The AP headline says that local police are getting “the spoils of war.” But the spoils of war are items or wealth that are won from the enemy. These are not spoils of war. Rather, they are military hand-me-downs to the police forces. Trucks that were once used to patrol and control Iraqi cities can now be used in Hometown, USA.
Coming soon to your local sheriff: 18-ton, armor-protected military fighting vehicles with gun turrets and bulletproof glass that were once the U.S. answer to roadside bombs during the Iraq war.
The hulking vehicles, built for about $500,000 each at the height of the war, are among the biggest pieces of equipment that the Defense Department is giving to law enforcement agencies under a national military surplus program.
For police and sheriff’s departments, which have scooped up 165 of the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPS, since they became available this summer, the price and the ability to deliver shock and awe while serving warrants or dealing with hostage standoffs was just too good to pass up.
“It’s armored. It’s heavy. It’s intimidating. And it’s free,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, among five county sheriff’s departments and three other police agencies in New York that have taken delivery of an MRAP.
So, having used these vehicles to defeat insurgents and occupy enemy territory, our own sheriffs are now going to get to use them. They need these vehicles to deliver warrants, and for hostage standoffs—because those happen all the time to every sheriff department in America. Perhaps they will need to invade a business.
This “national military surplus program” looks like a federal program to promote and subsidize red state fascism. I have a hard time believing the people who decided to dispense the tools of war on our sheriffs were unaware that many Americans are growing uneasy with “the rise of the warrior cop.” There are protests against the growing number of militarized police. This seems like a slap in the face of such people.
This program also provides evidence that foreign policy and domestic policy are more entangled than most Americans are led to believe. We decided, in response to the real mass murder of 9-11, that we would invade and occupy two countries. These would not be mere punitive strikes. George W. Bush decided that “nation building” could work after all. So we not only attacked, but invaded and occupied hostile lands. In Iraq, we occupied hostile urban centers.
Our constitution didn’t change during this project and there was no reason why our own local police should change in character from what they had been before we decided to go to war. And yet they did.
Now, having manufactured these armored vehicles for putting down forces in Iraq, we can’t bear to junk them. Instead, the tools are passing into the hands of domestic law enforcement.
Our decision to occupy Iraq seems to have morphed into a decision to have our police occupy our country.