increasingly won't do.
It could also be a case of importing people to serve in the Leviathan's domestic army, as well.
This sort of thing has been done before. During the War Between the States, it was common practice for immigrants freshly arrived in New York to be stuffed into a Union uniform and sent off to kill Confederates. And thinly assimilated immigrants were often used in frontier duty, “chastising” or “pacifying” Indians.
Immigrant officers were used in the round-up of the Navajo for interment at New Mexico's Bosque Redondo gulag, as described in Hampton Sides' Blood and Thunder (to which I've referred before). Referring to the officers who served under Kit Carson as the Navajos were rounded up, Sides writes:
“Time and time again they demonstrated themselves to be a uniquely inept and unruly bunch. Overworked and underpaid, many of them drunks, a good number of them immigrants fresh from paces like Ireland, England, and the Netherlands, they hated having to do this depressing work in a desert wasteland.... [N]early half of the officers serving on the Navajo campaign were either court-martialed or forced to resign.... [A]mong other things, Carson's officers were charged with `murder, alcoholism, embezzlement, sexual deviation [one was caught in bed with an enlisted man], desertion, and incompetence.'”
This army of degenerates was given orders by James Henry Carleton to break the spirit of the Navajo, compelling them to submit to the central government under the threat of literal extermination.
Carson, who hated this duty and did what he could to mitigate it, was given this message from Carleton to pass along to the Navajos:
“This war shall be pursued against you if it takes years, until you cease to exist or move [into the reservation]. There can be no other talk on the matter.”
For some reason, I find myself wondering if this sort of thing could happen on a much grander scale now that our nation is being turned into the modern equivalent of one vast Indian reservation....
at 10:39 AM