Saturday, May 10, 2008

Need we learn from the Iraqis?

I know. The title of this piece is a bit odd, isn't it? However, mayhap, the Iraqis are pointing to something that we have forgotten or simply grown inured to.

In interview after interview, discussion after discussion, perhaps the premier complaint of the Iraqi civilians are the practices of the American military in Iraq. And what, pray tell, are these practices that raise the ire of the Iraqis? Well, excepting (but only to a slight degree) the fact that American troops have a nasty habit of casually shooting Iraqi civilians without cause, those practices are, by and large, standard operating procedure for most American police departments. The practice of (barely) announcing their presence and then battering or blowing the door off the hinges is standard operating procedure. Then, once the door is demolished, troops rush into the home, screaming at the shocked inhabitants of the dwelling, frequently cursing, forcing everyone to the floor, usually forcible and mandatory shackling of everyone in the household.

What is so disquieting is the fact that virtually all of the above have become so much S.O.P. (standard operating procedure) here, in the 'homeland', that they hardly raise an eyebrow anymore. Is it that we have become desensitized through watching endless hours of 'COPS'? Is it because we have repeatedly been instructed that the police are only 'ensuring our safety' hence we must unquestioningly follow orders automatically?

It doesn't seem to matter that, each year, more civilians by far die at the hands of the police than police at the hands of 'criminals'. Though much is made of each and every law enforcement death (the yearly memorials to those police who have fallen; the funerals of slain police that rival in pomp the funerals of Chicago mobsters in the 20s), very, very little is made, especially in the mainstream media, of the many, many deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of law enforcement. Only because they are so well known, we have the incidents in NYC of Amadou Diallo (41 shots) and Shawn Bell (50 shots). That is NYC. Then there was the incident in 2006 where police shot and killed 92 year old Kathryn Johnson during a late night 'no knock' raid. Johnson wounded 3 police officers, Johnson herself was shot and killed. From a 2006 Christian Science Monitor story about the Johnson raid,

“The number of no-knock raids has increased from 3,000 in 1981 to more than 50,000 last year, according to Peter Kraska, a criminologist at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond.

Botched raids are relatively rare, but since the early 1980s, 40 bystanders have been killed, according to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington.” ~ After Atlanta raid tragedy, new scrutiny of police tactics

These are the very practices that, applied in Iraq, have caused that populace to rise in resistance and riot. Granted, Iraq is being oppressed under the heel of an onerous, vicious and violent occupation. However, is it really that much different from what is happening increasingly here, in the 'homeland' or, more appropriately, the 'heimatland'? Here is a link to a very recent (May 7, 2008) occurrence in Philadelphia where 3 men were dragged from their car; beaten, kicked and abused. This is the same Philadelphia (different mayor, different police commissioner, same attitude) which framed and is dead set on executing Mumia Abu-Jamal. Rodney King is alive and well and living in Philadelphia, it seems!

Do the Iraqis have the right idea? Perhaps we should ask ourselves that pivotal question.

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