By Dave Lindorff
The tragedy that is America has deepened with the news that a sniper -- a decorated black Army veteran trained to kill in America's Middle East wars -- slayed five white police officers in in Dallas as they policed a protest march and rally against police brutality and killings sponsored by BlackLivesMatter.
The murder of anybody, whether it's a police officer or someone who is simply stopped by a cop for a minor traffic violation and is then shot because a jumpy officer mistakes reaching for a wallet to be reaching for a gun, as happened just two days ago in suburban St. Paul, is a dreadful thing.
But it has to be said that, with American police -- most of them white -- gunning down over 500 people -- most of them black or brown and most of them unarmed -- in just the first half of this year, it was bound to happen that somebody would eventually decide to retaliate by taking revenge on the police (especially given the number of working-class people of all races who have had military training, thanks to this country's endless wars). That's not to justify what happened in Dallas, where a total of 14 people were shot, including seven wounded police and two civilians. It's just to say that if the police continue to treat one several segments of American society as presumptive dangerous felons or even as enemy combatants in a war zone, and if the legal system continues to give brutal and killer cops a pass when they maim or kill innocent citizens, including young children, effectively granting them immunity for their atrocities, there will inevitably be a violent reaction.
Of course, this happened once before, after the controversial police murder of Eric Garner, a black man selling "loosie" single cigarettes on the street who was suffocated by an arresting officer using a choke hold, but the killer who later shot and killed a police officer in "revenge" was a clearly deranged individual who killed his girlfriend too, before shooting a police officer in his patrol car. This time, it was a soldier, who seems to have thought through and planned out what he was doing as a calculated act of revenge.
Recall the origins of the Black Panther movement, which grew out of a period of urban riots and insurrections across the country to which the nation responded not with jobs, social programs and better school funding, but with military assaults and occupations by armed soldiers. The Panthers openly armed themselves and started shadowing police on patrol in their communities, determined to make it clear that police could not occupy their communities and abuse the residents with impunity. Their bold actions were effective, but they brought down on themselves the full repressive force of the federal government, which launched a full-scale attack to destroy the Panther organization, using informants, agents provocateur, dirty tricks, mass arrests and murder.
In the post 9-11 era of military policing, the situation in minority communities today is at least as bad as, and probably worse, than it was in the 1960s. Social welfare programs that were created in response to the '60s riots, have been gutted, causing poverty and hopelessness to spread and deepen. Prisons have been filled with mostly non-white inmates as sentencing guidelines have become stricter and sentences longer. Violence in urban neighborhoods has exploded, and police today in many cities perceive themselves not as "peace officers" but as soldiers operating in hostile war zones, and act accordingly.
Can we be surprised then, that there has been a military-style response in one of those cities? That is not to justify this bloody act in Dallas; just to explain its inevitability.The perpetrator in this instance, not someone, apparently, with a record of mental illness, before being killed by police using a bomb-carrying robot, told negotiators he was killing white police because of the two recent police killings of two young black men: Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castille in St. Paul.
There will no doubt be calls, particularly this having happened in Texas, for an even more militaristic crackdown by police on minority neighborhoods. But that would be a terrible mistake. What is needed is an amping down of the violence on both sides -- the communities and the police. And also an amping down of the rhetoric, particularly by political leaders.