When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury—national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture—we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.
This is fine. But this
bit is deceptive:
Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies—where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.
Big government? The cops usually function as the shock troops of the propertied. Throughout my life, it has always been conservatives who ran on a "law and order" platform. Meanwhile, liberals -- and only
liberals -- have complained of over-zealous policing in black, brown and poor neighborhoods. Throughout the Bush years, right-wingers sneered at guys like me when we warned that the onerous, ominous infrastructure of "anti-terrorism" was largely an excuse to institute a police state capable of crushing any potential domestic uprising.
Let's take a closer look
at the military gear made available to cops:
The nasty little secret of policing’s militarization is that taxpayers are subsidizing it through programs overseen by the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Justice Department.
Take the 1033 program. The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) may be an obscure agency within the Department of Defense, but through the 1033 program, which it oversees, it’s one of the core enablers of American policing’s excessive militarization. Beginning in 1990, Congress authorized the Pentagon to transfer its surplus property free of charge to federal, state, and local police departments to wage the war on drugs. In 1997, Congress expanded the purpose of the program to include counterterrorism in section 1033 of the defense authorization bill. In one single page of a 450-page law, Congress helped sow the seeds of today’s warrior cops.
The amount of military hardware transferred through the program has grown astronomically over the years. In 1990, the Pentagon gave $1 million worth of equipment to U.S. law enforcement. That number had jumped to nearly $450 million in 2013. Overall, the program has shipped off more than $4.3 billion worth of materiel to state and local cops, according to the DLA.
Astoundingly, one-third of all war materiel parceled out to state, local, and tribal police agencies is brand new. This raises further disconcerting questions: Is the Pentagon simply wasteful when it purchases military weapons and equipment with taxpayer dollars? Or could this be another downstream, subsidized market for defense contractors?
It wasn't us hippie peacenik types who demanded all of that ordnance for counterinsurgency wars. I'm a liberal, and my own record is clear (as you can see from a random sampling of older posts): Uncle Sam should stay out of the affairs of other nations unless absolutely compelled to intercede. We should take a "hands off" attitude when a popular uprising in a third world country seeks to overthrow one of those reactionary dictatorships that our conservatives seem to love so much. Taxpayer dollars would be better spent domestically -- paying down the debt, revamping our energy infrastructure -- than on policing the world.
The position articulated in the preceding paragraph is the same one traditionally espoused by such notorious lefties as Noam Chomsky and Michael Parenti. The right has spent decades denigrating those who hold such views.
Is Rand Paul trying to deny this history?
More than that. That revelation about brand new
equipment finding its way to local law enforcement is very intriguing. At first glance, it seems as thought the defense contractors have found a potential new customer base.
Newsflash, Rand: "Defense contractors" are big capital
, not big government.
And that's the problem which libertarians like Paul never admit. The problem is not the size of government per se
; the problem is who owns
that government. If big capital owns government, evil will result. If big democracy owns government, good will result. Government, big or small, is beneficent only to the extent that its scope and activities are determined by the people
If anyone had consulted we the people
, we would have said that we don't want secret wars, and we don't want the militarization of police.
But nobody asked us.