News and Opinion
| DECEMBER 20, 2013
Roger’s note: I am a lover of cartoons, puns, politics and psychology. When all four combine in one image, it knocks my socks off. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
Roger’s note: it is a widely held myth that Canada is a basically peaceful nation, a kind of antithesis to its bellicose neighbour to the south. Despite some nuances to Canadian government policy (e.g. staying out of the initial invasion of Iraq, but not Afghanistan), Canada has been and remains a faithful ally of U.S. war mongering foreign policy. Yet the myth persists, not only internationally but as well as amongst the Canadian population.
Here is the true story.
| JUNE 22, 2016, http://www.rabble.ca
In a reminder that the warfare state is never affected by who gets elected in Canada, the Trudeau Liberals are about to embark on a militaristic spending spree that will draw no opposition from the Conservatives or the NDP. All major parties are firmly committed to spending obscene amounts of money on war, and in Canada, the War Department’s annual sinkhole of over $20 billion is by far the largest use of discretionary federal spending (i.e., spending that is not mandated by any legal commitment).
While Parliament is away this summer, Justin Trudeau is expected to pony up countless billions for Super Hornet fighter jets whose only purpose is to drop bombs on human beings. The Super Hornets are expected to play the role of “interim” tools of mass murder from the air until the Liberals can figure out the best sunny ways PR to massage the Canadian public into accepting even greater spending on F-35 fighter jets further down the road. In addition, the Liberals are on board for a $26-billion Canadian warship investment that will continue to leave the cupboard bare when it comes to daycare, desperately needed investments in Indigenous communities, environmental clean-up, affordable housing, and dozens of other social programs that remain miserably underfunded.
As the Canadian military quietly wages war in Iraq with Trudeau’s earlier, expanded commitment on the ground and continued contribution to aerial bombardment of people below, the Liberals are also considering sending hundreds of troops to the Russian border in yet another provocation against Moscow. This is in addition to the hundreds of troops already stationed in the region who, instead of helping refugees cross the dangerous Mediterranean, are playing war games to provoke the Russian Bear. Such escalations all help set the stage for bigger investments in war just as War Minister Harjit Sajjan gets set to hold his window-dressing consultation with Canadians over war policy.
The idea that Canada “needs” warplanes and warships is absurd. The only ones who “need” Canada to have them are those corporations who profit from such massive purchases. Sajjan claims Canada faces a “capability gap” by not purchasing new warplanes, but in saying so he is merely acting as the pathetic public face of a muscular military industry that, as George Bernard Shaw pointed out in his brilliant play Major Barbara over a century ago, is the real force conducting and forming foreign policy.
In that play, arms dealer Andrew Undershaft (of the munitions firm Undershaft and Lazarus), declares quite clearly to the small group who raise moral concerns about the nature of his business:
“I am the government of your country: I, and Lazarus. Do you suppose that you and half a dozen amateurs like you, sitting in a row in that foolish gabble shop, can govern Undershaft and Lazarus? No, my friend: you will do what pays US. You will make war when it suits us, and keep peace when it doesn’t. You will find out that trade requires certain measures when we have decided on those measures. When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will discover that my want is a national need. When other people want something to keep my dividends down, you will call out the police and military. And in return you shall have the support and applause of my newspapers, and the delight of imagining that you are a great statesman. Government of your country! Be off with you, my boy, and play with your caucuses and leading articles and historic parties and great leaders and burning questions and the rest of your toys. I am going back to my counting house to pay the piper and call the tune.”
It is not just the arms-makers like Undershaft who call the tune. The tune is also hummed, eerily enough, by human rights NGOs who have bought so far into the system that they cannot reject its core principles. The language they use in opposing things like the $15-billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia is compromised by accepting the assumption that there is nothing wrong with the production of killer brigade vehicles: they just should not be used by certain countries.
A compromised letter
On April 25, a group of NGOs released an open letter, expressing “profound concerns” about the Stéphane Dion-issued export permits for these warrior vehicles, calling the decision “immoral and unethical.” Fair enough. But the letter suffered from a fatal flaw: it accepts as legitimate far too much of state violence. And it proposes that peace groups, rather than working for disarmament, work with the government to facilitate the weapons trade.
They also ask the government to “rescind the export permits, ensuring that this deal does not go ahead unless and until relevant human rights concerns have been resolved.”
A question arises: what human rights concerns would have to be resolved to ensure that it is safe to supply a regime with vehicles whose sole purpose is the crushing of human rights? The letter continues that the Canadian government’s arms control regime’s “integrity has been utterly compromised with the government’s decision to proceed with the largest arms sale in Canadian history to one of the world’s worst human rights violators.”
No similar letter appears to have been issued with respect to the billions annually sold to governments which commit gross violations of human rights on a scale that makes Saudi war crimes in Yemen and surrounding countries small potatoes. Like the United States, for example, the single-largest purchaser annually of Canadian-made weapons. The groups argue that Canada’s arms control regime is designed to prevent deals like those that went to Saudi. But how can a regime that simply regulates who gets the killing machines have any sense of “integrity”?
While the letter is a welcome voice on the one hand that says no to this particular sale, it serves to legitimize the execrable business of the production of mass murder by Canadian manufacturers. Here is the rub. The letter states: “Our export control system must ensure that export authorizations are granted for only end-users that are in full compliance with applicable safeguards.” But when you produce a killer brigade vehicle or a machine gun that rattles off 4,000 rounds a minute, it has only one purpose: legalized murder.
Human rights groups to facilitate weapons trade
The groups hope Canada will soon sign an additional arms control measure that legitimizes the wholesale profit from slaughter, but under more stringent conditions. They even offer their assistance in helping Canada figure out a more sanitized manner of pursuing the death merchant business “to improve the legal and political machinery for regulating Canadian arms exports, and we stand ready to contribute to any and all efforts in this regard.”
Such entreaties are not helpful. The role of human rights groups is not to assist in the better regulation of the business of murder. It would instead, one would hope, call into question the whole nasty business itself, and recognize that, if one wants to go by law, Canada is a signatory to the Kellogg-Briand Treaty, which comes as close to outlawing war as any treaty could hope for.
The letter finishes with the standard salute to Canada’s ultimate goodness, those “core values that define Canada’s character as a nation.” They don’t mention those values, but it is assumed, since such groups repeat them with nauseating consistency, that Canada is an honest broker, a peaceful player on the world stage, a Pearsonian boy scout in a world of dangers lurking in the shadows.
If we are truthful, however, the Saudi arms deal, and the implicit support for the war crimes being committed with them, does not violate Canada’s core values. It is a reflection of them. Indeed, a core value of Canada, as history repeatedly shows, is genocide and the profiting from murder. The Truth and Reconciliation was only the latest reminder that Canada as a nation is built on, and continues to pursue, policies of genocide against Indigenous peoples at home and abroad.
One would have hoped for a more principled approach to taking on one of the signature issues of our time. But it has always been thus in Canada, where the very cautious approach (including the endless accolades for Pearson, a prime minister whose government contributed to major war crimes against the people of Vietnam, as documented by Victor Levant) was once skewered by the late Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan, who passed away just over a month ago at the age of 94. Berrigan, a long-time recidivist who was constantly arrested for resisting war, challenged Canadians in the 1980s in his review of a book by Ernie Regehr and Simon Rosenblum, The Road to Peace.
While this quote is lengthy, it does speak to the heart of what ails so much advocacy, whether it be against the war industry or for an end to climate change. This would be an inability, or a refusal, to plainly call things for what they are, for fear of losing the “ear” of governments who are all too happy to appear democratic by “consulting,” all the while going ahead with their original plans. This is indeed the PR job being shovelled at Canadians who were tired of not being heard by Harper. Trudeau has promised he will listen, but there is no guarantee he will act on what he hears.
In the Berrigan review of this tome on nuclear weapons, he writes that:
“[O]ne can imagine certain academics, scientists, researchers…soberly assessing matters, assembling a volume whose chapters would read like this (if I may adapt from “The Road to Peace)” “Auschwitz and the “Possibilities” (quotes mine) of No More Auschwitzes; A Mad Mad World: The Evolution of Auschwitz Strategies; How Our Vision of Auschwitz has Changed; Verification of Auschwitz: Promise, Politics, and Prospects; Canada’s Auschwitz Policy: redefining the Achievable; New Approaches to Auschwitz. But perhaps the point is something else. Certain unquenched Canadian spirits, deciding simply that Auschwitz had no conceivable right to pollute the human scene, might ‘break and enter’ the vile place, rendering it at least symbolically inoperative. That story, no figment, lies outside the book in question. Outside the law, it goes without saying. Outside true history, and the blessing of the unborn? Perhaps not.”
That reference to breaking and entering came out of Berrigan’s own experience, whether during draft board raids (in which hundreds of people, many of them Catholic priests and nuns, invaded U.S. government offices and destroyed almost 1 million draft files with homemade napalm) or as part of the Ploughshares movement, in which nuclear weapons and warplanes have been symbolically disarmed with hammers and blood, beating swords into ploughshares.
Berrigan’s point is rendered clear enough: by using the government’s official language, we dehumanize and decontextualize what is going on, erasing the victims at all ends of the weapons process, whether they be those who suffer at home for want of social spending or those who live and die under the bombs once they are “delivered” overseas.
An absolute refusal to co-operate
On May 25, the very first absolute, complete refusal to comply with any aspect of the current Saudi arms deal (and the idea that it is OK to export killer weapons to some nations but not others) took place when eight members of Homes not Bombs and Christian Peacemaker Teams entered the Global Affairs edifice in downtown Ottawa and, after unfurling a banner, simply refused to move. Despite repeated entreaties to leave and demonstrate on the street, they refused to do so until Dion cancelled the deal and opened a dialogue on ending the arms trade once and for all. Three were arrested and will face trial later this year. Mr. Dion can expect a subpoena.
While ending the weapons trade is a multifaceted campaign that requires work at all levels, hopefully that work can proceed by refusing to accept the assumptions of the Undershafts of the world. Opposition to Canadian military spending is difficult to muster in a culture that so idolizes the War Dept. and buys its noble aims propaganda. Hence, many groups fashion their approach to the issue based on tinkering with the spending or shifting some resources from the air force to the navy (the Jack Layton approach) without recognizing that if love really is better than hate, as so many MPs are wont to be saying these days, then investments in an institution based on murder is certainly not a good route for conflict resolution.
Decades upon decades of buying into the idea of arms control (instead of disarmament) have left us at a point where the most recent Global Peace Index indicates the world is increasingly a less peaceful place, with the gap between those countries insulated from war versus those suffering through violent conflict continuing to widen:
“The world continues to spend enormous amounts on creating and containing violence and little on building peace. The economic impact of violence on the global economy in 2015 was $13.6 trillion in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms… or $1,876 for every person in the world.”
Which brings us back to the immediate problem. The self-proclaimed “feminist” in the PMO who is selling $15 billion worth of weapons to arm Saudi misogyny is eagerly perusing the latest in bomb-dropping killer aircraft, Super Hornets that will split the eardrums of overseas children, rip their legs off, blow apart the faces of their mothers, demolish their schools and places of worship, poison their land and water, and permanently scar countless people for life.
Trudeau’s killer priorities
This is the priority for Trudeau, and many will accept it because it’s coming from the nice guy who isn’t Harper. At home, those who will be hurt by the purchase are many. Each Super Hornet will cost approximately $100 million, in addition to the ongoing costs of fuel (and the outrageous contribution the military continues to make to climate change), maintenance and upgrades that provide even niftier means of murdering people.
What could we use with each $100 million spent on Super Hornets? Some 4,000 students could attend university for four years for free. Some 400 affordable hosing units could be built. Over 6,563 free, year-round child-care spaces would open up. The price of Two Super Hornets would meet the funding gap that Cindy Blackstock identified as missing for First Nations children in Budget 2016. The price of one Hornet is three times what the Trudeau government has committed annually to meeting the mental health needs of Indigenous youth.
Warplanes of any type and variety are offensive by nature. Their use is in violation of the Nuremberg Principles (which prohibits “Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression) as well as the Kellogg-Briand Pact (a.k.a. the Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy, signed by Canada in 1929), in which:
“[T]he high contracting parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another….The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.”
Purchase of warplanes, in addition to the countless tens of billions spent annually on warfare (and the planned $26 billion in warships) stand Canada in contravention to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which guarantees all people an adequate standard of living, “including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions…. the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” Canada cannot meet the huge need for mental health services, environmental clean-up, and income equality measures while it continues to make war spending its highest use of federal discretionary funds.
While Canada undergoes a summertime “review” of War Dept. priorities, it provides us with an opportunity not to play the arms control game, but to ask serious questions about why we continue to pump untold capital into an institution that — while no doubt peopled with many good folks who have good intentions — serves no truly useful social purpose. We don’t need heavily armed people to help with flood relief or to stop forest fires. Rescue at sea can be conducted by ships and planes that are not armed to the teeth.
What helps, as a step forward, is to name things for what they are. Writing while underground and always staying one step ahead of the massive FBI manhunt for a man who committed a crime of peace, in 1970, Father Daniel Berrigan, in an open letter to other war resisters then underground, put it thusly: “When madness is the acceptable public state of mind, we’re all in danger… for madness is an infection in the air. And I submit that we all breathe the infection and that the movement has at times been sickened by it too … In or out of the military, in or out of the movement, it seems to me that we had best call things by their name, and the name of this thing, it seems to me, is the death game, no matter where it appears.”
Perhaps the best way to end the death game is to stop playing along with it.
Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. ‘national security’ profiling for many years.
Photo: Jamie McCaffrey/flickr
AN UNINTENDED GIFT TO THE BLOOD SUCKING ARMS INDUSTRY CONTROLLED NRA AND THEIR MINDLESS FOLLOWERS WHO DON’T UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GUN CONTROL AND GUN ABOLITION or BETWEEN A MILITIA AND AN INDIVIDUAL CITIZEN
Roger’s note: Not to take anything away from the enormous tragedy in Orlando, mainstream news coverage exposes the ahistorical blindness of the chattering class. What happened in Orlando and what will continue to happen as long as the state sponsored United States terrorism goes unabated at home as well as abroad, goes beyond the culture of hate or the “radicalization” of Muslims.
The Wounded Knee massacre of Lakota at the Pine Ridge Reservation by U.S. soldiers of the 7th Calvary Regiment, December 29, 1980: “by the time it was over, more than 150 men, women, and children of the Lakota had been killed and 51 were wounded (4 men and 47 women and children, some of whom died later); some estimates placed the number of dead at 300.” (Wikipedia)
Or do massacred “Indians” not count?
As the crocodile tears of Obama and his enablers in both political parties and the military industrial complex, evaporate into the air, so does the truth and lessons of American history. We are condemned thus to relive it; the chickens indeed are coming home to roost.
The massacre in Orlando was not the largest mass killing in U.S. history, and the United States has been responsible for the massacre of millions around the planet. We should all be mindful of “the nexus between US foreign policy adventures that plunder and violate countries in search of natural resources and US domestic racist actions.” U.S. crimes against humanity stretch from My Lai to Ferguson.
The updated 2016 ROOTS historical chronicle finally got it right. Africans have resisted European/American terrorism from the moment it reared its ugly head to present day struggle against state sponsored police murders of African peoples. The current version of ROOTS reminds us that beheadings, lynchings, rapes, kidnappings, selling children, working and boiling people to death did not start with ISIL – these perverted and psychopathic practices constituted the building blocks of the American empire. The carnage in Orlando bleeds our hearts with the senseless murder of many innocent lives. Our rapacious thirst for lethal weapons spells future dooms. Yet, we march on desensitized to the violence and injustice in our nation and world.
We seem to be truly bewildered when blood flows on the streets of America. Often, some of these incidents of late, can contextually be linked to murderous US foreign policy adventures in the Middle East. Malcolm X would have noted that US foreign policies have resulted in “chickens coming home to roost.” The ability to contain violence in foreign theaters has become an unattainable goal for the Empire. Therefore, everyday citizens are now targets of combat. Whether the latest mass murderer is insane or not, what is clear is that US citizens must decide whether they will allow murder and plunder across the globe to continue in their names. And, perhaps, more importantly, whether they are prepared to accept the consequences. Certainly one does not want to wade into the quagmire of comparing tragedies but to completely ignore the validity of other massacres and the loss of other lives seems to compound the tragedy.
“Malcolm X would have noted that US foreign policies have resulted in ‘chickens coming home to roost.’”
The news media has framed the latest massacre in Orlando as the largest mass murder in US history. Some members of the media with a measure of intellectual integrity will add that the Orlando Massacre is the largest “post 911.” Regardless, human beings lost their lives and communities are in mourning. However, historical records remind us that the murders in Orlando, unfortunately, do not constitute the largest domestic mass murders. This narrative proposed by corporate media is in search of a public willing to digest a sanitized and less-than thoughtful version of history that conforms with the simplistic but dangerous notion of American exceptionalism. The truth is much less flattering. As we mourn the loss of young life in Florida, let us also mourn the massacre of thousands of young unarmed African men and women who lose their lives almost daily at the hands of police and entire Black communities struggling to escape the violence of white supremacy.
We must not forget the East St Louis Massacres of 1917 described as the worst race and labor violence in the 20th century with casualties ranging between 40 and 200 deaths.
In the spring of 1917, Blacks escaping from the terror of the South were arriving in St. Louis at the rate of 2,000 per week. White union workers were determined to stop Blacks from competing for job in the trades by refusing to allow Africans membership in trade unions. White corporate leaders, taking advantage of cheap and competitive labor viewed Africans as scab workers to stabilize and maintain low wages for whites. These two reactionary views of Black labor from the perspective of the white working class and white corporate interests formed the perfect storm that ignited the conditions that led to scores of Black deaths in the East St. Louis Massacre.
“The ability to contain violence in foreign theaters has become an unattainable goal for the Empire.”
Following a meeting on May 28th in which rumors spread that Blacks and whites were fraternizing, 3,000 white men marched into East St. Louis and attacked Black men and women. In a separate incident, white vigilantes burned entire sections of the city and shot inhabitants as they escaped the fire. In William Heaps 1970 book Target of Prejudice: The Negro, In Riot, USA 1765-1970, he notes: “members of the white community claimed that Southern Negros deserved a genuine lynching” and a number of African-Americans were lynched during the white terror attacks.
There was also the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma massacre in which whites attacked one of the wealthiest African communities in the US. These vilgilantes over the course of 16 hours burned private property, including a Black hospital, and injured over 800 people. Instead of police arresting white rioters they detained and arrested over 6,000 black residents. 10,000 Africans were left homeless and 35 city blocks destroyed by fire. Officials reported that 39 Blacks were murdered but other estimates report between 55 to 300 people murdered.
All massacres are horrific, from Orlando, East St. Louis, My Lai, Vietnam, Wounded Knee to Oklahoma. The latest massacre, however ‘could’ provide an opportunity to understand the nexus between US foreign policy adventures that plunder and violate countries in search of natural resources and US domestic racist actions that trigger staggering incidence of murder and violence on a scale nearly unfathomable outside America.
Roger’s note: I cannot remember how many times I have written the phrase “truly frightening” in this space. Here we go again. “Get your automatic assault weapon capable of mowing down hundreds in a split second. Get it before the government bans all guns and before Obama himself breaks into your sacred home and not only takes away your arsenal but also your wife and firstborn.”
How many thousands of Americans are armed to repeat the Orlando massacre.
How many millions (billions?) of dollars in sales by the arms industry that writes NRA propaganda.
An informative article here, but concentrating on “fear and hate” misses the point that nearly all terrorist acts, domestically and internationally, are the direct product of the United States warring in Muslim countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, etc.) and the U.S. sponsored Israeli genocidal acts towards the Palestinian peoples.
PHILADELPHIA — Seven minutes. That’s how long it took me to buy an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle like the one used in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
Seven minutes. From the moment I handed the salesperson my driver’s licence to the moment I passed my background check.
It likely will take more time than that during the forthcoming round of vigils to respectfully read the names of the more than 100 people who were killed or injured.
Surprising to some, perhaps, though it shouldn’t be, not at this point in our bloody, hate-filled history.
If it weren’t so easy to get a gun in this country, the 29-year-old gunman who went on a shooting rampage in a popular gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday wouldn’t have been able to buy the weapon he used to kill 49 people and injure 53.
If it weren’t so easy to get a gun in this country, another gunman who came before him wouldn’t have been able to use the same kind of firearm to kill elementary-school children in Newtown, Conn.
If it weren’t so appallingly easy to get a gun in this country, it wouldn’t be easy for the next gunman to deliver the kind of carnage that’s as much a part of this country as the American flag.
And there will undoubtedly be a next one.
This has been said, but bears repeating and repeating and repeating some more.
If nothing changed after children were slaughtered in their school, do any of us really believe anything will change after the deaths of people so many fear and loathe simply for trying to live their truths?
The gunman was apparently enraged over seeing a same-sex couple kiss. Think about that. Love enraged him. Love made him kill.
But I try not to think about any of that as I drive over to the gun shop in Philadelphia. I need to come up with some plausible story, I think. What if I’m asked why, a day after this massacre, I want to buy a nearly identical type of gun used to slaughter people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
I consider my options:
I’m a woman who wants a rifle for safety reasons.
I’m a gun enthusiast with a soft spot for military-style rifles.
I’m a card-carrying member of the NRA who is afraid the government will be coming for my guns.
Turns out I don’t need a story. The AR-15 is on display in the window of the gun shop. It is being promoted as the gun of the week.
What will it take to buy one, I ask the sales guy.
Do I have identification? Yes.
Am I a U.S. citizen? Yes.
“Bingo,” the friendly gun shop sales guy said. “All we have to do is fill paperwork out.”
I’ve filled out more paperwork at the doctor’s office for a routine checkup than I did Monday afternoon.
I felt a little squeamish about not telling him who I was and what I was trying to do, but this wasn’t about them; they weren’t doing anything illegal. The truth is that I could have bought the gun as easily in any gun shop in Pennsylvania. I just didn’t realize how easily.
Go to a licensed gun store. Fill out about a page and a half of forms. Wait (if that’s really the right word for it) for an instant background check, and then pay the man. I told the guy I was on a budget, so I got an AR-15 for $759.99. God bless America.
No need for a concealed carry permit. No mandatory training, though the guys did give me a coupon for a free day pass for a local gun range. No need for even a moment to at least consider how gross all of this felt as relatives of the dead were still being notified.
To be fair, there was an extra 10 or 15 minutes or so of chit-chat inside the gun store before I walked out with a cardboard box with the words Smith & Wesson emblazoned on it, and an attagirl for thinking ahead and buying the most popular rifle in the country before there’s a run on the gun from nervous gun owners who fear a ban on them.
“Yeah, because it was about the gun, not Islamic terrorism, right?” a man buying a gun offered, unsolicited.
Here we go, I thought.
The fact is, what shattered so many lives in the early hours Sunday was about many things.
Homophobia, first and foremost.
Radicalism — the American gunman claimed allegiance to Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL, and praised the Boston Marathon bombers. Even if that’s not true, the radicals won’t have a problem with that.
And yes, guns. Insane, nonsensical access to guns. So pick whatever reason or narrative matches your politics or agenda.
Have at it, because the truth is that while they all play a part, what’s really destroying this country is fear and hate. A festering fear and hate that we better think about when it’s time to vote for our next president, because the fear and hate is not all coming from the outside. It’s not all from some unnamed foreign bogeyman. Increasingly it’s from within, from down the street, the next state over, the next potential leader of this country.
As I walked to my car with my brand-new gun, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I didn’t want it, but I also didn’t want it in anyone else’s hands either.
So I drove to the Philadelphia Police Department’s Sixth District, where I seemed to stump more than a few officers when I explained who I was and what I wanted to do. Have you ever tried to turn in a gun in this city? Spoiler alert: It takes longer than it does to buy a gun.
As an officer prepared the paperwork, I noticed a sign that hung on one of the walls.
United We Stand, it read.
My God, I thought, what a lie.
We are more divided every single day, and yet our answer to that is to meet fear and hate with more fear and hate and then expect a different outcome. To be shocked at the world we live in, left to do little else but hold vigils.
While we’re mourning the dead, let us mourn the national loss of humanity that is to blame for this world we have created.
And let us take more than seven minutes to do it.
Roger’s note: The cost of the US inspired wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan is in the trillions of dollars. So-called “defense” spending amounts to around 60% of US government discretionary spending. Instruments of death, that is, military weaponry, costs billions of dollars every year. War profiteers delight in the fact that their “product” is designed to be destroyed and therefore perpetually replaced. As you can see, the United States manufactures and exports more weaponry than the rest of the world combined. What all these death dollars could support and jobs create in the areas of health, education. housing, nutrition, and the elimination of poverty worldwide is enough bring one to tears.
Number Of Iraqis Slaughtered In US War And Occupation Of Iraq “1,455,590“
Number of U.S. Military PersonnelSacrificed (Officially acknowledged) In U.S. War And Occupation Of Iraq 4,801
Number Of International Occupation Force Troops Slaughtered In Afghanistan : 3,487
Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan
Roger’s note: There are so many things obscene about the death and destruction that the United States government and military are wreaking in various parts of the globe. One that stands out in my mind is the arms industry. The dynamic of the Bush/Obama doctrine of Permanent War is complex, but there is no question that the billion dollar profits of the blood sucking merchants of death play a major role.
Roger’s note: I am reminded of the infamous remark made by Malcolm X when President Kennedy was assassinated: “The chickens have come home to roost.” Local police departments with armored vehicles, machine guns, planes and helicopters, grenade launchers, etc. I wonder what they can be used for. Protecting your home from a burglary? Fraud investigations? Bank hold ups? It seems to me that these weapons are geared towards dealing with large numbers, let’s say perhaps, citizen protests? Please excuse my cynicism, I happen at the moment to be reading “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” and it somehow has a contemporary feel to it.
The 9-foot-tall armored truck was intended for an overseas battlefield. But as President Obama ushers in the end of what he called America’s “long season of war,” the former tools of combat — M-16 rifles, grenade launchers, silencers and more — are ending up in local police departments, often with little public notice.
During the Obama administration, according to Pentagon data, police departments have received tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft.
The equipment has been added to the armories of police departments that already look and act like military units. Police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs. Masked, heavily armed police officers in Louisiana raided a nightclub in 2006 as part of a liquor inspection. In Florida in 2010, officers in SWAT gear and with guns drawn carried out raids on barbershops that mostly led only to charges of “barbering without a license.”
“It just seems like ramping up a police department for a problem we don’t have,” said Shay Korittnig, a father of two who spoke against getting the armored truck at a recent public meeting in Neenah. “This is not what I was looking for when I moved here, that my children would view their local police officer as an M-16-toting, SWAT-apparel-wearing officer.”
A quiet city of about 25,000 people, Neenah has a violent crime rate that is far below the national average. Neenah has not had a homicide in more than five years.
“Somebody has to be the first person to say ‘Why are we doing this?’ ” said William Pollnow Jr., a Neenah city councilman who opposed getting the new police truck.
Neenah’s police chief, Kevin E. Wilkinson, said he understood the concern. At first, he thought the anti-mine truck was too big. But the department’s old armored car could not withstand high-powered gunfire, he said.
“I don’t like it. I wish it were the way it was when I was a kid,” he said. But he said the possibility of violence, however remote, required taking precautions. “We’re not going to go out there as Officer Friendly with no body armor and just a handgun and say ‘Good enough.’ ”
Congress created the military-transfer program in the early 1990s, when violent crime plagued America’s cities and the police felt outgunned by drug gangs. Today, crime has fallen to its lowest levels in a generation, the wars have wound down, and despite current fears, the number of domestic terrorist attacks has declined sharply from the 1960s and 1970s.
Police departments, though, are adding more firepower and military gear than ever. Some, especially in larger cities, have used federal grant money to buy armored cars and other tactical gear. And the free surplus program remains a favorite of many police chiefs who say they could otherwise not afford such equipment. Chief Wilkinson said he expects the police to use the new truck rarely, when the department’s SWAT team faces an armed standoff or serves a warrant on someone believed to be dangerous.
Today, Chief Wilkinson said, the police are trained to move in and save lives during a shooting or standoff, in contrast to a generation ago — before the Columbine High School massacre and others that followed it — when they responded by setting up a perimeter and either negotiating with, or waiting out, the suspect.
The number of SWAT teams has skyrocketed since the 1980s, according to studies by Peter B. Kraska, an Eastern Kentucky University professor who has been researching the issue for decades.
The ubiquity of SWAT teams has changed not only the way officers look, but also the way departments view themselves. Recruiting videos feature clips of officers storming into homes with smoke grenades and firing automatic weapons. In Springdale, Ark., a police recruiting video is dominated by SWAT clips, including officers throwing a flash grenade into a house and creeping through a field in camouflage.
In South Carolina, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s website features its SWAT team, dressed in black with guns drawn, flanking an armored vehicle that looks like a tank and has a mounted .50-caliber gun. Capt. Chris Cowan, a department spokesman, said the vehicle “allows the department to stay in step with the criminals who are arming themselves more heavily every day.” He said police officers had taken it to schools and community events, where it was a conversation starter.
“All of a sudden, we start relationships with people,” he said.
Not everyone agrees that there is a need for such vehicles. Ronald E. Teachman, the police chief in South Bend, Ind., said he decided not to request a mine-resistant vehicle for his city. “I go to schools,” he said. “But I bring ‘Green Eggs and Ham.’ ”
The Pentagon program does not push equipment onto local departments. The pace of transfers depends on how much unneeded equipment the military has, and how much the police request. Equipment that goes unclaimed typically is destroyed. So police chiefs say their choice is often easy: Ask for free equipment that would otherwise be scrapped, or look for money in their budgets to prepare for an unlikely scenario. Most people understand, police officers say.
“When you explain that you’re preparing for something that may never happen, they get it,” said Capt. Tiger Parsons of the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office in northwest Missouri, which recently received a mine-resistant truck.
In the Indianapolis suburbs, officers said they needed a mine-resistant vehicle to protect against a possible attack by veterans returning from war.
“You have a lot of people who are coming out of the military that have the ability and knowledge to build I.E.D.’s and to defeat law enforcement techniques,” Sgt. Dan Downing of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department told the local Fox affiliate, referring to improvised explosive devices, or homemade bombs. Sergeant Downing did not return a message seeking comment.
The police in 38 states have received silencers, which soldiers use to muffle gunfire during raids and sniper attacks. Lauren Wild, the sheriff in rural Walsh County, N.D., said he saw no need for silencers. When told he had 40 of them for his county of 11,000 people, Sheriff Wild confirmed it with a colleague and said he would look into it. “I don’t recall approving them,” he said.
Some officials are reconsidering their eagerness to take the gear. Last year, the sheriff’s office in Oxford County, Maine, told county officials that it wanted a mine-resistant vehicle because Maine’s western foothills “face a previously unimaginable threat from terrorist activities.”
County commissioners approved the request, but recently rescinded it at the sheriff’s request. Scott Cole, the county administrator, said some people expressed concerns about the truck, and the police were comfortable that a neighboring community could offer its vehicle in an emergency.
At the Neenah City Council, Mr. Pollnow is pushing for a requirement that the council vote on all equipment transfers. When he asks about the need for military equipment, he said the answer is always the same: It protects police officers.
“Who’s going to be against that? You’re against the police coming home safe at night?” he said. “But you can always present a worst-case scenario. You can use that as a framework to get anything.”
Chief Wilkinson said he was not interested in militarizing Neenah. But officers are shot, even in small towns. If there were an affordable way to protect his people without the new truck, he would do it.
“I hate having our community divided over a law enforcement issue like this. But we are,” he said. “It drives me to my knees in prayer for the safety of this community every day. And it convinced me that this was the right thing for our community.”
Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton looks at a memorial about cluster bombing during a tour of the Cooperative Orthotic Prosthetic Enterprise (COPE) Center in Vientiane, Laos, in 2012.
The horror of Boston should be a reminder that the choice of weaponry can be in itself an act of evil. “Boston Bombs Were Loaded to Maim” is the way The New York Times defined the hideousness of the weapons used, and President Obama made clear that “anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.” But are we as a society prepared to be judged by that standard?
The president’s deployment of drones that all too often treat innocent civilians as collateral damage comes quickly to mind. It should also be pointed out that the U.S. still maintains a nuclear arsenal and, as our killing and wounding hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese demonstrated, those weapons are inherently, by the president’s definition, weapons of terror. But it is America’s role in the deployment of antipersonnel land mines, and our country’s refusal to sign off on a ban on cluster munitions agreed to by most of the world’s nations, that offers the most glaring analogy with the carnage of Boston.
To this day, antipersonnel weapons—the technologically refined version of the primitive pressure cooker fragmentation bombs exploded in Boston—maim and kill farmers and their children in the Southeast Asian killing fields left over from our country’s past experiment in genocide. An experiment that as a sideshow to our obsession with replacing French colonialism in Vietnam involved dropping 277 million cluster bomblets on Laos between 1964 and 1973.
The whole point of a cluster weapon is to target an area the size of several football fields with the same bits of maiming steel that did so much damage in Boston. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been active in attempting to clear land of remaining bomblets, estimates 10,000 Lao civilian casualties to date from such weapons. As many as twenty-seven million unexploded bomblets remain in the country, according to the committee.
Back in 1964 at the start of that bombing campaign, I reported from Laos, an economically primitive land where a pencil was a prize gift to students. It is staggering to me that the death we visited upon a people, then largely ignorant of life in America, still should be ongoing.and the deadly bomblets they contain has since expanded to most of the world, and they have been used by at least 15 nations. As a recent Congressional Research Service report noted:
“Cluster munitions were used by the Soviets in Afghanistan, by the British in the Falklands, by the Coalition in the Gulf War, and by the warring factions in Yugoslavia. In Kosovo and Yugoslavia in 1999, NATO forces dropped 1,765 cluster bombs containing approximately 295,000 submunitions. From 2001 through 2002, the United States dropped 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 submunitions in Afghanistan, and U.S. and British forces used almost 13,000 cluster munitions containing an estimated 1.8 million to 2 million submunitions during the first three weeks of combat in Iraq in 2003.”
Israel is said to have dropped almost 1 million unexploded bomblets in Lebanon in the 2006 war against Hezbollah, which fired 113 cluster bombs filled with thousands of bomblets at targets in northern Israel.
I list all those dreary statistics to drive home the point that the horror of two pressure cooker bombs in Boston that has so traumatized us should help us grasp the significance of the 1.8 million bomblets dropped in Iraq over a three-week period.
Obama was right to blast the use of weapons that targeted civilians in Boston as inherent acts of terrorism, but by what standard do such weapons change their nature when they are deployed by governments against civilians?
On Aug. 1, 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions, banning such weapons, became a matter of international law for the 111 nations, including 18 NATO members, that signed the agreement. The U.S. was not one of them. Current American policy, according to the Congressional Research Service report, is that “cluster munitions are available for use by every combat aircraft in the U.S. inventory; they are integral to every Army or Marine maneuver element and in some cases constitute up to 50 percent of tactical indirect fire support.”
However, there is new legislation pending in Congress that would require the president to certify that cluster munitions would “only be used against clearly defined military targets” and not deployed “where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians.” Lots of luck with that.