Column by Tim Hartnett.
Exclusive to STR
It probably sounds odd to make a connection between the dilemma of US aid to Egypt and a federal lawsuit filed by the Mitchell family against the city of Henderson, Nevada on July 1st. In the one case, the foreign policy establishment is disappointed by Cairo’s struggle to reach a satisfactorily democratic solution to its governing woes. In the other, Americans opposed to indiscriminate violence are outraged that local authorities feel entitled to invade private homes taking residents captive for their own convenience. In this bizarre case that eerily fits into the progression of law enforcement excesses around the country, the constabulary commandeered two homes to spy on a third where a suspect of domestic violence resided.
You don’t have to look far to figure out where the constabulary got the idea, or the overwhelming means, to bust down the doors of regular folks and whimsically kidnap them. This kind of procedure is standard stuff wherever the military is deployed abroad. Over there, locals are generally content not to be vaporized by a drone. People stateside still feel comfortably removed from this reality video game for the time being.
More than a century ago, NYC police inspector Alexander Williams told his NYPD underlings: “There is more law in a policeman’s nightstick than a decision of the Supreme Court.” These days the boys in blue don’t give much thought to grandpa constable’s billy-club. The federal government is furnishing a wide variety of exotic gadgetry to local forces that is much sexier and exciting to wield than a piece of polished wood.
Politicians never bother explaining to us why municipal forces in the US are being armed like the military in a war-torn foreign land by the 1033 program. The reasons for pointing all this ordnance at US citizens are arcane and maybe even apocalyptic. Major media’s grudging examination of the subject has yet to reach the level of a controversy. How much “rule of law” comes with all this re-armament looks to be an unnecessary philosophical question. The emphasis of the new improved gendarmerie appears to be simply more enforcement for its own sake. The fact that courts, newsmen and elected officials are turning a blind eye to so many atrocities renders these actions legal for all practical purposes.
Recent events in Egypt round out this picture of worldwide human degradation. The US has been mixed up militarily abroad somewhere for most of the lifetimes of anyone above ground today. Sometimes our leaders settle for buying off foreign firepower to keep their own natives in line. It came as a surprise to the experts when Egyptians just up and said no to the people running things from Cairo in the winter of 2011. They still don’t know what will become of our multi-billion dollar investment there. Political consciousness generally seemed to be something within the control of ruling circles in the not too distant past. Now that it no longer is, rulers everywhere have started baring their teeth.
In the US, the meaning of this new world order is expressed in action rather than language. Put into words it would go: “What’s good enough for Abdul abroad is good enough for Joe Six-Pack here at home.” But that kind of candor just doesn’t happen in a country that prizes free speech like we do. And at this very moment, there is little doubt that somebody’s household is getting stormed by the law over a paltry matter the way the Thought Police came down on Winston Smith. The victims may not end up in Room 101 or Guantanamo Bay, but the threat of bone-crushing consequences for the slightest false move is real enough. Standing tall in such circumstances is very unlikely to have a good end. Disobedience, civil or otherwise, has become a life-threatening venture.
The advocates for worldwide interventionist US policy are as ubiquitous as they are persistent. This noble, never-ending mission’s measurable gains defy any yardstick invented so far. Its missionaries insist we have to fight “them” over there so we don’t have to over here. So the innocent children, homeowners, poker players, football bettors, pot smokers, barbers, bar patrons, cock fighters, bouncers and others getting tased, shot, kidnapped, beat up, hooded, cuffed, stun grenaded and held incognito like saboteurs behind enemy lines should not be confused with “them.” The “them” at Gitmo and around the world are at least entitled to some mention in public debates and op-ed columns. The Fourth Estate in the US treats these paramilitary events at home as amusing oddities on the rare occasions they take any notice at all.
During VietNam a lot of people were wondering if it ever was going to be over over there. It was about this same time that a new conflict was flaring up over here. The cyclical call for boys to travel thousands of miles to shoot at foreigners had become a tired refrain by the 1960s. It probably was no coincidence that the first SWAT team was mustered in 1969. Racketeers never let go of a cash cow that’s still got milk in it.
The only tangible dividend of the worldwide struggle to make the world safe for democracy is the rise of totalitarianism in the US. The war on terror, like its dear brother the war on drugs, always comes out looking like a war on everybody who hasn’t found a way to profit from the fight. Collateral damage only counts when the McVeighs of the world are responsible.
So far as we’ve been told Americans haven’t been involved in actually shooting at Egyptians in the recent trouble there. We just pay for the bullets. That amount alone is a lot more than what gets devoted to examining enforcement excesses in the US. It’s impossible to say how third world history might be different without so much US meddling. There have been numerous crackdowns, massacres, coups and assassinations with it. No one can prove things would have been worse without it.
There isn’t much doubt what it’s doing to this country though, that was once at the avant-garde of the First World. The policemen who took over the two Mitchell homes claimed they needed a “tactical advantage.” So now every American’s castle is available to any Dogberry, Fife or Wiggum who has been studying Napoleon and wants a crack at the classic flanking movement.