Previously by Roger Young: It’s Time for Libertarian Tolerance
In October, a video on YouTube received worldwide attention that impressed and inspired its viewers. The video shows United States Marine Corps. Sgt. Shamar Thomas from Roosevelt, NY berating the police for its mistreatment of protestors at Occupy Wall Street in New York City. Mr. Thomas claims to have spent fourteen months in occupied Iraq. Though Mr. Thomas' analysis and remarks regarding the police's behavior is spot on, I believe he and his supporters has failed to grasp the hypocrisy that those comments reveal.
Let's take Mr. Thomas' remarks a piece at a time and I'll attempt to back up my argument. In the interest of brevity I have purposely left out some phrases repeatedly spoken by Mr. Thomas.
The video begins with Mr. Thomas strutting in front of NYC police, pointing to the ranks and ribbons on his uniform. "They don't lie, they don't lie," he claims. By doing this he establishes that he speaks as a willing and proud member of the US military (since retired) and relates to listeners that his membership in such an institution is relevant to the message he is about to deliver.
"This is not a war zone. It's not a war zone. It doesn't make you tough to hurt these people. There's nothing tough about it. Nothing. If you want to go and fight, go to Iraq and Afghanistan. You don't want to be here beating and hurting US citizens. Where is that in the contract? Leave these people alone."
No, it is not a "war zone." But how is this subjective classification relevant? What defines a war zone? Why should any place be a war zone? And why should such an arbitrary classification change the rules of civilized behavior? The police should not have the power to create such a designation and neither should the US military Mr. Thomas represents. Yes, there is nothing "tough" about what the police are doing but there is also "nothing tough about" the US military hurting people in Iraq. And the fact that this particular country has been declared a "war zone" by those inflicting this violence does not justify or excuse such activity.
"Go to Iraq and Afghanistan" if you want to fight? Fight who? Natives acting to repel brutal aggressors? Is that somehow more honorable or rational than attacking protestors on US streets? Why is it wrong to hurt people in the US but quite acceptable to hurt people in Iraq and Afghanistan? What did those people ever do to you? Why would anyone even sarcastically suggest to hurt them if one feels a need to "fight?"
"Contract?" The only "contract" existing among both the police and military institutions is that its individual members will obey whatever orders are issued by their controlling masters. Yes, the protestors should be "left alone" just as the people of Iraq and Afghanistan should be left alone. The violence committed against them by the US military is just as unjustified.
"They're US citizens. US CITIZENS! US! It does not make you tough to do this to them. It doesn't. Stop hurting these people, man. Why y'all doing this to our people? I've been to Iraq for fourteen months for my people and you come over here and harm them. They don't have guns! They don't have guns! They don't. Why are you hurting these people. It doesn't make any sense. How do you sleep at night?"
This is a common ploy practiced by American exceptionalists. Use the arbitrary designation of "citizen" to shield a select group from harm and justify violence against others who don't share that same statist designation. Why is it wrong to hurt those enslaved under the tyranny of the US Government (at least in this case) but not wrong to hurt those that do not share this title, "US citizen?" How can one justify violence against a group of people just because their feet do not rest on the same patch of dirt as yours? If violence against peaceful people is wrong in the US, is it not wrong everywhere?
Mr. Thomas and others may sincerely believe he was in Iraq for fourteen months for "his people." However, this is obviously not true since he and others do not take orders from "his people" and the majority of "his people" did not want him and his colleagues there in the first place. Since retiring, I'm willing to bet he is coming to that realization.
Tens of thousands of individuals in Iraq did "not have guns," yet they were not just harassed and beaten like the Occupy protestors, but were KILLED! Whether their murders were intentional or not is irrelevant. Any arguments trying to justify such action fail miserably. They do not "make any sense." I've often wondered how those involved in such activities (and those that justify such murders) in Iraq and other US created war zones "sleep at night." [Please note: Mr. Thomas claims not to have harmed any Iraqi civilians in this interview and in this statement. I have no reason to doubt him.]
"There is no honor in this. There is no honor in this. There is no honor in this, man. There is no honor in this shit! There is no honor in what you're doing. How do you do this to people? How do you do this to people? How do you sleep at night doing this to people? How? You're here to protect them. You're her to protect them. Protect us. Why are you hurting US citizens?"
Where is the "honor" in invading a country that attacked no one and was absolutely no threat to those the US military claims to protect? Where is the "honor" in maintaining an occupation for eight years now, long after the lame reasons for invading have been thoroughly discredited and proven as lies? Where is the "honor" in invading another country (Afghanistan) that also did not attack or threaten "US citizens" and continues to be brutally occupied and destroyed for over ten years? Where is the "honor" in flying drone aircraft through another country's skies, bombing and killing at will perceived evil doers and hundreds more innocents?
Murder is wrong no matter who does the killing. The fact that a killing is performed by those who wear the costume of the US or any other state does not bestow such action with "honor." And yes, to those directly responsible I ask, "how do you do this to people?"
"This is the United States of America. Why are you hurting people? If you want to kill or hurt people, go to Iraq. Why are you hurting US citizens? Do you get honor of this? Do you get honor by hitting people with batons? Is that what you get?"
Again, why send people who want to hurt others to Iraq? Why is it somehow acceptable to hurt people there, but not here? Hurting "US citizens" is wrong. Hurting Iraqi "citizens" is wrong. Hurting any person is wrong. How is it "honorable" to hurt people in one context, but not another. Moral consistency requires not playing favorites and ignoring allegiances and loyalties. How is it "honorable" to hurt those enslaved within one political system but not another? If there is no "honor" hitting people with batons, how is there "honor" in blowing them into pieces with bombs and guns?
"This is unbelievable that y'all doing this to people. Why y'all doing this to people? I know that not everyone is not bad. Why are y'all doing this to people? Y'all walk around in riot gear like this is a war. These people don't have guns! How can I not act crazy when ya'll hurting the people that I protected? My whole family protected this country. I'm not out here walking around trying to hurt these people."
No, "everyone is not bad." Not all these cops are bad and not all military slaves are bad. But what actions they often are ordered to do is bad. The fact that they nearly always obey these orders is bad. The very institutions they are a part of are beyond bad – they are corrupt, tyrannical, and murderous. Why be a part of such an institution? When it becomes obvious that an institution is found not to be the righteous, benevolent, institution you were indoctrinated to believe, why continue to be a part of it? Why continue to defend it? Why exclude its historical failure and criminal actions from accountability? Yes, these actions were initiated by superiors in authority, but they would have not occurred if not executed by the willing and obedient rank and file. Everyone is born with a brain that allows them to think for themselves. No one is excused.
The military does not protect "this country." The military protects the interests of the ruling regime and its allied corporatocracy. To anyone who believes the US military protects you, I ask this question: From where does the US military receive its orders? From you? From where does it receive its paychecks and who signs them? Yes, it receives its money from you, but it's taken at the point of the regime's gun.
After this period of addressing the NYC police on the street, one officer responds to Mr. Thomas:
Cop: "I was in Iraq with you."
Thomas: "So why do you allow this? Why do you walk around trying to hurt people?"
Cop: Keep it moving.
Thomas: And I can't speak. You want to shut me up. Y'all want to shut me up.
Thank you, Mr. Thomas, for exposing the robotic attitude and moral compartmentalization characteristic of those who wear the state's costume – be they police or military. They resist critical thinking or rationalizing and instead just continue to follow orders and "keep it [your brain] moving." So many unfortunate events throughout history would have been avoided if those involved had resisted such mindless obedience. Yes, they want to shut you up. You are making them uncomfortable and prodding what remains of their conscience and decency. People need to start challenging members of the military with the same self-examination.
"Why y'all walking around like this is a war zone. Nobody has guns. Why y'all treating people like this? This is America. Why are you treating people like this? Why are you gearing up like this is a war. This is not war."
War is when one people aggress against another and when there is a struggle between opposing forces or for a particular end. In the case of Iraq, the US is the aggressor and initiator of the conflict. They are solely to blame. The Iraqis were no threat. So why was the US military "treating people like this?" No, "this [the Iraqi invasion] is not a war." It is a crime!
"Why y'all acting like this, No one has guns. No one is trying to hurt you guys. There are no bullets flying our here. How tough are you? There is no honor in hurting unarmed civilians. These cops are hurting people that I fought to protect. There is no honor in hurting unarmed civilians and I won't let it happen."
The US military killed tens of thousands of Iraqis. Most did not have guns and were "unarmed civilians." Therefore it can be asserted, by the same argument used to defend the Occupy protestors, there is "no honor" in this, as well.
The arrogant, attitude exhibited by these cops that Mr. Thomas rightly abhors is the same exact attitude that inspired the aggression against the people of Iraq. It is also what motivated the US rank and file to carry out their "mission."
With all due respect to Mr. Thomas, outrage rings hollow from someone who claims allegiance to a state and its military institution who is responsible for acts similar or even much worse than those committed by the NYC police force. Militaries are not compassionate organizations charged with the task of protecting and defending their subjects (despite their propaganda). They are instead instruments of state oppression, executing terrorist acts of conquest collectively referred to as "foreign policy."
"Law" Enforcement is just the domestic projection of state power. The military is the international version. How long before the two merge to control their increasingly restless and economically desperate subjects? By looking at the continuing militarization of police forces, I would guess that time is not far off.
My intentions is not to initiate an ad hominem attack against Mr. Thomas. I just believe that his remarks expose a blatant hypocrisy and tunnel vision that needs to be exposed. Many others have this same perspective. That does not make them bad people. But I will attempt to enlighten them to facts and reasoning that may, at present, escape them.
The message I intend to deliver is this: If the actions by NYC Police against US "citizens" is wrong, then so are the actions by the US military against people throughout the world. All victims are human beings endowed with the same inalienable rights to life and liberty. All should be supported and defended against unjustified and unrighteous attacks, no matter the identity of the culprit.
And to Mr. Thomas I will direct these remarks personally: I will not thank you for your military "service" but I will thank and applaud you for so passionately standing up for those who are persecuted. We dearly need those with your energy and devotion to continue to voice these sentiments defending the sovereign rights and individual value of people. I thank you for having the courage to look evil in the face (represented by the state's street warriors) and preach the truth.
But please, please I beg you, preach that truth for all people.