The militaristic crackdown on largely peaceful protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, this past summer, following the shooting death of an unarmed black youth should not be seen as an anomaly. In fact, American police forces have been steadily militarized over the past decade by the Pentagon, which according to a recent report has made it a priority to address the risks of social unrest that will undoubtedly arise as climate change worsens. It would be supremely naive to think their preparations are concerned with community development, supplying adequate resources or social justice. To be sure their approach will be in line with their history and will be about social control and the suppression of dissent.
Americans got a taste of this approach during the lock down of Boston last year in the search for the alleged perpetrator of the Boston Marathon bombing. For the first time in this century an entire American city was placed under what could accurately be defined as a type of martial law. While this may have been voluntary, few would deny that defying the lock down would have been met with severe consequences. Americans saw a major US city transform into something that resembled the streets of Grozny or Sarajevo. Tanks rolled down leafy New England streets. Police sharpshooters trained their sights on picket fenced, saltbox houses. Families were marched out of their living rooms and down the sidewalks with hands plastered to their heads. And all of this proceeded with nary a protest or whimper from the mainstream media. On the contrary, this over the top spectacle garnered praise from politicians and reporters alike. And after it was over many in the public lined the streets to thank a jackbooted police force, even though the alleged terrorist was discovered by a civilian.
America is experiencing an intractable drought across much of the southwest. In the northeast and west, catastrophic flooding and record rainfall is fast becoming the norm. In the mid-west the Ogallala aquifer, the dominant source of water for the country’s agriculture, is being fast depleted. And in the west the Colorado River which supplies tens of millions of people with drinking water is beginning to show a severe slowdown. With such extremes comes crop failure, water shortages and species extinction. Many scientists are also deeply worried that the methane clathrate gun has been fired triggering runaway climate change. And regardless of anti-science politicians who are on the dole of the fossil fuel industry, the Pentagon is taking all of this very seriously.
With the collapse of essential services and the failure of leadership to mitigate the damage, public anger will undoubtedly rise. It is within this kind of perfect storm that atrocities are often committed and tyrannies are frequently born. The Pentagon and other powerful government agencies have demonstrated time after time that their first priority is to protect corporate interests. Understanding all of this is crucial to facing what may be on the horizon. Maintaining an independent media is key to avoiding the pitfalls of mass paranoia, scapegoating and divide and conquer strategies that the corporate media is expert at. And it is only through grassroots community organizing and non-violent protest that ordinary people can find the leverage needed to hold the established power class accountable and at bay, and assert the innate dignity of all human beings even in the midst of calamity.
The Pentagon’s approach for dealing with the dire times that lie ahead is nothing less than terrifying. Social control appears to be their goal. Violence seems to be their method. And they have all the equipment needed to enforce their plan. Peaceful resistance and solidarity is the only viable response ordinary people have.
They are preparing. And we should too.
Kenn Orphan 2014
(Photo on top is of an unarmed protestor in Ferguson Missouri facing a militarized police force/AP)