This was the first time that I ever took political photographs and the independent media movement that grew out of Seattle inspired me to continue. Accompanying the Seattle anti-WTO photographs is my essay that appeared in the first issue of INSUBORDINATION magazine. This first issue (published November, 2001) was titled "Seattle: 2 Years Later," and looked at the past and future of organizing against the transnational corporate order. The essay is a little long, but I did my best to "pack a punch" and lay out the big picture of the global repression enforced by institutions like the WTO. I hope you enjoy this photoessay--Hans
|CONNECTING THE DOTS: How the Phony War on Drugs is Used to Justify Counterinsurgency at Home and Abroad for the Benefit of the Corporate Elite
Nov. 30, 1999, Seattle at large anti-WTO labor rally with 50,000 plus people.
It is clear to anyone who thinks, and maybe even to the junkie who suffers, that the situation of black America is related to the situation of Mexicans, to all of Latin America. It’s related to the military junta in Chile; with the misery of the people called the “have nots.” It’s not an act of God and it is not an accident. It is something which is deliberate. It is something which is necessary for the well being of the “master race” so that the poor of Latin America are in the same bag and are oppressed by the same people for the same reason. And if they can be murdered in Latin America as we have been murdered for years and years in our own country, and murdered in Vietnam, then something begins to be very, very clear: that the salvation of the black American is also involved with the freedom of all the other slaves. And this, too, begins to evolve very slowly and in the dark, but I think it becomes clearer with every hour. –James Baldwin, 1973.1
On Wednesday night, December 1, 1999, the band No WTO Combo, with Jello Biafra as the lead singer, concluded a concert in Seattle with the song “Full Metal Jackoff.” Introducing the piece, Biafra declared that the song was just as important today as it was when he wrote it back in 1990. “Full Metal Jackoff” is a scathing indictment of the rising police state and prison industrial complex that has grown under the guise of the fraudulent “War on Drugs.”
Indeed, the song is highly relevant today, especially when attempting to understand the effects that this current stage of globalization (since the 1970s) has had upon the domestic U.S. population. Furthermore, since the time when Biafra wrote the song, decrying CIA complicity in the global drug trade, new evidence has arisen which makes the CIA look even worse.
KNOW WHO U'R MASTERS ARE, THEN FUCK 'EM!
Downtown Seattle, Tuesday, November 30 during the period in the afternoon that the protesters had already succeeded in blocking the majority of WTO delegates and then had complete control over the streets.
The overwhelmingly ample evidence of CIA drug trafficking is a powerful weapon for defrauding the war on drugs. The war on drugs has been used as a guise for the dirtiest work necessary to impose the new world order of transnational corporate domination. The “War on Drugs” has been the major vehicle through which the U.S. has moved even closer to itself resembling one of the third world terror-states propped up to serve U.S.-based transnational corporations. Therefore, to fully understand the effects of the post-60’s globalization, we must look at the nature of U.S. foreign policy in the third world. But understanding this, we can then truly see the forces that are shaping the rise of the prison industrial complex and the general police state in the last 30 years.
While evidence of CIA drug-trafficking had already been overwhelming, in 1996, San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb published a 3-part series directly tying CIA operations to the crack-cocaine epidemic. Despite a major censorship and slander campaign by the corporate media2 (most
notable, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times) the basic facts of the story were still able to reach many people: Nicaraguan drug traffickers protected by the CIA (as part of the CIA contra terrorist operation) brought in Cocaine that was to be sold to crack dealers and used for crack during the 1980s. While CIA –Contra drug trafficking in the 1980’s (and since the 1940s birth of the CIA) had already been documented by many including Newsweek journalist Robert Parry, Senator John Kerry, and college professors Alfred McCoy and Peter Dale Scott3, this added a
particularly sinister spin to the CIA’s drug running.
Commenting on the significance of Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series, black scholar Clarence Lusane argues that “only by framing the discussion in the context of a critique of U.S. foreign policy objectives that have been operating since at least the mid-1940s, can the solid link between international affairs, racism, and illegal drugs be grasped.”4
Marching through the Seattle Streets, 1999.
----------------------------------------------- As professor Alfred McCoy has documented in The Politics of Heroin the CIA has always employed drug traffickers to do the dirty work for U.S. domination of the rest of the world. After World War 2 the mob (along with actual Nazis) in both France and Italy was employed to put down the anti-fascist and anti-Nazi resistance. Their services were rewarded by the CIA using its legal power to assist them in bringing drugs into the U.S. Later, there was the Nationalist Chinese army and then the Hmong people in Laos, who were given support for drug-trafficking operations as a reward to their service to U.S. imperialism/world economic and military aggression. One thing in our life that we can know for absolute certainty is this: THE “WAR ON DRUGS” IS A FRAUD!
To understand the full meaning of both CIA drug trafficking and organizations like the WTO, they must be framed in the context of U.S. foreign policy and CAPITALISM. When we do that, we can understand the forces at work in shaping our spiritual and material conditions here, at home in the U.S. Like James Baldwin in the opening quote, many black revolutionary intellectuals (including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and co-founder of the Black Panther Party: Dr. Huey P. Newton5) explicitly framed their critique of the oppression of blacks within the U.S. racist capitalist system’s overall global empire.
STARBUCKS: One of many transnational corporations targeted for property destruction by the masked anarchist black bloc. Police had already been brutalizing non-violent protesters for hours before property destruction occurred. However, media reports made it seem like police violence was a response to the property destruction. While I had never heard of the black bloc before, by the end of the week I found the property destruction and other militant street tactics to be very inspiring. The following photos are from the same time the afternnon of November 30.
In the last year of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. specifically argued that: “The evils of capitalism and militarism are as great as the evils of racism.” At the time of his assassination he was attempting “to bring the social change movements through from their early and now inadequate protest phase to a stage of massive, active, nonviolent resistance to the evils of…a system where some people live in superfluous, inordinate wealth while others live in abject, deadening poverty.” King was very openly questioning the effectiveness of past tactics for Black liberation. Shortly before his assassination, he declared: “For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions…, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you’ve got to have a reconstruction of the whole society.”6
Fuck Sweat Shops
In his last year, Malcolm X was also increasingly anti-capitalist. In May, 1964 Malcolm X argued that “you can’t have capitalism without racism.”7 During a December, 1964 speech in Harlem,
Malcolm X, again, clearly articulated what he thought about capitalism. Declaring: “You show me a capitalist, I’ll show you a bloodsucker,” Malcolm X urged the Black liberation movement to reject capitalism.8
Critiquing Stokely Carmichael’s position that the issue of racism was more important than capitalism for the liberation of blacks, Newton argued (in 1970) that “the roots of racism is based upon the profit motive and capitalism.”9 In a letter written to black civil
rights leader Roy Wilkins (where Newton links the oppression of U.S. blacks to U.S. oppression of Vietnam), Newton specifically argued that “the lowly conditions of blacks are caused by a complex intermingling of capitalism, imperialism, and racism,” and that “all of these must be dealt with at the same time if we are to end our oppression.”10
The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism
To put it simply: in order to make more money and maintain their position of power, U.S. companies support (ie. fund, train, and provide diplomatic support for) repressive governments that will brutally repress their own population. When human rights are non-existent and people are sick and starving, sweatshops can be created and maintained. Once U.S. companies can exploit the repressed workers, they will eliminate (somewhat) well-paying jobs in the U.S. and take it to a third world fascist regime. The well-being of U.S. workers is intimately tied to the well-being of third world workers, The globalized economy of the last 30 years has meant the deterioration of worker status both inside and outside the U.S.
When Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman wrote the precursor to their 1979 book The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism: The Political Economy of Human Rights: Volume I, they found their analysis of U.S. foreign policy unwelcome by the corporate media establishment. The parent company learned about the book in the fall of 1973, and quite predictably was horrified and condemned it’s “unpartiotic” scholarship. Warner Modular Publications, Inc. (at that time a subsidiary member of the Warner communications and entertainment conglomerate) chose to violate their contractual obligation with Chomsky and Herman. They explain:
Although 20,000 copies of the monograph were printed, and one (and the last) ad was placed in the New York Review of Books, Warner Publishing refused to allow distribution of the monograph at its scheduled publication date. Media advertising for the volume was cancelled and printed flyers that listed the monographs as one of the titles were destroyed. The officers of Warner Modular were warned that distribution of the document would result in their immediate dismissal
It seems that after this kneejerk reaction, Warner’s corporate leadership opted for a (slightly) more subtle means of censorship and formally agreed to not supress the book: reaching a compromise with the lower-level publisher (who struggled for distribution of the monograph). However, before the compromise could be enacted the publishing house was shut down, with Warner selling the house’s “stocks of publications and contracts to a small and quite unknown company” effectively killing the book.11
Any book that is so feared by the corporate media merits close attention. William Sarnoff, a high officer of the parent company was very clear about why the book upset him so much, citing Chomsky and Herman’s “unpatriotic” argument that “the leadership in the United States, as a result of its dominant position and wide-ranging counterrevoliutionary efforts, has been the most important single instigator, administrator, and moral and material sustainer of serious bloodbaths in the years that followed World War II.” The 442 page book backs up what it claims. Even worse, the book documents how both the mainstream media and educational institutions have been fundamental in providing the propaganda that allows the genocidal death machine to operate.
Chomsky and Herman argue that the U.S. corporate state’s “ideological pretense…that the United States is dedicated to furthering the cause of democracy and human rights throughout the world, though it may occasionally err in the pusuit of this ojective” has been constructed to mask: “the basic fact…that the United States has organized under its sponsorship and protection a neo-colonial system of client states ruled mainly by terror and serving the interests of a small local and foreign business and military elite.”12
M.E.Ch.A and Che at Labor Rally: Che understood the importance of international solidarity as a weapon against transnational corporate imperialism.
They convincingly demonstrate that U.S. corporations purposefully support (and in many instances create) fascist terror states in order to create a favorable investment climate. In exchange for a cut of the action, local military police-states (which foster an image of third world autonomy from their colonial masters) brutally repress their population when it attempts to assert basic human rights:
The proof of the pudding is that U.S. bankers and industrialists have consistently welcomed the “stability” of the new client fascist order, whose governments, while savage in their treatment of dissidents, priests, labor leaders, peasant organizers or others who threaten “order,” and at best indifferent to the mass of the population, have been accommodating to large external interests. In an important sense, therefore, the torturers in the client state are functionaries of IBM, Citibank, Allis Chalmers and the U.S. government, playing their assigned roles in a system that has worked according to choice and plan.13
In 1948, State Department planner George Kennan wrote Policy Planning Study 23, clearly stating that if the U.S. wanted to maintain (and expand) its position of world dominance, it could not truly respect human rights and democracy abroad. The document said:
We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only about 6 percent of its population…In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships that will permit us to maintain this disparity…To do so we will have to dispense with sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives…We should cease to talk about vague and…unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards and democratization.”14
Kennan elaborated on this concept in a 1950 briefing of U.S. ambassadors to Latin American countries. Of prime importance was to prevent the spreading of the idea “that governments are responsible for the well being of their people.” To combat the proliferation of this idea: “we should not hesitate before police repression by the local government…It is better to have a strong regime in power than a liberal one if it is indulgent and relaxed and penetrated by Communist.” Kennan would clearly define a “Communist” as someone who believed “that the governments are responsible for the well-being of their people.”15
Crushing the human spirit and people’s desire to live free is a difficult task. State terror must be viewed in this context. It exists to destroy people’s hope and their desire to liberate themselves from oppression. This is the motive behind the U.S. –directed counterinsurgency wars waged upon such countries in Latin America as Colombia and Chiapas, Mexico. The origins of U.S. counter-insurgency ideology reveal the fundamentally evil nature of the U.S. ruling class and the state apparatus that serves it.
The Roots of Counterinsurgency
To understand the evil of the U.S. ruling class in its full, one must investigate the historical origins of the state terror being practiced today by the Colombian government. Scholar/activist, Noam Chomsky writes that “US counterinsurgency doctrine was consciously modeled on the practices and achievements of World War II fascism, though it was the Nazis who were the preferred model.” Chomsky cites Michael McClintock’s important 1989 study, Instruments of Statecraft, which examines 1950s US Army manuals and documents the disturbing influence of Naziism on U.S. counterinsurgency technique. Chomsky explains that the “manuals recognize Hitler’s tasks to have been much the same as those undertaken by the US worldwide as it took over the struggle against the anti-fascist resistance and other criminals (labeled “Communists” or “terrorists”). The U.S. Army employed former Wermacht officers to help prepare the army manuals and explicitly drew upon the Nazi practice of “evacuation of all natives from partisan-infested areas and the destruction of all farms, villages, and buildings in the areas following the evacuations.”16
Military manuals made during Kennedy’s administration advocated “the tactic of intimidating, kidnapping, or assassinating carefully selected members of the opposition in a manner that will reap the maximum psychological benefit,” the objective being “to frighten everyone from collaborating with the guerilla movement.”17
In 1962, Kennedy also shifted the official focus of Latin American military from “hemispheric defense” to “internal security.” According to Charles Maechling (who led counterinsurgency and internal defense planning from 1961 to 1966), this historic shift led to a change from toleration “of the rapacity and cruelty of the Latin American military “ to “direct complicity” in “the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s extermination squads.”18
Columbia Yesterday & Today
Moving forward to today, Alfredo Vasquez Carrizosa, president of the Colombian Permanent Committee for Human Rights explicitly argues that the “violence has been exacerbated by external factors.” The U.S. influence in Colombia has been to make things much, much worse. Concurring with Noam Chomsky’s assertion that the Kennedy Administration escalated the already brutal state repression in Colombia (and all of Latin America), Vasquez reports that “In the 1960s the United States, during the Kennedy administration, took great pains to transform our regular armies into counterinsurgency brigades, accepting the new strategy of the death squads.” President Kennedy’s initiatives:
…ushered in what is known in Latin America as the National Security Doctrine,…not defense against an external enemy, but a way to make the military establishment the masters of the game…[with] the right to combat the internal enemy, as set forth in the Brazilian doctrine, the Argentine doctrine, the Uruguayan doctrine, and the Colombian doctrine: it is the right to fight and to exterminate social workers, trade unionists, men and women who are not supportive of the establishment, and who are assumed to be communist extremists. And this could mean anyone, including human rights activists such as myself.”19
In order to understand the true horror of today’s political situation in Colombia it must be seen in relation to the rest of Latin America. In the 90s, Colombia has been compared to Central America in the 1980s, where the U.S. trained, funded, and armed death-squad style terrorists. In her book Resisting State Violence, Professor Joy James argues that in “the 1980s, domestic policing and police brutality, including the 1985 MOVE bombing, were upstaged by the grisly specter of terrorism in U.S. foreign policy…In El Salvador and Guatemala, torture and terroristic killings were employed to derail social, political, and guerilla movements by workers and indigenous peoples.”20
El Salvador’s quite successful state terror operations help illustrate the fundamentally evil nature of both the U.S. ruling class and the local wealthy elite in Latin America, who employ horrifying tactics to break the human spirit, and therefore maintain the status quo.
A January 1994 conference on state terror organized by Jesuits in San Salvador argued that “it is important to explore…what weight the culture of terror has had in domesticating the expectations of the majority vis-à-vis alternatives different to those of the powerful.” In the Jesuit journal America, Rev. Daniel Santiago writes:
People are not just killed by death squads in El Salvador—they are decapitated and then their heads are placed on pikes and used to dot the landscape. Men are not just disemboweled by the Salvadoran Treasury Police; their severed genitalia are stuffed in their mouths. Salvadoran women are not just raped by the national guard; their wombs are cut from their bodies and used to cover their faces. It is not enough to kill children; they are dragged over barbed wire until their flesh falls from their bones while parents are forced to watch…The aesthetics of terror in El Salvador is religious.”21
Nicknamed “Blowtorch Bob,” (after his favorite instrument of torture) longtime leader of El Salvador’s death squad ARENA party, Robert D’Aubuisson was an open admirer of Adolf Hitler. He once said: “You Germans were very intelligent. You realized that the Jews were responsible for the spread of Communism and you began to kill them.” In 1993, the United Nations Truth Commission concluded that a total of 63,000 Salvadorans were killed between 1979 and 1992.22
I WOULD RATHER DIE ON MY FEET THAN LIVE ON MY KNEES: Banner of Emiliano Zapata and his famous quote. The Zapatistas name themselves after this radical anarachist from Mexico.
The ruling classes of the United States were very threatened by the Zapatista insurgency because of the inspiration that it gave to many oppressed people throughout the world who have also been beaten down but continue to fight. A 1995 Chase Manhattan Bank memorandum written by Riordan Roett (a consultant on Latin American issues) argued that the Mexican government “will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy…[and] will need to consider carefully whether or not to allow opposition victories if fairly won at the ballot box.”24
Emiliano Zapata at Labor Rally, November 30.
This desire to crush the Zapatista rebellion is reflective of the U.S. ruling class’ reaction to the challenge made to white world supremacy and U.S. corporate control over Latin America.The war on drugs has been used as a guise for supplying the Mexican state the necessary military might to put down the rebelling Indians of Chiapas.
Cecelia Rodriguez, spokesperson for the Zapatistas in the U.S. explains that::
US-provided helicopters have been used in the past to attack unarmed populations…The Mexican armed forces have been accused by human rights monitors of murders, disappearances, kidnapping and rape. Nonetheless their requests for military equipment and expertise have been granted time and time again. Under the guise of fighting drug traffickers, the US government has bolstered an anti-democratic and corrupt Mexican government with a laundry list of high-tech military equipment that has been used to violate the basic human rights of the people of Mexico.25
The Counter-insurgency War at Home and the Rise of the Prison-industrial Complex
For the sake of simplicity I will outline the U.S. counterinsurgency war at home as manifesting itself in three major components. First, is the centralized state apparatus best symbolized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and it’s documented program “COINTELPRO” (short for counterintelli-gence program). Second are the police forces and the accompanying police brutality. Third is the prison-industrial complex apparatus. Among these three broad elements of state repression there is considerable overlap, as oftentimes, the FBI manip-ulates both the police and the prison/criminal justice system.
Counterinsurgency has long been in the thoughts of U.S. planners domestically as evidenced by the FBI’s COINTELPRO waged upon the U.S. left officially from the 1950s to the 70’s. Particularly important for this essay is its campaign against the Black liberation movement’s goal of liberating the U.S.’s domestic colonies.
Quite revealing is a March 3, 1968 COINTELPRO memo discussing the urgent need to prevent “the beginning of a true black revolution.” Among several of this counterrevolutionary state program’s goals was to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement”. Perhaps most revealing in this “Black Nationalist-Hate Groups” memo is the reference to Martin Luther King (long a target of the FBI) as a potential “messiah” of the supposedly hateful and “violent” Black liberation movement. "Through counterintelligence it should be possible to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them."26
Another stated goal was “to prevent the long-range growth of militant black nationalist organizations, especially among youth. Specific tactics to prevent these groups from converting young people must be developed…” One specific tactical approach was expressed in an April 3, 1968 communique urged that “The Negro youth and moderates must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries.”27
In terms of scale, the FBI’s war of repression against the Black liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s was greatest against the Black Panther Party. In addressing why the Black Panther Party was targeted so intensely by COINTELPRO, Noam Chomsky wrote in 1973 that:
A top secret Special Report for the president in June 1970 gives some insight into the motivations for the actions undertaken by the government to destroy the Black Panther Party. The report describes the party as “the most active and dangerous black extremist group in the United States.” Its “hard core members” were estimated at 800, but “a recent poll indicates that approximately 25 percent of the black population has a great respect for the BPP, including 43 percent of blacks under 21 years of age.” On the basis of such estimates of the potential of the party, the repressive apparatus of the state proceeded against it to ensure that it did not succeed in organizing as a substantial social or political force. We may add that in this case, government repression proved quite successful.28
Police Brutality and Repression
THE SPIRIT OF THE POLICE STATE: Taken at the time as a double-exposure, this has in the background the crowd filling the streets during the afternoon of Nov.30 , then I spun back around and took a photo of the police line on the edge of the crowd. For this exposure with police, you can see the backs of protesters heads immediately in the foreground.
Police violence against the colonized sectors of the U.S. population is another feature that makes the U.S. resemble a somewhat milder terror state than that in El Salvador or Colombia, but certainly as evil. Accompanying Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s criticism of both capitalism and militarism was a scathing critique of racist police brutality. King was most critical of the brutal dehumanization that accompanies this form of state terror.
COINTELPRO target and death-row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal explains that in the “1960s and 1970s the Black panther Party defined a relationship between the police and the black community as one between an occupying army and a colony.”29
This analysis of the relationship between police and the colonized non-white inner cities was supported by evidence presented by the Warren Commission following the Rodney King inspired uprising. While generally a whitewash of the epidemic of police brutality, the commission did release transcripts from L.A.P.D. mobile digital terminal (MDT) communications between police cars and dispatchers (as well as those routed by central communications between two police vehicles. PART (People Against Racist Terror) activist Michael Novick explains that among a randomly selected 182 days between November 1, 1989 and March 4, 1991, almost every day examined revealed “outrageous examples of open racism, sexism, and homophobia towards other officers as well as civilians, bragging about violence, and a virtual blood lust about engaging in pursuits, beatings, and shootings.”
Most importantly, these transcripts reveal a very serious complicity by the upper levels of police leadership. As Novick reports: “The commission found it particularly shocking that, and proof that the department’s top management was unconcerned about racism and the unjustified use of force, that so many officers felt so free over such a protracted period to engage in such remarks, knowing they were being recorded.” A sampling of the transcripts reveals conversations like the following:
Where you be?
In the projects.
If you hear a help call from me, call in an airstrike with napalm.
Better than an M-16 is a Heckler-Koch-94
I’d love to drive down Slauson [in Watts] with a flame thrower. We could have a barbecue.
Mexican means a wetback with no papers and likes to give bullshit to the police, and doesn’t speak no English, until he pulls his i.d. out of his ass, then and only then does he become a Hispanic with papers.
I enjoyed that. Torture and sadism can be such a rrrush…hahahahaha
It must be done tastefully, of course. I was informing [omitted] of the standard procedure for dealing with such subhuman maggots in Central. Ahh, the good old days.
Too bad UCLA is not in session. We could look at all the good-looking bitches.
Show ‘em what a USC grad can do, like give ‘em the chorizo [sausage].
Did you arrest the 85-year-old lady or just beat her up?
We slapped her around a bit. She’s getting medical treatment now.30
In an essay (read during the May 12 demonstration for Mumia Abu-Jamal’s freedom) recently written, Jamal argues that the May 13, 1985 MOVE bombing was highly symbolic in that it has opened the door for outright domestic military assaults upon U.S. citizenry. This draws a direct parallel to U.S. violence towards the third world. Jamal explains:
The twisted mentalities at work here are akin to those of Nazi Germany, or perhaps more appropriately, of My Lai, of Vietnam, of Baghdad, the spirit behind the mindlessly murderous mantra that echoed out of Dan Ang: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”
As abroad, so here at home. For as the flames smothered life on Osage Avenue, police and politicians spoke of “destroying the neighborhood surrounding the MOVE house, in order to save it.” Now cops patrol neighborhoods across America, armed like storm troopers, with a barely disguised urge to destroy the very area they are sworn to “serve and protect.” Or perhaps we should say “sever and dissect.”31
The example of the MOVE bombing where police shot into the house while it was burning down (to ensure that those inside would burn to death and not escape) does provide a perfect parallel to U.S. sponsorship of state terror in colonies abroad. Just as the U.S. (and it’s surrogates in the third world) employ terror tactics to terrify conquered populations and ensure their subordination, so too it uses these tactics (in a somewhat milder form) at home. The MOVE bombing is reflective of the increased paramilitary nature of police forces.
The militarization of police has been accelerating, often times establishing explicit links between the U.S. military and the U.S. domestic police forces. Journalist Peter Cassidy reports that in “1997 alone law enforcement agencies obtained 1.2 million pieces of military hardware. During the 1995-97 fiscal years, the Department of Defense distributed to civilian departments more than 3,800 M-16s, 2, 185 M-14s, 73 M-79 grenade launchers, and 112 armored personnel carriers.”32
These trends in policing are quite significant as they have taken police repression to a level beyond that faced by the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 70s. SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams have become even larger and have had a profound effect on the rest of the police forces. Scholar/activist, Christian Parenti explains that “paramilitary policing units militarize the regular police by osmosis as the weaponry, training, and tactics of the police special forces are gradually passed on to the regular police.”33
In his book Lockdown America, Parenti dedicates an entire chapter analyzing the militarization of the non-white and poor areas of Fresno. Writing about Fresno and policing in general, Parenti argues:
"If there is a parable to be drawn from the story of paramilitary policing in the US, it is that the political theatrics of terror are by no means dead. Physical terror and spectacular displays of violence are still central to the state’s control of the dangerous classes. The helicopters, guns, and constantly barking dogs of the American tactical army are a blunt semaphore to the lumpen classes and working poor. So too are the frequent gang sweeps, field interviews, and curfew busts…The point is that ritualized displays of terror are built into American policing. Spectacle is a fundamental part of how the state controls poor people"(Parenti’s emphasis).34
My photo is featured on the front cover of Anarchy Magazine.
-------------------------------------------------------------The Rise of the Prison Industrial Complex and the Politics of Mass Incarceration
This current phase of globalization has created a dramatic rise in the role of prisons in society. While in 1980, there were only 500,000 prisoners total in the U.S., that number has now exceeded 2 million. Many have explained this rise of the prison population by citing the growing economic incentive to expand the population by such lobbying forces as prison guard unions, companies that employ prison labor, prison construction contractors, and private prison corporations.
However, in his 1999 book Lockdown America, it is Christian Parenti’s assertion that while these interest groups do have an economic interest in the proliferation of the prison system, this alone cannot explain the dramatic escalation of the prison population. Instead, Parenti argues that prisons have become a way to control the superfluous population that has been created as a result of downsizing (wherein well-paying jobs are taking to the third world where state repression insures low wages) since the 1970s.
Parenti asserts that while social welfare programs can also help to control the politically dangerous classes, these programs help to empower the poor against their corporate masters. In contrast, the prison system serves to further the conquest of U.S. domestic colonies. While it costs infinitely more to jail someone than to offer social welfare programs (and may therefore seem inefficient) it is highly beneficial for ruling class control of poor people.35
Today, Angela Y. Davis (one of the intellectual leaders of the prison abolitionist movement) has passionately argued that if we are to truly understand the criminal justice system, we must “disarticulate notions of punishment from crime,”36 and recognize that there are
other highly rational motives behind the prison system.
The legal system has been designed to control poor people of color and poor people in general. The most obvious manifestation of creating laws to target poor people of color is with the War on Drugs. In September 2000, the U.S. produced-five years late its initial report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. In a review of the report, Human Rights Watch argued that one of it’s “most significant weaknesses was in its consideration of the role of race discrimination in the criminal justice system.” HRW writes that while it was mostly a typical government whitewash of institutionalized white supremacy:
The report did acknowledge the dramatic, racially disparate impact of federal sentencing laws that prescribe different sentences for powder cocaine versus crack cocaine offenses, even though the two drugs are pharmacologically identical. The laws impose a mandatory five year prison sentence on anyone convicted of selling five grams or more of crack cocaine, and a ten year mandatory sentence for selling 50 grams or more. One hundred times as much powder cocaine must be sold to receive the same sentences. By setting a much lower drug-weight threshold for crack than powder cocaine, the laws resulted in substantially higher sentences for crack cocaine offenders. Although the majority of crack users were white, blacks compromised almost 90 percent of federal offenders convicted of crack offenses and hence served longer sentences for similar drug crimes than whites.”37
Christian Parenti reports that “drug offenders constituted more than a third (36 percent) of the increase in state prison populations between 1985 and 1994; in the federal system drug offenders make up more than two-thirds (71 percent) of the prison population.”38
In their pamphlet “The Prison Industrial Complex and the Global Economy,” Linda Evans and Eve Goldberg argue that the war on drugs can be seen as a pre-emptive strike: “Put poor people away before they get angry, Incarcerate those at the bottom, the helpless, the hopeless, before they demand change. What drugs don’t damage (in terms of intact communities, the ability to take action, to organize) the war on drugs and mass imprisonment will surely destroy.”39
Seen in light of CIA complicity in drug importation, we can expose what the criminal justice system is really all about. The war on drugs and the criminal justice system is designed to control colonized populations through terror. Parenti argues that:
This politics of punishment works in two ways: it contains and controls those who violate the class-biased laws of our society, but prison also produces a predator class that, when returned to the street, frightens and disorganizes communities, effectively driving poor and working people into the arms of the state, seeking protection. Thus both crime control and crime itself keep people down.40
The state (through the criminal justice system) has been manipulated by the corporate ruling classes to ensure the continuation of their dominant societal position. Instead of existing to assist communities in living a healthy and positive lifestyle, it is designed to assist in the colonization of poor people of color and the poor in general.
The WTO and Counterinsurgency
Counterinsurgency is the dirty work needed to enforce the unequal racial and class structures imposed by the WTO and the transnational corporations that the WTO serves. The WTO attempts to present an image of itself as making world laws to promote balance, equality, and democracy. This is a well-constructed propaganda campaign designed to mask the truth: the WTO provides public legitimacy to a violent and genocidal campaign of world conquest by (mostly U.S.-based) transnational corporations.
Propaganda like this was recently used in the 1999 bombing of Serbia, where a brutal military assault designed to worsen the situation for the oppressed, was officially done as a humanitarian venture to help the oppressed ethnic communities of the region. As I write this, the U.S. military is terrorizing Afghani civilians with cluster bombs and other brutal anti-human weaponry. At the same time it is dropping food shipments to give the impression that it is trying to help the oppressed and starving people of Afghanistan.
We must not let history be erased and remember that 98% of the North American indigenous population was murdered by 1900 in the name of Christianity and humanitarianism. So too, the Atlantic Slave Trade and black chattel slavery in the U.S. was done in the name of humanitarianism and good-will. The War on Drugs is the major pretext today for the rise of state terror and the dismantling of human rights. Unmasking this state terror campaign is fundamental for fighting the power of U.S. corporations.
1 James Baldwin, interviewed by The Black Scholar, 5 (December 1973—January 1974), 33-42. Reprinted in Fred L. Standley and Louis H. Pratt (eds.), Conversations With James Baldwin, (Jackson and London: 1989) pg.148.
2 On Webb’s story and the corporate media attack see:
Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the
Press, Verso Press, New York and London, 1998 and Robert Parry, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press& “Project Truth”, The Media Consortium, Arlington (VA), 1999.
3 For solid scholarship proving CIA drug trafficking, see:
McCoy, Alfred W., The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago 1991, and Peter Dale Scott & Jonathan Marshall, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America, University of California Press, 1991. Dale Scott and Marshall devote most of the book to reviewing Senator Kerry’s findings.
4 Clarence Lusane, “Cracking the CIA-Contra Drug Connection,” Covert Action Quarterly, Winter 1996-97, #59. Lusane specifically argues that “Black leaders must move beyond criticism of the Contra involvement in drug trafficking to questioning a foreign policy that shows little regard for democratic processes or the interests of the poor and working people in the developing world.”
5 Newton received his PhD from University of California at Santa Cruz in the History of Consciousness department in 1980. His PhD dissertation is published as Huey P. Newton, War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (New York & London: 1996).
6 King quoted by Dave Dellinger, “Hope for the Nineties,” Covert Action Quarterly (Winter 1993-94: #47) pg.36. In his final book, King argued: “Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal opposition to poverty, racism, and militarism.” Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (New York: 1967) pg.190
7 Malcolm X, May 29, 1964 at Militant Labor Forum Hall, George Breitman (ed.) Malcolm X Speaks (New York:1965) pg.69.
8 “You can’t operate a capitalistic system unless you are vulturistic; you have to have someone else’s blood to suck to be a capitalist. You show me a capitalist, I’ll show you a bloodsucker. He cannot be anything but a bloodsucker if he’s going to be a capitalist. He’s got to get it from someone other than himself, and that’s where he gets it—from somewhere or someone other than himself. So, when we look at the African continent, when we look at the trouble that’s going on between East and West, we find that the nations in Africa are developing socialistic systems to solve their problems.” Audubon Ballroom, NY, December 20, 1964. The speech was given before Fannie Lou Hamer and the Freedom Singers took the stage. Ibid pg.121.
9 Newton continues: Huey P. Newton, with Toni Morrison (ed.) To Die For The People (New York: 1995) pg.193.
10 In the letter, Newton writes: “We recognize that the small ruling class which exploits us here finds it to their economic advantage to exploit the people of distant lands. We recognize that America is no longer a nation but an empire, and the same troops who occupy and kill at Jackson State, Birmingham, Chicago, and New Orleans are also occupying and killing in My Lai, in Phnom Penh and many other places. The same ruling class which controls the military and government here also controls the military and government in South Vietnam and Cambodia…Black people have long been affected in a negative way by America’s war of imperialism.” “Reply to Roy Wilkins re: Vietnam: September 26, 1970”, To Die For The People, pgs.188-90.
11 Chomsky and Herman write that the new company was “not a commercial publisher and lacked distribution facilities. It did not promote its list and at first did not even list the monograph, adding it only after a considerable period on an additions sheet. The monograph could be purchased by someone with prior knowledge of its existence and of the fact that MSS had taken over the rights to it, or by readers of Radical America, a small, left-wing publication that distributed some copies that they had obtained.” Chomsky and Herman, 1979, pg.xv.
12 Chomsky and Herman, 1979, pg.ix. Elaborating: “With the spread and huge dimensions of the empire of third world fascism, complete with death squads, torture, and repression, the gap between fact and belief has become a yawning chasm.” pg.x
13 Chomsky and Herman, 1979, pg.x
14 Cogswell, p.121.
15 Quoted in David Cogswell, Chomsky For Beginners, p.122.
16 Chomsky continues: “They adopt the Nazi’s frame of reference as a matter of course: the partisans were ‘terrorists,’ while the Nazis were ‘protecting’ the population from their violence and coercion. Killing of anyone ‘furnishing aid or comfort, directly or indirectly, to such partisans, or any person withholding information on partisans,’ was ‘legally’ well within the provisions of the Geneva Convention,” the manuals explain.” Noam Chomsky, Year 501: The Conquest Continues (Boston: South End Press, 1993) pgs. 241-42.
17 Chomsky, Year 501, pg.242.
18 Chomsky, Rethinking Camelot, pg.146.
19 Colombia Update 1.4, December 1989. Quoted by Chomsky, Rethinking Camelot, pg.25.
20 Joy James, Resisting State Violence: Radicalism, Gender, &Race in U.S. Culture, (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1996) pg.37.
21 Quoted by Noam Chomsky, introduction to Javier Giraldo S.J., Colombia: The Genocidal Democracy (Monroe: Common Courage Press, 1996).
22 Quoted by Mark Zepezauer, The CIA’s Greatest Hits (Tucson: Odonian Press, 1994) pg.68-9.
23 Mumia Abu-Jamal, “Zapatista Dreams,” All Things Censored (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2000)pg.268.
24 National Catholic Reporter, March 24, 1995.
25 Quoted in Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs, and the Press (Newy York and London: Verso, 1998) pgs.380-81. Cockburn and St. Clair conclude their chapter: “This is what the drug war looks like on the ground. As the Indians of Chiapas well know, and as the poor of South Central Los Angeles also well know, ‘drug war’ is a code phrase for social control and repression.”
26 The document is reproduced in Brian Glick, War At Home: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It (South End Press: Boston, 1989) p.78. The document “Counterintelligence Program/ Black Nationalist – Hate Groups/Racial Intelligence” states that: “King could be a very real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed ‘obedience’ to ‘white, liberal doctrines’ (non-violence) and embrace black nationalism.”
27 Airtel from San Francisco Field Office to Director, 4/3/68, p.7. Quoted by Glick, p.59.
28 Noam Chomsky, introduction to Nelson Blackstock, COINTELPRO (New York: 1973).
29 Mumia Abu-Jamal, “May 13 Remembered,” All Things Censored (New York: 2000) pg.146.
30 “Independent Commission on the Los Angeles Police Department” quoted by Michael Novick, White Lies, White Power: The Fight Against White Supremacy and Reactionary Violence (Monroe: 1995) pgs.119-26.
31 Jamal, 2000, pgs.146-7.
32 Peter Cassidy, “Police take military turn counter to other image as neighborhood peacekeepers,” Boston Globe, January 11, 1998. Quoted by Christian Parenti, Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis (New York & London: 1999) pg.32.
33 Parenti, pg.131.
34 Parenti, pg.135.
35 Parenti, pgs.211-44.
36 Davis notes that “one has a greater chance of going to jail or prison if one is a young black man than if one is actually a lawbreaker. While most imprisoned young black men may have broken a law, it is the fact that they are young black men rather than the fact that they are law-breakers which brings them into contact with the criminal justice system.” Angela Y. Davis, “Racialized Punishment and Prison Abolition,” in Joy James (ed.), The Angela Y. Davis Reader (Malden & Oxford: 1998) pg.105.
37 The report continues: “the report did not venture an assessment of whether the current laws violate CERD. Nor did it consider whether the striking racial differences in the incarceration of drug offenders at the state level was consistent with CERD, reflecting the [Clinton] Administration’s general reluctance to subject the U.S. war on drugs to human rights scrutiny.” Human Rights Watch Report 2001: United States, www.hrw.org
38 Parenti, p.240.
39 Eve Goldberg and Linda Evans, The Prison Industrial Complex and the Global Economy(Berkeley: 1998) pg.10.
40 Ibid, pg.241.
Indy journalism in action.
People are not just killed by death squads in El Salvador—they are decapitated and then their heads are placed on pikes and used to dot the landscape. Men are not just disemboweled by the Salvadoran Treasury Police; their severed genitalia are stuffed in their mouths. Salvadoran women are not just raped by the national guard; their wombs are cut from their bodies and used to cover their faces. It is not enough to kill children; they are dragged over barbed wire until their flesh falls from their bones while parents are forced to watch…