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The Unwomanly Face of War

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Ferguson Is Baghdad Is New York Is Kabul

Posted on Dec 11, 2014

By Sonali Kolhatkar

(Page 2)

Simply comparing photographs of police in Ferguson to U.S. troops on the battlefield is instructive. We have turned cities into war zones and those cities could be either here in the U.S. or in Iraq or Afghanistan. It is not the case that U.S. police are simply hoping to emulate the military. In fact, the Pentagon has literally outfitted domestic law enforcement with the weapons of war.

Often used to justify the trigger-happy behavior of U.S. police is an assertion that policing is a dangerous and “thankless” job and that, in facing off with potential criminals at every turn, “it’s either you or them.” Similarly, U.S. soldiers in the battlefield have fired at civilians, claiming they were under attack. This siege mentality is a convenient cover by armed men using the authority of their badge or uniform to condone their killings.

Just as police officers such as Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo are almost never convicted for killing people, it is similarly rare for U.S. soldiers to face justice despite overwhelming evidence of their wrongdoing. For example, Amnesty International maintains that of the 1,800 Afghans killed by U.S. troops in the five year period 2009-2013, only six cases actually went to trial.

None of this should surprise us. After all, presidents have explicitly declared wars on both domestic and foreign fronts. After Nixon pronounced a “war on drugs” in 1971 during the late stages of the Vietnam War, that domestic war has been extended by every president since. Criminalizing drug use and sales has driven much of the U.S.’ domestic incarceration. And with the advent of the post 9/11 war on terror, our imprisonment of “terror suspects” and foreign fighters has increased dramatically. The two wars have occurred in parallel with each other. Armed men have been perpetrators, protected by elites, while poor people of color have been the primary targets and victims.


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Not enough progressive Americans make the connection between these wars we wage simultaneously. Whether it is our federal or state officials that are responsible for killings and torture at home or abroad, ultimately we fund it all through our tax dollars and sanction it all through our silence. Too many liberal activists fixate on the effects of U.S. foreign policy while ignoring what is happening on our doorstep. And too many of us who work for justice domestically overlook what is done to our brothers and sisters abroad. If we are to transform the U.S.’ approach to violence we need to draw links between right here and far away. Ferguson is Baghdad is New York is Kabul.

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