From a news item in the Mail Tribune in Jackson County, Ore., Oct. 16: Police ordered about 300 people to clear a section of California Street in front of the Jacksonville Inn, where President and first lady Laura Bush were dining after holding a rally at the Jackson County Expo. Two protesters were arrested and police fired rounds of pepper balls when a "small group became aggressive with the officers," said an Oregon State Police press release issued Friday. Boy, how 'bout the Chimp's latest PR coup? Yessiree, that's one way to pick up a few votes in a battleground state like Oregon--have the Praetorian Guard blast little girls with gas guns in Small Town, U.S.A.
Seriously, the question is who is the bigger asshole here--The Prez for suddenly (supposedly) changing his dinner plans, or Jacksonville Police Chief David Towe for loosing the shock troops on his own citizens--just because the Secret Service said so.
Whether the decision to smack-down the soccer moms was based on Bush's "impetuous" change of plans, or because the Emperor doesn't care for dissent and whispered a command (as some have darkly suggested), is moot. The point is this: Local law enforcement breaking legs at the behest of a political party, while not unheard of, is a dismaying, creepy totalitarian twist. Since Homeland Security got revved up, suddenly we are seeing a quickly closing circle of not just federal, but Republican usurpation and militarization of state and local police forces--the Gestapo. Michael Moss, a goat farmer shot six times with gas pellets, like paintballs filled with pepper gas, said in a phone interview that "it represented the militarization of the U.S. police. It was a big change."
Goon squads are old news, a fine time-tested antidote to democracy here in the good ole US of A. Recall Haymarket or the Pullman strike or the Ford Security Service or where young Doug MacArthur got some needed practice on U.S. veterans of the Bonus army in 1932, or Kent State, or M.O. V.E. or Koresh, and I could go on and on. When in doubt, take 'em out.
But usually this sort of crushing of the people is over good ol' corporate profits--that or bad housekeeping. But what happened in Jacksonville is different, and in a town of 2,226, a bellwether.
This stripe of bellicose, federal statism, the withdrawal of liberty and the raising of mailed fist by a political party, has a really disturbing ring to it if one knows one's history. Make no mistake (and this is no longer realistically up for debate)--the federal government--and state government as their proxies--have altered the American order into a police state. We are here.
Proxy is the important word here. Another thing we learned from the Brits' various disasters is that empires are expensive. Good old American values--profits (and shirking responsibility) have taught us that while it is sometimes necessary to train guys to do, um, bad things, the real trick is to train guys to train guys to do your dirty work. Like the School of the Americas (WHINSEC, these days) all you do is train 'em, fund 'em, and sit back and watch the fun. Your hands are clean. We do it in South America, we're doin' it in Iraq--we do it everywhere in the world. Some 130 nations are host to "Cooperative Security Training" to act as agents of the United States. And now it is being done to us--our fellow state citizens serving up the whiff of grapeshot for the empire--the Hessians firing at the rebels.
An example from recent papers is how Gov. Sonny Perdue used a buncha new Homeland Security bucks to put coastal Georgia in lock-down for G-8. Federal revenue via states to protect a private tea-party with heavy U.S. Treasury department connections--what amounted to martial law (they called it a "state of emergency," but if you aren't free to travel, they can call it whatever they wish). Quack.
Other related canaries-in-a-coal-mine are two domestic counter-W.M.D Operations, Headhunter and Pipecleaner (the marching orders from John Faschcroft, ONDCP and Tom Ridge and Homeland Security). Federal law and U.S. marshals enforcing, on a local level, a rarely observed prohibition--over pot pipes. Hilarious in a dark, post-9/11 way.
But the big unnoticed shift that presaged the new paradigm was the pre-9/11 pot choppers, National Guard narcotic "training academies"--U.S. Army UH 60 Blackhawk helicopters and federal monies being used as training/transportation/logistics for local weed interdiction. The birds, the uniforms, the checks all say DOD. The National Guard(s) are considered "state" agencies by a now-shaky legal formality called Title 32--Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. But federal troops are not to be used against the people. Remember Kent State. U.S. uniforms, U.S. M-16s, U.S. bullets. Messy.
"The right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition the government for a redresses of grievance" has been swept away by some wicked skillful spin over some perversely good flying by some pals of some of the protected candidate's former friends--whole nother story, but one that has brought us to where we are--a domestic system of military control by proxy--and here's the example: the Jackson County Sheriff's Department and Oregon State Police, a state/county jurisdiction doing not just the political will of a centralized federal government but of a particular party. And during an election cycle, no less. Brown shirts.
Soviet advisor Georgi Arbatov, in a quote attributed to Gorbechev, said: "We are doing something terrible to you." Asked what that was, Arbatov said, "Deprive you of an enemy." And sure enough, since we're fresh out of big, bad scary enemies (you know, Nicaragua), we have this whole monstrous global system now dedicated to what amounts to hunting down single individuals with aircraft carriers. To justify the expense, the monster has to now turn over every rock. Now that they've fucked (or are fucking) everything they can overseas--let's have a look around the house for opportunities.
Welcome to America eats itself. And this is just the beginning. We, like a great ship, are washed onto the rocks of empire, a military dictatorship. The republic is dead. And don't look for federal protection, bub. As someone who has firsthand observed heavy- handed federal spasms, (and the first U.S. president to get egged at his inauguration), I'll tell you, Washington, D.C., and Police Chief Charles H. Ramsay are the worst offenders.
So whataya gonna do about it? Short answer: Join them. Assuming a Code Red and the suspension of the Constitution, there will be plenty of opportunities in the blossoming security business. Just kidding.
Seriously, there is no cavalry on the way. It is up to you. Big daddy ain't gonna help you. John Kerry, should he win, is not going to wiggle his nose and make it better. These paroxysms are like ratchets; they aren't inclined to reversals. And there are only a few strategies.
Local jurisdictions are so strapped for cash these days, they are literally fighting for the pennies. If you've been wronged by the cops and can prove it, a standard go-away settlement is six or so for you, three to yo' dawg. Big jurisdictions like D.C. can afford to buy their way out of legal hassles, but a few dozen claims for unlawful arrest/detentions/whuppins, or one big class action suit, could bankrupt a small, cocky department like Jackson County. Look what good lawyerin' did to the Klan and the Catholic church. Why not the cops?
If some pissant like Towe wants to play big shot with his toys, make 'em pay for the fun--every time-- in civil court. We all hate lawyers, especially trial lawyers, right? Well guess what? If you're one of those troublemakers who really doesn't want to go quietly into this Nu World Order business, let 'em know. Assuming we still have a Constitution, then tort law and a sympathetic, mean-ass lawyer might just be your best (and only) friend.
Moss agrees. "After I went back up to get a badge number, they slammed me with one of those black ax handle clubs." He has contacted both the ACLU and a couple of private lawyers.
The irony is that Moss and police Chief Towe know each other. "I'm a farmer. Towe knows me as a level-headed guy. He knows I wouldn't attack a police officer."
Contact Peter Eichenberger at email@example.com.