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General News    H3'ed 4/2/14

Arun Gandhi: “Violence is Destroying Humanity.”

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Violence is indeed destroying the world. We are a culture that glorifies war and violence. It's everywhere. In our movies, television shows, commercials, cartoons, glossy magazine ads. Our largest export is war and weapons. We're the largest weapons manufacturer in the world.

Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals.  New York Times, August 28, 2012.

And even though the overall violent crime rate in the U.S. continues to drop our police forces are becoming more and more militarized, and they are employing violence against U.S. citizens at alarming rates.

What we have here is the absurdly dangerous militarization of America's police departments. Our sprawling Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon (which gave the MRAP to Bastrop) are haphazardly spreading war equipment, war techniques and a war mentality to what are supposed to be our communities' peacekeepers and crime solvers. Jim Hightower, "The Dangerous Militarization of Our Local Police Forces."

And there's plenty of money for the militarization of our police forces. A recent article in the Economist, "Cops or Soldiers?" cites Radley Balko, author of "Rise of the Warrior Cop."

Federal cash--first to wage war on drugs, then on terror--has paid for much of the heavy weaponry used by SWAT teams. Between 2002 and 2011 the Department of Homeland Security disbursed $35 billion in grants to state and local police. Also, the Pentagon offers surplus military kit to police departments. According to Mr. Balko, by 2005 it had provided such gear to more than 17,000 law-enforcement agencies.

These programs provide useful defensive equipment, such as body armor and helmets. But it is hard to see why Fargo, North Dakota--a city that averages fewer than two murders a year--needs an armored personnel-carrier with a rotating turret. Keene, a small town in New Hampshire, which had three homicides between 1999 and 2012, spent nearly $286,000 on an armored personnel-carrier known as a BearCat. The local police chief said it would be used to patrol Keene's "Pumpkin Festival and other dangerous situations". A Reason-Rupe poll found that 58% of Americans think the use of drones, military weapons and armored vehicles by the police has gone "too far".

And there's big money to be made by using excessive force and SWAT raids on U.S. citizens, which is now legal due to a ruling by the Supreme Court which allows, "that police may enter a house without knocking if they have "a reasonable suspicion' that announcing their presence would be dangerous or allow the suspect to destroy evidence (for example, by flushing drugs down the toilet)."

Because of a legal quirk, SWAT raids can be profitable. Rules on civil asset-forfeiture allow the police to seize anything, which they can plausibly claim was the proceeds of a crime. Crucially, the property-owner need not be convicted of that crime. If the police find drugs in his house, they can take his cash and possibly the house, too. He must sue to get them back.

Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is overseeing a study into police militarization, notices a more martial tone in recent years in the materials used to recruit and train new police officers. A recruiting video in Newport Beach, California, for instance, shows officers loading assault rifles, firing weapons, chasing suspects, putting people in headlocks and releasing snarling dogs.

Balko is also concerned about the type of recruit our forces are now enlisting.

Mr. Balko cites the T-shirts that some off-duty cops wear as evidence of a culture that celebrates violence ("We get up early to beat the crowds"; "You huff and you puff and we'll blow your door down").

Throughout history totalitarian regimes have always turned against their citizens. We are no exception. U.S. citizens have been turned into the "other." We're now the enemy. We're all potential terrorists. These police forces are no longer here to protect and serve us. They are occupying our cities and towns under the guise of keeping the peace. According to John W. Whitehead of The Rutherford Institute, which is dedicated to the defense of our civil liberties and human rights.

The point is this: America today is not much different from the America of the early colonists, who had to contend with British soldiers who were allowed to "enter private homes, confiscate what they found, and often keep the bounty for themselves." This practice is echoed today through SWAT team raids and the execution of so-called asset forfeiture laws, "which allow police to seize and keep for their departments cash, cars, luxury goods and even homes, often under only the thinnest allegation of criminality."

Terrorism, the current catchall word, allows our government, the FBI, CIA, NSA, Homeland Security, and police forces to do whatever they want without having to show probable cause, and without being held accountable for their actions. They might as well say the boogieman is coming. When I was a kid it was the "commies" that were going to get us. The Domino Theory assured us they would take over the world one country at a time, and enabled us to go into Vietnam because of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, yet another trumped up lie.

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Jill Dalton is a recovering army brat/writer/performer/activist who has appeared in film and television as well as performing her solo plays in New York and around the country. Most recently she can be seen in and consulted for William Hurt on the (more...)
 
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