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Machinery of Death: When the Government Acts as Judge, Jury and Executioner

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The government should not be in the business of killing its citizens.

Nevertheless, the U.S. government continues to act as judge, jury and executioner over a populace that have been pre-judged and found guilty, stripped of their rights, and left to suffer at the hands of government agents trained to respond with the utmost degree of violence.

That the death penalty was recently abolished in Virginia is just the tip of the iceberg.

While any effort to scale back the government's haphazard application of the death penalty--meted out as a punishment, a threat, and a chilling glimpse into the government's quest for ultimate dominion over its constituents--is a welcome one, capital punishment remains a very small part of the American police state's machinery of death.

Yet it's not enough to declare a moratorium on federal and state death penalty executions.

What we need is a moratorium on federal and state violence in all their varied forms, because as long as government-sanctioned murder and mayhem continue unabated, the right to life affirmed by the nation's founders in the Declaration of Independence remains unattainable.

The danger is real.

Everything about the way the government operates today (imperial, unaccountable and manifestly corrupt) flies in the face of what the founders sought to bring about: a representative government that exists to protect and preserve the life, liberty, property and happiness of its people.

Police violence is but one aspect of the government violence dispensed without restraint or respect for the rights of the people, but it is widespread.

The casualties are legion.

At a time when growing numbers of unarmed people have been shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something--anything--that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer's mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety, even the most benign encounters with police can have fatal consequences.

This is what happens when you empower the police to act as judge, jury and executioner.

This is what happens when you indoctrinate the police into believing that their lives and their safety are paramount to anyone else's.

Suddenly, everyone and everything else is a threat that must be neutralized or eliminated.

And then you have U.S. Marshals--the federal government's de facto national police force--who may be even more violent and unaccountable.

"One reason for the high level of violence," according to an in-depth investigation by The Marshall Project, USA TODAY and the Arizona Republic: "The Marshals Service's rules are looser than those of many major police departments. Marshals are not required to try to de-escalate situations or exhaust other remedies before using lethal force. And marshals are allowed to fire into cars. Though body cameras have become routine in major police departments, marshals do not wear them."

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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