Tag Archives: Social Jsutice

US Justice Department finds that police provoked unrest in Ferguson

By Kevin Martinez
July 3, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Capitalism3On Monday, the US Justice Department released a report detailing the official police response to the protests last year in Ferguson, Missouri following the police killing of Michael Brown. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the report documents how inappropriate military and police tactics alienated and provoked the crowd of peaceful protesters into violent confrontation. The limited rioting and looting, universally denounced and vilified in the corporate media, was in effect, incited by the police.

The summary of the report states, “Had law enforcement released information on the officer-involved shooting in a timely manner and continued the information flow as it became available, community distrust and media skepticism would most likely have been lessened.” The report documents the 16 days following the August 9, 2014 shooting of Brown by police officer Darren Wilson and the “highly elevated tactical response” on the part of 50 different police departments. The findings hardly justify the disproportionate use of paramilitary tactics against unarmed civilians exercising their First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.

The report stated that the use of police dogs “exacerbated tensions by unnecessarily inciting fear and anger among amassing crowds.” Tear gas was used inappropriately, “without proper warning, without sufficient attention paid to egress, and without consideration given to environmental conditions.”

Throughout the ensuing protests, citizens were told to “keep moving” by police. According to the report, these “vague and arbitrary” orders “violated citizens’ rights to assembly and free speech, as determined by a U.S. federal court injunction.”

From the standpoint of the Obama administration, which was coordinating the crackdown in Ferguson from the beginning, the report serves as a guidebook to preparing for unrest in the future. That is why, despite the brazen, unconstitutional tactics deployed by Ferguson police, there will be no accountability for the actions taken. Nevertheless, the report is a damning indictment of the authorities.

The report states that the various police agencies who responded to the protests were trained “on operational and tactical skills without appropriate balance of de-escalation and problem-solving training.” Snipers who fixed their scopes on unarmed civilians “exacerbate(d) tensions between protesters and police.” Moreover the military show of force was “not justified and served to escalate rather than de-escalate the overall situation.”

The lack of citizen complaints during the time period assessed by the report was “misleading” because, “a lack of confidence in the complaint process likely deterred citizens from filing complaints about police behavior.”

The report was addressed to the 50 police departments that were involved in repressing protesters in Ferguson. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson declined to comment as did the Missouri Department of Public Safety, which oversees the Highway Patrol. Dotson told the Post-Dispatch that he had asked officials from the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) what was the best way to handle such protests. “I was told, ‘There are none, you are forging new ground.’”

The report is addressed to inappropriate actions and not individuals and stresses the need for law enforcement to better coordinate in the future as well as provide recommendations that better suppress social opposition while utilizing military gear in a more effective way. Thus it faults the “ineffective” training given to police and the failure in traffic control which supposedly presented “tactical advantages to the protesters and activists and safety hazards to the deployed officers.”

Further, the police “underestimated” social media and hacks of police computers which led to threats and the theft of some officers’ identities. This, in turn, led to some officers removing their name tags at the protests, which, the report says, “defeated an essential level of on-scene accountability that is fundamental to the perception of procedural justice and legitimacy.”

Many of the recommendations included in the report are significant in that they change nothing aside from placing the paramilitary SWAT teams in a somewhat lower profile. These include: possible color-coding of non-lethal weapons for officer and civilian clarification, “officers wearing defensive and tactical equipment should be staged out of sight during peaceful demonstrations,” and “armored vehicles should not be visible to protesters except in narrowly defined circumstances, for example when shots are fired and in some active shooter situations.”

Despite the Obama administration’s feigned appearance of sympathy, or at least neutrality, when it came to the protests in Ferguson and Baltimore, it has been complicit in the whole affair. Much of the military equipment used by Ferguson police was paid for by federal counterterrorism grants, which have been freely given to police nationwide since the start of the so-called war on terror.

Moreover, this is the third Justice Department report which, despite documenting rampant criminal behavior on the part of police, metes out absolutely zero punishments. The first report was the decision not to bring federal civil rights charges against Darren Wilson for murdering Michael Brown, and the second was a review of the Ferguson Police Department, which was found to have systematically violated its citizens constitutional and human rights on a daily basis.

The US arming of ISIS

By Bill Van Auken
June 3, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Ministers from 20 countries assembled in Paris June 2 in what was billed as a meeting of the coalition to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This alliance, cobbled together by Washington, consists largely of NATO allies together with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf oil monarchies.

Notably absent from the proceedings were three countries that have been heavily involved in the fight against ISIS: Syria, Iran and Russia. This was by US design.

At the outset of the Paris meeting, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi accused the world of having “failed” Iraq, calling attention to the recent advances of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria as well as the uninterrupted flow of Islamist foreign fighters into both countries.

For his part, US Deputy Under Secretary of State Anthony Blinken insisted that Washington and its allies are pursuing a “winning strategy,” and that it would succeed “if we remain united, determined and focused.”

Over the past several weeks, this “winning strategy” has seen ISIS capture Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, as well as the historic city of Palmyra in Syria. In the past few days, ISIS forces have advanced into Aleppo province in Syria, overrunning rival Islamist militias and Syrian government troops as well. This offensive has proceeded without any interference from US and allied warplanes supposedly waging an air war against ISIS.

“Focused” is scarcely a word that any objective observer would use to describe US policy in the region. While claiming to be committed to a war against ISIS, Washington and its regional allies have time and again proven themselves to be its principal sources of strength.

This movement did not exist until the US launched its criminal war of aggression against Iraq in 2003, killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and stoking sectarian tensions as part of a strategy of divide-and-conquer that deliberately pitted Shiites and Sunnis against each other.

It grew stronger based on the US-NATO war for regime change in Libya, which utilized Al Qaeda-linked militias—now affiliated with ISIS—as ground troops in overthrowing and murdering Muammar Gaddafi and plunging the country into a state of chaos that continues to this day. It was further strengthened by the US-backed war for regime change in Syria, in which ISIS emerged as the most powerful faction in the bloody sectarian war to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad.

The latest ISIS offensive has been made possible by a massive infusion of US weapons. Prime Minister Abadi admitted Monday that the Islamists captured some 2,300 armored Humvees—worth over one billion dollars—when it routed Iraqi security forces in Mosul nearly a year ago.

In a Reuters column Tuesday, Peter Van Buren, a former US State Department official in Iraq, reported that, in addition, at least 40 M1A2 main battle tanks as well as vast quantities of “small arms and ammunition, including 74,000 machine guns, and as many as 52 M198 howitzer moil gun systems” fell into the hands of the Islamist militia.

There is an inherent logic in the flow of US arms to ISIS, which, while officially branded as America’s most dangerous terrorist threat, is at the same time the most powerful military opponent of the Assad government in Syria.

It would not be the first time that American weapons were funneled to an ostensible enemy in order to further the counterrevolutionary aims of US imperialism. Thirty years ago, a similar scenario played out in what became known as the Iran-Contra affair, with a secret network in the White House organizing the sale of arms to Iran—then labeled by Washington as a terrorist nation—to fight against Iraq and, most crucially, to obtain money to secretly and illegally finance and arm the so-called contras in a CIA-orchestrated terrorist war against Nicaragua.

Whether or not similar behind-the-scenes machinations underlie the massive rearmament of ISIS, it would appear that different factions within the US government and its gargantuan military and intelligence apparatus are waging different wars in Iraq and Syria.

For a sizable faction within the US ruling establishment, the overthrow of Assad and with it the isolation, weakening and ultimate destruction of the governments of both Iran and Russia remain the overriding strategic aims. In the absence of the so-called moderate rebels that US imperialism and its pseudo-left apologists have tirelessly attempted to conjure up, they are prepared to utilize ISIS, the Al Nusra Front and similar Al Qaeda-linked elements to further these ends.

These strategic aims far outweigh any concern over terrorism, which they believe has its own uses as a means of terrorizing the American people into accepting war and police state measures.

This orientation likewise has a long history, going back to the US backing of Islamist elements in Afghanistan with the aim of giving the Soviet Union what was then described as its “own Vietnam.” That venture produced the Al Qaeda movement, which is officially blamed for the attacks of 9/11.

On the superficial level of media analysis, it becomes increasingly difficult to make any sense of American foreign policy. The apparent pursuit of inherently contradictory policies is bound up with the unavoidable difficulties that arise from attempting to exert control over the entire planet. Inevitably, this quest produces one catastrophe after another, from Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Libya, Syria and beyond.

Behind the apparent incoherence of American policy lie objectives that, at their deepest level, are wholly irrational. That is, the attempt to prop up by military means a position of global political hegemony that is already in advanced and irretrievable decline.

The bid by Washington to overcome by means of armed violence powerful objective tendencies rooted in the historic crisis of US and world capitalism yields a succession of utterly reckless and destructive interventions that together drive inexorably toward a Third World War.

 

 

European Union’s “migrant mission”: War plans in a humanitarian cloak

By Robert Stevens
May 23, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

June 7, 2014 - Mediterranean Sea / Italy: Italian navy rescues asylum seekers traveling by boat off the coast of Africa. Photographer: Massimo Sestini/Polaris

Image from: amesnews.com.au

The flood of desperate refugees seeking to escape carnage and war in North Africa and the Middle East continues to swell. On Wednesday alone, more than 900 migrants were rescued from three overcrowded boats en route from North Africa to Europe.

Nearly all survived, but just this year 2,000 refugees have died gruesome deaths trying to make the Mediterranean crossing and an estimated 5,000 have perished in the last 18 months. The highest death toll was the drowning of nearly 900 men, women and children off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa on April 19.

In response, the representatives of the imperialist powers shed crocodile tears. But this was only a cynical cover for the overarching militarist and colonialist strategy now being enacted.

The European Union (EU) is rapidly moving to further subordinate and plunder their former colonies, under the guise of “solving the refugee problem” and fighting human trafficking.

On May 18 the EU approved Operation EUNAVFOR Med. It will establish a naval force in the Mediterranean and in Libyan territorial waters backed up with fighter jet support, under the excuse of clamping down on people smugglers. The plan should properly be understood as a launching pad for a renewed military intervention in Libya and the rest of North Africa—and as an extension of ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria.

The mission statement allows for the destruction of boats operated by “smugglers.” Ships can be intercepted, seized or destroyed even when they are in Libyan coastal or international waters. Such military action would require the agreement of the United Nations Security Council.

The remit of EUNAVFOR goes far beyond its stated aim of finding and stopping boats used by people traffickers. A Guardian report of a 19-page strategy paper for the mission notes that ground operations may also be needed.

The document states, “A presence ashore might be envisaged if agreement was reached with relevant authorities.” It continues: “The operation would require a broad range of air, maritime and land capabilities. These could include: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; boarding teams; patrol units (air and maritime); amphibious assets; destruction air, land and sea (sic), including special forces units.”

The paper refers to a possible “presence or tasks in the Libyan territory.” Land operations could include “action along the coast, in harbour or at anchor [against] smugglers’ assets and vessels before their use.”

This could result in significant casualties, with the planning document admitting: “Boarding operations against smugglers in the presence of migrants has a high risk of collateral damage including the loss of life.”

The Guardian leak gives the lie to Federica Mogherini, the EU’s chief foreign and security policy coordinator, who claimed, “We are not planning in any possible way a military intervention in Libya.”

Up to 10 EU countries have volunteered to take part in the campaign, including Italy, Britain, France and Spain. These countries are all opposed to taking in even a few thousand refugees. But they are united in staking out a place in what is in fact a war plan.

Any such operation would be sanctioned under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. In recent years Chapter VII has been used to sanction military interventions in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Somalia, Haiti, Iraq and Libya itself.

In addition the EU is also prepared to invoke Article Five of the NATO Charter, mandating action by the entire alliance when any individual member or its armed forces come under attack. Such an attack is highly likely and could provide the imperialist powers with a suitable casus belli .

The document even warns of “militia and terrorist’ threats to the EU forces. It states, “The existence of heavy military armaments (including coastal artillery batteries) and military-capable militias present a robust threat to EU ships and aircraft operating in the vicinity.”

Under conditions of raging civil war in Libya, the EU powers are preparing to use this tragedy, one entirely of their own making, to justify a military invasion.

According to reports, the operation will be launched from the June 25 EU summit in Rome. In preparation, Mogherini has lobbied the UN Security Council for support. NATO has also offered its help if requested.

The filthy imperialist operation being planned is as cynical as it criminal. The fact that millions of refugees in North Africa and the Middle East have been uprooted from their homes, and are desperately fleeing the carnage they face is due to decades of imperialist wars and intrigues in the region.

The imperialist powers have entirely absolved themselves of any responsibility. Indeed it was only due to massive public outrage against what is essentially a policy of mass murder of thousands of refugees that the EU countries even put into place the token rescue plan now in operation.

On Thursday Reuters reported on a proposed new European Commission draft plan to relocate across the continent just 40,000 asylum seekers who have arrived by boat in Italy and Greece. Reuters noted that the tiny figure had been likely “set to guarantee acceptance after some EU states, notably France, had initially baulked at the idea of opening their doors to migrants.”

This follows last week’s announcement by the EU that it would take in just 20,000 asylum-seekers currently living outside the bloc. In Libya alone nearly two million refugees—more than a quarter of the population—have been forced to flee to Tunisia.

The drive to war and attacks on democratic rights, including the freedom of immigration, is being driven by the global crisis of capitalism. The struggle against war and its attendant evils must be led by the working class, the only class that has no interest in the maintenance of militarized borders, prison camps for desperate refugees, and the entire apparatus of repression that constitutes the nation-state.

The only way to prevent this drive to war is through the overthrow of the capitalist system, based on the perspective of uniting the working class internationally in the struggle for socialism. Central to this is the struggle for the United Socialist States of Europe, as part of a world socialist federation. This is the perspective advanced by the International Committee of the Fourth International.

EU approves military operation against Mediterranean refugees

By Johannes Stern
May 21, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

The European Union is putting its plans for a military intervention in the Mediterranean and North Africa into action. The decision was made by EU foreign and defence ministers at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

A press release states: “The Council has agreed today (18 May) to establish an EU military operation—EUNAVFOR Med—to break the business model of smugglers and traffickers of people in the Mediterranean. This decision, which is one element of the comprehensive EU response to the migration challenge, will enable the formal start of the operational planning for the naval operation.”

The first phase of the mission to uncover the smuggling networks and their routes will begin immediately, to be followed by a second and third phase “that would work to search, seize and disrupt the assets of smugglers.”

According to the press release, the Italian Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino will direct the intervention. Rome will be the headquarters of the operation, which will initially last 12 months. The costs of a two-month “preparatory phase” are estimated at €11.82 million.

The appointment of Credendino alone makes clear the nature of the mission. The Italian Admiral has been in command of Operation Atalanta, the EU’s military intervention off the coast of Somalia. Warships of EU member states hunt for suspected pirates, attacking not only ships, but also supposed pirate camps ashore.

Although initially only the first phase is to be implemented, it is clear that the EU is prepared for much more extensive action. According to the press release, the operation will “tackle the root causes of irregular migration as requested by the European Council on 23 April 2015.”

At that time, following a series of terrible disasters in the Mediterranean with more than 2,000 deaths, the EU leaders had adopted the infamous “Ten-Point Plan for Migration.” It includes stricter police and military operations against refugees and lays the foundation for a massive military intervention in Africa.

Since then, the plans have advanced further. Prior to the meeting on Monday, Spiegel Online reported a concept developed by the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini: “What Mogherini has prepared over six pages, is no less than the possible launch of a new EU military mission.” Its mandate relies on Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which authorizes the use of military force.

The text of Mogherini’s document suggests a far-reaching plan of attack. “The mandate should expressly allow operations in the waters of Libya and on Libyan territory to destroy the smugglers’ infrastructure there,” it states. Threats from the weapons in the possession of Libyan militias, including air defence systems and ground-to-air missiles should be countered with a martial “Force Protection” operation prepared for a “hostile environment.”

The EU’s plans are as revealing as they are criminal. Of course, the European elites and their henchmen in the mainstream media fail to make any mention of the fact that the chaos in Libya and the dramatic refugee disaster in the Middle East and North Africa are a direct result of Western policy. The wars conducted and supported by the US and the European states—including the NATO bombing of Libya in 2011 and the arming of Islamist militias to overthrow Gaddafi—have destroyed an entire region and turned millions into refugees.

Now, the imperialist powers are using the disaster to once again prepare military interventions behind the backs of the population.

Over the weekend, Bild am Sonntag published an “exclusive interview” with the German Commander Alexander Gottschalk, on board the frigate Hessen off the Libyan coast. While the paper tried to present the naval action as a “humanitarian” operation to rescue small refugee children, it is clear that military actions have already begun.

Asked what would happen to the boats after the refugees were rescued, the captain responded: “We must destroy the boats because they are a maritime hazard to other boats on the open sea. On the other hand, it could be that we erroneously regard an empty boat from the air as a boat in distress and go to save it. That can cost valuable time lost in saving occupied boats. Therefore we let the air out of inflatable dinghies and set them on fire. We also sink the less common wooden boats.”

Even Die Zeit, which publishes war propaganda in weekly instalments, noted under the headline “German frigate has license to sink” that using the military to destroy smugglers’ boats was “controversial.”

In addition to legal questions, it was “also unclear how the boats are to be detected. The military access powers were still open, with an eye on the position of the UN Security Council.”

To put it plainly: without a UN mandate, the military operation is in violation of international law and has even less legal cover than the criminal NATO attack on Libya four years ago!

Nevertheless, in contrast to its hesitation to intervene in Libya then, Germany stands at the head of the intervention today. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD, Social Democratic Party) declared in Brussels that the mission could begin quickly, adding that this was the consensus within the EU. At the same time, Steinmeier, who has repeatedly demanded a greater role for Germany in the world, warned that military action alone would not change the situation.

What is envisaged by Steinmeier and the German elite is a much broader EU engagement in Africa. Even before the recent EU foreign ministers’ meeting in April, he had declared to the press: “I think we need to see that we are faced with a daunting task … We know that the migration pressure will not relent as long as we have instability in North Africa and therefore what needs our attention, and it will be not be resolved in the short term, are the transit routes and countries of origin, and the most important transit country is at the moment Libya, a country that is falling apart if we do not interrupt and reverse the process.”

On Monday, at a joint press conference with Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU, Christian Democratic Union), he urged the “bringing to power of a government of national unity” in this resource-rich country.

A WSWS perspective, “The refugee catastrophe and the new ‘scramble for Africa,’” explained what the real objectives of Brussels and Berlin are.

To understand this, one needs only to look at the “Africa Policy Guidelines” adopted by the German government in the spring of 2014. The document speaks of the “growing relevance of Africa for Germany and Europe,” stemming, in part, from the growing economy and “rich natural resources” of the continent. The statement calls on the German government to act “early, quickly, decisively and substantially,” and to “use the full range of its available resources.”