Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast says the Islamic Republic will not allow the UN special Rapporteur on human rights to enter the country.
“Appointing a UN special Rapporteur on human rights for Iran is a political and illegal move, and the Islamic Republic will not allow the envoy to enter the country under any circumstances,” Mehmanparast said on Thursday.
In a move spearheaded by the US, in June the UN Human Rights Council named former Maldivian Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed as its human rights investigator on Iran.
“Unfortunately the human rights issue is the political tool of certain Western countries which have serious problems with regards to human rights and are accused of many cases of violating human rights,” Mehmanparast added.
The Iranian official added that appointing the UN special Rapporteur on human rights for Iran aims at mounting political pressure on Tehran.
Tehran blames Western governments, the US administration in particular, for violating international laws, disregard for the basic rights of their citizens and support for violation of human rights across the globe.
When the Truman administration dropped the atomic bomb on Japan in 1945, they not only initiated a Cold War struggle against the Soviet Union, they also began a struggle over the meaning of the atom bomb inside the United States.
It began slowly. Criticism of the bomb was at first strongly repressed by McCarthyism and other militaristic histrionics, but by the late 1950s hard questions about nuclear weapons were publicly being raised. By the late 1960s doubts and criticisms went mainstream. Disillusioned Americans wondered, had it been necessary to reduce two Japanese cities to dust, killing hundreds of thousands in mere seconds? Was it necessary to sacrifice vast zones of the American West to uranium mining, nuclear dumps, testing grounds, and weapons silos? Had the government acted in hasty ignorance, or in knowing neglect when it allowed miners and downwinders and soldiers to be poisoned with radioactive dust? Was there really a “missile gap”? Did atomic scientists actually purposefully expose their own children to radiation? Would it be possible to survive nuclear war, as the experts told us? What did the creators of the atom bomb really think about their “achievement”? What opportunity costs was our multi-trillion dollar investment in nukes imposing upon us as a country?
These and other questions about the nation’s commitment to nuclear weapons were intensely debated as the Vietnam war rose to a fever pitch. New evidence continually surfaced revealing that the federal government had often acted with malice and intentional deception throughout the Manhattan Project, through the 1950s, and beyond. Historians began to document the realities of the nuclear age, including willful poisonings, and experimental defilement of the people and ecosystems of North America, especially Nevada’s Great Basin, and also the South Pacific’s Marshall Islands, and other testing and nuclear dumping grounds where generations would suffer on lands poisoned for thousands of years.
Quickly much of the logic that had justified the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki came apart, and newer, more informed histories were drafted, showing cynical US leaders bent on punishing Japan and thwarting Soviet occupation of that island, not quickly ending the war and saving US and Japanese life. Gar Alperovitz’s “The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb” presented the bones of this argument. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s “Racing the Enemy” concluded the argument in extensively researched detail.
In other exposés of journalism and archival research the nuclear labs and testing grounds of America were exposed not as monuments to great achievements of science and national will, but rather as institutions of hubris and death, occupying stolen Indian lands, and dreaming up ever more deadly doomsday machines in the forms of thermonuclear weapons, MIRVed missiles, neutron bombs, and the Strategic Defense Initiative. The willingness of US leaders to threaten the use of nuclear weapons again and again against non-nuclear states was revealed, particularly after Vietnam.
The nation’s nuclear weapons program lost its early luster then as many Americans came to fully grasp the toxic legacy, and understand the antidemocratic tendencies inexorably tied to the bomb and the institutions that created it. The 1980s brought this awareness to a peak as public perceptions of the bomb and its creators congealed around condemnation and a desire to abolish nuclear weapons.
When the Cold War ended the toxic legacy of the Manhattan Project and the continuing US nuclear weapons program was subjected to its greatest scrutiny of all. Losing their mythical rival in the Soviet “evil empire,” the weapons labs entered a long decade of scandalous revelation; declining morale, accidents, corruption, theft, espionage, greed, incompetence. The 1990s and early 2000s brought repeated crises for the US nuclear establishment. ‘If only it were possible to bring back the good old days,’ thought the bewildered senior weaponeers. However, these good old days too were tarnished by the truth.
All the while, all through these eras of revelation and crisis, the weaponeers who dedicated their lives to the nuclear enterprise waged a battle of ideas to hide the ugly truths of the Manhattan Project’s historical legacy. These acolytes of nuclearism —old Cold Warriors retired from the weapons labs, the Department of Energy, the military, and the private sector corporations that have made billions from building the bomb and spoiling the land and water and DNA of large swaths of the earth— they organized their own effort to re-write history all over again, to recast nuclearism in the benevolent form it had lost. They sought to recapture former glories that had withered through decades of sobering reality. As public perceptions of the bomb and the nuclear labs further soured they stepped up their game, especially in the 1990s.
Their revisions began modestly enough, but quickly turned into a national institutionalized effort. Historical foundations were incorporated by DOE retirees and nuclear boosters around various Cold War nuclear weapons sites. Soon large sums of money were raised, and with the eager cooperation of the nuclear labs and military-industrial corporations still designing and building nuclear arms, museums were opened to the public. These museums grew into absurdly large and well financed propaganda pieces.
The Bradbury Museum in downtown Los Alamos, named after Norris Bradbury, the second Los Alamos Laboratory director, became a museum of “science,” not just of the lab, or simply the weapons it built, or merely the Cold War. No, it is “science.” This aspiration to educate the public about “general science” was reflected LANL’s intense effort in the 1990s and early 2000s to obscure its own core mission of nuclear weapons, constantly draping itself in the prestige of being a “national laboratory,” or as the lab still describes itself, “a premier national security research institution, delivering scientific and engineering solutions for the nation’s most crucial and complex problems.” The lab also launched its own history web site in the 2000s showing its preferred arc of development, from the Manhattan Project to “computing,” and “basic science,” even though the lab remained thoroughly a nuclear weapons facility, and today is in fact becoming more and more dedicated to weapons manufacturing.
Inside the Bradbury Museum is an entire history of LANL, the Manhattan Project, nuclear science, and a few exhibits extolling the lab’s supposedly non-nuclear contributions. Full scale nuclear missiles and bombs float on wires above and sit in displays within arms reach. You’re encouraged to touch the bomb. You’re told not to fear radiation. The Bradbury Museum, funded with federal dollars, became a key site of struggle over history in the 1990s as community groups battled the lab and DOE to include a different interpretation of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, a narrative that didn’t claim it was a “necessity” to end the war and save lives, one that showed in images, and described through first hand accounts what the victims experienced. Parties without an agenda to promote nuclear weapons were, in other words, simply asking the Bradbury to present the history that most historians now acknowledge as most complete. In the end the lab and museum’s staff, composed of pro-nuclear managers, allowed an alternative display in a dark corner of the museum, completely marginalized from the rest of the lavish exhibits.
For about a decade the Bradbury Museum stood as the premier pro-nuclear weapons propaganda tool. Other sites within the weapons complex were busy building their own museums though. The Nevada Test Site opened the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas in 2005 after a pro-nuclear weapons lobby, the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation, raised enough money and convinced the Smithsonian Institute to join up.
It should be noted that the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation, like the foundations that run or help support the Bradbury and other nuclear museums, is run by a roster of retired Test Site employees and contractors, all strong believers in nuclear weapons as forces of unquestionable good in the nation’s past and present. The NTSHF’s president Nick Aquilina, for example, was described in a tribute published in the Congressional Record in 1994 as a man who “characterizes the spirit and dedication of a generation of Americans who dedicated their lives to maintaining our nuclear deterrent”. Aquilina was a thirty-two year career DOE manager. The foundation’s chairman, Troy Wade, is head of the Nevada Alliance for Defense, Energy and Business, a lobby for the state’s military-industrial complex, and also a retired DOE manager. With or without the Smithsonian’s involvement it’s obvious what sort of historical narrative about nuclear weapons testing attendees will be exposed to.
In the Atomic Testing Museum one is subjected to an entire historical narrative emphasizing the race for the bomb between the USA and Germany, culminating in the “necessary” dropping of the bomb on Japan, and then describing decades of testing in the desert northwest of Vegas, emphasizing the greatness of nuclear weapons and the men who built and blew them up. It’s all packaged in a feel good, almost kitschy nostalgia. There’s even a theater where you can sit through a simulated nuclear blast in which air is blown into your face and the bench beneath you rumbles and shakes. The kids must love that.
The biggest museum contribution to the pro-nuclear weapons historical narrative to date, however, is the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History. Located in a hanger-sized building along a major boulevard in Albuquerque, New Mexico, just blocks from Sandia National Laboratories and Kirtland Air Force Base (where thousands of nuclear weapons are currently stockpiled) the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History is nothing less than a flattering shrine to nuclear weapons, replete with a seventy foot tall Redstone missile in the front parking lot. Like the Atomic Testing Museum, the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History is also a Smithsonian affiliate, but it casts its own role in much grander terms: according to the Museum’s web site, its “mission is to serve as America’s resource for nuclear history and science.” That’s “America’s resource” singular – a one stop oracle of truth.
Like Bradbury or the Atomic Testing Museum, the National Museum’s exhibits extoll the history of nuclear science, recounting a narrative filled with bravery and wonder regarding the Manhattan Project’s personalities. The dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan is predictably explained as a benevolent, if unfortunate necessity to save the lives of not only American GIs, but also Japanese women and children. The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History also has a backyard in which it displays decommissioned nuclear-capable aircraft, disassembled nuclear missiles, nuclear rocket launchers, and even a submarine. Like the other pro-nuclear museums everything is kid friendly. You can walk right up and rub your hand on the nose of a nuclear missile.
Apparently not satisfied with this now national network of pro-nuclear weapons museums, each with multi-million dollar budgets and tens of thousands of visitors (there’s another in TOak Ridge, Tennessee called the American Museum of Science and Energy, and the B Reactor Museum Association in Richland, Washington) the nuclear weaponeers have for years sought a more powerful medium through which to communicate their hagiography of nuclear weapons.
In 2004 they found it in a bill sponsored by New Mexicos’ Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman (it was probably dreamed up and written by the same pro-nuclear weapons boosters who organized and built the atomic propaganda museums in Los Alamos and Albuquerque). Senator Bingaman, in partnership with his then senior colleague Senator Pete Dominici, and also the two Senators from Washington State, and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, introduced the “Manhattan Project National Historical Park Study Act,” the first step in establishing a national park dedicated to nuclear weapons. Money for the study was initially hard to find, but eventually allocated. Completed recently, the Obama administration announced on the 13th of July its intention to embrace this project and create a national historic park in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
It would be a very strange national park. Los Alamos Laboratory was built on sacred lands filled with Native American ruins, existing and extensively used ceremonial sites, burial grounds, and other places of profound cultural significance to the Pueblo tribes of the Rio Grande Valley. Were it not a nuclear weapons lab, it is likely it would have long ago been deemed reservation land because of its true ownership, or a National Park because of its sublime beauty, or given some other dedication of preservation and reverence.
Pressing against LANL’s boundaries on three sides already is the Bandelier National Monument, created in 1916 by Congress, and containing tens of thousands of archaeological sites and 23,000 acres of wilderness. As a National Park Service property should be, Bandelier is dedicated to the high desert, to the western pine, juniper, and fir forests of the Southwest, and to a history of human habitation that is thousands of years old. When Los Alamos was built, it was on top of this one-of-a-kind landscape that Congress had previously recognized as nationally unique and worthy of preservation. The lab colonized this landscape and occupied it with gigantic industrial-nuclear manufacturing and testing facilities. The spotted owls, coyotes, and spirits of the land, one imagines, fled the fumes and noise.
The entire notion of creating a national park dedicated to the history of nuclear weapons seems completely out of sync with the purpose of parks. The National Parks Service, for example, explains in its own criteria for establishing national parks that, “hunting, mining, and other consumptive uses such as grazing are generally prohibited in National Parks”. Well what about nuclear weapons designing, nuclear waste dumping, high explosives testing, and biological warfare experimentation? What about planning for and manufacturing the weapons for the annihilation of entire ecosystems? Is that allowed in National Parks? It will be if this plan moves forward.
The National Parks Service has already had to defend this proposal from criticism leveled by myself and my colleague Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group. According to a spokesperson for the NPS, the Manhattan Project’s sites “are significant parts of our national cultural history. And before they get bulldozed over, we are in favor of preserving these places so future generations can study these events, for good or bad.” This description all sounds very neutral and useful, but it’s not at all what’s happening.
The problem with this sort of thinking is that it completely ignores how the proposal to create a Manhattan Project National Historic Park came about, that it was the idea of pro-nuclear lobbyists who have already succeeded in creating a national network of taxpayer-funded, Smithsonian-affiliated museums dedicated to glorifying nuclear weapons. These parties are not interested in preserving places for unbiased reflection on the bomb’s creation. They are set on valorizing nuclear weapons, and they understand that a National Historic Park for the Manhattan Project would be the pinnacle.
And more than anything, they understand that reclaiming the past and re-polishing the bomb’s image by dedicating a National Park to it will serve their aims today, aims that include pushing ahead with highly controversial and historically unprecedented investments in new nuclear weapons.
Los Alamos is, after all, currently undertaking a construction program that is larger in dollar terms than the entire Manhattan Project in New Mexico, all to build a new plutonium bomb pit factory.
Darwin Bond-Graham is a sociologist who splits his time between New Orleans, Albuquerque, and Navarro, CA. He can be reached at: email@example.com
Alarmist editorializing about Iran, its regional influence, and its nuclear energy program has picked up considerably in the past few weeks. In the wake of the latest IAEA report this past Spring which revealed no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, a hefty Sy Hersh article confirming that all 16 American intelligence agencies still stand by their 2007 assessment that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, and the potential for a large-scale U.S. withdrawal from Iraq at the end of the year, career fear-mongers have been hard at work trying to re-raise the Iranian threat level from mild khaki to frantic crimson.
An opinion piece published last night in the Wall Street Journal is a perfect example of the heightened hysteria. The article, entitled “America’s Intelligence Denial on Iran“, was written by former CIA agent Fred Fleitz, a neoconservative Bomb Iraner who served as John Bolton’s State Department chief of staff and is currently a columnist for the right-wing outlet Newsmax.
Fleitz is intent on discrediting the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which has repeatedly found that Iran’s nuclear program is, at best, totally benign and, at worst, not an imminent threat to anyone. He leads with this:
Mounting evidence over the last few years has convinced most experts that Iran has an active program to develop and construct nuclear weapons. Amazingly, however, these experts do not include the leaders of the U.S. intelligence community. They are unwilling to conduct a proper assessment of the Iranian nuclear issue – and so they remain at variance with the Obama White House, U.S. allies, and even the United Nations.
Fleitz goes on to write that, “according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control,” Iran currently has enough “low-enriched uranium” for “four nuclear weapons if enriched to weapons grade” and repeats the propaganda line about “an item recently posted to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps website [which] mused about the day after an Iranian nuclear test (saying, in a kind of taunt, that it would be a ‘normal day’).” Fleitz claims that the “message marked the first time any official Iranian comment suggested the country’s nuclear program is not entirely peaceful.”
Beyond demonstrating a severe lack of understanding about what the IAEA has actually reported and his willful omission of the huge difference between low-enriched uranium and weapons grade material, Fleitz tips his hand by relying on the over-hyped “Nuclear Test” post on the Iranian Gerdab website last month for his nuclear scare propaganda.
Fleitz writes that the latest NIE assessment is just as “politicized” and “poorly written” as its 2007 predecessor and similarly downplays the “true account of the Iranian threat” due to what Fleitz claims is the U.S. intelligence community’s apparent aversion to providing “provocative analytic conclusions, and any analysis that could be used to justify military action against rogue states like Iran.” He accuses the 2011 NIE of “poorly structured arguments and cavalier manipulation of intelligence”, all the while boasting of his own objections, which he says were routinely ignored and rebuffed by the report’s supervisors. He lays blame on what he determines is the NIE’s reliance on “former senior intelligence officers, liberal professors and scholars from liberal think tanks.”
It is unacceptable that Iran is on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon while our intelligence analysts continue to deny that an Iranian nuclear weapons program exists. One can’t underestimate the dangers posed to our country by a U.S. intelligence community that is unable to provide timely and objective analysis of such major threats to U.S. national security – or to make appropriate adjustments when it is proven wrong.
If U.S. intelligence agencies cannot or will not get this one right, what else are they missing?
Reading this, one might be forgiven for wondering why, rather than merely attacking the credentials of NIE sources, Fleitz doesn’t reveal a shred of evidence for his declaration that “Iran is on the brink of testing a nuclear weapon.” Oh right, never mind.
This sort of “analysis” from Fleitz is far from unexpected. Back in August 2006, Fleitz – then a House Intelligence Committee staffer – was the primary author of a Congressional report entitled, “Recognizing Iran as a Strategic Threat: An Intelligence Challenge for the United States“, which served as a veritable catalog of false assertions about Iran’s nuclear program and, just like his Wall Street Journal piece, assailed the U.S. intelligence community for not sufficiently fear-mongering about the so-called Iranian threat. Among other exaggerations and outright lies, the report accused Iran of “enriching uranium to weapons grade” and stated that the IAEA had removed a senior safeguards inspector from Iran for “allegedly raising concerns about Iranian deception regarding its nuclear program and concluding that the purposed of Iran’s nuclear programme is to construct weapons” and for “not having adhered to an unstated IAEA policy baring IAEA officials from telling the whole truth about the Iranian nuclear program.”
The report contained so many false allegations and misrepresentations regarding the Iranian nuclear program, in fact, that the IAEA’s Director of External Relations and Policy Coordination Vilmos Cserveny wrote a letter to the Chairman of House Committee, Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), challenging the report’s “incorrect” assertions and criticizing it for promoting “erroneous, misleading and unsubstantiated information.”
Additionally, Cserveny described Fleitz’s accusations about the safeguards inspector as “outrageous and dishonest” and noted that “Iran has accepted the designation of more than 200 Agency safeguards inspectors, which number is similar to that accepted by the majority of non-nuclear-weapon States that have concluded safeguards agreements pursuant to the NPT.”
It appears that, five years later, Fleitz still chooses fantasy over facts.
Meanwhile, in the pages of the Washington Post, deputy editorial editor and Likudnik ideologue Jackson Diehl has picked up on the amplified push to blame the Iranian government for the recent deaths of American soldiers occupying Iraq. In an opinion piece published earlier this week, he writes, “The larger question is whether Iraq will be forced by a full U.S. pullout to become an Iranian satellite, a development that would undo a huge and painful investment of American blood and treasure and deal a potentially devastating blow to the larger U.S. position in the Middle East.”
Apparently, Arabs and Muslims are only truly liberated when under the influence of the United States.
Diehl believes that an Iraqi government that is bullied into allowing U.S. troops to continue occupying their country beyond the December 31, 2011 deadline would be “making the right choice.” If there is an American withdrawal, however, Diehl is worried about the potential consequences. He claims (citing a Fox News report) that an “offensive [is] already underway by Iranian-sponsored militias [which] shows that Tehran is ready to fight.” He writes that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, “like U.S. commanders in the Middle East, understands very well that without an American military presence, Iraq will be unable to defend itself against its Persian neighbor” and laments that, “without U.S. help, Iraqi forces cannot easily counter” Iranian-backed militias since “Iraq’s conventional forces are no match for those of Iran.”
Of course, what Diehl leaves out – beyond the fact that the evidence linking the Iranian government to recent resistance attacks in Iraq is sketchy at best – is that foreign occupation is what most people and non-U.S.-aligned governments in the region are most offended by, not alleged increasing Iranian influence. Yet, the horror of an Iraq allied with Iran is ever-present in the neoconservative community. Diehl even quotes career militarist Frederick Kagan of the neocon flagship, the American Enterprise Institute, as warning in a recent report that “[i]f Maliki allows the United States to leave Iraq, he is effectively declaring his intent to fall in line with Tehran’s wishes, to subordinate Iraq’s foreign policy to the Persians, and possibly, to consolidate his own power as a sort of modern Persian satrap in Baghdad.”
Oh dear, the Persians! Where are Aristagoras, Leonides and Themistocles when you need them?! It would be unsurprising to assume that Kagan’s neocon classicist father Donald is proud of his son’s ridiculous historical analogy.
To his moderate credit, Diehl does also present a slightly alternate perspective, one that naturally views Iran as a spooky menace (no other representation of the Islamic Republic is allowed in the mainstream press, of course), but that doesn’t necessarily see it as a hegemonic threat of imperial proportions. He reports that Antony Blinken, a senior aide to Vice President Joe Biden, resists the notion that Iran is capable of wielding such devious influence over Iraq, even without a massive U.S. military presence. “The danger of Iranian hegemony in Iraq,” Diehl writes, “is overstated by analysts such as Kagan,” according to Blinken.
Diehl closes by lamenting the recent departure Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who he describes as “the only Obama administration official who has publicly made the case for a continued U.S. military presence.” In a recent speech, Diehl recalls, Gates said that it would send “a powerful signal to the region that we’re not leaving, that we will continue to play a part,” adding, “I think it would be reassuring to the Gulf states. I think it would not be reassuring to Iran, and that’s a good thing.”
What Diehl omits is that Gates was actually speaking to the American Enterprise Institute when making these comments and that, much to the dismay of its many war-mongering members, has been credited by many as having single-handedly prevented an American attack on Iran.
The specter of a nuclear-armed and hegemonic Iran is still the bread-and-butter of Beltway Middle East reportage and analysis. Consequently, the fever-pitched fear-mongering never stops, despite what the facts are.
The Ongoing Struggle Against Police Violence
Another young, unarmed black man, Kenneth Harding, has been gunned down, shot numerous times in the back as he fled, his empty hands in the air in broad daylight. His crime had been a simple train fare evasion for which San Francisco police executed him in the street. Dozens of witnesses saw a sight that has become commonplace in US cities, capturing images with cell phones of police surrounding the man and watching him struggle and writhe from a distance, in a swelling pool of his own blood. Without either offering the severely wounded man assistance, searching him, or otherwise looking for the supposed weapon, the police, most of whom had their backs turned to the suspect, would later try and say that he had fired at the them and randomly into the crowd that had assembled. No one in the crowd said anything about him having or firing a gun. Police would later say one had mysteriously appeared, via an informant. The police publicly named Harding as a “person of interest” in a Seattle killing, a day after he had been shot dead by police. They are using a criminal conviction to attempt to further devalue his life. This piece is not about previous convictions, or the “official story” which the police are constructing as I write, about post-mortem murder suspicions and mystery guns. One thing is clear, as far as police knew he was a simple fare evader. As far as multiple witnesses could see, Harding had no gun and the shots all went one way.
Whether BART police, Oakland PD, or SFPD, the stories have been very similar. Suspects are gunned down in the street, no weapon, usually shot in the back as they ran, almost all men of color, a homeless or mentally-ill white man here or there. We get a similar story each time. One that is weak, lacks probable cause for lethal force, and is based on the opinion of the offending officers whose word is unquestioned by superiors, city officials, or the corporate press. Unless there is a video. Mehserle, the cop who shot Oscar Grant, thought his glock was a lighter and larger and fluorescent tazer, though it had a completely different grip. An exception to the rule, Mehserle did time for his crime – a few paltry months. He was recently released. The OPD shot Derrick Jones in the back, he was carrying a scale. No charges were filed. Several killings of unarmed men of color in Oakland have yielded temporary suspensions, followed by reinstatement with back pay. Some acting, individual OPD officers have killed more than one unarmed man on separate occasions and still patrol the street, guns loaded, and ready to go.
The root causes of these murders by the police are multiple and far too complex to be fully discussed here: insulated and unaccountable police power committed to upholding a particular racial and economic order; psychological fear-turned-violence or plain hostility among the police; white supremacy at several levels of society from the motivations of suburban law-and-order voters to the historical legacies of the police in this country; to geographies of segregation, of which the Bayview is a prime example.
The result is a system of violence that is specifically targeted, on one level, and completely indiscriminate on another. Targeted in the sense that concentrated police presence, aggressive police tactics (profiling, checkpoints, not so random Muni train inspections for tickets, etc.), and police self-conceptions as occupiers of hostile territory are all almost entirely exclusive to poor, urban communities of color. The nature, logic, tactics and history of the police in communities of color is not a few bad apples, related to violent crime rates that have fallen, or a new phenomena. Within these targeted communities the violence of the police is often completely indiscriminate. A simple traffic stop, a response to a domestic argument, a skipped train fare. Case, after case, after case. Candlelight vigil, after community mural, after RIP rap, it is the same over and over. No gun. Hands up. Running away. Shot in the back. No accountability.
Some people use the words “police terrorism” to describe this reality. You don’t see this in the mainstream news, or on the lips of aspiring city council people, or from most non-profits in the community. Even people within movements against police violence get silenced for using this language by people who deem themselves more responsible or better educated. We have sketched the nature of the police in the city. What is the definition of terrorism? The US State Department defines terrorism as:
“Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets… usually intended to influence an audience.”
The police in the Bayview or East Oakland understand themselves as occupiers of the community, a premeditated understanding, though not inaccurate, of an enemy relationship – not between cops and robbers, but between cops and communities of color. The political motivation is one of containment – containment of a community plagued by unemployment, failing schools, anger, hopelessness, drug abuse, and violence. Police respond to crimes to an extent, but their more general responsibility is to control space, maintain order, and intimidate. This process is one of dehumanization of communities through social and economic exclusion enforced through various forms of containment, of which the police are the most visible.
People not subjected to this reality have the luxury of imagining it as something other than it is. Many can blindly accept law enforcement arguments, however unlikely. Many can actively or tacitly support the social relationships that have one group of unaccountable, overpaid men with guns, who almost always live in some other community, containing and terrorizing neighborhoods because the people who live there are poor, and of color, and somehow still considered worth less – worth less than a train fare apparently.
For the police and the people of the Bayview / Hunter’s Point, naivete and rationalizations are hard to come by. There is a war going on. The police talk about a war on crime, a war on drugs, a war on gangs. People in the city talk about a war on the community, a war on the youth, a war on black men. The logic of occupation is the same in the Bay Area as it is in Baghdad or Afghanistan. The police and military cross train each other in counter-insurgency, police train soldiers headed to battle, soldiers return to train city police in urban battlefield tactics. Studies show that war, occupation, and Manichean frames invariable lead to dehumanization of generalized enemies, and that dehumanization increases the propensity for indiscriminate violence. This context of dehumanization and police violence in the Bayview is driven by age-old racism, and more recent economic restructuring (neoliberalism), along with efforts at gentrification, which have exacerbated racial inequalities from income to health to imprisonment. The State has relieved itself of the obligation to do anything about this reality except to respond with naked force. Couple this with shrinking budgets for schools, social programs and public assistance as police budgets swell, and you have an increase in inequality and potential unrest related to that inequality, which simply serves as a justification for more and more police and prisons under the existing political common sense of those in power.
The solution to an occupation is not kinder tools of occupation. The solution to war is not sensitivity training for soldiers. The solution to war, is a just peace. Who gets to kill with impunity, and who gets shot in their back for nothing and left for dead, is about power, about long histories of racial oppression and how they get played out day after day, year after year.
If the problem is inherently political than the solution is political as well. So long as the unemployment rate in Hunter’s Point is four times the city average, police will be concentrated there and will harness a disproportionate amount of community resources, leaving little behind for social programs. Schools stay below average at best, jobs are not created, unemployment remains high, more police are sent, and so on.
A vicious cycle of racialized poverty is interwoven with a vicious cycle of police occupation and terror. This is a war with several fronts of various direct and indirect forms of structural violence – schools, employment, housing, etc. – of which the police are the most visible and dramatic. The solution to this war is a just peace. A just peace is not possible without self-determination. Unarmed teenagers getting gunned down for not paying train fare is not a mistake, or an aberration, or “bad apples”, it is a discrete, everyday act of war, the inevitable outcome of every occupation. Enough innocent blood has been shed, it is upon us to not only bring an end to this ongoing madness, but to foster self-determined communities which unravel and dismantle the vicious cycles of violence of which the police are but the armed guardians.
Mike King is an East Bay activist and Ph. D. candidate in sociology at the University of California at Santa Cruz.
BETHLEHEM — The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released a report Thursday documenting alarming trends in the forced displacement of Palestinians in Area C.
The OCHA report found that more demolitions have taken place so far in 2011 than in all of 2009 and 2010 combined.
The Khan Al-Ahmar village near Jerusalem received four stop work orders last week, the report said, and there are ongoing demolition orders against another two hundred and fifty structures in surrounding communities.
Around twenty Bedouin communities with a population of 2,353 people live in the Jerusalem periphery with over 80 percent of them at risk of displacement due to the expansion of the Maale Adumin settlement and the separation wall.
The report, based on field visits to thirteen communities in Area C, found that in most cases Palestinian families are being forced to leave due to “restrictive policies and practices of the Israeli authorities, including movement and access restrictions, settlement activity and restrictions on Palestinian construction.”
Thousands are at risk of displacement, the report added.
Three hundred and forty two Palestinian owned structures were demolished by Israel in the first half of 2011 and 656 people, including 351 children, lost their homes in the first half of 2011, almost five times more than within the same period last year.
There are also over 3,000 demolition orders outstanding, including 18 targeting schools.
Over 60 percent of the West Bank is considered Area C where Israel retains control over security, planning and zoning.
Around 300,000 settlers live in Area C.
Israel has occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967.
Israeli army bulldozers uprooted Palestinian olive orchards belonging to residents of Beit Iksa village, in occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday morning in order to build a section of the illegal Annexation Wall, and to allow the expansion of Ramot illegal settlement.
The soldiers uprooted dozens of olive trees that belong to members of Hababa, Gheith and Hamayel Palestinian families, who tried to defend their lands and were met with excessive use of force by the soldiers.
The latest incident comes amidst escalated violations by the Israeli Authorities against the local Palestinian residents in occupied Jerusalem, their homes and lands.
In related news, soldiers decided to demolish a Palestinian home and two sheds in Al Zawiya Palestinian village, near the central West Bank city of Salfit.
Khader Shqier, head of Al Zawiya village council, said that the home belongs to resident Mahmoud Abed Rabbo, and that it was constructed near the northern entrance of the village more than 25 years ago.
Shqier added that resident Adnan Qaddoura, and Eyad Shqeir, were handed military order to demolish their sheds, built more than 10 years ago in the village.