“Sir, what did I do to deserve handcuffs?”
“It's law enforcement's view you used foul language, and because we want to. I told you to give me your boarding pass.”
“I tried to give you my boarding pass, sir.”
“You tried to be a jerk.”
A few seconds after that exchange, which took place on March 10 at Las Vegas's McCarran Airport, Mark T. England was severely beaten by his interlocutor, a Las Vegas Metro Policeman identified as Officer Jennings.
“I was struck on the left hand and left leg,” England recalls in his account of the assault. “I was in complete disbelief. I stood with my hands extended out to my side ... with open palms. Officer Jennings again swung his baton at me. I brought my arms inward perceiving where the baton was going to strike me. Officer Jennings struck me on my left side around the 5th and 6th intercostal ribs. This baton strike made me double over. Officer Jennings swung his baton at me yet again and struck me behind the left ear. This caused me to stagger. I backed away from him and again placed my hands out to my side with open palms and asked him why he was doing this. At no time did I give Officer Jennings reason to believe I was going to harm or assault him.”
As Jennings inflicted this unprovoked beating on England, a second officer scurried to the scene, armed with a Taser. The Las Vegas Metro Police guidelines covering Taser use specify that this often lethal device is to be used only against suspects who aggressively resist the police; England was entirely passive as he underwent the beating. Nonetheless, the second officer fired his Taser at England.
The effect of the Taser blast caused England to slam his head against the corner of a door frame, severely injuring his eye. Prone on the floor, bleeding from his eye, and still reeling from the baton strike to the head, England was ordered to roll to his stomach – which was impossible, since he was still paralyzed from the Taser strike. So he was Tased again. And again. While this was happening, another police officer stood at a distance, mocking and laughing at England as he fell to the floor.
Eventually, Tucker was handcuffed and taken to a police substation in the airport, where Officer Jennings told him that the brutal beating he had suffered was appropriate, because he was “being uncooperative.” He was booked into jail on "suspicion of violating airport rules and resisting arrest," but no charges were filed.
While incidents of this sort have become infuriatingly common, this specific episode is remarkable for the fact that it involved potentially lethal violence from one element of the Warfare/Homeland Security State against another: England, a Sergeant and Medic in the U.S. Army, had traveled to Las Vegas from Orange County, California to enjoy “NASCAR Weekend” before being re-deployed to Iraq.
England had indeed used foul language earlier that evening, in dealing with a Transportation Security Administration supervisor. England was surprised to learn that it was forbidden to take a soft drink through TSA checkpoint. He pressed the issue, believing that it was permitted to take beverages through the checkpoint as long as they were purchased in the airport, only to be told that this wasn't so. He took up the matter with a supervisor, who claimed to be a Lieutenant in the US Army and “spoke to me as if giving me a military order from a superior.”
This was when Officer Jennings materialized and demanded to see England's military ID and boarding pass. Curious about the TSA supervisor's claim, England requested to see that individual's military ID; that request was turned down, prompting England to make the ill-advised comment, “with all due respect sir, that's f****d up.” After the supervisor admonished England to watch his language, Officer Jennings materialized, handed England his ID and boarding pass, and told him to board his flight – which by that time had already taken off.
To this point, England – who admits to consuming a couple of beers, but insists that his conduct was generally respectful – had done nothing more than make persistent but polite inquiries of the tax-fattened TSA drones loitering around the security checkpoint, apart from the one unfortunate use of the Anglo-Saxon vulgarism for illicit carnal union. He had obviously done nothing to justify being treated as a security threat or a criminal suspect, or else he would not have been permitted to board his flight, or at least attempt to.
After missing his flight, England decided to renew his inquiry with the TSA supervisor. Jennings intervened, asking England to walk about 50 feet from the checkpoint. The officer again demanded to see the boarding pass; England fumbled through his pockets, mistakenly pulling out a dollar bill that the officer pulled from his hand and threw to the floor.
“Would you mind picking up that dollar bill from the floor?” England politely asked. This provoked Jennings to pull out his handcuffs and order England to turn around. As Jennings issued that order, he placed a hand on England's shoulder. Asking why he was being handcuffed, England instinctively rolled his shoulder away. At that point Jennings withdrew his baton and ordered England to “get down”; it was while England was complying with that order that Jennings began his assault.
What I find interesting about the prelude to England's beating is the explanation he offered for his persistence in seeking an explanation from the TSA supervisor.
“I know it sounds weird, but I have a problem with being in the military and having some civilian tell me I'm wrong when I actually thought I was right,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “If I'm wrong, I'll admit I'm wrong. But it was their attitude” that set him off.
What a coincidence: It was England's uncooperative “attitude” that led to the assault he suffered at the hands of Officer Jennings and his Taser-toting comrade. England had already been positively identified as a soldier. But unlike the police, England wasn't wearing his State-issued costume at the time of this confrontation; if he had been, I suspect things would have turned out differently.
It appears clear to me that both England and his assailants simply took for granted the idea that their status as uniformed executors of State violence conferred on them privileges not extended to hoi polloi.
Also noteworthy is Sgt. England's view regarding the latitude given to American police officers in carrying out discretionary violence against unarmed people.
“If I was in Iraq, and I was talking to a suspected insurgent, and he did something to upset me, and I pulled out a baton and started beating him like that – if I hit him like I was hit in Las Vegas – I would have been relieved of duty,” England commented during an interview with Las Vegas's ABC affiliate, KNTV.
While there's reason to believe that the standards of battlefield comportment aren't quite that strict, Sgt. England's assessment brings to mind a fascinating – and troubling – anecdote contained in Evan Wright's book Generation Kill, a memoir of his experiences while embedded in Iraq with a Marine Corps Company.
"These young men represent what is more or less America's first generation of disposable children," Wright observes. "More than half of the guys in the platoon come from broken homes and were raised by absentee, single, working parents. Many are on more intimate terms with video games, reality TV shows and Internet porn than they are with their own parents." "We're like America's little pit bull," one Marine told Wright. "They beat it, starve it, mistreat it, and once in a while they let it out to attack somebody."
Another lieutenant commented to Wright that during World War II, when the Marines hit the beaches in the Pacific campaign, “a surprisingly high percentage of them didn't fire their weapons, even when faced with direct enemy contact," one lieutenant told Wright. "Not these guys. Did you see what they did to that town? They f*****g destroyed it. These guys have no problem with killing."
Even so, as Wright points out, these full-time killers had much higher standards than their colleagues in the part-time military – Reservists and Guardsmen, many of them drawn from stateside law enforcement agencies, both local and federal.
Roughly three quarters of the way into the book, relates Radley Balko in a review, “Wright explains how the full-time Marines were getting increasingly irritated with a reserve unit traveling with them. The reserve unit was mostly made up people who in their civilian lives were law enforcement, `from LAPD cops to DEA agents to air marshals,' and were acting like idiot renegades”:
"Some of the cops in Delta started doing this cowboy stuff. They put cattle horns on their Humvees. They'd roll into these hamlets, doing shows of force—kicking down doors, doing sweeps—just for the f**k of it. There was this little clique of them. Their ringleader was this beat cop.... He's like five feet tall, talks like Joe Friday and everybody calls him 'Napoleon.'"
“The unit ends up firebombing a village of Iraqis who'd been helping the Marines with intelligence about insurgents and Iraqi troops,” continues Balko. That episode “suggests that to say some of our domestic police units are getting increasing militaristic probably does a disservice to the military.”
Question: Is this a terrorist, or a US law enforcement agent? Answer: Yes.
Here's a thought certain to chase away sleep: Iraq is a training academy not only for Jihadists who go there for on-the-job training, but also for many American personnel who will fill positions in the Homeland Security apparatus that supposedly exists to protect us from terrorism.
This Friday night (June 8) I will be on Dr. Stanley Monteith's "Radio Liberty" program from 9:00-10:00 PM.
I will be a guest next Tuesday from 3:00-4:00 PM Eastern Time on Chris Arnzen's program "Iron Sharpens Iron" on WNYG in New York City.
Make sure to stop in at The Right Source.