Iraq War Veteran Warns Ferguson Is Our Future – and Our Past

Missouri National Guard members start to pack up during the evening at their command center in Ferguson, Missouri, August 22, 2014. (Photo: Richard Perry / The New York Times)

Nafeez Ahmed

The shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, a district of St. Louis County in Missouri, and the spate of civil unrest that followed – bringing the ongoing state violence inflicted on African-Americans to broad public light – could set a precedent for the future of American society, according to a senior Iraq War veteran and Pentagon defense analyst.

Terron Sims, an African-American activist who focuses on local and national Democratic politics and previously served five years in the United States Army, said during an interview last month that without a fundamental cultural and institutional change in American policing across the country, the United States could see more Ferguson-type events in the near future.

Sims was a company commander during the 2003 Iraq War whose job was to engage with the local civilian population in Baghdad on behalf of the US military. He was the main senior US Army officer liaising between the Coalition Provisional Authority, the UN, and Baghdad’s Tisa Nissan district, where he facilitated and mentored the local government – without having to resort to force. He later served as a senior operations manager and analyst tasking units for worldwide Army counter-terrorism operations and creating the Pentagon’s installation budget systems.

Following his military service, Sims served on Barack Obama’s defense policy team during his 2008 presidential campaign and represented Obama himself as a campaign surrogate. He went on to become active in Washington, DC, Democratic politics, in particular working to advance the role of black and ethnic minority communities in the political process. In 2009, he won the Josephine Marshall Award for his work in the Democratic Black Caucus and last year was selected by the Virginia Leadership Institute among top 10 black leaders.

In an interview in Washington, DC, where Sims is president of the North Virginia Black Democrats and a leading national security expert on the Board of Principals at the Truman National Security Project, he spoke about whether the Ferguson crisis offered a taste of things to come.

“This is a taste of the present, my friend. We’re already here. This is America, today,” said Terron Sims. “And if we don’t deal with the root cause in terms of widespread racial discrimination against black people, this will be our tomorrow.”

The Ferguson crisis has sparked a national debate on the culture of policing in the United States toward black communities, as well as the increasing militarization of the police due to a federal Pentagon program providing military-grade equipment to local police forces at little or no cost.

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