Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Rubicon in the Rear-View, Part I: Militarizing the Police
The future of law enforcement: The 193rd Military Police Battalion, Colorado National Guard, trains at Ft. Carson last July 12 in preparation for deployment as part of JTF-DNC -- the military component of security arrangements for the Democratic Convention in Denver.
There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them.
Garet Garrett, The Revolution Was (1938)
The seamless integration of the military and law enforcement into a single "Internal Security Force" is the defining characteristic of a fully realized police state. Once this fusion is accomplished, the question becomes not "whether" a police state exists, but rather how acute its institutional violence against the subject population will become.
That condition now exists in the country that still calls itself -- without any apparent irony -- the United States of America.
Much alarm has been raised over the admittedly alarming news that beginning October 1, the U.S. Army's Northern Command will deploy a specialized, combat-tested unit as an "on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks."
This "dwell-time" domestic deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team will permit its soldiers to "use some of the [skills] they acquired in the war zone" to deal with "civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack."
In the context of our descent into rank imperial corruption, this small but significant development could be seen by some as the moment our rulers crossed the Rubicon. But that metaphorical boundary has been in our rear-view mirror for quite some time. Admittedly, there is something quite ominous about the news that "homeland tours" are expected to become a routine part of the rotation of soliders tasked to carry out missions for those who command Washington's Empire.
The Homeland Security apparatus is a recombinant organism, engineered from multiple strands of institutional authoritarianism.
The process began in earnest in the late 1960s with the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration; the chimera has grown in power and malignancy because of the generation-long, trillion-dollar exercise in murderous cynicism called the "War on Drugs."
Indeed, it was in the context of this "war" that exceptions began to be carved out of the Posse Commitatus Act, which was intended to prevent the fusion of military and law enforcement functions within the United States. The cultivation of a huge population of official informants added another critical element to the metastasizing organism of official tyranny.
The Drug War likewise introduced Americans to the variety of official larceny called "civil asset forfeiture," through which police and Sheriff's departments nation-wide were turned into roving bands of officially protected highway robbers. The corruption of local law enforcement into federal welfare whores was an indispensable step toward the synthesis of a distinctly American police state.
Although we're constantly told that "everything changed" on September 11, the actual impact of The Day That (Supposedly) Changed Everything was to add a highly potent nutrient into the growth medium in which the Beast was already flourishing. This merely accelerated a process that was already well advanced.
Consider, as just one illustration, a series of Presidential Decision Directives, issued by Bill Clinton in his second term, that deal with the integration of the military with civilian law enforcement to deal with terrorist incidents involving Weapons of Mass Destruction or catastrophic natural disasters.
Apart from a few hidebound constitutionalists and easily-maligned Y2K "alarmists," nobody objected to this new intimacy between the military and civilian police. Then again, nobody had become concerned over the proliferation of military-trained SWAT and tactical teams, or the creation, in 1995, of the Pentagon's Law Enforcement Support Organization (LESO), through which police and Sheriff's departments could receive military hardware of any kind they desired at concessionary prices, "as if they were a DoD [Department of Defense] organization," in the words of the program's official pitchman.
The results of this ... well, call it a "guided evolution" of the law enforcement system, were entirely predictable.
"I served in the U.S. military and after I got out I ended up becoming a cop in 2002," recalls Bill, who was Battalion Soldier of the Year in 1999 and "Top Gun" in his police academy class. Bill shared his experiences in reaction to a podcast I recently did with Lew Rockwell examining the emergence of America's unitary, militarized Homeland Security state.
At the time he joined the force, many of the veterans "were old school, having started in law enforcement before I was born. They were tough but fair. They treated people with respect."
However, the "old school" officers "were forced out of the department [and it] took on a military feel," Bill continues. "You were expected to take [a] `just follow orders and obey the [department administration attitude], no matter what, regardless if it was constitutional or not. The amount of force used during arrests went through the roof."
"Urban Shield": A SWAT operator at UC-Berkeley play-acts in a training simulation involving a stand-off with armed, militant animal rights activists. Yeah, that's a plausible scenario.
This militarized mindset -- the notion that the job of police was to compel "civilians" to submit to state authority -- had a tangible impact in terms of the promiscuous use of the "non-lethal" Taser weapon.
"When I first started we had a couple M26 Tasers of we needed them, but most people either left them at the PD or in their patrol cars," Bill relates. They were useful in a handful of instances involving armed, deranged people, and when used in those circumstances "they do save lives." However, once the Taser was in use, police started to use them as instruments of "pain compliance": "Anytime anyone did anything was was not compliant, out came the Taser."
"The tactics the SWAT team was using were also becoming more like the military," Bill laments. "We even got a military Humvee. We were now wearing BDUs and carrying fully automatic machine guns and wearing the same body armor as soldiers were in Iraq. All of our 870 Remington shotguns were removed from the patrol cars and replaced with full-automatic H&K-made G36 machine guns -- to the protest of all the patrol officers, mind you. If anyone spoke out they were `dealt with.' In the course of 3 years they went through over 50 patrol officers. And this is a department with only about 47 officers total."
Once the exception, now the rule: SWAT paramilitaries put on a demonstration for teenagers attending a "Citizen Police Academy."
While military hardware was being forced on recalcitrant officers, those willing to carry out their assigned roles were being used to disarm civilians as the opportunity presented itself:
"People were having their weapons confiscated for `safe keeping' during traffic stops. [My home state] is a rural state that relies heavily on hunting for income. Everyone has a gun here. Even my 88-year-old grandma carries one in her purse (yes, she has a CC permit). So to take someone's guns you had better have a damn good reason, not just because they have a gun in their car and it's after 9 PM."
After witnessing this long train of official abuses, "many of us spoke out." Those who did so "were then run through the cleaners." Bill recounts an effort by the department administration to extort perjured testimony from him against a shift Sergeant who had condemned the department's corruption. Those who spoke out against corruption -- which included prosecutors and judges -- "were either fired unlawfully or quit."
In August 2007, after five and a half years on the force, Bill finally reached his frustration threshold and quit.
The sinkhole of dictatorial abuse and Sicilian corruption described by Bill is a small community in South Dakota -- that haven of sober Midwestern rectitude whose citizens aren't afflicted with a state income tax. If it's this bad in the green wood, what's it like in the dry? Well, according to Bill, "these abuses do, sadly, happen in almost every town in America."
The process Bill describes is a peculiar type of alembic, distilling the worst elements from a recruiting pool to serve in local police forces. Rather than retaining people of character and principle, the process selects for the officious, the self-satisfied, the opportunistic, and especially for those fixated on power.
Martin, who likewise shared his experience in reaction to the Lew Rockwell podcast, is a former Marine. As he was processed out of the Corps he was pitched by a recruiter the LAPD. Although he had no interest in the job, he was interested -- and more than a bit alarmed -- by what he learned about the ease with which former military personnel can become "civilian" police, and the eagerness of the LAPD to absorb military veterans into its ranks.
Recruiters "told us how they'd worked with command elements so that a Marine couldgo through LAPD academy while still in the service -- meaning a seamless transition to police work from military life," Martin reports. Probably the "scariest" element of military recruitment, Martin says, is that "for basic officer positions a series of mental testing and psychological testing was not necessary. It is feasible for a Marine to get back to the states from a deployment to Iraq, get out of the military, and then start patrolling the streets of LA in a matter of a few months."
"Police work is the easiest and most lucrative thing for a former Marine or military person to transfer to, especially us infantry kids who received no real job training while in the military," Martin concludes. "To us police work is the closest civilian equivalent of the patrolling that we did in Iraq. I think it is safe to assume that the more `grunts' we make and give combat experience the more militarized our police departments will become."
Running through this entire story we can find a microscopically thin thread of hope in the reluctance of at least some military and police personnel to serve the Regime's apparatus of repression. But the generational trends Bill describes will only grow worse as a law enforcement assimilates veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have on the mindset of tomorrow's police recruits.
In his fascinating Iraq war account Generation Kill, Evan Wright describes his experiences as a reported embedded in one of the first Marine units to invade Iraq in 2003. One lieutenant, describing the "Gen X" and "Gen Y" youngsters fighting in Iraq, observed 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.Not these guys. Did you see what they did to that town? They f*****g destroyed it. These guys have no problem with killing."
No problem with killing.
Our sin nature notwithstanding, any typical human being has exceptionally strong inhibitions where taking another life is concerned. This internal restraint can be subverted by a process of self-seduction in the service of some illicit design; it can be undermined by severe emotional or psychological trauma. For those in the military, it is nullified through patient, deliberate indoctrination -- and even then, the psychological impediment to homicide still re-asserts itself for many in the military.
But "Generation Kill" includes more than a few young men produced by a deeply nihilistic popular culture who have exceptionally few compunctions about killing. When they are recruited into law enforcement, they will retain both the mindset and muscle-memory of trained, remorseless killers.
(Part II will examine the other half of this equation, the mutation of the military into a police force.)
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Dum spiro, pugno!