Published May 11 - 17, 2000 Seattle Weekly
You can't camouflage the military-cop
BY KNUTE BERGER
THE LINE BETWEEN the police and the military has
been blurring for years. Have you noticed how
police SWAT teams have adopted US military-style
helmets? Did you see the armored personnel carriers
during the WTO protests?
If any question that the two seem to be merging
remained, surely the famous photo of government
agents seizing Elian Gonzalez creates an image that
is apt: government employees resolving a child
custody case at gunpoint in full combat regalia.
Increasingly, police departments around the country
are receiving military-style training and being
advised to acquire arsenals that are compatible with
the military's. And while civilian police departments
are being militarized, the military itself is taking
on law enforcement-style missions at home and abroad:
peacekeeping in trouble spots, patrolling US borders,
and hunting down drug smugglers.
A recent example is right here on Puget Sound. Last
week Governor Gary Locke called in the National Guard
to assist with tracking down, and shutting down, meth
labs in Pierce County. We're not talking civil unrest,
fires, or floods: This is cop work, pure and simple.
Locke defends this by saying meth labs are a health
menace and that "we must all do whatever we can to stop
this epidemic." (Remember, this is an election year.)
Guardsmen, in civilian clothes, will assist the police
by doing investigative work and surveillance. Is this
really the mission of the Guard? If Pierce County needs
more cops, hire them.
Locke's trigger-happiness with the Guard is indicative
of the fact that many officials can no longer tell the
difference between the mission of one organization and
another, and that all civil emergencies are starting to
look alike. Drug dealers and protesters, what's the dif?
IF I SEEM HYPERSENSITIVE on this topic, it's because I'm
still reading through WTO postmortem reports, and I am
deeply disturbed by what I see.
For example, there is Mayor Paul Schell's consultant's
preliminary report on the WTO that was released at the
end of April. As I warned in February ("Clean sweep or
cover-up?" SW, 2/17), this report was likely to be highly
slanted in its review of the WTO protests and planning
process because the firm conducting it, R.M. McCarthy &
Associates, is comprised of law enforcement heavies who
specialize in "riot and crowd control." And they didn't
This first report (and there will be a second, final one
in July, the combined costing $100,000--nearly two-thirds
of the City Council's entire original WTO review budget)
covers some of the same ground as the SPD's own
after-action critique. But these guys paint SPD and the
mayor more harshly, almost as protester-coddling hippies.
"Neither City government or the Police department had an
obligation to welcome protesters and ensure their
comfort," the report says, calling meeting with and trying
to accommodate some of the protester groups "ill-advised."
In fact, they conclude that protecting the rights of
protesters was the only goal the WTO public safety
committee accomplished. Funny, that. As thousands of
locals were gassed and excluded from downtown's no-protest
zone, many had the distinct feeling their rights were
being violated. I guess "violated" now means "protected,"
the same way "peacekeeper" now means "missile."
The consultants are outraged at Seattle's onerous police
surveillance ordinance and can't understand how any
serious policing can take place in a city that has one
(what, no infiltration of political groups!?). And at
the tail end of the report, they bash (who else?) the
media: "The media, too, is accountable. While there were
incidents of objective reporting, most coverage was
inflammatory and at times irresponsible." They offer not
a single example. Certainly in the days leading up to the
WTO, the coverage in the mainstream press was almost all
boosterish of the WTO, free trade, and Christmas shopping:
I found that pretty irresponsible, too, but I doubt we're
talking about the same thing.
Another group bears responsibility for the fiasco: "The
people of Seattle who legitimately exercised their First
Amendment rights, but refused to disperse and leave the
area when ordered, thus preventing the police from making
arrests and restoring order, also share in the
responsibility for what subsequently occurred. Reasonable,
law-abiding citizens do not remain to watch or participate
in anarchy." Wow. Apparently a lot of anarchists were
in Seattle during the WTO--some of them in baby strollers
at the Pike Place Market!
Another report, written by C.L. Staten, a national security
analyst for the Emergency Response and Research Institute
(which, by the way, did not respond to my call), is even more
disturbing. In an analysis of the recent IMF/World Bank
protests in Washington, DC, Staten suggests that protester
tactics--the rather decentralized, mobile, hit-and-run
methods used there and in Seattle--are an example of
so-called "4th Generation" or "Asymmetric" warfare, first
described in a 1989 Marine Corps Gazette article. In such
warfare, "the battle is likely to be widely dispersed and
largely undefined; the distinction between war and peace
will be blurred to the vanishing point. It will be
nonlinear . . . the distinction between 'civilian' and
'military' may disappear." So that's how some security
analysts are seeing things: Seattle = Somalia.
As the lines between civilian and military blur, as cops and
troops begin to merge, I guess it's natural that lessons
learned fighting enemies abroad might be applied on the home
front. Those dancing sea turtles of November 30, they did
kind of look like Third World warlords, didn't they?
The Website of Lord Weÿrdgliffe:
The Dan Clore Necronomicon Page:
"Tho-ag in Zhi-gyu slept seven Khorlo. Zodmanas
zhiba. All Nyug bosom. Konch-hog not; Thyan-Kam
not; Lha-Chohan not; Tenbrel Chugnyi not;
Dharmakaya ceased; Tgenchang not become; Barnang
and Ssa in Ngovonyidj; alone Tho-og Yinsin in
night of Sun-chan and Yong-grub (Parinishpanna),
-- The Book of Dzyan.