“Justifiable homicides” by police at record high

Notes on police violence in America

http://www.rohama.org/files/en/news/2010/10/23/9870_489.jpg

By Tom Hall
27 November 2014

FBI data released over the past month reveals that so-called “justifiable homicides” reached a record high last year, while the number of officers killed in the line of duty fell to its lowest level in decades.

According to the data, which appeared in a Monday article on the Washington Post web site, 461 American civilians were killed by on-the-job police officers in 2013, while 27 police officers were killed by civilians.

The article notes the correlation between the record killings and the militarization of American police over the same period, “fueled by a glut of surplus military equipment heading home from Iraq and Afghanistan.” The FBI’s “justifiable homicide” figures increase steadily around 1998, the year after the start of the US Government’s Defense Logistics Agency’s 1033 program, which parcels out surplus military equipment to state and local police.

The FBI figures for “justifiable homicide,” defined by the agency as “the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty,” is widely acknowledged to be an undercount, according to the Post, because the methodology is not uniform from state to state. There are no comprehensive nationwide statistics on police brutality, despite the government being required to do so by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act passed in 1994. However, a Facebook page titled “Killed by Police,” which posts links to news stories on police killings, has counted more than 1,450 killings by police officers since its launch on May 1, 2013.

Los Angeles police kill two more over replica weapon

Sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles gunned down Eduardo Bermundez, 26, and Ricardo Avelar-Lara, 57, early in the morning of Sunday, November 16, after Bermundez was alleged to have threatened someone with a handgun that later turned out to be a replica.

This was at least the fourth police murder this year involving a person holding a toy or replica weapon. It follows the deaths of John Crawford III for carrying a pellet gun and Darrien Hunt for carrying a replica samurai sword. Only a week ago, police killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice on a Cleveland playground for carrying a toy pistol.

An eyewitness claimed that at around 2:20 AM Bermundez and Avelar-Lara pulled up alongside his car in an East Los Angeles parking lot and pointed the “weapon,” a replica .45 caliber handgun, at him. The eyewitness tailed their car while calling 911, eventually flagging down a sheriff’s patrol vehicle.

Deputies pulled the car over in a nearby apartment complex, where according to the police report Bermundez “started to pull a handgun out of his pants and point it in the direction of the deputies.” Police immediately opened fire, killing both Bermundez and Avelar-Lara, who was standing behind him. They were pronounced dead at the scene one minute later at 2:40 AM, twenty minutes from the first alleged incident.

Bermundez had been at his 3 year-old nephew’s birthday party the previous afternoon not far from where he was murdered, according to relatives. “It’s just hard to imagine that from one day to another he’s gone,” Bermundez’s cousin told the local ABC affiliate. “He was always a happy guy.”

NYPD beating of subway turnstile jumper captured on video

A New York police officer was caught on video Thursday night beating a black youth in the head with his baton for attempting to enter a Brooklyn subway station without paying the $2.50 fare.

The video shows the officer, who is also black, striking 20-year-old Donovan Lawson twice, first in the leg and then on the crown of his head, causing extensive bleeding. Striking a suspect in the head with a baton is against official NYPD policy. Lawson then stumbles through the station with the officer on his back before finally being pinned against a wall and handcuffed by four officers while his horrified girlfriend looks on.

In the video Lawson’s forehead bleeds so profusely that his girlfriend is drenched in his blood by the time the officers are able to pull her away. The eyewitness who shot the video on his cell phone said that before the video began Lawson had been pepper-sprayed, which was confirmed by the police.

Lawson, who had no criminal record prior to his arrest last week, was charged with fare beating, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and disrupting government administration. He later received treatment for cuts to his head at Woodhull Hospital. The officer was taken to Wyckoff Heights Hospital, where he was treated for injuries to his arm and hand.

New Jersey cops kill schizophrenic man during welfare check

Police in Phllipsburg, New Jersey killed Thomas Read, a 36-year old schizophrenic man, after his mother asked them to monitor him during an episode. Read was wielding a knife and “refused to comply with police orders,” according to the police.

Read had run out of his medication due to problems with his medical insurance, according to his mother Anne Read. According to family friend Joel Andreano, who told the Express-Times newspaper, “He was talking about flaming swords and stuff,” when he called him on Thursday. “He obviously was delusional. I called [his mother back] back and told her, ‘No, I don’t think he’s doing good.’ She should call the police.”

Police checked up on Read the following Friday without incident, according to Andreano, who told The Express-Times that Read seemed “calm, happy” when he met with him later that day.

The following Monday, police conducted another welfare check at Reid’s apartment, after his neighbor expressed concerns about threatening letters and a knife stuck to Reid’s front door, according to Adreano. Police found Read in his house when they arrived, and talked to him through his window, according to footage shown to The Express-Times. Read hurled an “unknown object” through an opening in the window at police, who responded by breaking the window and unsuccessfully attempting to climb through to get at Read. Police entered the house through a back entrance, according to residents, who reported that they heard “four or five” gunshots.

Andreano expressed his dismay at the police’s handling of the situation. “He needed help … He needed to get to the hospital because he didn’t have his medicine.”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/11/27/brut-n27.html

Political lessons of the Ferguson whitewash

http://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/stltoday.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/c/e5/ce5ba308-ed68-5322-b826-87c8077d1476/53e800d42b929.preview-620.jpg

26 November 2014

Monday night’s announcement by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch that police officer Darren Wilson will not be charged is being seen throughout the country and around the world as a judicial travesty.

From the beginning, the process leading up to the final decision was rigged for one purpose and one purpose only: to protect the cop who murdered unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Rather than present charges to a judge for an indictment, the state convened a grand jury, replacing a public trial with a secret, closed-door hearing in which the evidence was controlled by the prosecutor’s office, led by an individual with close ties to the police. This was followed by the highly unusual decision by the prosecution not to request and argue for specific charges.

Transcripts of the grand jury proceedings reveal clear and evident bias, with prosecutors devoting themselves to discrediting all evidence, including eyewitness testimony, that did not conform to the narrative that was required. Wilson, in contrast, went unchallenged as he presented his own self-serving account over the course of four hours. Throughout the hearings, the prosecutor’s office sought to place Michael Brown, not Darren Wilson, on trial.

Grand juries almost invariably file charges that prosecutors seek, and this case was no different. Despite the overwhelming evidence that a crime was committed, the grand jury did not indict because the prosecution did not want an indictment.

The whitewash of Wilson’s crimes, however, cannot be explained merely as the result of the misdeeds of McCulloch. The actions of the prosecutor were part of a highly orchestrated political operation, with the close involvement, as McCulloch himself was at pains to emphasize, of the Obama administration.

Given the enormous popular anger over the killing of Brown, and the clear legal foundation for a trial, one might ask why the grand jury did not at least return an indictment for a lesser crime, such as manslaughter. Or why an indictment was not delivered and a trial conducted—a trial that, given the sympathies of the prosecution, would have very likely produced the same result: the exoneration of Wilson. In the three months that passed between the killing of Michael Brown and the final decision not to indict, there was no doubt debate behind the scenes over these different possibilities.

Two factors explain the thinking of the ruling class in reaching the decision that it did. There is, first of all, the element of provocation. The ruling class has seized on the events in Ferguson as an opportunity to establish new precedents for repression in the United States. Indeed, the timing of the announcement of the grand jury decision, in the late evening, seems to have been deliberately calculated to create the best conditions for police violence.

In an escalation of the response to the protests in August, riot police armed with automatic weapons and armored vehicles, firing bean bags and tear gas, patrolled the streets Monday night. On Tuesday, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon—who declared a preemptive state of emergency a week before the grand jury decision—announced that 2,200 members of National Guard, a branch of the Armed Forces, would be deployed directly against protesters. An American city is effectively being occupied.

Second, the decision has the character of the ruling class circling the wagons. Whatever different tactical possibilities were discussed, in the end a decision was made that, in the face of mounting social unrest, there could be no concessions, for any concession would be seen as a sign of weakness and only encourage more opposition.

Yet in defending its rule through violence, the ruling class is only further discrediting itself before the entire world. A state that has organized wars in every region of the globe, invariably justified on the basis of defending human rights, employs the most brutal forms of repression against opposition within its borders.

In sections of the media there is a certain nervousness over the political consequences of these actions. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, for example, expresses concern that McColloch’s “pathetic prosecution of Darren Wilson” has reinforced “a sense among African Americans, and many others, that the justice system is rigged.”

The New York Times, speaking on behalf of sections of the Democratic Party, worries in an editorial posted Tuesday that the “scarred streets of St. Louis—and the outrage that continues to reverberate across the country…show once again that distrust of law enforcement presents a grave danger to the civic fabric of the United States.” This “grave danger” has been fueled, the Times writes, by the decision not to indict Wilson.

While these comments are generally framed in racial terms, the underlying issue is class. The ruling class is well aware that the policies it is pursuing—endless war abroad and social counterrevolution at home—are deeply unpopular. By a “grave danger to the civic fabric,” the Times means uncontrollable social unrest, even revolution.

While aware of seething social discontent, the ruling class has nothing to offer. The Times itself places its criticism of the grand jury decision within the framework of praise for the role of Obama, as if his administration were not central to both the outcome in Ferguson and the broader political crisis facing the American ruling class.

Obama’s own response to the grand jury decision is revealing. The president immediately rushed to make a statement on national television declaring the results valid and legitimate. “We are a nation built on the rule of law,” he said, “so we have to accept this decision was the grand jury’s to make.” This is nothing more than an endorsement of the judicial and legal fraud. While associating himself with a decision giving police a license to kill, Obama declared, referring to protesters, that there is “never an excuse for violence.”

Six years of the Obama administration have not gone unnoticed. Millions of workers and young people in the United States have begun to draw the conclusion that there is no mechanism within the existing social and political system to address their concerns or express their opposition. This understanding has only been further confirmed by the exoneration of Darren Wilson. These are the hallmarks of a system that is heading inexorably toward ruin.

Joseph Kishore

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/11/26/pers-n26.html

Chronicle of a Riot Foretold

FERGUSON, Missouri—For a hundred and eight days, through the suffocating heat that turned the city into a kiln, through summer thunderstorms and the onset of an early winter, through bureaucratic callousness and the barbs of cynics who held that the effort was of no use and the prickly fear that they might be right, a community in Ferguson, Missouri, held vigil nightly, driven by the need to validate a simple principle: black lives matter. On November 24, 2014, we learned that they do indeed matter, just less than others—less than the prerogatives of those who wield power here, less than even the cynics may have suspected.

Last night, the streets of Ferguson were congested with smoke and anger and disillusionment and disbelief, and also with batons and the malevolent percussion of gunfire and the hundreds of uniformed men brought here to marshal and display force. Just after eight on Monday evening, after a rambling dissertation from the St. Louis County Prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, that placed blame for tensions on social media and the twenty-four-hour news cycle, and ended with the announcement that the police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for shooting Michael Brown six times, the crowd that gathered in front of the police headquarters, on South Florissant Road, began to swell. Their mood was sombre at first, but some other sentiment came to the fore, and their restraint came unmoored. A handful of men began chanting “Fuck the police!” in front of the line of officers in riot gear that had gathered in front of the headquarters. Gunshots, the first I heard that night, cut through the air, and a hundred people began drifting in the direction of the bullets. One man ripped down a small camera mounted on a telephone pole. A quarter mile away, the crowd encountered an empty police car and within moments it was aflame. A line of police officers in military fatigues and gas masks turned a corner and began moving north toward the police building. There were four hundred protesters and nearly that many police officers filling an American street, one side demanding justice, one side demanding order, both recognizing that neither of those things was in the offing that night.

What transpired in Ferguson last night was entirely predictable, widely anticipated, and, yet, seemingly inevitable. Late last week, Michael Brown, Sr., released a video pleading for calm, his forlorn eyes conveying exhaustion born of not only shouldering grief but also of insisting on civic calm in the wake of his son’s death. One of the Brown family’s attorneys, Anthony Gray, held a press conference making the same request, and announced that a team of citizen peacekeepers would be present at any subsequent protests. Ninety minutes later, the St. Louis mayor, Francis Slay, held a press conference in which he pledged that the police would show restraint in the event of protests following the grand-jury decision. He promised that tear gas and armored vehicles would not be deployed to manage protests. The two conferences bore a disturbing symmetry, an inversion of pre-fight hype in which each side deprecated about possible violence but expressed skepticism that the other side was capable of doing the same. It’s possible that, recognizing that violence was all but certain, both sides were seeking to deflect the charge that they had encouraged it. Others offered no such pretense. Days ahead of the announcement, local businesses began boarding up their doors and windows like a coastal town anticipating a hurricane. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a preëmptive state of emergency a week before the grand jury concluded its work. His announcement was roughly akin to declaring it daytime at 3 A.M. because the sun will rise eventually.

From the outset, the great difficulty has been discerning whether the authorities are driven by malevolence or incompetence. The Ferguson police let Brown’s body lie in the street for four and a half hours, an act that either reflected callous disregard for him as a human being or an inability to manage the situation. The release of Darren Wilson’s name was paired with the release of a video purportedly showing Brown stealing a box of cigarillos from a convenience store, although Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson later admitted that Wilson was unaware of the incident when he confronted the young man. (McCulloch contradicted this in his statement on the non-indictment.) Last night, McCulloch made the inscrutable choice to announce the grand jury’s decision after darkness had fallen and the crowds had amassed in the streets, factors that many felt could only increase the risk of violence. Despite the sizable police presence, few officers were positioned on the stretch of West Florissant Avenue where Brown was killed. The result was that damage to the area around the police station was sporadic and short-lived, but Brown’s neighborhood burned. This was either bad strategy or further confirmation of the unimportance of that community in the eyes of Ferguson’s authorities.

The pleas of Michael Brown’s father and Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, were ultimately incapable of containing the violence that erupted last night, because in so many ways what happened here extended beyond their son. His death was a punctuation to a long, profane sentence, one which has insulted a great many, and with damning frequency of late. In his statement after the decision was announced, President Barack Obama took pains to point out that “there is never an excuse for violence.” The man who once told us that there was no black America or white America but only the United States of America has become a President whose statements on unpunished racial injustices are a genre unto themselves. Perhaps it only seems contradictory that the deaths of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford and John Crawford and Michael Brown—all unarmed black men shot by men who faced no official sanction for their actions—came during the first black Presidency.* Or perhaps the message here is that American democracy has reached the limits of its elasticity—that the symbolic empowerment of individuals, while the great many remain citizen-outsiders, is the best that we can hope for. The air last night, thick with smoke and gunfire, suggested something damning of the President.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post conflated the names of Ezell Ford and John Crawford.

Monolithic corporations aren’t our saviors — they’re the central part of the problem.

Tech Companies Are Peddling a Phony Version of Security, Using the Govt. as the Bogeyman

http://kielarowski.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/b4817-tech.png?w=399&h=337

This week the USA Freedom Act was blocked in the Senate as it failed to garner the 60 votes required to move forward. Presumably the bill would have imposed limits on NSA surveillance. Careful scrutiny of the bill’s text however reveals yet another mere gesture of reform, one that would codify and entrench existing surveillance capabilities rather than eliminate them.

Glenn Greenwald, commenting from his perch at the Intercept, opined:

“All of that illustrates what is, to me, the most important point from all of this: the last place one should look to impose limits on the powers of the U.S. government is . . . the U.S. government. Governments don’t walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power, and that’s particularly true of empires.”

Anyone who followed the sweeping deregulation of the financial industry during the Clinton era, the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act of 1999 which effectively repealed Glass-Steagall and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, immediately sees through Greenwald’s impromptu dogma. Let’s not forget the energy market deregulation in California and subsequent manipulation that resulted in blackouts throughout the state. Ditto that for the latest roll back of arms export controls that opened up markets for the defense industry. And never mind all those hi-tech companies that want to loosen H1-B restrictions.

The truth is that the government is more than happy to cede power and authority… just as long as doing so serves the corporate factions that have achieved state capture. The “empire” Greenwald speaks of is a corporate empire. In concrete analytic results that affirm Thomas Ferguson’s Investment Theory of Party Competition, researchers from Princeton and Northwestern University conclude that:

“Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

Glenn’s stance reveals a broader libertarian theme. One that the Koch brothers would no doubt find amenable: the government is suspect and efforts to rein in mass interception must therefore arise from the corporate entities. Greenwald appears to believe that the market will solve everything. Specifically, he postulates that consumer demand for security will drive companies to offer products that protect user privacy, adopt “strong” encryption, etc.

The Primacy of Security Theater

Certainly large hi-tech companies care about quarterly earnings. That definitely explains all of the tax evasion, wage ceilings, and the slave labor. But these same companies would be hard pressed to actually protect user privacy because spying on users is a fundamental part of their business model. Like government spies, corporate spies collect and monetize oceans of data.

Furthermore hi-tech players don’t need to actually bullet-proof their products to win back customers. It’s far more cost effective to simply manufacture the perception of better security: slap on some crypto, flood the news with public relation pieces, and get some government officials (e.g. James ComeyRobert Hannigan, and Stewart Baker) to whine visibly about the purported enhancements in order to lend the marketing campaign credibility. The techno-libertarians of Silicon Valley are masters of Security Theater.

Witness, if you will, Microsoft’s litany of assurances about security over the years, followed predictably by an endless train of critical zero-day bugs. Faced with such dissonance it becomes clear that “security” in high-tech is viewed as a public relations issue, a branding mechanism to boost profits. Greenwald is underestimating the contempt that CEOs have for the credulity of their user base, much less their own workers.

Does allegedly “strong” cryptography offer salvation? Cryptome’s John Young thinks otherwise:

“Encryption is a citizen fraud, bastard progeny of national security, which offers malware insecurity requiring endless ‘improvements’ to correct the innately incorrigible. Its advocates presume it will empower users rather than subject them to ever more vulnerability to shady digital coders complicit with dark coders of law in exploiting fear, uncertainty and doubt.”

Business interests, having lured customers in droves with a myriad of false promises, will go back to secretly cooperating with government spies as they always have: introducing subtle weaknesses into cryptographic protocols, designing backdoors that double as accidental zero-day bugs, building rootkits which hide in plain sight, and handing over user data. In other words all of the behavior that was described by Edward Snowden’s documents. Like a jilted lover, consumers will be pacified with a clever sales pitch that conceals deeper corporate subterfuge.

Ultimately it’s a matter of shared class interest. The private sector almost always cooperates with the intelligence services because American spies pursue the long-term prerogatives of neoliberal capitalism; open markets and access to resources the world over. Or perhaps someone has forgotten the taped phone call of Victoria Nuland selecting the next prime minister of Ukraine as the IMF salivates over austerity measures? POTUS caters to his constituents, the corporate ruling class, which transitively convey their wishes to clandestine services like the CIA. Recall Ed Snowden’s open letter to Brazil:

“These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”

To confront the Deep State Greenwald is essentially advocating that we elicit change by acting like consumers instead of constitutionally endowed citizens. This is a grave mistake because profits can be decoupled from genuine security in a society defined by secrecy, propaganda, and state capture. Large monolithic corporations aren’t our saviors. They’re the central part of the problem. We shouldn’t run to the corporate elite to protect us. We should engage politically to retake and remake our republic.

 

Bill Blunden is an independent investigator whose current areas of inquiry include information security, anti-forensics, and institutional analysis.

http://www.alternet.org/tech-companies-are-peddling-phony-version-security-using-govt-bogeyman?akid=12501.265072.yCLOb-&rd=1&src=newsletter1027620&t=29&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

No indictment for Ferguson cop who killed Michael Brown

http://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/ferguson-st-louis-protest-riots-shooting-7.jpg?w=518&h=270

By Andre Damon
25 November 2014

St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert P. McCulloch’s statement Monday night that no charges will be filed against Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown is a travesty of justice.

The entire process through which the grand jury arrived at its decision is a legal fraud. The outcome is not the result of fair judicial proceedings, but political calculations. The grand jury returned the outcome the state was seeking: no charges for the police murder of an unarmed African American youth.

Despite the fact that the decision was not announced until after 9:00pm eastern time, there were protests Monday night throughout the United States, including in Oakland, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

In Ferguson and surrounding cities, police responded by deploying SWAT teams in riot gear, firing tear gas and rubber bullets. Convoys of armored police vehicles rolled through the streets. The roofs of some of the vehicles were lined with sand bags, with marksmen pointing assault rifles at unarmed demonstrators. At least 29 people have been arrested.

The mayor of Ferguson called for the deployment of the National Guard—previously activated by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who declared a pre-emptive state of emergency last week.

President Barack Obama spoke immediately after McCulloch’s statement, mouthing a few perfunctory and semi-coherent comments, the main aim of which was to solidarize himself with the grand jury ruling.

CNN broadcast a split screen, showing on one side the police crackdown in Ferguson and on the other Obama declaring, “We are a nation built on the rule of law,” insisting that everyone had to accept the grand jury decision.

As police fired volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets, Obama decried “mistrust” of the police, declaring that “nobody needs good policing more than poor communities.” Obama spent a substantial portion of his brief remarks, delivered in his typical disinterested tone, castigating potential looters.

“There is never an excuse for violence,” Obama said. That is, in the name of respect for the law, Obama—who is responsible for untold violence all over the world and the destruction of democratic rights at home—gave his stamp of approval to a decision that essentially grants police a license to kill.

In his own remarks, McCulloch went out of his way to emphasize the degree to which the entire proceeding was coordinated with the Obama White House and the Justice Department.

In an extended speech, which included denunciations of the media and public opinion for “speculation” on the facts, McCulloch sought to obscure the basic fact of the case: an unarmed man was shot six times, including twice in the head, at a substantial distance from Wilson’s police car.

McCulloch said that “physical evidence” had contradicted the accounts of numerous witnesses, but did not specify what that physical evidence consisted of, aside from what he called a short-range gunshot wound to Brown’s hand. He likewise said that witnesses had indicated that Brown “charged” at Wilson, but that these witnesses had never previously come forward.

“Decisions on charging an individual with a crime cannot be based on anything besides a thorough investigation of the facts,” Wilson said. This exercise in self-serving apologetics by the prosecuting attorney served only to underscore the illegitimacy of the entire proceeding.

From the beginning, the three-month grand jury process was utilized as a way of bypassing a public trial for Brown’s killer. Under conditions of an actual trial, the facts of the case and the testimony of witnesses would be subject to adversarial proceedings. Instead, the prosecutor, who is known for his connections to police, substituted secret hearings behind closed doors, with evidence manipulated to produce the desired result.

In the end, the political establishment decided that no charges could be filed against Wilson—not even the lesser charge of manslaughter. The prosecutors did not get an indictment because they did not want an indictment.

The decision not to charge Wilson took place against the backdrop of a growing wave of police violence all over the United States, including last week’s killing of a 12-year-old boy playing with a toy gun in Cleveland, Ohio and an unarmed man in New York City.

The decision marked a stand taken by the political establishment that it would uphold the right of police to kill whomever they chose. Like all reactionary classes facing a crisis, the American ruling class decided that any concession to the demands of the population that Wilson be prosecuted would be politically dangerous and serve only to encourage opposition.

The ruling and subsequent police crackdown express the breakdown of democratic forms of rule in the United States, under the pressure of the growth of social inequality and the drive to war. The war on terror has come home.

One of Largest Transfers of Public Wealth to Private Hands: Our Staggering War Economy

The cost of our massive military and endless wars is almost beyond comprehension, and non stop

The money should stagger you. Journalist James Risen, author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, a revelatory new book about the scammers, counterterrorism grifters, careerist bureaucrats, torture con artists, and on-the-make privatizers of our post-9/11 national security state, suggests that the best figure for money spent on Washington’s war on terror, including the Iraq and Afghan wars, is four trillion dollars. If you add in the bills still to come for the care of American soldiers damaged in that global war, the figure is undoubtedly significantly higher. In the process, an array of warrior corporations were mobilized to go into battle alongside the Pentagon and the country’s intelligence and homeland security outfits. This, in turn, transformed the global struggle into a highly privatized affair and resulted, as Risen vividly documents, in “one of the largest transfers of wealth from public to private hands in American history.” Halliburton offshoot KBR, for instance, took remarkable advantage of the opportunity and became “the largest single Pentagon contractor of the entire war,” more or less monopolizing the Iraq war zone from 2003 to 2011 and “receiving a combined total of $39.5 billion in contracts.”

So our four trillion dollar-plus investment gave rise to a crew of war profiteers that Risen dubs “the oligarchs of 9/11” and who are now wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.  And how has it gone for the rest of us? If you remember, the goal of George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror (or, in one of the worst acronyms of the new century, GWOT) was initially to wipe out terror outfits across the planet. At the time, enemy number one, al-Qaeda, was the most modest of organizations with thousands of followers in Afghanistan and scattered groups of supporters elsewhere. Thirteen years and all those dollars later, Islamic jihadist outfits that qualify as al-Qaeda branches, wannabes, look-alikes, or offshoots have run rampant. Undoubtedly, far more foreign jihadis — an estimated 15,000 — have traveled to Syria alone to fight for the Islamic State and its new “caliphate” than existed globally in 2001.

Some recent figures from the Global Terrorism Index of the Institute for Economics and Peace give us a basis for thinking about what’s happened in these years.  In 2013 alone, deaths related to “terrorism” — that is, civil/sectarian conflict in areas significantly destabilized directly or indirectly by U.S. military action (mainly in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria) — rose by a soaring 61%.  The number of countries that saw more than 50 such fatalities (the U.S. not among them) expanded from 15 to 24 in the same period. So raise your glass to GWOT.  If nothing else, it’s managed to ensure its own profitable, privatized future for years to come.

But here’s a question: After 13 years of the war on terror, with terror running rampant, isn’t a name change in order? A simple transformation of a single preposition would bring that name into greater sync with reality: the war for terror.

And here’s a seldom-mentioned guarantee that leaps directly from a post by TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author most recently of Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country. Given Washington’s bedrock assumptions about the Greater Middle East, we should have no problem kissing another four trillion taxpayer dollars goodbye in the years to come. Eight trillion? If that isn’t a record, what is?  Some “USA! USA!” chants might be in order.

 

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/one-largest-transfers-public-wealth-private-hands-our-staggering-war-economy?akid=12500.265072.NVAXH0&rd=1&src=newsletter1027589&t=19&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

 

Fear and justice in the battle for Mexico’s future

by Petar Stanchev on November 22, 2014

Post image for Fear and justice in the battle for Mexico’s futureAs in 1968, Mexico’s political elites are once again using fear to silence the millions of protesters who demand justice for the Ayotzinapa students.

I woke up in fear, and for the rest of the day it controlled my life the way fear tends to control people’s lives. It dominated my thoughts the way it dominates people’s thoughts and actions, paralyzes them until they are deprived from all hope and the very basic human capacity to change the world around them.

My fear was provoked by a nightmare, not one I saw in my dreams, but rather a nightmare I have been unfortunate enough to observe with my own eyes and come to know intimately. It was the fear of waking up and realizing my friends have disappeared at night; lifted from their beds by men in uniforms, leaving friends and family behind who from that day on can only guess after the fate of their loved ones.

This fear is not imaginary. This is the fear I struggled to understand when talking to my friends and fellow students when I lived and studied in Mexico. It is a fear that is incomprehensible for someone who has not lived in a country where more than 100,000 have been killed and disappeared in less than ten years.

Although I participated in social and political movements in the country and was actively involved in student activist groups, I was still incapable of comprehending the terror that my friends felt when they saw the police or the army on the streets. I used to think it was exaggerated and they should not let themselves be influenced by this strategy of control. One can only understand this feeling when it becomes personal, when you wake up and feel the need to call your friends in order to be sure they are alive and well.

Students under Attack

On Saturday, the night before I woke up in horror, an undercover policeman shot and injured two students on the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the biggest public university in Latin America. It is worth mentioning that the UNAM is an autonomous institution and as such it is a police-free territory. Exemptions to this rule can be made only if the police are asked to step in by the high administration of the institution.

This breach of autonomy is not without precedent: in 1968 the President at the time, Diaz Ordaz, ordered a military takeover of the university. The army moved in as journalists were ordered to move out. This happened in the context of the large-scale, countrywide student protests which actively opposed the Olympic Games. To show their opposition against the Games being held in a country characterized by increasing inequality the students took to the streets, shouting slogans like: “We don’t want games, we want revolution.”

After the shooting last week, students organized and attacked the aggressors. They burned their car and confiscated their documents, proving they were undercover police. The government then sent five hundred riot police to deal with the issue who subsequently clashed with autonomously organized groups of students at the doors of the institution.

These events do not happen in a social vacuum. The repression of the UNAM students comes at a moment when hundreds of protests, direct actions, marches, sit-ins and strikes organized by people from all walks of life and many different backgrounds are organized to demand social and political justice. This new wave of popular dissent was provoked by the disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero on September 26 earlier this year.

The students of the rural school in Ayotzinapa protested to condemn the extremely poor conditions of their school and education in Mexico and to protest the neoliberal reforms in education. The police opened fire on them, killing six and arresting 43 of the student-activists. It is now months later and nobody is sure where they are, but the terrifying suspicion, confirmed by various sources, is that they have been brutally killed and some of them probably burned alive.

The political crisis that is shaking the country threatens to evolve into full-scale revolt with students, armed guerrillas, anarchists and indigenous groups raising legitimate demands for the President of the Republic to resign and for policies ensuring the basic social, human, political and ethnic rights of the population.

Bloody Past, Bloody Present

The Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto already has blood on his hands from previous atrocities, such as the one in Atenco in 2006, when he was Governor of the State of Mexico. In this event he ordered the police to take over the city during popular protests, resulting in 207 people subjected to brutal and degrading treatment, 145 arbitrary arrests, the sexual assault of 26 women, and the deportation of five foreigners.

Upon returning to Mexico after a tour of China and Australia, Peña Nieto openly threatened the popular movement that he is going to use of force, if necessary. Translated, this means sending in the army and the newly created national gendarme against the protesters. This, of course, is hardly the only example of extreme violence carried out by the security forces of Mexico during Peña Nieto’s presidency, but it illustrates how decisive he is on cracking down on popular protest with brute force and at any price.

Back in 1968, President Diaz Ordaz stood up in front of Congress and warned that he had been tolerant for too long and that he would have to resort to force to pacify the students. He, as the majority of Mexican Presidents, was a member of the PRI, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled the country without interruption between 1920 and 2000. Peña Nieto is also a member of the same party which returned to power in 2012 after Nieto’s electoral victory that year.

Some of the party representatives shocked the country in the previous days with their public declarations. Luis Adrián Ramírez Ortiz, a militant of the PRI’s youth league, compared the protesters to “wild beasts who do not deserve to live” and invoked the spirit of Diaz Ordaz, stating that Mexico needs to be headed by someone like him in order to preserve its image to the world. The ex-Federal Deputy Marili Olguín Cuevas, also a member of the PRI, published a status on Facebook saying “kill them so they don’t reproduce.” Another member and syndicate leader loyal to the PRI stated after the clashes in Mexico City days ago: “And then they wonder why they are burning them. Rednecks.”

Apparently, a significant number of contemporary PRI officials would welcome a return to the days when Diaz Ordaz still ruled the country. Back in 1968 the President answered the popular call for “revolution instead of Games” by mobilizing the country’s security forces against the protesters. On October 2 that year, snipers attacked the mass demonstration at Tlatelolco square, causing an upheaval that legitimized sending army troops and tanks into the square. This day is remembered as the Tletelolco massacre, in which hundreds of students were either shot dead or simply disappeared.

The aftermath of the massacre saw a proliferation of policies that allowed for a total crackdown on social protests, eventually culminating in a dirty war in the state of Guerrero, not unlike the ones that characterized the military regimes in Argentina and Chile. Back then, the resistance in Guerrero was headed by two teachers from the very same school attended by the 43 disappeared students.

They were forced into clandestine resistance and the government could crush the popular support in the state only by leveling entire villages and attacking the civilian population with napalm. During this rebellion, hundreds of local peasants were murdered or disappeared. This is the scenario some PRI party members and officials evoke as desirable if the current protests continue.

Fearless Resistance

Commemorating the horrors of ’68 will not stop them from happening again, on the contrary: they are already happening. It would be an understatement to note that the repression is getting worse. Mass graves are being found all over the country, and evidence of more and more police and army brutality is being made public by victims and relatives who were until now too scared to step forward.

Indigenous groups rise up against five hundred years of genocide, challenging the neoliberal agenda that destroys their land and eradicates their culture. Parents of the disappeared are organizing to demand justice. Migrants march on the capital in order to stop the murders that have taken away the lives of more than 20.000 since 2006. Students and activists raise voices over the brutality and repression that were meant to silence their revolt against market-driven reforms in the education.

Anarchists and activist groups shout in solidarity with comrades who are condemned to life in prison. Women shout “not a single one more!” in reference to the devastating level of femicides in the country. Guerrillas in Guerrero declare their preparation for war against a state that condemns half of the Mexican people to live in poverty. The Zapatistas in Chiapas march in thousands to demand justice for Ayotzinapa and the indigenous groups around the country.

Meanwhile, the only answer all these different groups get from the corrupt and unscrupulous political elite is: “we do not care about you — and if you dare to resist, we will send in the army. We have done it before and got away with it, we will not hesitate to do it again.” These threats arise from a climate of fear which has taken shape in the years of the so-called “War on Drugs,” which was used as a pretext to militarize the society and crack down on any movement for change.

This fear is a weapon of control, stronger than any gun, tank or helicopter, stronger than bullets and executions. This fear is the one I woke up with. And I woke up with it, because my friends in Mexico stopped waking up in fear and flooded the streets, rejecting the fear that negates their humanity.

Fear and justice are and will be part of the battle of those fighting for their lives in the streets of Mexico. What is at stake is the question whether the government will be allowed to keep repeating the horrors of 1968. My fear is to wake up and discover that my friends have had the dignity not to accept the threat and sacrificed themselves in the face of a machine of death and destruction — or, as the Zapatistas say, that they have decided to “die in order to live.” Their fear, meanwhile, is that their children will have to repeat the tragedy they are witnessing now, if fear conquers the movement once again.

Petar Stanchev is finishing a degree in Latin American Studies and Human Rights at the University of Essex. He has previously lived and studied in Mexico and has been involved in the Zapatista solidarity movement for four years.

http://roarmag.org/2014/11/mexico-ayotzinapa-students-protest/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,618 other followers