Category Archives: Police militarization

People’s Mobilization Unites For People And Planet

The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet is two weeks away. The “People’s Mobe” will be held from September 20 to 23 in New York City during the United Nations General Assembly.

Members of the Venezuelan Embassy Protection Collective started organizing the People’s Mobe in May. Organizers sought to bring the issue of US violations of international law, such as when the State Department violated the Vienna Convention by raiding the Venezuelan Embassy on May 16, to the UN General Assembly and began to plan around September 21, the International Day of Peace. Organizers wrote:

At a time when all of the world leaders gather, we will say we’ve had enough of the US War Machine.

We demand the US be held accountable for its destructive acts. It’s time for the US government to obey the United Nations Charter by stopping regime change operations, ending the use of unilateral coercive measures (aka sanctions) and ceasing military attacks.

We demand the US sign the nuclear weapons ban treaty, rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement and Paris climate treaty, disband NATO and close bases and outposts around the world.

We demand an immediate transition to a peace economy that uses our resources to meet human needs and protect the planet.

The People’s Mobe begins with the Climate Strike on Friday, September 20, an international day of action on the climate crisis, and ends with a solidarity evening uniting countries and popular movements around opposition to US intervention and respect for international laws that uphold sovereignty, human rights and protection of the planet.

The weekend will also focus on decolonization joining a protest for the liberation of Puerto Rico and black resistance to racism and militarism in the “Americas.”

Schedule of Events for the People’s Mobilization Against the US War Machine

Friday, September 20 – People’s Climate Strike. Starts at Foley Square at noon, then a march to Battery Park for a rally at 3:00 pm. We’ll bring messages connecting militarism and the climate crisis.

Saturday, September 21 – Puerto Rico Independence Rally at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza at the UN. It’s time to decolonize Puerto Rico! Time TBA.

Saturday, September 21 – Race, Militarism and Black Resistance in the “Americas” from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at the Green Worker Cooperative, 1231 Lafayette Ave in the Bronx.

Sunday, September 22 – People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine and Save the Planet Rally and March, Herald Square near 34th St. and 6th Ave., 2:00 pm. Featuring Cornel West, Roger Waters, members of the Embassy Protection Collective, Chairman Omali Yeshitela, music by Ben Grosscup plus many solidarity, climate crisis, and resistance groups. More special guests to be announced.

Monday, September 23 – Solidarity evening with UN representatives from countries targeted by US sanctions and intervention. “A Path to International Peace: Realizing the Vision of the United Nations Charter.” Location: Community Church of New York 40 East 35th St., New York City, 10016. Hear from UN representatives and social movements. The Peace Memorial Prize will be awarded and David Rovics will perform. Time:  6:30 pm (doors open at 6:00 pm). You must register in advance. Register at http://bit.ly/RSVPapathtopeace. The event is free but we will accept donations to help cover the costs.

People’s Mobilization Shows Interconnections At Historical Moment

The People’s Mobe is connecting the issues of militarism, climate crisis, racism, and decolonization. We cannot achieve economic, racial and environmental justice or peace without forming a united people’s force that demands international law be obeyed by the greatest violator of laws, the United States.

We face multiple crisis issues that are reaching their breaking points. We are in a climate emergency as fires, hurricanes, flooding, and drought are becoming common experiences, destroying communities and causing hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. Even if the US government ignores climate science, people understand it and realize these conditions are worsening. As a result, the Global Climate Strike from September 20-27 was called. Popular Resistance will participate in the Strike in NYC; other peace activists are joining the Shut-Down DC Climate Strike.  We urge peace activists throughout the country to support the Climate Strike and demonstrate the connection between militarism and climate.

The role of the US military in climate change is massive as oil is essential for the war machine. There is no such thing as a Green War. We cannot confront climate change without confronting US militarism.

Even though the US military produces more climate pollution than 140 countries combined, the US-made sure the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change from 1997, the first international accord to limit global warming emissions, excluded fossil fuel emissions by the military. Even the Paris Agreement, which Trump withdrew from, still enabled the US to avoid reporting Pentagon emissions.

As a result, the greatest fossil fuel polluter on the planet is excluded despite the fact that the US military accounts for 25% of the total US consumption of oil, which is itself 25% of the total world consumption. US military fossil fuel pollution is equivalent to 25 million additional cars on US roads. The US Air Force is the single largest consumer of jet fuel in the world.

The US and allies learned in World War II that controlling the oil supply and cutting off Germany’s access to oil was essential to defeating Hitler. Since then, domination of oil reserves has been a central goal of US policy to ensure its role as the global superpower. Even with the rapid increase in US fossil fuel production, denying China access to oil from Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and other sources is critical to remaining the world’s dominant power. The US and its war machine drive the rise in greenhouse gases.

The ties between war and racism have been evident throughout US history since the “Indian Wars” of Manifest Destiny and the theft of one-fifth of Mexico during the US war with Mexico, which gave the US control of much of North America. As the US expanded its empire beyond the continent, the US fought wars against people of color all over the world and today is rapidly militarizing Africa.

As happens with empires, the empire turns against its own people to take as much as it can from its poor and working classes for the wealthiest. Not only has this resulted in an immense wealth divide and widespread poverty, homelessness and inadequate education for many people in the US, but it has also led to militarized police forces that use weapons and techniques of war against the people in the United States. The prime targets of domestic militarized police are communities of color, which have been left destitute from neglect and the funneling of wealth upwards in a racially-biased manner.

Part of being the largest empire in world history not only includes an empire of bases and dollar domination of trade and the global economy, but also the US remains a colonizer nation. While decolonization created scores of independent nations from 1945-1960, the United States did not decolonize. As a result states like Hawaii, which was an independent nation throughout most of its history, did not become independent and territories like Puerto Rico, which had broken from Spanish colonization only to be captured as a US colony, remain.

Uniting To End Empire and Militarization, and put People and Planet First

The Peoples Mobilization comes at a time when all of these fronts of struggle are coming together. Climate activists realize that ending wars for oil, closing bases and making serious cuts to military funding are essential for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and financing a global Green New Deal. Anti-war activists recognize that keeping fossil fuels in the ground is essential for stopping endless wars.

It is time to stop the US war machine and for the US government to stop its global gangsterism. The US must obey international law and be held accountable for illegal and destructive acts. The Non-Aligned Movement countries made a commitment to do what they can this past July. Now, we need a global popular movement that pushes to make peace, justice, and a livable future a reality.

If you agree, sign onto the Global Appeal for Peace. We plan to deliver it to the United Nations while they are in session. Beyond that, we will continue to build a global solidarity movement to Stop The US War Machine and Save the Planet.

The American Gulag

The exile of prisoners to a distant place, where they can ‘pay their debt to society,’ make themselves useful, and not contaminate others with their ideas or their criminal acts, is a practice as old as civilization itself. The rulers of ancient Rome and Greece sent their dissidents off to distant colonies. Socrates chose death over the torment of exile from Athens. The poet Ovid was exiled to a fetid port on the Black Sea.”

— Anne Applebaum, Gulag: A History, 2003

This is how freedom dies.

This is how you condition a populace to life as prisoners in a police state: by brainwashing them into believing they are free so that they will march in lockstep with the state and be incapable of recognizing the prison walls that surround them.

Face the facts: we are no longer free.

We in the American Police State may enjoy the illusion of freedom, but that is all it is: an elaborate deception, rooted in denial and delusion, that hides the grasping, greedy, power-hungry, megalomaniacal force that lurks beneath the surface.

Brick by brick, the prison walls being erected around us by the government and its corporate partners-in-crime grow more oppressive and more pervasive by the day.

Brick by brick, we are finding there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Brick by brick, we are being walled in, locked down and locked up.

That’s the curious thing about walls: they not only keep those on the outside from getting in, they also keep those on the inside from getting out.

Consider, if you will, some of the “bricks” in the police state’s wall that serve to imprison the citizenry: Red flag gun laws that strip citizens of their rights based on the flimsiest of pretexts concocted by self-serving politicians. Overcriminalization resulting in jail time for nonviolent offenses such as feeding stray cats and buying foreign honey. Military training drills—showy exercises in armed intimidation—and live action “role playing” between soldiers and “freedom fighters” staged in small rural communities throughout the country. Profit-driven speed and red light cameras that do little for safety while padding the pockets of government agencies. Overt surveillance that turns citizens into suspects.

Police-run facial recognition software that mistakenly labels law-abiding citizens as criminals. Punitive programs that strip citizens of their passports and right to travel over unpaid taxes. Government agents that view segments of the populace as “subhuman” and treat them accordingly. A social credit system (similar to China’s) that rewards behavior deemed “acceptable” and punishes behavior the government and its corporate allies find offensive, illegal or inappropriate.

These are just a small sampling of the oppressive measures used by the government to control and constrict the American people.

What these despotic tactics add up to is an authoritarian prison in every sense of the word.

Granted this prison may not appear as overtly bleak as the soul-destroying gulags described by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in his masterpiece The Gulag Archipelago, but that’s just a matter of aesthetics.

Strip away the surface embellishments and you’ll find the core is no less sinister than that of the gulags of the Cold War-era Soviet Union.

Those gulags, according to historian Anne Applebaum, used as a form of “administrative exile—which required no trial and no sentencing procedure—was an ideal punishment not only for troublemakers as such, but also for political opponents of the regime.”

The word “gulag” refers to a labor or concentration camp where prisoners (oftentimes political prisoners or so-called “enemies of the state,” real or imagined) were imprisoned as punishment for their crimes against the state. As Applebaum explains:

Over time, the word “Gulag” has also come to signify not only the administration of the concentration camps but also the system of Soviet slave labor itself, in all its forms and varieties: labor camps, punishment camps, criminal and political camps, women’s camps, children’s camps, transit camps. Even more broadly, “Gulag” has come to mean the Soviet repressive system itself, the set of procedures that prisoners once called the “meat-grinder”: the arrests, the interrogations, the transport in unheated cattle cars, the forced labor, the destruction of families, the years spent in exile, the early and unnecessary deaths.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was such a political prisoner.

For the crime of daring to criticize Stalin in a private letter to a school friend, Solzhenitsyn was arrested and sentenced to eight years in exile in a labor camp.

That was before psychiatry paved the way for totalitarian regimes such as the Soviet Union to declare dissidents mentally ill and consign political prisoners to prisons disguised as psychiatric hospitals, where they could be isolated from the rest of society, their ideas discredited, and subjected to electric shocks, drugs and various medical procedures to break them physically and mentally.

In addition to declaring political dissidents mentally unsound, government officials in the Cold War-era Soviet Union also made use of an administrative process for dealing with individuals who were considered a bad influence on others or troublemakers. Author George Kennan describes a process in which:

The obnoxious person may not be guilty of any crime . . . but if, in the opinion of the local authorities, his presence in a particular place is “prejudicial to public order” or “incompatible with public tranquility,” he may be arrested without warrant, may be held from two weeks to two years in prison, and may then be removed by force to any other place within the limits of the empire and there be put under police surveillance for a period of from one to ten years.

Warrantless seizures, surveillance, indefinite detention, isolation, exile… sound familiar?

It should.

The age-old practice by which despotic regimes eliminate their critics or potential adversaries by making them disappear—or forcing them to flee—or exiling them literally or figuratively or virtually from their fellow citizens—is happening with increasing frequency in America.

We saw it happen with Julian Assange. With Edward Snowden. With Bradley Manning.

They, too, were exiled for daring to challenge the powers-that-be.

It happened to 26-year-old decorated Marine Brandon Raub, who was targeted because of his Facebook posts, interrogated by government agents about his views on government corruption, arrested with no warning, labeled mentally ill for subscribing to so-called “conspiratorial” views about the government, detained against his will in a psych ward for standing by his views, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys.

Raub’s case exposed the seedy underbelly of a governmental system that is targeting Americans—especially military veterans—for expressing their discontent over America’s rapid transition to a police state.

Now, through the use of red flag laws, behavioral threat assessments, and pre-crime policing prevention programs, the government is laying the groundwork that would allow it to weaponize the label of mental illness as a means of exiling those whistleblowers, dissidents and freedom fighters who refuse to march in lockstep with its dictates.

That the government is using the charge of mental illness as the means by which to immobilize (and disarm) its critics is diabolically brilliant. With one stroke of a magistrate’s pen, these individuals are declared mentally ill, locked away against their will, and stripped of their constitutional rights.

These developments are merely the realization of various U.S. government initiatives dating back to 2009, including one dubbed Operation Vigilant Eagle which calls for surveillance of military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, characterizing them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.”

Coupled with the report on “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” issued by the Department of Homeland Security (curiously enough, a Soviet term), which broadly defines right wing extremists as individuals and groups “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely,” these tactics bode ill for anyone seen as opposing the government. Although these initiatives caused an initial uproar when announced in 2009, they were quickly subsumed by the ever-shifting cacophony of the news media and its ten-day cycles.

Yet while the American public may have forgotten about the government’s plans to identify and disable anyone deemed a potential “threat,” the government has put its plan into action.

Thus, what began as a blueprint under the Bush administration has become an operation manual under the Obama and Trump administrations to exile those who are challenging the government’s authority.

An important point to consider, however, is that the government is not merely targeting individuals who are voicing their discontent so much as it is locking up individuals trained in military warfare who are voicing feelings of discontent.

Under the guise of mental health treatment and with the complicity of government psychiatrists and law enforcement officials, these veterans are increasingly being portrayed as ticking time bombs in need of intervention.

For instance, the Justice Department launched a pilot program aimed at training SWAT teams to deal with confrontations involving highly trained and often heavily armed combat veterans.

One tactic being used to deal with so-called “mentally ill suspects who also happen to be trained in modern warfare” is through the use of civil commitment laws, found in all states and employed throughout American history to not only silence but cause dissidents to disappear.

For example, in 2006, NSA officials attempted to label former employee Russ Tice, who was willing to testify in Congress about the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, as “mentally unbalanced” based upon two psychiatric evaluations ordered by his superiors.

In 2009, NYPD Officer Adrian Schoolcraft had his home raided, and he was handcuffed to a gurney and taken into emergency custody for an alleged psychiatric episode. It was later discovered by way of an internal investigation that his superiors were retaliating against him for reporting police misconduct. Schoolcraft spent six days in the mental facility, and as a further indignity, was presented with a bill for $7,185 upon his release.

In 2012, it was Virginia’s civil commitment law that was used to justify arresting and detaining Marine Brandon Raub—a 9/11 truther—in a psychiatric ward based on posts he had made on his Facebook page that were critical of the government.

Incredibly, in Virginia alone, over 20,000 people annually are forced into psychiatric wards by way of so-called Emergency Custody Orders and civil commitment procedures.

Each state has its own set of civil, or involuntary, commitment laws. These laws are extensions of two legal principles: parens patriae Parens patriae (Latin for “parent of the country”), which allows the government to intervene on behalf of citizens who cannot act in their own best interest, and police power, which requires a state to protect the interests of its citizens.

The fusion of these two principles, coupled with a shift towards a dangerousness standard, has resulted in a Nanny State mindset carried out with the militant force of the Police State.

The problem, of course, is that the diagnosis of mental illness, while a legitimate concern for some Americans, has over time become a convenient means by which the government and its corporate partners can penalize certain “unacceptable” social behaviors.

In fact, in recent years, we have witnessed the pathologizing of individuals who resist authority as suffering from oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), defined as “a pattern of disobedient, hostile, and defiant behavior toward authority figures.” Under such a definition, every activist of note throughout our history—from Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr.—could be classified as suffering from an ODD mental disorder.

Of course, this is all part of a larger trend in American governance whereby dissent is criminalized and pathologized, and dissenters are censored, silenced, declared unfit for society, labelled dangerous or extremist, or turned into outcasts and exiled.

Red flag gun laws, growing in popularity as a legislative means by which to seize guns from individuals viewed as a danger to themselves or others, are a perfect example of this mindset at work. “We need to stop dangerous people before they act”: that’s the rationale behind the NRA’s support of these red flag laws, and at first glance, it appears to be perfectly reasonable to want to disarm individuals who are clearly suicidal and/or pose an “immediate danger” to themselves or others.

Where the problem arises, of course, is when you put the power to determine who is a potential danger in the hands of government agencies, the courts and the police.

Remember, this is the same government that uses the words “anti-government,” “extremist” and “terrorist” interchangeably.

This is the same government whose agents are spinning a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports using automated eyes and ears, social media, behavior sensing software, and citizen spies to identify potential threats.

This is the same government that keeps re-upping the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the military to detain American citizens with no access to friends, family or the courts if the government believes them to be a threat.

This is the same government that has a growing list—shared with fusion centers and law enforcement agencies—of ideologies, behaviors, affiliations and other characteristics that could flag someone as suspicious and result in their being labeled potential enemies of the state.

This is the same government that has, along with its corporate counterparts (Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc.), made it abundantly clear at all levels (whether it be the FBI, NSA, local police, school personnel, etc.) that they want no one challenging their authority.

This is a government that pays lip service to the nation’s freedom principles while working overtime to shred the Constitution.

Yes, this is a prison, all right.

Thus, for those who take to the streets to constitutionally express their opinions and beliefs, rows of riot police, clad in jackboots, military vests, and helmets, holding batons, stun guns, assault rifles, and sometimes even grenade launchers, are there to keep them in line.

For those who take to social media to express their opinions and beliefs, squadrons of AI censors are there to shadow-ban them and keep them in line.

As for that wall President Trump keeps promising to build, it’s already being built, one tyranny at a time, transforming our constitutional republic into a carceral state.

Yet be warned: in a carceral state, there are only two kinds of people: the prisoners and the prison guards.

In a carceral state—a.k.a. a prison state or a police state—there is no difference between the treatment meted out to a law-abiding citizen and a convicted felon: both are equally suspect and treated as criminals, without any of the special rights and privileges reserved for the governing elite.

With every new law enacted by federal and state legislatures, every new ruling handed down by government courts, and every new military weapon, invasive tactic and egregious protocol employed by government agents, “we the people”—the prisoners of the American police state—are being pushed that much further into a corner, our backs against the prison wall.

This concept of a carceral state in which we possess no rights except for that which the government grants on an as-needed basis is the only way I can begin to comprehend, let alone articulate, the irrational, surreal, topsy-turvy, through-the-looking-glass state of affairs that is being imposed upon us in America today.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we who pretend we are free are no different from those who spend their lives behind bars.

You see, by gradually whittling away at our freedoms—free speech, assembly, due process, privacy, etc.—the government has, in effect, liberated itself from its contractual agreement to respect the constitutional rights of the citizenry while resetting the calendar back to a time when we had no Bill of Rights to protect us from the long arm of the government.

Aided and abetted by the legislatures, the courts and Corporate America, the government has been busily rewriting the contract (a.k.a. the Constitution) that establishes the citizenry as the masters and agents of the government as the servants. We are now only as good as we are useful, and our usefulness is calculated on an economic scale by how much we are worth—in terms of profit and resale value—to our “owners.”

Under the new terms of this revised, one-sided agreement, the government and its many operatives have all the privileges and rights and “we the prisoners” have none.

Blood in Our Eyes

As the business grew, Sturm Ruger CEO Michael Fifer lobbied personally against a Connecticut ban on high-capacity magazines, commonly used with the company’s semi-automatic rifles. “The regulation of magazine capacity will not deter crime, but will instead put law-abiding citizens at risk of harm,” Fifer wrote to state lawmakers in early 2011. The legislation died in committee that April. At the NRA’s annual Corporate Executives Luncheon the next year, Fifer presented a check to the group for more than $1.25 million—$1 for every Sturm Ruger gun purchased the prior year. Eight months later, 20-year-old Adam Lanza used a semi-auto­matic rifle and a 30-round magazine to gun down 20 children and six adults at Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School, located just 27 miles from Sturm Ruger’s headquarters. In the year following the shooting, Sturm Ruger’s profits increased 56 percent.
— Josh Harkinson, Mother Jones, June 2016

Researchers at the University of Leeds used two bodies of transcribed, informal conversations among members of the public, comprising five million words in the 1990s and 12 million words in the 2010s. In the earlier conversations, 100 per cent of references to a ‘field’ concerned grass or farmland. That has fallen to 70 per cent, with modern conversation taking in the metaphorical fields of work, gravity or energy. Researchers also found that the following nature words have decreased in relative frequency among young people between the 1990s and 2010s: lawn, twig, blackbird, picnic, fishing, paddle, sand, welly, desert, paw, snow, grass, jungle, sky, path, bridge, bush, land, hill, fish, pond, mountain, soil, branch, stick, park, ground, wheel, tree, stream, rock, bird, road, garden, shell.
— Anita Singh, The Telegraph, July 2019

Magnum Research Desert Eagle: These large-caliber handguns, designed for hunting, have appeared in dozens of films, including RoboCop, The Matrix, Snatch, and Borat. “Here’s a gun that has very little practical usage,” the owner of a prop company told the Baltimore Sun. “The success of that particular weapon owes almost everything to the movies.”
— Dave Gilson, Mother Jones, May/June 2016 issue

It is interesting that amid the fall out from the El Paso and Dayton shootings one hears very little about the gun industry. The Firearms Industry Trade Association writes:

Companies in the United States that manufacture, distribute, and sell firearms, ammunition, and hunting equipment employ as many as 49,146 people in the country and generate an additional 162,845 jobs in supplier and ancillary industries. These include jobs in supplying goods and services to manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, and those that depend on sales to workers in the firearms and ammunition industry.

Ninety-one percent of guns manufactured in the U.S. are sold to citizens of the U.S. But this is nothing compared to the U.S. defense industry. Defense News wrote…

Combined weapon sales from American companies for fiscal 2018 were up 13 percent over fiscal 2017 figures, netting American firms $192.3 billion, according to new numbers released Thursday by the State Department. The department previously announced that FY18 brought in $55.66 billion in foreign military sales, an uptick of 33 percent over FY (fiscal year) 17’s $41.93 billion. Through the Foreign Military Sales process, the U.S. government serves as a go-between for foreign partners and American industry.

What had not been released until now is the total direct commercial sales, the process through which foreign customers can directly buy systems from industry. Those figures topped $136.6 billion for FY18, a 6.6 percent increase from FY17’s $128.1 billion.

But this is hardly accurate given that two arms sales packages to Saudi Arabia equaled 287 BILLION all by themselves. It should be noted that the U.K. sold even more arms to Saudi Arabia. But I digress.

Shimon Arad (at War on the Rocks) writes…

The defense and aerospace industry is America’s second-largest gross exporter. The industry contributes approximately $1 trillion annually to the U.S. economy and employs around 2,500,000 people. On average, 30 percent of the industry’s annual revenue is through arms exports…

So, it’s sorta all about how you count. The point is that the U.S. is a machine that makes and sells weapons. We are history’s number one death merchant. Now, arms sales globally have increased over 40% since 2002 (according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Britain and France are among those showing the largest growth. The Saudi market includes 31 billion dollars just in armoured vehicle purchases. And it’s growing. (Although because under Obama there were so many fighter jets sold to the Saudis and other gulf state monarchies that sales figures are likely to dip in the near future due to saturation).

The government is essentially a branch of the death industry. Peter Castagno wrote just this year at Truthout:

After the resignation of Gen. James Mattis, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan filled the post as interim head of the Defense Department. Before joining the Trump administration, Shanahan spent three decades working for Boeing — a blatant conflict of interest for the person responsible for overseeing federal contracts with private defense contractors. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, called Shanahan “a living, breathing product of the military-industrial complex,” and asserted that “this revolving door keeps the national security elite very small, and very wealthy, and increasing its wealth as it goes up the chain.” One egregious example of that revolving door is Heather Wilson, who has been secretary of the Air Force since 2017. In 2015, Lockheed Martin paid a $4.7 million settlement to the Department of Justice after the revelation it had used taxpayer funds to hire lobbyists for a $2.4 billion contract. One of the lobbyists was former New Mexico Representative Wilson, ranked as one of the “most corrupt members of Congress” by the nonprofit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Wilson was later confirmed as Air Force secretary in the Senate by a 76-22 vote. Mark T. Esper, the secretary of the Army, worked as vice president of government relations for Raytheon before joining the Trump administration in 2017. The Hill recognized Esper as one of Washington’s most powerful corporate lobbyists in 2015 and 2016, where he fought to influence acquisition policy and other areas of defense bills. Esper’s undersecretary, Ryan McCarthy, is a former Lockheed executive.

So, back to El Paso and Dayton. First thing to note is that the narrative (as always) emphasizes the ‘lone wolf’ gunmen idea, mentally unstable, a loner teased by classmates, bad haircut, etc. They might add he takes anti depressants (and often, or hell, almost always, they do) but rarely is the writing or the social connections and influences that shaped these young men investigated. In Norway, the Breivik story still tends to minimize the fascist connections that mass killer had throughout Europe. Whatever the truth of these shootings (as in, some witnesses saw three men dressed in black, etc) the one certainty is that the state will follow a clear story-line and hit home certain key points. The second thing that will happen for certain is more calls for “gun control” — you know, that three trillion dollar industry in death led by the United States. Remember here that some seventy thousand plus civilians have died in Yemen since the Saudi/U.S. assault on that nearly defenseless nation. The poorest in the Arab world. Remember the millions upon millions who have been murdered across Africa in wars and conflicts often directly orchestrated by the U.S. And using American made weapons.

US military aid to the rebels channeled (unofficially) through the illicit market, is routine and ongoing. In December 2015, a major US sponsored shipment of a staggering 995 tons of weapons was conducted in blatant violation of the ceasefire. According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, the U.S. … “is providing [the weapons] to Syrian rebel groups as part of a programme that continues despite the widely respected ceasefire in that country [in December 2015].
— Michael Chossudovsky, Global Research, 2019

One of the secondary effects (I suspect intentional) of the government and law enforcement narrative on mass shooting incidents (sic) is one that emphasizes a need to control the mentally unstable (a fluid definition that likely will include you and me at some point). Since the Philip K. Dickian idea of *future crime* is now relatively mainstream the focus on mass state quarantines of those who serve as potential threats is clearly implied in the master narratives on these shootings. The bourgeoisie respond to the death of white people (and OK, a few hispanics, too) with exaggerated horror. They do not show such horror at the atrocities in Yemen or Syria or Libya, committed by US/NATO. But then the lone gunman story is containable and easily grasped by their truncated moral GPS. The white liberal does not scream gun control when cops execute another unarmed young black man (or woman). Just as gun makers are ignored in the gun control logic, so are cops. The anti gun lobby seems okay with the idea that only steroid crazed racist policemen can carry guns. I have to tell you, I’m not so OK with that.

The familiarity of the rhetoric that surrounds these shootings has come to have a numbing effect. Still, it is important to note that as Adorno and Horkheimer observed that anti semitism grew in the U.S. after the defeat of the Nazis. So the love of guns and death seems to grow after each of these mass shootings. But the rise in gun related deaths contains another less advertised fact:

While much of the public attention is on the intense tragedies of gun massacres in the US – 2017 saw the deadliest mass shooting by an individual to take place in the country in modern history, when 58 people died in the 1 October rampage on the Las Vegas Strip – in fact most suffering takes place in isolated and lonely incidents that receive scant media coverage. Of those, suicide is by far the greatest killer, accounting for about 60% of all gun deaths.”
— Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, 2018

Gabor Mate, after the attack at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, wrote that the shooter’s “anger [that] has got nothing to do with what they think they are angry about. They are just angry because of what life has done to them as children and then they find external targets.” And this is what Fascism does too, of course. It provides an explanation, and a direction for the inarticulate rage. The U.S. is a stunningly sick society. I have grown weary of writing this fact because one finds oneself repeatedly in situations where this obvious truth must be stated..again. That sixty percent of gun deaths are suicide is a stunning statistic. The irrational hatred of the ‘other’ is always equally a self hatred. And you have to see these narrative themes cropping up again and again in only indirectly related issues. I’ve noted the racist eugenics backdrop to the overpopulation fear, a backdrop that finds partial expression in the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in Africa — where the theme is sterilization. The west then, regards Africa, arms conflicts they — the U.S. — start, and at the same time work to stop reproduction on the continent. Eradication of the dark-skinned other is a theme that cuts across all these white psycho shooters and it cuts across the story of western capital. Jews, blacks, Arabs, Hispanics — this is the legacy of colonialism and Manifest Destiny and European whiteness. American exceptionalism.

The very good Belen Fernandez (Al Jazeera, 2019) wrote:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conducted a test of Rekognition, Amazon’s facial recognition software, which compared images of all the members of the US Congress with a database of mugshots. The results, according to Rekognition: 28 US Congresspeople were identified as criminals. And what do you know: the false matches pertained disproportionately to people of colour. Now imagine the complications that might arise when you have such technology in the hands of US law enforcement officials who have already proven themselves predisposed to shooting black people for no reason. In addition to marketing its product to officials from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and other notoriously abusive entities, Amazon has also pushed for Rekognition’s use in police body cameras – which would presumably only increase the chances of pre-emptive misidentification by trigger-happy forces of law and order. The arms industry comes to mind, which has helped to eradicate countless lives from Iraq to Yemen and beyond. And as Raja stresses, it is important to remember in the US context that “what happens abroad matters and vice-versa”. Case in point: “Technology is often tested on the bodies of Black and Brown people, perfected and then applied locally.” As it turns out, the US is also one of a group of countries opposing a UN-proposed ban on the development of so-called “killer robots”: lethal autonomous weapons systems that use artificial intelligence – think facial recognition-equipped swarms of drones.

The reality is that the violence of Dylann Roof or Jared Lee Loughner or James Holmes is one with the violence of Fallujah or Afghanistan. The US occupies several countries as I write this, and has military bases spread across the world. Surrounding each base one will find spikes in public intoxication, fights, domestic abuse, rape and drug abuse. Nobody in those places want the U.S. military there. For the military is not only the expression of historical American violence and racism, but it also horribly pollutes the areas in which it is located. For this is only another aspect of the violence. A psychic pollution, an emotional toxicity that is embedded in the uniform and the various repressions that entails. The military is the violence of the ruling elite made operative.

I am reminded of two quotes of George Jackson’s…

I’m convinced that it is the psychopathic personality that searches out a uniform. There’s little doubt of what’s going on in that man’s head who will voluntarily don any uniform.
Soledad: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, October 1, 1970

and

Intellectuals still argue whether Amerika is a fascist country. This concern is typical of the Amerikan left’s flight from reality. … This is actually a manifestation of the authoritarian process seeping into its own psyche.
Blood in My Eye, Black Classic Press, 1971

Suggesting mental illness as the cause of these shooters’ violence is to distract from the institutional and class violence that exists all around them. In which each grew up. To focus disproportionately on their isolation or loneliness is almost ironic given they live in a society of acute crippling loneliness and in which suicide is rampant. A society in which isolation is manufactured by the state as only another strategy of control. Collectively breeds radicalization.  If people start to talk to each other, they might start to dissent from these master narratives. Best to stop all institutions of the collective. Best to deride any political form of collectivity…like, oh, communism. Best to refer to socialism as something practiced by war monger Bernie Sanders or pseudo progressive Alexandria Ocasio Cortez… that way the real socialism of a, say, Antonio Gramsci or Rosa Luxemburg will not be investigated. Best to encourage stories of individualism and triumph over social adversity. Not stories of tearing down systems of oppression.

Why is history being re-written? Vietnam, Korea, World War 2. Ask yourselves that rather simple question. Or the history of the Soviet Union, or Cuba, or Mao or Ho Chi Minh?

Treat global pollution and climate change as if it were a Hollywood disaster movie. Stigmatize asking questions, ridicule dissenting voices, shame those who will not submit to the official narrative. And the question here in the shadow of El Paso is not the truth or falsity of the narrative but the insistence on a submission to it. This is the same logic you would find at Jonestown if you went back in time. The very same. Or Synanon, or Heaven’s Gate. People are actually volunteering to stop having children. To stop flying. Voluntarily. Here is a clue, the U.S. military hasn’t stopped flying. And whenever the ruling class is talking to you — you should distrust what they say. Full stop.

And to underscore the racism so incrusted in American society and the climate discourse….

The populace today is encouraged to trust in consensus. Trust in popularity. If a movie is popular, well, it must be good. If everyone says something is true, well, it must be. As Norman Mailer said years ago, Americans are incapable “of confronting a book unless it is successful.” Lonely mentally ill young white men who shoot up public spaces do so because they can buy guns. And are mentally ill. In a society in which the economy is built upon mass violence and the manufacturing of guns, weapons, and ammunition. In which most new technology comes out of Pentagon research projects.

Are the police who beat or abuse or kill blacks and hispanics and native Americans…are they lonely and mentally ill? I mean, I’d say yeah, but that’s not the official narrative. And how many of those murderous policemen were veterans of the American military? The U.S. teaches violence. It glorifies it and romanticizes it and sexualizes it. Of course, people are going to shoot each other. As daily life becomes more unreal, and more intolerable, the suffering will find an outlet. And the one that is met with least resistance is the buying of guns. Young men are trained to think in martial terms. And this is where Trump can be seen as the perfect foil for the ruling class and why he will be re-elected. When Trump starts to tweet his concerns about public safety he will (I predict) also begin a normalizing of martial law and internment camps. I mean, camps are already mostly in use, albeit in small ways still. But martial law has been tested already with the Boston marathon shooting and subsequent hunt for the bombers. An entire city was shut down with almost unanimous public approval.

Barry Grey, World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) on April 2013, wrote:

The events in Boston have laid bare the modus operandi for the establishment of dictatorial forms of rule in the US. One or another violent act carried out by disoriented or disaffected individuals, perhaps with the help of elements within the state, is declared a terrorist event. A state of siege is imposed suspending democratic rights and establishing military-police control.

And it occurred after Hurricane Katrina when the governor declared an ‘state of emergency’ — evacuations were ordered and people were forced out of their homes and many businesses were closed. People were, in fact, removed to FEMA camps. Trump would meet with only symbolic objections by the Democratic Party. Some hand wringing and measured words of concern from Pelosi or Shurmer or Biden…and no doubt support from ex cop Harris and crypto-fascist Warren. It’s for your own good, after all. In fact, it’s for the good of those put in these camps. This is a nation, remember, where the government already flies surveillance drones to spy on its own citizens, and helicopters patrol areas targeted as potentially high crime (black and poor mostly) and SWAT teams increasingly are called out for routine offences — and where even small towns and some Universities have military surplus armoured fighting vehicles at their disposal.

On September 29, 2006, President Bush signed the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The law expanded Presidential authority to declare Martial Law under revisions to the Insurrection Act. The law was rolled back slightly in 2008 but Obama then signed a new version of NDAA that would allow the arrest and detention of U.S. citizens without due process. Obama also oversaw a federal policing report (in 2012) that suggested use of the military to supplement domestic police departments in times of social unrest. The creation of NORTHCOM (Northern Command) was really to draw up plans for civil unrest throughout north America. As Patrick Martin wrote in World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) back in 2005:

While Northcom was established only in October 2002, its headquarters staff of 640 is already larger than that of the Southern Command, which overseas US military operations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The reality is that the military brass is intensely interested in monitoring political dissent because its domestic operations will be directed not against a relative handful of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists—who have not carried out a single operation inside the United States since September 11, 2001—but against the democratic rights of the American people.

The ‘lone wolf’ shooter is now a domestic terrorist. Liberals are way out front on this designation, too. The terrorist tag opens the way to the further removal of all due process. So both a mentally ill misfit AND a domestic terrorist. Much as Osama bin Laden was an evil mastermind AND a cave dwelling primitive.

If martial law comes, it won’t be called martial law. It will be called Emergency Protective Sanctuary or some other Madison Avenue opaque and Orwellian term. Israel has rather perfected this stuff, though they seem today to barely care about global opinion. The climate crises plays into this, too, of course. It is useful to take the time to find the source of whatever dire warnings you are being told. Much of it has direct connections to the U.S. military in all its branches. Mike Pompeo even said the melting arctic presents a great business opportunity.

Trump is not an aberration or anomaly. He is the logical outcome of three hundred years of white supremacist values, arrogance, and class oppression. One need look back no further than Ronald Reagan to see the origins of much of what Trump is about. The Democrats are to the right of Trump on most of his foreign policy, and they will increasingly attack him from the right throughout this coming electoral season. Meanwhile the last shreds of civil liberties and due process are being removed. Fear is a great distraction. It’s the government’s three card monte game — and liberals and democrats are completely behind anything that is labeled green or about safety. Well, the safety of white people, mostly. And that doesn’t mean the homeless, of course. They are, in fact, another health and hygiene threat that needs to be dealt with. For their own good, naturally.

Trump and Black Misleadership Class

In a case that finally started to receive national attention over the last few weeks, Baltimore prosecutors finally achieved their desired goal after three attempts, a conviction of Keith Davis Jr., a young Black working class resident of Baltimore, who his supporters say, was set up by Baltimore police, for the murder of Kevin Jones.  Two trials ended in hung juries and another resulted in the judge overturning the conviction of Davis.

Community supporters of Davis said that the aggressive prosecution was just another example of the heavy-handed use of state power by local Black authorities that the residents of the city have come to expect in Baltimore.

When social pimp Rev Al Sharpton showed up in Baltimore standing with members of the Black petit-bourgeoisie to defend their “great city” from the unfair attacks by Donald Trump, no one raised any doubt about the fairness of Keith Davis Jr’s conviction. They didn’t talk about the over 40,000 abandoned properties in the city, the massive displacement of Black residents aided and abetted by the Black overseers of Baltimore. And no one dared to mention Freddie Gray.

Yet, in another bazaar example of “Trump derangement syndrome” the national Black community is supposed to defend these opportunists and servants of white capital just because they were called out by Trump.

After the Keith Davis verdict, Baltimore state prosecutor Marilyn Mosby issued a statement in which she said that “this case has been — and was always — about the pursuit of justice for Kevin Jones,” she wrote. “I truly hope Kevin’s loved ones can finally close this gruesome chapter of grief and find their path to healing.”

But what about the family of Freddie Gray? Doesn’t his life matter, don’t they deserve some justice also?

After one trial that led to an acquittal, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said that it would not be worth it to pursue cases against the other officers accused of killing Gray. So, all charges were dropped. And since the Obama Department of Justice also didn’t think Gray’s life was worth a Federal investigation, the killers walked, no convictions, no justice for the Gray family.

When Elijah Cummings, the new darling of liberals who one would think was some champion of social justice and principled Black leadership, was asked if there should be a Federal investigation of the officers after charges were dropped against the officers, Cummings said he didn’t have an opinion!

The controversy that has emerged from Trump’s comments on Baltimore reflects three interrelated theoretical and practical issues among Black/African peoples in the United States: The continued hegemonic standing of liberalism within mainstream Black political thought, the subordination of what is defined as Black politics to the dictates and agenda of the democrat party and the class consciousness of the Black petit-bourgeoisie and the lack of class consciousness among the Black working class.

It is understandable that a negative comment from Donald Trump regarding a major city in the country under the political leadership of Black people might spark an initial defensive reaction by many in the country because of his pattern of disparaging non-European peoples, regardless of their legal status in the U.S.

However, to try to advance an argument in opposition to Trump that frames life for African Americans in Baltimore as anything more than desperate, deprived and destitute requires a flight from reality that only members of the elite have the luxury to engage in. For Cummings, who has gone from having difficulty paying child support at the time he was first elected to Congress to today being a multi-millionaire, and his friends in the Black professional/managerial/administrative petit-bourgeois things are just fine in Baltimore.

But for the Black working class and poor who have been subjected to the systematic ravages of neoliberalism that devastated Baltimore’s industrial base, including the Baltimore port that was a hub for good paying jobs for the working class, facilitated massive displacement with urban recolonization (gentrification) and created a low-wage, de-skilled Black labor poor that is largely economically redundant, Baltimore in reality resembles the city that Trump referred to, and all the crying in the world will not change that reality.

The reality of Baltimore is the reality of decaying and dying cities and rural areas across this nation. These conditions are the conditions of late state, neoliberal capitalism that has de-centered capitalist industrial production and supply chains from the metropoles to the peripheral nations of the system. Many of the nation’s largest urban areas that have been devastated by these policies over the last few decades are also the areas with the greatest concentrations of African Americans with political leadership, but not economic power, in the hands of a Black overseer class.

When a Donald Trump with his own racist agenda distorts these systemic issues it does not follow that we should reinforce that by offering an analysis of Baltimore or any of these other cities where neoliberal Black democrats serve white power, that reduces an explanation of systemic issues to just one of the pigmentation of political class in charge in the cities or in the White House.

The Black petit-bourgeoisie as a “class for itself” is highly offended by Trump’s comments but because its class interests are in alignment with a sector of big-bourgeoisie, it is silent when Obama refers to the resisters in Baltimore as “thugs and criminals” and unleashes U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein on the people of Baltimore. Yes, the same Rosenstein at the center of Russigate.

While the DOJ only intervened into one case of killer-cops under Obama, Rosenstein made a special request to prosecute the poor, Black working-class individuals charged with various crimes during the Baltimore uprising. The result was draconian sentences that received no mention and no support because even the NGOs supposedly working on criminal justice reform went silent. Rosenstein’s position was clear and a warning to anyone who might resist state power “Anyone in the future who participates in a ‘riot’ should know that police, prosecutors and citizens will track them down and send them to prison.”

The Black misleadership class, liberal and centrist democrats, the forces grouped around Trump and even some radicals, have one essential thing in common, they all believe in the legitimacy of the U.S. state, the capitalist/imperialist system and are ready to fight to the last drop of your blood and mine to preserve this system.

The objective political and class ties of these elements is reflected in the unanimity of positions of “Full spectrum dominance, support for Israel, animosity toward the government in Venezuela, support for Department of Defense 1033 program responsible for militarizing police forces across the country, and the expansion of AFRICOM on the African continent.

This is the madness and reality of U.S. political culture. Scratch a liberal and not only do you find an imperialist supporter but a Donald Trump.

The State of the Union: These Are Dangerous Times, and the Government Is To Blame

As I look at America today, I am not afraid to say that I am afraid.

— Bertram Gross, Friendly Fascism: The New Face of Power in America

These are dangerous times.

Mind you, when I say that these are dangerous times, it is not because of violent crime, which remains at an all-time low, or because of terrorism, which is statistically rare, or because our borders are being invaded by armies, which data reports from the Department of Homeland Security refute.

No, the real danger that we face comes from none other than the U.S. government and the powers it has granted to its standing army to rob, steal, cheat, harass, detain, brutalize, terrorize, torture and kill.

The danger “we the people” face comes from masked invaders on the government payroll who crash through our doors in the dark of night, shoot our dogs, and terrorize our families.

This danger comes from militarized henchmen on the government payroll who demand absolute obedience, instill abject fear, and shoot first and ask questions later.

This danger comes from power-hungry bureaucrats on the government payroll who have little to no understanding of their constitutional limits.

This danger comes from greedy politicians and corporations for whom profit trumps principle.

You want to know about the state of our union? It’s downright scary.

Consider for yourself.

Americans have no protection against police abuse. It is no longer unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later, such as the 16-year-old teenager who skipped school only to be shot by police after they mistook him for a fleeing burglar. Then there was the unarmed black man in Texas “who was pursued and shot in the back of the neck by Austin Police… after failing to properly identify himself and leaving the scene of an unrelated incident.” And who could forget the 19-year-old Seattle woman who was accidentally shot in the leg by police after she refused to show her hands? What is increasingly common, however, is the news that the officers involved in these incidents get off with little more than a slap on the hands.

Americans are little more than pocketbooks to fund the police state. If there is any absolute maxim by which the federal government seems to operate, it is that the American taxpayer always gets ripped off. This is true, whether you’re talking about taxpayers being forced to fund high-priced weaponry that will be used against us, endless wars that do little for our safety or our freedoms, or bloated government agencies such as the National Security Agency with its secret budgets, covert agendas and clandestine activities. Rubbing salt in the wound, even monetary awards in lawsuits against government officials who are found guilty of wrongdoing are paid by the taxpayer.

Americans are no longer innocent until proven guilty. We once operated under the assumption that you were innocent until proven guilty. Due in large part to rapid advances in technology and a heightened surveillance culture, the burden of proof has been shifted so that the right to be considered innocent until proven guilty has been usurped by a new norm in which all citizens are suspects. This is exemplified by police practices of stopping and frisking people who are merely walking down the street and where there is no evidence of wrongdoing. Likewise, by subjecting Americans to full-body scans and license-plate readers without their knowledge or compliance and then storing the scans for later use, the government—in cahoots with the corporate state—has erected the ultimate suspect society. In such an environment, we are all potentially guilty of some wrongdoing or other.

Americans no longer have a right to self-defense. In the wake of various shootings in recent years, “gun control” has become a resounding theme. Those advocating gun reform see the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms as applying only to government officials. As a result, even Americans who legally own firearms are being treated with suspicion and, in some cases, undue violence. In one case, a Texas man had his home subjected to a no-knock raid and was shot in his bed after police, attempting to deliver a routine search warrant, learned that he was in legal possession of a firearm. In another incident, a Florida man who was licensed to carry a concealed firearm found himself detained for two hours during a routine traffic stop in Maryland while the arresting officer searched his vehicle in vain for the man’s gun, which he had left at home. Incidentally, the Trump Administration has done more to crack down on Second Amendment rights than anything the Obama Administration ever managed.

Americans no longer have a right to private property. If government agents can invade your home, break down your doors, kill your dog, damage your furnishings and terrorize your family, your property is no longer private and secure—it belongs to the government. Likewise, if government officials can fine and arrest you for growing vegetables in your front yard, praying with friends in your living room, installing solar panels on your roof, and raising chickens in your backyard, you’re no longer the owner of your property.

Americans no longer have a say about what their children are exposed to in school. Incredibly, the government continues to insist that parents essentially forfeit their rights when they send their children to a public school. This growing tension over whether young people, especially those in the public schools, are essentially wards of the state, to do with as government officials deem appropriate, in defiance of the children’s constitutional rights and those of their parents, is reflected in the debate over sex education programs that expose young people to all manner of sexual practices and terminology, zero tolerance policies that strip students of any due process rights, let alone parental involvement in school discipline, and Common Core programs that teach students to be test-takers rather than critical thinkers.

Americans are powerless in the face of militarized police. In early America, citizens were considered equals with law enforcement officials. Authorities were rarely permitted to enter one’s home without permission or in a deceitful manner. And it was not uncommon for police officers to be held personally liable for trespass when they wrongfully invaded a citizen’s home. Unlike today, early Americans could resist arrest when a police officer tried to restrain them without proper justification or a warrant—which the police had to allow citizens to read before arresting them. (Daring to dispute a warrant with a police official today who is armed with high-tech military weapons and tasers would be nothing short of suicidal.) As police forces across the country continue to be transformed into outposts of the military, with police agencies acquiring military-grade hardware in droves, Americans are finding their once-peaceful communities transformed into military outposts, complete with tanks, weaponry, and other equipment designed for the battlefield.

Americans no longer have a right to bodily integrity. Court rulings undermining the Fourth Amendment and justifying invasive strip searches have left us powerless against police empowered to forcefully draw our blood, strip search us, and probe us intimately. Accounts are on the rise of individuals—men and women—being subjected to what is essentially government-sanctioned rape by police in the course of “routine” traffic stops. Remember the New Mexico man who was subjected to a 12-hour ordeal of anal probes, X-rays, enemas, and finally a colonoscopy—all because he allegedly rolled through a stop sign?

Americans no longer have a right to the expectation of privacy. Despite the staggering number of revelations about government spying on Americans’ phone calls, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, Google searches, emails, bookstore and grocery purchases, bank statements, commuter toll records, etc., Congress, the president and the courts have done little to nothing to counteract these abuses. Instead, they seem determined to accustom us to life in this electronic concentration camp.

Americans no longer have a representative government. We have moved beyond the era of representative government and entered a new age, let’s call it the age of authoritarianism. History may show that from this point forward, we will have left behind any semblance of constitutional government and entered into a militaristic state where all citizens are suspects and security trumps freedom. Even with its constantly shifting terrain, this topsy-turvy travesty of law and government has become America’s new normal. It is not overstating matters to say that Congress, which has done its best to keep their unhappy constituents at a distance, may well be the most self-serving, semi-corrupt institution in America.

Americans can no longer rely on the courts to mete out justice. The U.S. Supreme Court was intended to be an institution established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds. Yet through their deference to police power, preference for security over freedom, and evisceration of our most basic rights for the sake of order and expediency, the justices of the Supreme Court have become the architects of the American police state in which we now live, while the lower courts have appointed themselves courts of order, concerned primarily with advancing the government’s agenda, no matter how unjust or illegal.

I haven’t even touched on the corporate state, the military industrial complex, SWAT team raids, invasive surveillance technology, zero tolerance policies in the schools, overcriminalization, or privatized prisons, to name just a few, but what I have touched on should be enough to show that the landscape of our freedoms has already changed dramatically from what it once was and will no doubt continue to deteriorate unless Americans can find a way to wrest back control of their government and reclaim their freedoms.

There can be no denying that the world is indeed a dangerous place, but what you won’t hear in any State of the Union address—what the president and his cohorts fail to acknowledge—is that it’s the government that poses the gravest threat to our freedoms and way of life, and no amount of politicking, parsing or pandering will change that.

So what do we do about this dangerous state of our union?

How do we go about reclaiming our freedoms and reining in our runaway government?

Essentially, there are four camps of thought among the citizenry when it comes to holding the government accountable. Which camp you fall into says a lot about your view of government—or, at least, your view of whichever administration happens to be in power at the time.

In the first camp are those who trust the government to do the right thing, despite the government’s repeated failures in this department.

In the second camp are those who not only don’t trust the government but think the government is out to get them.

In the third camp are those who see government neither as an angel nor a devil, but merely as an entity that needs to be controlled, or as Thomas Jefferson phrased it, bound “down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution.”

Then there’s the fourth camp, comprised of individuals who pay little to no attention to the workings of government. Easily entertained, easily distracted, easily led, these are the ones who make the government’s job far easier than it should be.

It is easy to be diverted, distracted and amused by the antics of politicians, the pomp and circumstance of awards shows, athletic events, and entertainment news, and the feel-good evangelism that passes for religion today.

What is far more difficult to face up to is the reality of life in America, where unemployment, poverty, inequality, injustice and violence by government agents are increasingly norms.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the powers-that-be want us to remain divided, alienated from each other based on our politics, our bank accounts, our religion, our race and our value systems. Yet as George Orwell observed, “The real division is not between conservatives and revolutionaries but between authoritarians and libertarians.”

A Badge of Shame: The Government’s War on America’s Military Veterans

For soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, coming home is more lethal than being in combat.

― Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, September 11, 2012.

Not all heroes wear the uniform of war.

In the United States, however, we take particular pride in recognizing as heroes those who have served in the military.

Yet while we honor our veterans with holidays, parades, discounts at retail stores and restaurants, and endless political rhetoric about their sacrifice and bravery, we do a pitiful job of respecting their freedoms and caring for their needs once out of uniform.

Despite the fact that the U.S. boasts more than 20 million veterans who have served in World War II through the present day, the plight of veterans today is America’s badge of shame, with large numbers of veterans impoverished, unemployed, traumatized mentally and physically, struggling with depression, suicide, and marital stress, homeless, subjected to sub-par treatment at clinics and hospitals, and left to molder while their paperwork piles up within Veterans Administration offices.

Still, the government’s efforts to wage war on veterans, especially those who speak out against government wrongdoing, is downright appalling.

Consider: we raise our young people on a steady diet of militarism and war, sell them on the idea that defending freedom abroad by serving in the military is their patriotic duty, then when they return home, bruised and battle-scarred and committed to defending their freedoms at home, we often treat them like criminals merely for having served in the military.

The government even has a name for its war on America’s veterans: Operation Vigilant Eagle.

As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, this Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program tracks military veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and characterizes them as extremists and potential domestic terrorist threats because they may be “disgruntled, disillusioned or suffering from the psychological effects of war.”

Coupled with the DHS’ dual reports on Rightwing and Leftwing “Extremism,” which broadly define extremists as individuals, military veterans and groups “that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely,” these tactics bode ill for anyone seen as opposing the government.

Yet the government is not merely targeting individuals who are voicing their discontent so much as it is taking aim at individuals trained in military warfare.

Don’t be fooled by the fact that the DHS has gone extremely quiet about Operation Vigilant Eagle.

Where there’s smoke, there’s bound to be fire.

And the government’s efforts to target military veterans whose views may be perceived as “anti-government” make clear that something is afoot.

In recent years, military servicemen and women have found themselves increasingly targeted for surveillance, censorship, threatened with incarceration or involuntary commitment, labeled as extremists and/or mentally ill, and stripped of their Second Amendment rights.

An important point to consider, however, is that under the guise of mental health treatment and with the complicity of government psychiatrists and law enforcement officials, these veterans are increasingly being portrayed as threats to national security.

This is not the first time that psychiatry has been used to exile political prisoners.

Many times throughout history in totalitarian regimes, such governments have declared dissidents mentally ill and unfit for society as a means of rendering them, disempowering them.

As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum observes in Gulag: A History:

The exile of prisoners to a distant place, where they can ‘pay their debt to society,’ make themselves useful, and not contaminate others with their ideas or their criminal acts, is a practice as old as civilization itself. The rulers of ancient Rome and Greece sent their dissidents off to distant colonies. Socrates chose death over the torment of exile from Athens. The poet Ovid was exiled to a fetid port on the Black Sea.

For example, government officials in the Cold War-era Soviet Union often used psychiatric hospitals as prisons in order to isolate political prisoners from the rest of society, discredit their ideas, and break them physically and mentally through the use of electric shocks, drugs and various medical procedures.

Insisting that “ideas about a struggle for truth and justice are formed by personalities with a paranoid structure,” the psychiatric community actually went so far as to provide the government with a diagnosis suitable for locking up such freedom-oriented activists.

In addition to declaring political dissidents mentally unsound, Russian officials also made use of an administrative process for dealing with individuals who were considered a bad influence on others or troublemakers.

Author George Kennan describes a process in which:

The obnoxious person may not be guilty of any crime . . . but if, in the opinion of the local authorities, his presence in a particular place is “prejudicial to public order” or “incompatible with public tranquility,” he may be arrested without warrant, may be held from two weeks to two years in prison, and may then be removed by force to any other place within the limits of the empire and there be put under police surveillance for a period of from one to ten years. Administrative exile–which required no trial and no sentencing procedure–was an ideal punishment not only for troublemakers as such, but also for political opponents of the regime.

Sound familiar?

This age-old practice by which despotic regimes eliminate their critics or potential adversaries by declaring them mentally ill and locking them up in psychiatric wards for extended periods of time is a common practice in present-day China.

What is particularly unnerving, however, is how this practice of eliminating or undermining potential critics, including military veterans, is happening with increasing frequency in the United States.

Remember, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) opened the door for the government to detain as a threat to national security anyone viewed as a troublemaker. According to government guidelines for identifying domestic extremists—a word used interchangeably with terrorists—technically, anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in order to criticize the government qualifies.

It doesn’t take much anymore to be flagged as potentially anti-government in a government database somewhere—Main Core, for example—that identifies and tracks individuals who aren’t inclined to march in lockstep to the government’s dictates.

In fact, as the Washington Post reports, communities are being mapped and residents assigned a color-coded threat score—green, yellow or red—so police are forewarned about a person’s potential inclination to be a troublemaker depending on whether they’ve had a career in the military, posted a comment perceived as threatening on Facebook, suffer from a particular medical condition, or know someone who knows someone who might have committed a crime.

The case of Brandon Raub is a prime example of Operation Vigilant Eagle in action.

Raub, a 26-year-old decorated Marine, actually found himself interrogated by government agents about his views on government corruption, arrested with no warning, labeled mentally ill for subscribing to so-called “conspiratorial” views about the government, detained against his will in a psych ward for standing by his views, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys.

On August 16, 2012, a swarm of local police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Raub’s Virginia home, asking to speak with him about posts he had made on his Facebook page made up of song lyrics, political opinions and dialogue used in a political thriller virtual card game.

Among the posts cited as troublesome were lyrics to a song by a rap group and Raub’s views, shared increasingly by a number of Americans, that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were an inside job.

After a brief conversation and without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, Raub was then handcuffed and transported to police headquarters, then to a medical center, where he was held against his will due to alleged concerns that his Facebook posts were “terrorist in nature.”

Outraged onlookers filmed the arrest and posted the footage to YouTube, where it quickly went viral. Meanwhile, in a kangaroo court hearing that turned a deaf ear to Raub’s explanations about the fact that his Facebook posts were being read out of context, Raub was sentenced to up to 30 days’ further confinement in a psychiatric ward.

Thankfully, The Rutherford Institute came to Raub’s assistance, which combined with heightened media attention, brought about his release and may have helped prevent Raub from being successfully “disappeared” by the government.

Even so, within days of Raub being seized and forcibly held in a VA psych ward, news reports started surfacing of other veterans having similar experiences.

“Oppositional defiance disorder” (ODD) is another diagnosis being used against veterans who challenge the status quo. As journalist Anthony Martin explains, an ODD diagnosis:

denotes that the person exhibits ‘symptoms’ such as the questioning of authority, the refusal to follow directions, stubbornness, the unwillingness to go along with the crowd, and the practice of disobeying or ignoring orders. Persons may also receive such a label if they are considered free thinkers, nonconformists, or individuals who are suspicious of large, centralized government… At one time the accepted protocol among mental health professionals was to reserve the diagnosis of oppositional defiance disorder for children or adolescents who exhibited uncontrollable defiance toward their parents and teachers.

Frankly, based on how well my personality and my military service in the U.S. Armed Forces fit with this description of “oppositional defiance disorder,” I’m sure there’s a file somewhere with my name on it.

That the government is using the charge of mental illness as the means by which to immobilize (and disarm) these veterans is diabolical. With one stroke of a magistrate’s pen, these veterans are being declared mentally ill, locked away against their will, and stripped of their constitutional rights.

If it were just being classified as “anti-government,” that would be one thing.

Unfortunately, anyone with a military background and training is also now being viewed as a heightened security threat by police who are trained to shoot first and ask questions later.

Feeding this perception of veterans as ticking time bombs in need of intervention, the Justice Department launched a pilot program in 2012 aimed at training SWAT teams to deal with confrontations involving highly trained and often heavily armed combat veterans.

The result?

Police encounters with military veterans often escalate very quickly into an explosive and deadly situation, especially when SWAT teams are involved.

For example, Jose Guerena, a Marine who served in two tours in Iraq, was killed after an Arizona SWAT team kicked open the door of his home during a mistaken drug raid and opened fire. Thinking his home was being invaded by criminals, Guerena told his wife and child to hide in a closet, grabbed a gun and waited in the hallway to confront the intruders. He never fired his weapon. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. The SWAT officers, however, not as restrained, fired 70 rounds of ammunition at Guerena—23 of those bullets made contact. Apart from his military background, Guerena had had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.

John Edward Chesney, a 62-year-old Vietnam veteran, was killed by a SWAT team allegedly responding to a call that the Army veteran was standing in his San Diego apartment window waving what looked like a semi-automatic rifle. SWAT officers locked down Chesney’s street, took up positions around his home, and fired 12 rounds into Chesney’s apartment window. It turned out that the gun Chesney reportedly pointed at police from three stories up was a “realistic-looking mock assault rifle.”

Ramon Hooks’ encounter with a Houston SWAT team did not end as tragically, but it very easily could have.

Hooks, a 25-year-old Iraq war veteran, was using an air rifle gun for target practice outside when a Homeland Security Agent, allegedly house shopping in the area, reported him as an active shooter. It wasn’t long before the quiet neighborhood was transformed into a war zone, with dozens of cop cars, an armored vehicle and heavily armed police. Hooks was arrested, his air rifle pellets and toy gun confiscated, and charges filed against him for “criminal mischief.”

Given the government’s increasing view of veterans as potential domestic terrorists, it makes one think twice about gpvernment programs encouraging veterans to include a veterans designation on their drivers’ licenses and ID cards.

Hailed by politicians as a way to “make it easier for military veterans to access discounts from retailers, restaurants, hotels and vendors across the state,” it will also make it that much easier for the government to identify and target veterans who dare to challenge the status quo.

Remember: no one is spared in a police state.

Eventually, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we all suffer the same fate.

It stands to reason that if the government can’t be bothered to abide by its constitutional mandate to respect the citizenry’s rights—whether it’s the right to be free from government surveillance and censorship, the right to due process and fair hearings, the right to be free from roadside strip searches and militarized police, or the right to peacefully assemble and protest and exercise our right to free speech—then why should anyone expect the government to treat our nation’s veterans with respect and dignity?

So if you really want to do something to show your respect and appreciation for the nation’s veterans, here’s a suggestion: skip the parades and the retail sales and the flag-waving and instead go exercise your rights—the freedoms that those veterans risked their lives to protect—by pushing back against the government’s tyranny.

Freedom is not free.

It’s time the rest of the nation started to pay the price for the freedoms we too often take for granted.

Fascism on the March

Latin America is re-converting into Washington’s backyard and as a sideline is returning to fascist rule, similar but worse than the sixties, seventies, and eighties, which stood under the spell of the CIA-led Operation or Plan Condor. Many call the current right-wing trend Operation Condor II which is probably as close to the truth as can be. It is all Washington / CIA fabricated, just with more rigor and more sophistication than Plan Condor of 40 and 50 years ago. As much as it hurts to say, after all the glory and laurels sent out to Latin America – with Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Rafael Correa, Evo Morales, Lula, the Kirchners, José Mujica, Michelle Bachelet – more than 80% of the population of Latin America were living for some 15 to 20 years under democratically elected mostly left-leaning governments, really progressive. Within no time, in less than 3 years the wheels have turned.

Latin America was for about 20 years the only western part of the world, that was fully detached from the fangs of the empire. It has succumbed again to the forces of evil, to the forces of money, the forces of utter corruption and greed. The people of Latin America have betrayed their own principles. They did it again. Humans remain reduced as in ancient times, to the unfailing powers of reproduction and ego cum greed.  It seems in the end, ego and greed always win over the forces of light, of good, peace and harmony. That’s why even the World Bank calls corruption the single most hindrance to development. They mean economic development; I mean conscientious development. This time the trick is false and fraudulent election campaigns; bought elections; Washington induced parliamentary coups – which in Brazil brought unelected President Temer to power, a prelude to much worse to come, the fascist, misogynist, racist, and self-styled military man, Jair Bolsonaro.

The 2015 presidential election in Argentina brought a cleverly Washington manufactured win for Mauricio Macri, a friend and one-time business associate of Donald Trump’s, as it were. The election was manipulated by the by now well-known Machiavellian Cambridge Analytica method of cheating the voters by individualized messages spread throughout the social media into believing all sorts of lies about the candidates. Voters were, thus, hit on the head by surprise, as Macri’s opponent, the left-leaning Daniel Scioli of the Peronist Victory Front, the leader in the polls, was defeated.

Today Macri has adopted a fascist economic agenda, indebted the country with IMF austerity packages, increased unemployment and poverty from12% before his election in 2015 to close to 40 % in 2018. He is leading Argentina towards a déjà-vu scenario of the 80s and especially 1990’s when under pressure from the US, IMF and World Bank, the country was to adopt the US dollar as their local currency, or to be exact, Argentina was allowed to keep their peso, but had to commit to a one-to-one parity with the US dollar. The official explanation for this criminal move, in economic terms (to impose the use of the currency of one country for the economy of another country is not only insane, it’s outright criminal), was to stop skyrocketing inflation – which temporarily it did, but to the detriment of the working class, for whom common staple and goods became unaffordable.

Disaster was preprogrammed. And the collapse of Argentine’s economy happened in 2000 and 2001. Finally, in January 2002, President Eduardo Duhalde ended the notorious peso-dollar parity. The peso was first devalued by 40% – then it floated towards a 70% devaluation and gradually pegged itself to other international trading currencies, like the euro, the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan. Eventually, the newly floating currency allowed the Argentine economy to get a new boost and recovered rapidly. Perhaps too rapidly, for Argentina’s own good.

The economy grew substantially under the left, fully democratically elected Kirchner Governments. Not only did the economy grow rapidly, it also grew in a widely ‘distributive’ mode, meaning reducing poverty, assessed at almost two thirds of the population in 2001, cutting it to about 12%, just a month before Macri was catapulted into office, by Washington and Cambridge Analytica in December 2015. Argentina has become rich again; she can now be milked again and sucked dry by the banking sector, and international corporatism, all protected by three to be newly established US military bases in the provinces of Neuquen, Misiones and Tierra del Fuego. They will initially be under the US Southern Command, but most likely soon to be converted into NATO bases. NATO is already in Colombia and may soon spread into Bolsonaro’s Brazil.

Though nobody really understands what the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has to do in South America – the answer is unimportant. The empire suits itself with whatever fits the purpose. No rules, no ethics, no laws – everything goes under neoliberalism. NATO is to become a world military attack force under Washington’s control and directed by those few “enlightened”, pulling the strings from behind the curtains, form the deep dark state.

Macri marked the beginning of Latin America’s new fascism. South America struggled for 15 -20 years to become independent from the neoliberal masters of the north. It has now been reabsorbed into the northern elite’s, the empire’s backyard — yes, sadly, that’s what Latin America has become for the major part, a mere backyard of Washington.

Argentina’s Washington imposed right-wing dictatorship was preceded by Paraguay’s 2012 parliamentary coup that in April 2013 brought Horacio Cartes of the right-extreme Colorado party to power. The Colorado Party was also the party of Alfredo Stroessner, the fascist brutal military dictator, who ruled Paraguay from 1954 to 1989.

In Chile on 9/11 of 1973 a democratically elected socialist, Salvador Allende, was overthrown under the guidance of the CIA and a brutal military dictator, Augusto Pinochet installed for almost 30 years. After a brief spring of center and left-leaning governments, Chile, in December 2017, has returned to right-wing, neoliberal politics with Sebastian Piñera, a former associate of Pinochet’s. With the surroundings of his neoliberal friends and close accomplices in Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and even Ecuador, to be sure, he will move to extreme right, neo-fascist economic rules and, thus, please Washington’s banks and their instruments, the IMF and the World Bank.

Fascism is on the march. And this despite the fact that 99.99% of the population, not just in Latin America, worldwide, want nothing to do with fascism – so where is the fraud? Why is nobody investigating the scam and swindle in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and then putting the results up for everyone to see?

In the meantime, we have learned about Cambridge / Oxford Analytica (CA & OA). How they operate and cheat the electorate. They themselves have finally admitted to the methods within which they operate and influence voters with lies – and with data stealing or buying from social media, mainly Facebook; millions and millions of personal data to target electronically special groups of people – bombarding them with lies to promote or denigrate the one or the other candidate.

And precisely this happened in Brazil. A week before the run-off election that took place this past Sunday, 28 October, Fernando Haddad, (PT), launched a criminal investigation precisely for that reason against Bolsonaro’s campaign. Of course, nothing happened. All the judges, courts and lawyers are under control of the unelected corrupt right-wing Temer Government – which came to power by a foreign directed ruthless parliamentary coup, impeaching under totally false pretenses democratically elected Dilma Rousseff.

And now – there is nobody investigating what happened in Brazil, bringing a military boy, Jair Bolsonaro to power? The left is dead? Flabbergasted into oblivion indeed? How come? With all the lessons to be learned around the world, and not least in Argentina, the neighbor – why can the Brazilian left be so blind, outright naive, as to not understand that following the criminally legalized system in their country is following the path to their own demise and eventually to shovel their own grave?

From day One, the US firmly counts on Bolsonaro to encircle Venezuela, together with Colombia. President Trump has already expressed his expectations to work ‘closely together’ with the new Bolsonaro Government in “matters of trade, military – and earthing else.” Bolsonaro has already met with Mike Pompeo, the US Foreign Secretary, who told him that the situation in Venezuela is a “priority’ for Brazil. There you go; Washington dictates foreign leaders their priorities. Bolsonaro will oblige, for sure.

Wake up – LEFT! – not just in Latin America, but around the world.

Today, it’s the mainstream media which have learned the tricks and cheats, and they have perfected the Cambridge and Oxford Analyticas; they are doing it non-stop. They have all the fake and fiat money in the world to pay for these false and deceit-campaigns.  They are owned by the corporate military and financial elite, by the CIA, MI6/5, Mossad – they are owned and directed by the western all-overarching neoliberalism cum fascism. The rich elite groups have free access to the fake and fiat money supply – its government supplied in the US as well as in Europe; debt is no problem for them, as long as they ‘behave’.

Yes. The accent is on behaving. Dictatorial trends are also omni-present in the EU, and especially in the non-elected European Commission (EC) which calls the shots on all important matters. Italy’s Fife-Star Eurosceptic Government presented its 2019 budget to Brussels. Not only was the government scolded and reprimanded for overstretching its accounts with a deficit exceeding the 3% EU imposed debt margin, but the government had to present a new budget within 3 weeks. That is how a not-so-well behaving EU government is treated. What a stretch of authoritarian EU rule vis-à-vis a sovereign government. And ‘sovereignty’ is – the EU boasts – the key to a coherent European Union.

On the other hand, France has for years been infringing on the (in)famous 3% rule. And again, for the 2019 budget. However, the French government received a friendly drafted note saying, would you please reconsider your budget deficit for the next year. No scolding. One does not reprimand a Rothchild Child. Double standards, corruption, nepotism, are among the attributes of fascism. It’s growing fast, everywhere in the west. It has taken on a life of itself. And the military is prepared. Everywhere. If only they, the military, would wake up and stand with the people instead of the ruling elite that treats them like their peons. Yet, they are part of the people; they belong to the most common of the people. In the end, they get the same shaft treatment as the people.  They are tortured and shot when they are no longer needed, or if they don’t behave as the neocon-fascists want.

So, Dear Military Men and Women, why not pre-empt such risks and stand with the people from the very beginning? The entire fake and criminal system would collapse if it wouldn’t have the protection of the police and the military. You, dear Men and Women form the Police and Military, you have the power and the moral obligation to stand by the people, not defending the ruthless, brutal elitist and criminal rulers – à la Macri, Bolsonaro, Piñera, Duque, Macron, May and Merkel. And there are many more  of the same blood.

One of the first signs for what was to happen throughout Latin America and spreading through the western world, was the “fake election” of Macri, in 2015 in Argentina. Some of us saw it coming and wrote about it. We were ignored, even laughed at. We were told we didn’t understand the democratic process. Yes, right. In the meantime, the trend towards the right, towards a permanent state of Emergency, a de facto Martial Rule has become irreversible. France has incorporated the permanent state of emergency in her Constitution. Armed police and military are a steady presence throughout Paris and France’s major cities.

There are only a few, very few exceptions left in Latin America, indeed in the western world.

And let’s do whatever we can to save them from the bulldozer of fascism.

Why aren’t more young people involved in the anti-war movement?

CODEPINK protesters at the Women’s March on the Pentagon this October. (Photo courtesy of Jodie Evans)

What comes to mind when you hear the words “anti-war protest”? Most Americans will picture the protests against the Vietnam war in the sixties and early seventies, an era famous for its youth and student-led movements. In the decades since the Vietnam war ended, youth involvement in peace movements has dwindled. Many young people were involved in protests against the Iraq war in 2002 and 2003, but the organizers were mainly older, and a widespread youth movement against the War on Terror never took off.

As a high-school graduate who has recently become involved with the anti-war movement, I can’t help but notice how few peers I have at most of the explicitly anti-war events I attend–despite my generation having a reputation for being especially politically active. Here are some reasons for this disengagement:

It’s all we’ve ever known. The United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, meaning any American age 17 or younger has never known a time when their country wasn’t at war. Most young people don’t even remember 9/11. The moment that ignited the years-long “War on Terror” barely weighs on my generation’s collective memory. It’s so easy for Generation Z to ignore war since it has always been a part of our lives.

There are so many problems at home to deal with. Why should we care what’s happening on the other side of the world when the police here at home are shooting unarmed black people, when millions of young people can’t afford a college education or leave college burdened with enormous debts, when millions of Americans can’t afford adequate health care, when immigrants are being deported and locked in cages, when there are mass shootings every few weeks, when the planet is burning? Obviously, we have a lot of other issues on our minds.

We are not at risk. The US hasn’t had a draft since 1973, and there haven’t been war-related deaths on American soil since World War II. It has been decades since Americans were in immediate danger of being killed by war, either as civilians or as draftees. And unless they have a loved one in the military or relatives living in a warring country, the lives of young Americans are not directly impacted by war. And yes, there have been a few terrorist attacks on US soil committed by foreigners since 9/11, but they are few and they are far outnumbered by attacks committed by Americans.

It doesn’t feel worth the effort. Eliminating militarism and ending war is a tedious, long-term endeavor. It would be incredibly difficult to make enough of a change to see direct, tangible results. Many young people might decide it is a better use of their time and energy to direct their efforts toward another cause.

Of course, everyone should care about the brutality of war, even if it has no obvious impact on us or seems daunting. However, few people seem to realize how deeply we all are affected by militarism.The increased militarization of the police is directly related to the rise in police brutality. The military’s incredibly high budget takes away money that could be used for social programs like universal healthcare and free higher education. And war has a tremendous negative impact on the environment. No matter what cause you feel most passionate about, ending America’s culture of militarism would benefit it.

How do we engage young people in anti-war activism? As with nearly every issue, I believe education is the place to start. If more people knew about the effects of militarism and understood the intersections between militarism and other forms of oppression, surely they would be compelled to work toward a peaceful society.

All this is not to say older people shouldn’t be involved in the anti-war movement. On the contrary, I think it is essential for this and all progressive movements to be multi generational. Young activists have so much to learn from those who came before us. Older people provide a unique perspective, can share the wisdom they’ve accumulated over the years, and often have more time to devote to activism than students and young parents. However, if more young people do not get involved with anti-war activism, the movement will die out. Furthermore, young people also bring unique advantages to any movement. We tend to be full of enthusiasm, comfortable with technology, and open to new ideas and methods. Young people have a lot to learn from older people, and vice versa. A productive and robust movement must accommodate and emphasize the talents of all generations.

Unfortunately, the US involvement in war shows no signs of slowing down. As long as war exists, so must an anti-war movement. As we seek new ways to rein in the war machine, let us both embrace the veterans of the movement and encourage young people to join its ranks.

Criminalizing Childhood: School Safety Measures Aren’t Making the Schools Any Safer

Every day in communities across the United States, children and adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours in schools that have increasingly come to resemble places of detention more than places of learning. From metal detectors to drug tests, from increased policing to all-seeing electronic surveillance, the public schools of the twenty-first century reflect a society that has become fixated on crime, security and violence.

— Annette Fuentes, Investigative Journalist, Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse becomes a Jailhouse, February 12, 2013

It used to be that if you talked back to a teacher, or played a prank on a classmate, or just failed to do your homework, you might find yourself in detention or doing an extra writing assignment after school.

Of course, that was before school shootings became a part of our national lexicon.

Nowadays, as a result of the government’s profit-driven campaign to keep the nation “safe” from drugs, weapons and terrorism, students are not only punished for minor transgressions such as playing cops and robbers on the playground, bringing LEGOs to school, or having a food fight, but they are being punished with suspension, expulsion, and even arrest.

Welcome to Compliance 101: the police state’s primer in how to churn out compliant citizens and transform the nation’s school’s into quasi-prisons through the use of surveillance cameras, metal detectors, police patrols, zero tolerance policies, lock downs, drug sniffing dogs, strip searches and active shooter drills.

If you were wondering, these police state tactics have not made the schools any safer.

Rather, they’ve turned the schools into authoritarian microcosms of the police state, containing almost every aspect of the militarized, intolerant, senseless, overcriminalized, legalistic, surveillance-riddled, totalitarian landscape that plagues those of us on the “outside.”

If your child is fortunate enough to survive his encounter with the public schools, you should count yourself fortunate.

Most students are not so lucky.

From the moment a child enters one of the nation’s 98,000 public schools to the moment he or she graduates, they will be exposed to a steady diet of draconian zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior, overreaching anti-bullying statutes that criminalize speech, school resource officers (police) tasked with disciplining and/or arresting so-called “disorderly” students, standardized testing that emphasizes rote answers over critical thinking, politically correct mindsets that teach young people to censor themselves and those around them, and extensive biometric and surveillance systems that, coupled with the rest, acclimate young people to a world in which they have no freedom of thought, speech or movement.

By the time the average young person in America finishes their public school education, nearly one out of every three of them will have been arrested.

More than 3 million students are suspended or expelled from schools every year, often for minor misbehavior, such as “disruptive behavior” or “insubordination.”

Black students are three times more likely than white students to face suspension and expulsion.

Zero tolerance policies that were intended to make schools safer by discouraging the use of actual drugs and weapons by students have turned students into suspects to be treated as criminals by school officials and law enforcement alike, while criminalizing childish behavior.

For instance, 9-year-old Patrick Timoney was sent to the principal’s office and threatened with suspension after school officials discovered that one of his LEGOs was holding a 2-inch toy gun.

David Morales, an 8-year-old Rhode Island student, ran afoul of his school’s zero tolerance policies after he wore a hat to school decorated with an American flag and tiny plastic Army figures in honor of American troops. School officials declared the hat out of bounds because the toy soldiers were carrying miniature guns.

A 7-year-old New Jersey boy, described by school officials as “a nice kid” and “a good student,” was reported to the police and charged with possessing an imitation firearm after he brought a toy Nerf-style gun to school. The gun shoots soft ping pong-type balls.

Things have gotten so bad that it doesn’t even take a toy gun to raise the ire of school officials.

A high school sophomore was suspended for violating the school’s no-cell-phone policy after he took a call from his father, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army who was serving in Iraq at the time.

A 12-year-old New York student was hauled out of school in handcuffs for doodling on her desk with an erasable marker.

In Houston, an 8th grader was suspended for wearing rosary beads to school in memory of her grandmother (the school has a zero tolerance policy against the rosary, which the school insists can be interpreted as a sign of gang involvement).

Six-year-old Cub Scout Zachary Christie was sentenced to 45 days in reform school after bringing a camping utensil to school that can serve as a fork, knife or spoon.

Even imaginary weapons (hand-drawn pictures of guns, pencils twirled in a “threatening” manner, imaginary bows and arrows, even fingers positioned like guns) can also land a student in detention.

Equally outrageous was the case in New Jersey where several kindergartners were suspended from school for three days for playing a make-believe game of “cops and robbers” during recess and using their fingers as guns.

With the distinctions between student offenses erased, and all offenses expellable, we now find ourselves in the midst of what Time magazine described as a “national crackdown on Alka-Seltzer.” Students have actually been suspended from school for possession of the fizzy tablets in violation of zero tolerance drug policies.

Students have also been penalized for such inane “crimes” as bringing nail clippers to school, using Listerine or Scope, and carrying fold-out combs that resemble switchblades.

A 13-year-old boy in Manassas, Virginia, who accepted a Certs breath mint from a classmate, was actually suspended and required to attend drug-awareness classes, while a 12-year-old boy who said he brought powdered sugar to school for a science project was charged with a felony for possessing a look-alike drug.

Acts of kindness, concern, basic manners or just engaging in childish behavior can also result in suspensions.

One 13-year-old was given detention for exposing the school to “liability” by sharing his lunch with a hungry friend. A third grader was suspended for shaving her head in sympathy for a friend who had lost her hair to chemotherapy. And then there was the high school senior who was suspended for saying “bless you” after a fellow classmate sneezed.

In South Carolina, where it’s against the law to disturb a school, more than a thousand students a year—some as young as 7 years old—“face criminal charges for not following directions, loitering, cursing, or the vague allegation of acting ‘obnoxiously.’ If charged as adults, they can be held in jail for up to 90 days.”

Another 12-year-old was handcuffed and jailed after he stomped in a puddle, splashing classmates.

Things get even worse when you add police to the mix.

Thanks to a combination of media hype, political pandering and financial incentives, the use of armed police officers (a.k.a. school resource officers) to patrol school hallways has risen dramatically in the years since the Columbine school shooting (nearly 20,000 by 2003).

What this means, notes Mother Jones, is greater police “involvement in routine discipline matters that principals and parents used to address without involvement from law enforcement officers.”

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, these school resource officers (SROs) have become de facto wardens in the elementary, middle and high schools, doling out their own brand of justice to the so-called “criminals” in their midst with the help of tasers, pepperspray, batons and brute force.

As a result, students are not only being ticketed, fined and sent to court for behavior perceived as defiant, disruptive or disorderly such as spraying perfume and writing on a desk, but they are also finding themselves subjected to police tactics such as handcuffs, leg shackles, tasers and excessive force for “acting up.”

In the absence of school-appropriate guidelines, police are more and more “stepping in to deal with minor rulebreaking: sagging pants, disrespectful comments, brief physical skirmishes. What previously might have resulted in a detention or a visit to the principal’s office was replaced with excruciating pain and temporary blindness, often followed by a trip to the courthouse.”

The horror stories are legion.

One SRO is accused of punching a 13-year-old student in the face for cutting in the cafeteria line. That same cop put another student in a chokehold a week later, allegedly knocking the student unconscious and causing a brain injury.

In Pennsylvania, a student was tased after ignoring an order to put his cell phone away.

On any given day when school is in session, kids who “act up” in class are pinned face down on the floor, locked in dark closets, tied up with straps, bungee cords and duct tape, handcuffed, leg shackled, tasered or otherwise restrained, immobilized or placed in solitary confinement in order to bring them under “control.”

Roughly 1500 kids are tied up or locked down every day by school officials in the United States.

At least 500 students are locked up in some form of solitary confinement every day, whether it be a padded room, a closet or a duffel bag. In many cases, parents are rarely notified when such methods are used.

In almost every case, these undeniably harsh methods are used to punish kids for simply failing to follow directions or throwing tantrums.

Very rarely do the kids pose any credible danger to themselves or others.

For example, a 4-year-old Virginia preschooler was handcuffed, leg shackled and transported to the sheriff’s office after reportedly throwing blocks and climbing on top of the furniture. School officials claim the restraints were necessary to protect the adults from injury.

A 6-year-old kindergarten student in a Georgia public school was handcuffed, transported to the police station, and charged with simple battery of a schoolteacher and criminal damage to property for throwing a temper tantrum at school.

Unbelievably, these tactics are all legal, at least when employed by school officials or school resource officers in the nation’s public schools.

According to a ProPublica investigative report, such harsh punishments are part of a widespread phenomenon plaguing school districts across the country.

Indeed, as investigative reporter Heather Vogell points out, this is a local story everywhere.

It’s happening in my town.

It’s happening in your town.

It’s happening in every school district in America.

This is the end product of all those so-called school “safety” policies, which run the gamut from zero tolerance policies that punish all infractions harshly to surveillance cameras, metal detectors, random searches, drug-sniffing dogs, school-wide lockdowns, active-shooter drills and militarized police officers.

Mind you, this is all part of the government’s plan to “harden” the schools.

What exactly does hardening the schools entail?

More strident zero tolerance policiesgreater numbers of school cops, and all the trappings of a prison complex (unsurmountable fences, entrapment areas, no windows or trees, etc.).

Schools acting like prisons.

School officials acting like wardens.

Students treated like inmates and punished like hardened criminals.

Even in the face of parental outrage, lawsuits, legislative reforms, investigative reports and endless cases showing that these tactics are not working and “should never be used for punishment or discipline,” full-grown adults—police officers and teachers alike—insist that the reason they continue to handcuff, lock up and restrain little kids is because they fear for their safety and the safety of others.

“Fear for one’s safety” has become such a hackneyed and threadbare excuse for behavior that is inexcusable.

Dig a little deeper and you’ll find that explanation covers a multitude of sins, whether it’s poorly trained police officers who shoot first and ask questions later, or school officials who are ill-equipped to deal with children who act like children, meaning they don’t always listen, they sometimes throw tantrums, and they have a hard time sitting still.

Unfortunately, advocates for such harsh police tactics and weaponry like to trot out the line that school safety should be our first priority lest we find ourselves with another Sandy Hook. What they will not tell you is that such shootings are rare. As one congressional report found, the schools are, generally speaking, safe places for children.

In their zeal to crack down on guns and lock down the schools, these cheerleaders for police state tactics in the schools might also fail to mention the lucrative, multi-million dollar deals being cut with military contractors such as Taser International to equip these school cops with tasers, tanks, rifles and $100,000 shooting detection systems.

Indeed, the transformation of hometown police departments into extensions of the military has been mirrored in the public schools, where school police have been gifted with high-powered M16 rifles, MRAP armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and other military gear. One Texas school district even boasts its own 12-member SWAT team.

According to one law review article on the school-to-prison pipeline:

Many school districts have formed their own police departments, some so large they rival the forces of major United States cities in size. For example, the safety division in New York City’s public schools is so large that if it were a local police department, it would be the fifth-largest police force in the country.

The ramifications are far-reaching.

The term “school-to-prison pipeline” refers to a phenomenon in which children who are suspended or expelled from school have a greater likelihood of ending up in jail.

As if it weren’t bad enough that the nation’s schools have come to resemble prisons, the government is also contracting with private prisons to lock up our young people for behaviour that once would have merited a stern lecture. Nearly 40 percent of those young people who are arrested will serve time in a private prison, where the emphasis is on making profits for large megacorporations above all else.

This profit-driven system of incarceration has also given rise to a growth in juvenile prisons and financial incentives for jailing young people.

Indeed, young people have become easy targets for the private prison industry, which profits from criminalizing childish behavior and jailing young people. For instance, two Pennsylvania judges made headlines when it was revealed that they had been conspiring with two businessmen in a $2.6 million “kids for cash” scandal that resulted in more than 2500 children being found guilty and jailed in for-profit private prisons.

So what’s the answer, not only for the here-and-now—the children growing up in these quasi-prisons—but for the future of this country?

Peter Gray, a professor of psychology at Boston College, believes that school is a prison that is damaging our kids, and it’s hard to disagree, especially with the numbers of police officers being assigned to schools on the rise.

Clearly, the pathology that characterizes the American police state has passed down to the schools. Now in addition to the government and its agents viewing the citizenry as suspects to be probed, poked, pinched, tasered, searched, seized, stripped and generally manhandled, all with the general blessing of the court, our children in the public schools are also fair game.

Instead of raising up a generation of freedom fighters, however, we seem to be busy churning out newly minted citizens of the American police state who are being taught the hard way what it means to comply, fear and march in lockstep with the government’s dictates.

After all, how do you convince a child who has been routinely handcuffed, shackled, tied down, locked up, and immobilized by government officials—all before he reaches the age of adulthood—that he has any rights at all, let alone the right to challenge wrongdoing, resist oppression and defend himself against injustice?

Most of all, how do you persuade a fellow American that the government works for him when for most of his young life, he has been incarcerated in an institution that teaches young people to be obedient and compliant citizens who don’t talk back, don’t question and don’t challenge authority?

What can be done?

Without a doubt, change is needed, but that will mean taking on the teachers’ unions, the school unions, the educators’ associations, and the police unions, not to mention the politicians dependent on their votes and all of the corporations that profit mightily from an industrial school complex.

As we’ve seen with other issues, any significant reforms will have to start locally and trickle upwards.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, with every school police raid and overzealous punishment that is carried out in the name of school safety, the lesson being imparted is that Americans—especially young people—have no rights at all against the state or the police.

If we do not rein in the police state’s influence in the schools, the future to which we are sending our children will be characterized by a brutal, totalitarian regime.

Vigilantes with a Badge: Warrior Cops Endanger Our Lives and Freedoms

There are always risks in challenging excessive police power, but the risks of not challenging it are more dangerous, even fatal.

— Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century

I have known a lot of good cops, I have defended a lot of good cops, and I have been fortunate to call a number of good cops friends.

So when I say that warrior cops—hyped up on their own authority and the power of the badge—have not made America any safer or freer, I am not disrespecting any of the fine, decent, lawful police officers who take seriously their oath of office to serve and protect their fellow citizens, uphold the Constitution, and maintain the peace.

My beef is with the growing squads of warrior cops who have been given the green light to kill, shoot, taser, abuse and steal from American citizens in the so-called name of law and order.

These cops are little more than vigilantes with a badge.

Indeed, it is increasingly evident that militarized police armed with weapons of war who are allowed to operate above the law and break the laws with impunity have not made America any safer or freer.

Don’t take my word for it.

A new study by a political scientist at Princeton University concludes that militarizing police and SWAT teams “provide no detectable benefits in terms of officer safety or violent crime reduction.”

In fact, according to researcher Jonathan Mummolo, if police in America are feeling less safe, it’s because the process of transforming them into extensions of the military makes them less safe, less popular and less trust-worthy.

The study, the first systematic analysis on the use and consequences of militarized force, reveals that “police militarization neither  reduces rates of violent crime nor changes the number of officers assaulted or killed.”

In other words, warrior cops aren’t making us or themselves any safer.

Consider that not a day goes by without reports of police officers overstepping the bounds of the Constitution and brutalizing, terrorizing and killing the citizenry. Indeed, the list of incidents in which unaccountable police abuse their power, betray their oath of office and leave taxpayers bruised, broken and/or killed grows longer and more tragic by the day.

Americans are now eight times more likely to die in a police confrontation than they are to be killed by a terrorist.

The problem, as one reporter rightly concluded, is “not that life has gotten that much more dangerous, it’s that authorities have chosen to respond to even innocent situations as if they were in a warzone.”

This battlefield mindset has gone hand in hand with the rise of militarized SWAT (“special weapons and tactics”) teams.

Frequently justified as vital tools necessary to combat terrorism and deal with rare but extremely dangerous criminal situations, such as those involving hostages, SWAT teams—which first appeared on the scene in California in the 1960s—have now become intrinsic parts of local law enforcement operations, thanks in large part to substantial federal assistance and the Pentagon’s military surplus recycling program, which allows the transfer of military equipment, weapons and training to local police for free or at sharp discounts.

Ponder this: In 1980, there were roughly 3,000 SWAT team-style raids in the US.

Incredibly, that number has since grown to more than 80,000 SWAT team raids per year.

There are few communities without a SWAT team today.

Where this becomes a problem of life and death for Americans is when these SWAT teams dressed, armed and trained in military tactics are assigned to carry out routine law enforcement tasks, such as serving a search warrant.

No longer reserved exclusively for deadly situations, SWAT teams are now increasingly being deployed for relatively routine police matters, with some SWAT teams being sent out as much as five times a day. In the state of Maryland alone, 92 percent of 8200 SWAT missions were used to execute search or arrest warrants.

For example, police in both Baltimore and Dallas have used SWAT teams to bust up poker games.

A Connecticut SWAT team swarmed a bar suspected of serving alcohol to underage individuals.

In Arizona, a SWAT team was used to break up an alleged cockfighting ring.

An Atlanta SWAT team raided a music studio, allegedly out of a concern that it might have been involved in illegal music piracy.

A Minnesota SWAT team raided the wrong house in the middle of the night, handcuffed the three young children, held the mother on the floor at gunpoint, shot the family dog, and then “forced the handcuffed children to sit next to the carcass of their dead pet and bloody pet for more than an hour” while they searched the home.

A California SWAT team drove an armored Lenco Bearcat into Roger Serrato’s yard, surrounded his home with paramilitary troops wearing face masks, threw a fire-starting flash-bang grenade into the house in order, then when Serrato appeared at a window, unarmed and wearing only his shorts, held him at bay with rifles. Serrato died of asphyxiation from being trapped in the flame-filled house. Incredibly, the father of four had done nothing wrong. The SWAT team had misidentified him as someone involved in a shooting.

And then there was the police officer who tripped and “accidentally” shot and killed Eurie Stamps, an unarmed grandfather of 12, who had been forced to lie facedown on the floor of his home at gunpoint while a SWAT team attempted to execute a search warrant against his stepson.

Equally outrageous was the four-hour SWAT team raid on a California high school, where students were locked down in classrooms, forced to urinate in overturned desks and generally terrorized by heavily armed, masked gunmen searching for possible weapons that were never found.

These incidents are just the tip of the iceberg.

Nationwide, SWAT teams have been employed to address an astonishingly trivial array of criminal activity or mere community nuisances: angry dogs, domestic disputes, improper paperwork filed by an orchid farmer, and misdemeanor marijuana possession, to give a brief sampling.

If these raids are becoming increasingly common and widespread, you can chalk it up to the “make-work” philosophy, in which you assign at-times unnecessary jobs to individuals to keep them busy or employed. In this case, however, the make-work principle is being used to justify the use of sophisticated military equipment and, in the process, qualify for federal funding.

Remember, SWAT teams originated as specialized units dedicated to defusing extremely sensitive, dangerous situations. They were never meant to be used for routine police work such as serving a warrant.

As the role of paramilitary forces has expanded, however, to include involvement in nondescript police work targeting nonviolent suspects, the mere presence of SWAT units has actually injected a level of danger and violence into police-citizen interactions that was not present as long as these interactions were handled by traditional civilian officers.

What we are witnessing is an inversion of the police-civilian relationship.

Rather than compelling police officers to remain within constitutional bounds as servants of the people, ordinary Americans are being placed at the mercy of militarized police units.

This is what happens when paramilitary forces are used to conduct ordinary policing operations, such as executing warrants on nonviolent defendants.

Moreover, general incompetence, collateral damage (fatalities, property damage, etc.) and botched raids tend to go hand in hand with an overuse of paramilitary forces.

In some cases, officers misread the address on the warrant.

In others, they simply barge into the wrong house or even the wrong building.

In another subset of cases (such as the Department of Education raid on Anthony Wright’s home), police conduct a search of a building where the suspect no longer resides.

SWAT teams have even on occasion conducted multiple, sequential raids on wrong addresses or executed search warrants despite the fact that the suspect is already in police custody. Police have also raided homes on the basis of mistaking the presence or scent of legal substances for drugs. Incredibly, these substances have included tomatoes, sunflowers, fish, elderberry bushes, kenaf plants, hibiscus, and ragweed.

As you can see, all too often, botched SWAT team raids have resulted in one tragedy after another for the residents with little consequences for law enforcement.

Unfortunately, judges tend to afford extreme levels of deference to police officers who have mistakenly killed innocent civilians but do not afford similar leniency to civilians who have injured police officers in acts of self-defense.

Even homeowners who mistake officers for robbers can be sentenced for assault or murder if they take defensive actions resulting in harm to police.

And as journalist Radley Balko shows in his in-depth study of police militarization, the shock-and-awe tactics utilized by many SWAT teams only increases the likelihood that someone will get hurt.

Drug warrants, for instance, are typically served by paramilitary units late at night or shortly before dawn. Unfortunately, to the unsuspecting homeowner—especially in cases involving mistaken identities or wrong addresses—a raid can appear to be nothing less than a violent home invasion, with armed intruders crashing through their door. The natural reaction would be to engage in self-defense. Yet such a defensive reaction on the part of a homeowner, particularly a gun owner, will spur officers to employ lethal force.

That’s exactly what happened to Jose Guerena, the young ex-Marine who was killed after a SWAT team kicked open the door of his Arizona home during a drug raid and opened fire. According to news reports, Guerena, 26 years old and the father of two young children, grabbed a gun in response to the forced invasion but never fired. In fact, the safety was still on his gun when he was killed. Police officers were not as restrained. The young Iraqi war veteran was allegedly fired upon 71 times. Guerena had no prior criminal record, and the police found nothing illegal in his home.

The problems inherent in these situations are further compounded by the fact that SWAT teams are granted “no-knock” warrants at high rates such that the warrants themselves are rendered practically meaningless.

This sorry state of affairs is made even worse by U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have essentially done away with the need for a  “no-knock” warrant altogether, giving the police authority to disregard the protections afforded American citizens by the Fourth Amendment.

In the process, Americans are rendered altogether helpless and terror-stricken as a result of these confrontations with the police.

Indeed, “terrorizing” is a mild term to describe the effect on those who survive such vigilante tactics. “It was terrible. It was the most frightening experience of my life. I thought it was a terrorist attack,” said 84-year-old Leona Goldberg, a victim of such a raid.

Yet this type of “terrorizing” activity is characteristic of the culture that we have created.

If ever there were a time to de-militarize and de-weaponize local police forces, it’s now.

While we are now grappling with a power-hungry police state at the federal level, the militarization of domestic American law enforcement is largely the result of the militarization of local police forces, which are increasingly militaristic in their uniforms, weaponry, language, training, and tactics and have come to rely on SWAT teams in matters that once could have been satisfactorily performed by traditional civilian officers.

Yet American police forces were never supposed to be a branch of the military, nor were they meant to be private security forces for the reigning political faction.

Instead, they were intended to be an aggregation of countless local police units, composed of citizens like you and me that exist for a sole purpose: to serve and protect the citizens of each and every American community.

As a result of the increasing militarization of the police in recent years, however, the police now not only look like the military—with their foreboding uniforms and phalanx of lethal weapons—but they function like them, as well.

Thus, no more do we have a civilian force of peace officers entrusted with serving and protecting the American people.  Instead, today’s militarized law enforcement officials have shifted their allegiance from the citizenry to the state, acting preemptively to ward off any possible challenges to the government’s power, unrestrained by the boundaries of the Fourth Amendment.

As journalist Herman Schwartz observed, “The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official.”

Armed police officers, the end product of the government—federal, local and state—and law enforcement agencies having merged, have become a “standing” or permanent army, composed of full-time professional soldiers who do not disband.

Yet these permanent armies are exactly what those who drafted the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights feared as tools used by despotic governments to wage war against its citizens.

This phenomenon we are experiencing with the police is what philosopher Abraham Kaplan referred to as the law of the instrument, which essentially says that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

In the scenario that has been playing out in recent years, we the citizenry have become the nails to be hammered by the government’s henchmen, a.k.a. its guns for hire, a.k.a. its standing army, a.k.a. the nation’s law enforcement agencies.

Yet the tension inherent in most civilian-police encounter these days can’t be blamed exclusively on law enforcement’s growing reliance on SWAT teams and donated military equipment.

It goes far deeper, to a transformation in the way police view themselves and their line of duty.

Specifically, what we’re dealing with today is a skewed shoot-to-kill mindset in which police, trained to view themselves as warriors or soldiers in a war, whether against drugs, or terror, or crime, must “get” the bad guys; i.e., anyone who is a potential target, before the bad guys get them.

The result is a spike in the number of incidents in which police shoot first, and ask questions later.

Making matters worse, when these officers, who have long since ceased to be peace officers, violate their oaths by bullying, beating, tasering, shooting and killing their employers—the taxpayers to whom they owe their allegiance—they are rarely given more than a slap on the hands before resuming their patrols.

As I document in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this lawlessness on the part of law enforcement, an unmistakable characteristic of a police state, is made possible in large part by police unions which routinely oppose civilian review boards and resist the placement of names and badge numbers on officer uniforms; police agencies that abide by the Blue Code of Silence, the quiet understanding among police that they should not implicate their colleagues for their crimes and misconduct; prosecutors who treat police offenses with greater leniency than civilian offenses; courts that sanction police wrongdoing in the name of security; and legislatures that enhance the power, reach and arsenal of the police, and a citizenry that fails to hold its government accountable to the rule of law.

Clearly, it’s time for a reality check, for both the police and the citizens of this nation.