Originally posted at TomDispatch.
Strangely, amid the spike in racial
tensions after the killing of two black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota,
and of five white police officers by a black sharpshooter in Dallas, one American
reality has gone unmentioned. The U.S. has been fighting wars – declared,
half-declared, and undeclared – for almost 15 years and, distant as they are,
they’ve been coming home in all sorts of barely noted ways. In the years
in which the U.S. has up-armored globally, the country has also seen an arms
race developing on the domestic front. As vets have returned from their
Iraq and Afghan tours of duty, striking numbers of them have gone into police work at a time when American weaponry,
vehicles, and military equipment – including, for instance, MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles)
– have poured off America’s distant battlefields
and, via the Pentagon, into police departments
nationwide. And while the police were militarizing, gun companies have been marketing battlefield-style assault rifles to
Americans by the millions, at the very moment when it has become
ever more possible for citizens to carry weapons of every sort in a concealed
or open fashion in public.
The result in Dallas: Micah Johnson,
a disturbed Army Reserves veteran, who spent a tour of duty in Afghanistan and
practiced military tactics in his backyard, armed with an SKS semi-automatic assault rifle, wearing full body armor, and angry
over police killings of black civilians, took out those five white officers.
One of them was a Navy vet who had served three tours of duty in Iraq and another
a former Marine who had trained local police for DynCorp, a private
contractor, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, civilian protesters, also armed with assault rifles (quite legal in
the streets of Dallas), scattered as the first shots rang out and were, in some
cases, taken in by the police as suspects. And at least two unarmed protesters
were wounded by Johnson. (Think of that,
in his terms, as “collateral damage.”) In the end, he would be killed
by a Remotec Andros F5 robot, built by weapons-maker Northrop Grumman, carrying a pound of C4 plastic explosive, and
typical of robots that police departments now possess.
In other words, this incident was capped
by the first use of deadly force by a drone in the United States. Consider
that a war-comes-home upping of the ante. Already, reports the Defense One website, makers of
military-grade robots – a burgeoning field for the Pentagon – are imagining
other ways to employ such armed bots not only on our distant battlefields but
at home in a future in which they will be “useful, cheap, and ubiquitous,” and
capable of Tasing as well as killing.