Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Excessive Force

22 Years ago the Philadelphia Police department, in a move that has come to epitomize the use of excessive force and official recklessness, dropped a firebomb on the roof of an apartment building housing a black separatist group known as MOVE. The bomb ignited several barrels of gasoline, burned down over 60 adjacent apartments and caused the deaths of 11 people including numerous children. Before all was said and done, the city of Philadelphia was ordered to pay over $30 million in compensation to victims of the bombing.

The MOVE bombing has become emblematic of why it is a bad idea to employ military grade weaponry and tactics to police civilian populations. And similar scattered incidents that have occurred over the years have led to tremendous anger and even civil unrest on the part of significant segments of the US population. Let us not forget that when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murray building in Oklahoma City, OK, in the single most spectacular (and grisly) terrorist attack on U.S. soil prior to the events of 9/11, he did so out of anger at the Federal government's mishandling of the Branch Davidian crisis in Waco, Texas. And while the full extent of the network that aided and abetted McVeigh in planning and carrying out the OK city bombings may never be known, it is a undeniable fact that the Waco incident that motivated McVaeigh sparked tremendous outrage among certain segments of the population (mostly rural conservatives) and provided a great deal of impetus to the formation and arming of numerous armed paramilitary organizations across the country that were overtly hostile to the Federal Government. These organizations were collectively referred to as "the Militia Movement."

I think it important to review this history, because as our newspapers report once again on the deaths of innocent civilians at the hands of U.S. equipped mercenary bands operating in Iraq with a grant of full immunity from prosecution by authorities in that country, it is vital that we understand (by looking back at our own responses to such outrages) the hatred that such incidents engender in the local civilian population. Try to imagine if the MOVE, the Waco incident, the Kent State massacre were regular occurrences in our own country, carried out by private paramilitary organizations under the employ of a foreign government and who have been granted immunity from prosecution by our civil courts. Today the New York Times reports on two women killed by private "security contractors" in Iraq. As is too often the case in these incidents, the victims were guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time:

The women were in a white car that drove into the Masbah intersection in the central Karradah district as the convoy of three white and one gray SUVs was stopped about 100 yards away, according to a policeman who witnessed the shooting from a nearby checkpoint.

The men in the SUVs threw a smoke bomb in an apparent bid to warn the car against coming forward, said Riyadh Majid, the policeman. The woman driving the car tried to stop, but was killed along with the passenger when two of the guards in the convoy opened fire, Majid said.

The pavement where the attack occurred was stained with blood and covered with shattered glass from the car windows.

He said the convoy then raced away and Iraqi police came to collect the bodies and tow the car to the local police station.

There's no possible way we can defeat an insurgency while employing such tactics, and no question that we further drive the civilian population into our opponents ranks. Just ask yourself this question: if it had been your mother and your sister in that car, what would you do? If you answer that question honestly, and are not a coward, then you'll understand why the occupation is just as good as lost.

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