Monday, August 25, 2014
The Citadel Nation - the Militarization of America
In his 2008 book "Climate Wars", Gwynne Dyer foretold the militarization of the American-Mexican border. The American military, Dyer wrote, had plans to seal the border against a wave of climate refugees fleeing north out of Central America. The plan envisioned the use of military-grade, lethal force to keep the horde south of the Rio Grande.
While we haven't yet seen the emplacement of robotic machine gun turrets to sweep a kill zone along the border, the militarization of America continues apace:
The militarization of the police has been underway since 9/11, but only in the aftermath of the six-shot killing of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, with photos of streets in a St. Louis suburb that looked like occupied Iraq or Afghanistan, has the fact of it, the shock of it, seemed to hit home widely. Congressional representatives are now proposing bills to stop the Pentagon from giving the latest in war equipment to local police forces. The president even interrupted his golfing vacation on Martha’s Vineyard to return to Washington, in part for “briefings” on the ongoing crisis in Ferguson. So militarization is finally a major story.
And that’s no small thing. On the other hand, the news from Ferguson can’t begin to catch the full process of militarization this society has been undergoing or the way America’s distant wars are coming home. We have, at least, a fine book by Radley Balko on how the police have been militarized. Unfortunately, on the subject of the militarization of the country, there is none. And yet from armed soldiers in railway stations to the mass surveillance of Americans, from the endless celebration of our “warriors” to the domestic use of drones, this country has been undergoing a significant process of militarization (and, if there were such a word, national securitization).
Perhaps nowhere has this been truer than on America’s borders and on the subject of immigration. It’s no longer “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The U.S. is in the process of becoming a citadel nation with up-armored, locked-down borders and a Border Patrol operating in a “Constitution-free zone” deep into the country. The news is regularly filled with discussions of the need to “bolster border security” in ways that would have been unimaginable to previous generations. In the meantime, the Border Patrol is producing its own set of Ferguson-style killings as, like SWAT teams around the U.S., it adopts an ever more militarized mindset and the weaponry to go with it. As James Tomsheck, the former head of internal affairs for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, put it recently, “It has been suggested by Border Patrol leadership that they are the Marine Corps of the U.S. law enforcement community. The Border Patrol has a self-identity of a paramilitary border security force and not that of a law enforcement organization.”
Across America (and coming soon to Canada too), the line between democratic law enforcement and martial law is being erased. It is perhaps the inevitable outcome of neoliberalism in which security is to prevail over constitutional protections for some, a great many although not for all.