Tagmartial law

South Carolina: The Border Control State

Todd Miller writes:

The police always put the checkpoint at the entrance to the mobile home park where María and Manuel live. A road barely two lanes wide leads through the park with its approximately sixty gray, white, and beige mobile homes tightly concentrated in a two-block area. Just in case, María and Manuel check to make sure the shiny black police cars and orange cones aren’t there. They decide to risk it and go to church.

Even though they are in South Carolina, María says the placement of the checkpoint makes it feel as if the U.S.-Mexico border were right at her doorstep. That’s saying something. María, though originally from the Mexican state of Michoacán, grew up in Naco, Mexico, right on the border. Although police checkpoints are often used throughout the state of South Carolina to find people driving under the influence, they are also there to make sure a driver’s residency status is in order.

“They put it in the entrance of the trailer park,” María tells me. “You have to go through the checkpoint.” There isn’t any other way to get in or out. The authorities at this particular checkpoint have already busted Manuel three times, each time for driving without a proper driver’s license. And this checkpoint has caused serious havoc for María’s neighbors, family, and co-workers, many of them non-citizens who have come into the area to work in the booming construction industry around the island of Hilton Head. Many are carpenters, landscapers, and construction workers who now live in the small town of Ridgeland. They are the people who have sculpted and landscaped gigantic gated communities built around golf courses and fake waterfalls. These modern subdivisions are now filled with mainly affluent white retirees, the majority from the Northeast and Midwest. Some places, like the ten-thousand-person town of Sun City, didn’t even exist fifteen years ago.

Full Story: Guernica: South Carolina: The Border Control State

See also:

Despite ID and birth certificate, Chicago man detained for three days

American Conservative: Hispanics don’t commit more crimes than whites

The U.S. as Police State

The US as Police State, part 2

Read Part 1 of The US as Police State.

In part 1, I took a very brief look at the history of the United States from 1787 to around 1980 and found a history of government repression of citizens at varying levels of government: restrictions on voting, vote fraud, and slavery. Not to mention the genocide of the Native Americans at the hands of the US military.

So now I turn my attention to Ronald Reagan and the point where the “War on Drugs” actually became a war, and not mere prohibition. The drug war is meant to stamp out the “drug problem” in America. A problem that the government helped engineer in t he first place. As detailed in Gary Webb’s series of “Dark Alliance” articles for the San Jose Mercury News, and later a book by the same name, the C.I.A, with the explicit knowledge of the Reagan administration, supported Nicaraguan contras in their sale of cocaine to drug dealers in Los Angles starting around 1981. For more information, see Webb’s 1998 article for the Orange County Weekly, The Crack-Up.”

In his article “The CIA, Contras, Gangs, and Crack” William Blum quotes Webb saying the CIA’s drug network “opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the ‘crack’ capital of the world” and notes that “the huge influx of cocaine happened to come at just the time that street-level drug dealers were figuring out how to make cocaine affordable by changing it into crack.” Blum goes on to write “The foregoing discussion should not be regarded as any kind of historical aberration inasmuch as the CIA has had a long and virtually continuous involvement with drug trafficking since the end of World War II.” Blum then outlines this history. The article provides a quick overview, and I presume he goes into more detail in his book Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.

“In my 30?year history in the Drug Enforcement Administration and related agencies, the major targets of my investigations almost invariably turned out to be working for the CIA.”

So the government, having spurred the “crack epidemic” and having trafficked drugs since at least WWII, instead of scaling back its own drug running operations expands it military empire to a new front: the homes of US citizens.

Radley Balko chronicles the increase in the use of paramilitary force for servicing drag warrants in his paper Overkill: the Rise of Paramilitary Raids in America. Balko writes:

The use of paramilitary police units began in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Through the 1970s, the idea slowly spilled out across the country. But at least until the 1980s, SWAT teams and other paramilitary units were used sparingly, only in volatile, high-risk situations such as bank robberies or hostage situations. Likewise, ‘no-knock’ raids were generally used only in situations where innocent lives were determined to be at imminent risk. America’s War on Drugs has spurred a significant rise in the number of such raids, to the point where in some jurisdictions drug warrants are only
served by SWAT teams or similar paramilitary units, and the overwhelming number of SWAT deployments are to execute drug warrants.

The Posse Comitatus Act, according to Wikipedia, “was intended to prohibit Federal troops from supervising elections in former Confederate states. It generally prohibits Federal military personnel and units of the United States National Guard under Federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress. The Posse Comitatus Act and the Insurrection Act substantially limit the powers of the Federal government to use the military for law enforcement.”

In her 1999 paper “Warrior Cops: The Ominous Growth of Paramilitarism in American Police Departments” Diane Cecilia Weber notes a massive blow to the Posse Comitatus Act:

In 1981 Congress passed the Military Cooperation with Law Enforcement Officials Act. That law amended the Posse Comitatus Act insofar as it authorized the military to “assist” civilian police in the enforcement of drug laws. The act encouraged the military to (a) make available equipment, military bases, and research facilities to federal, state, and local police; (b) train and advise civilian police on the use of the equipment; and (c) assist law enforcement personnel in keeping drugs from entering the country. The act also authorized the military to share information acquired during military operations with civilian law enforcement agencies.

She goes on to list further erosion or violations of the act:

In 1986, President Reagan issued a National Security Decision Directive, which declared drugs a threat to U.S.
‘national security.’ The directive allowed for yet more cooperation between local, state, and federal law enforcement and
the military. ”

In 1988, Congress ordered the National Guard to assist state drug enforcement efforts. Because of this order, National
Guard troops today patrol for marijuana plants and assist in large-scale anti-drug operations in every state in the country.

In 1989, President Bush created a series of regional task forces within the Department of Defense, charged with facilitating
cooperation between the military and domestic police forces.

In 1994, the Department of Defense issued a memorandum authorizing the transfer of equipment and technology to
state and local police. The same year, Congress created a “reutilization program” to facilitate handing military gear
over to civilian police agencies.

She also notes: “In 1996 President Bill Clinton appointed a military commander, Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, to oversee enforcement of the federal drug laws as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.”

By the time George W. Bush nullified the Posse Comitatus Act 2006 (see Wikipedia), it was as good as dead.

Balko goes on to detail how the movement of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies and federal funding incentives for drug enforcement encouraged expansion and deployment of SWAT team units.

In 1972, there were just a few hundred paramilitary drug raids per year in the United States. According to Kraska, by the early 1980s there were 3,000 annual SWAT deployments, by 1996 there were 30,000, and by 2001 there were 40,000.70 The average city police department deployed its paramilitary police unit about once a month in the early 1980s. By 1995, that number had risen to seven.

Balko explores the problems that the militarization of the police force has created at length in the rest of the paper. Overkill is excellent and illustrates just how far the War on Drugs has really gone.

According to Wikipedia: “Martial law is the system of rules that takes effect when the military takes control of the normal administration of justice. Usually martial law reduces some of the personal rights ordinarily granted to the citizen, limits the length of the trial processes, and prescribes more severe penalties than ordinary law.” The current system stops just short of trying drug offenders in military tribunals, but the mandatory sentencing laws (first signed into law by Reagan in 1986) implemented under the The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 constituted a significant change in the severity of sentencing and seized the power to sentence criminals from the judicial branch.

In conclusion: the US government helped create a social problem, and gradually implemented martial law to solve it. The need to formally declare martial law wasn’t necessary – in fact it would have been a hindrance.

Perhaps worst of all the utter failure the War on Drugs has actually been on solving the problem. Detailing why it’s been a failure and all the different ways it’s been a catastrophe for civil liberties is far beyond the scope of this article, but here are some further resources:

Drug Policy Alliance.

Families Against Mandatory Minimums.

The Cato Institute’s Drug War section.

This Foreign Policy magazine’s article on the drug war.

Radley Balko’s blog.

End part 2.

The US as Police State, part 1

This week marks the beginning of the “terrorism preparedness” drills Top Officials 4 and Vigilant Shield 08:

VS-08 will be conducted concurrent with Top Officials 4 (TOPOFF 4), the nation’s premier exercise of terrorism preparedness sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, and several other linked exercises as part of the National Level Exercise 1-08. These linked exercises will take place October 15-20 and are being conducted throughout the United States and in conjunction with several partner nations including Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom, as well as the Territory of Guam

As usual, the truthers are shitting their pants in anticipation of a false flag terror attack and/or a preparation for the declaration of martial law. Nevermind that these threats failed to materialize during Operation Noble Resolve last August. (Aside: does anyone have a list of times that Alex Jones has “cried wolf” about terrorist attacks and/or declarations of martial law?)

Critics on the war on terror often remark on how our reaction to 9/11 is exactly what the terrorists wanted. We now cower in fear of terror attacks, give up freedoms, and question each other loyalty. I can’t help but wonder if the reactions to these drills aren’t exactly what the police state wants: a constant state of fear and loathing. Besides, “they” don’t have to declare martial law. We’ve been living under martial law since at least the 80s, when Reagan escalated the war on drugs to its current paramilitary status. But even before the effective beginning of martial law in the 80s, the US has had a long history of government repression. The real question is not whether the United States is becoming police state, but to ask if it has ever been a democracy.

When the Constitution was adopted in 1787, it was still legal for a person to own another person, only property owners were allowed to vote, and women weren’t allowed to vote at all. Only about 10-16% of the population had the right to vote.

It wasn’t until the ratification of the thirteenth amendment was passed in 1865 that slavery was constitutionally banned. It was another 5 years before the fifteenth amendment, guaranteeing blacks the right to vote, was ratified. Until the 19th amendment, ratified in 1920, women didn’t have a constitutional right to vote.

However, even these constitutional protections didn’t ensure a right to vote for every US citizen – it took another amendment, the 24th, to ban poll taxes. The 24th amendment wasn’t ratified until 1964. Also in 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, finally ending any legal basis for racial or sexual discrimination. In other words, for the first 177 years of US history there existed state based repression of significant segments of society (and that’s aside from the Lebensraum policy of US expansion that all but eradicated the native population).

Even those who were allowed to vote couldn’t rely on their vote being counted. Vote fraud didn’t start with Diebold machines and the 2000 election – the case against Kennedy is one of the most famous.

Meanwhile, throughout the Vietnam War, men who couldn’t get deferments were enslaved by the government to fight and die on foreign soil, until the draft expired in 1973 (thanks to a one man filibuster by Mike Gravel).

Which brings us up to the War on Drugs, declared by Richard Nixon on June 17, 1971. Before we even had all our troops out of Vietnam, Nixon was already declaring war on a segment of US citizens: drug users. Though, as stated on Wikipedia the “war on drugs” could be considered to go back to the prohibition of opium in 1880, it was Nixon that began using the martial term “war.” So just as the US was finally being freed of slavery and granting a universal right to vote (except of course in the cases of prison labor, and I won’t even go into voter suppression issues), we entered a new era of government repression.

But if there was ever any “free” period in US history, perhaps it was the 1970s. Although the war on drugs was officially declared, the country seemed to be awash in drugs at the time. The war was ending, segregation was ending, AIDS hadn’t hit epidemic levels and homosexuality was being more accepted. In 1993 R.U. Sirius wrote:

The seventies actually were cool. Much cooler than the ballyhooed sixties. There was more sex in the seventies, more tolerance, the right wing was completely in retreat, Richard Nixon was still a pig, and cocaine wasn’t bad for your health yet! In the mid-seventies it was possible to believe that the whole country was moderately hip–and if that wasn’t enough, Punk was coming along to kick moderately hip’s laidback butt.

I’m sure there was more of a dark side, but if there’s a case for nostalgia for a period of US history, I guess this was it. But if the people of the United States were at last free from government repression in the 70s, the state made up for it in the 80s.

End Part One.

Read part 2.

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