On January 23, 2007, nine men were charged in what is being called a campaign of “chaos and terror” that saw at least three police killed from 1968 to 1973. Emphasis is being placed on official claims that most of these men were members of the Black Liberation Army (BLA) when the police killings occurred. Eight of them were charged with the August 29, 1971 shotgun slaying of San Francisco police sergeant, John Young.
Is it coincidence that the killings of a handful of police over 30 years ago have suddenly become a major concern to the Establishment? Whereas, typical of this very same Establishment is a blatant disinterest in pursuing and prosecuting the legions of police (state and federal) who’ve wantonly murdered multitudes of New Afrikans across Amerika from that time period till today. Indeed, during those same years of targeted BLA activities (1968-1973), the U.S. government, in collaboration with local ‘law enforcement’ agencies, was involved in the murders of prominent Black political leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968), Fred Hampton and Mark Clark (1969), George Jackson (1971), and others. In each of these cases, the government’s role in orchestrating, executing and covering up these assassinations has been exposed with unimpeachable proof. I’ll elaborate later.
In fact it was in response to this climate of raw fear, violence and murder of Blacks, that the BLA arose as a defensive arm of the New Afrikan communities. The BLA warriors had summed up from our historical experiences at the hands of white slave patrols, vigilantes, lynch mobs and police that the official ‘enforcers’ of the law could not be looked to for protection of Black lives. Instead, they were, for us, a principal source of violence, death and terror. Many of the BLA’s members were victims of such official violence and assassination attempts, often carried out as part of government efforts to destroy the Black Panther Party (BPP), which arose in 1966 to serve poor, urban, Black communities in areas of survival and basic needs that the Establishment could not and would not.
During that era, there was little “sugar-coating” the raw terror suffered by communities of color living under police occupation, and especially prominent was the open police violence displayed against leading political organizations like the Black Panther Party (BPP), who struggled to serve these communities. John Gerassi, a white journalist and author who lived in that era, witnessed this reality with his own eyes:
[R]epression in the United States is worse than ever before and much, much harsher than the world—or most Americans, for that matter—is aware or told. In New Mexico, for example, the Alianza, led by Reies Tijerina, has been hounded relentlessly since 1966; its offices have been dynamited (by policemen at that), its leaders shot, its members jailed on such flagrantly outrageous charges that few Americans would believe—even today—the strictly factual story. At the time of writing, Tijerina himself was locked up for years and his Alianza was flagging. As for the Blacks, their repression is not less brutal, just more widespread. The whole primary and secondary leadership of the Black Panther Party has been jailed on obvious frame-ups. They have been beaten, tortured and murdered. Twice in Oakland, I saw with my own eyes, policemen in official cars zoom by a group of Panthers talking peacefully on a street and open fire at them. Three times I witnessed policemen arrest Panthers, handcuff them, and then pistol-whip them. In over a dozen cases, after seeing Panthers arrested, I have gone to see them in jail and found them bloodied from having “fallen down the stairs” or from having “assaulted a policeman.” And the whole world knows—for this time it was reported in the press—that on-duty Chicago policemen murdered Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in their sleep. By the end of 1969, not a single policeman had been brought to justice for these acts of violence. On the other hand, all of white America’s law enforcement agents, including federal marshals and the FBI, have gone out of their way—and, often, out of their jurisdiction—to arrest Panthers, without having warrants. Federal marshals have even refused to honor a court order not to remove Chairman Bobby Seale from California (which, legally, made the marshals kidnappers). By 1970, twenty-eight Black Panthers had been murdered by the police, some beaten to death after arrest (Charles Cox in Chicago), some in unprovoked police assaults, (seventeen-year-old Bobby Hutton in Oakland, Hampton and Clark in Chicago), most in front of scores of witnesses, who could never testify, as the policemen were never charged. It is little wonder, then, that the Browns and Blacks consider themselves colonized and imperialized, part of the same dominated world as Latin Americans, the Vietnamese, and the Congolese.
-John Gerassi, The Coming of the New International (World Publishing Co. 1971)
The BPP’s deadly experiences were witnessed by the New Afrikan communities, and reported first hand by the Party itself. These experiences served to solidify the communities, raise the consciousness of Black people, and expose the true function of the police as violent oppressors of the poor and protectors of the wealthy ruling class. In the Harris Survey Yearbook of Public Opinion (1970), it was found that 66% of Blacks took pride in the BPP and its strong example in supporting Blacks’ basic rights and needs. But more telling is that 86% of Blacks in that survey answered “yes” to the question: “Even if you disagree with the views of the Panthers, has the violence against them led you to believe that Black people must stand together to protect themselves?” So there was an overwhelming consensus in the Black communities that Blacks must unite to resist violent police oppression. It was during the very same year that the Harris Survey was taken, that many of the most trusted and committed BPP members were pushed out of the Party and went underground to join the BLA.
Every honest witness to and participant of that period acknowledges that the BLA was forced into existence in response to the brutal police murders and attacks on Black political organizations, leaders, and everyday people. But today, after decades of the corporate entertainment media’s romanticizing the roles of police, the image of these occupying forces has been given something of a face-lift to all except the youth of urban communities of color, who still see the same oppressive face of policemen as did our communities of the 1960’s and 70’s. as Comrade Sundiata Acoli has pointed out, this ongoing media effort to clean up the police image was a product of the BPP’s exposing to New Afrikans across Amerika the real face of our occupiers:
One singular indication, although there are others, of the effectiveness of BPP propaganda techniques is that even today, over a decade later, a large part of the programs shown on TV are still ‘police stories’ and many of the roles available to Black actors are limited to police roles. A lot of this has to do with the overall process of still trying to rehabilitate the image of police from its devastating exposure during the Panthers era, and to prevent the true role of the police in this society from being exposed again.
– Sundiata Acoli, A Brief History of the Black Panther Party and its Place in the Black Liberation Movement
But let me return to my original question, whether the recent charges against those nine men are coincidence. I think not. First, let’s consider the timing, which is interesting.
Only once a year is there an official commemoration of any Black personality in Amerika. That would be January 21st, Martin Luther King’s birthday. Those charges were issued two days after the King holiday. Then, there’s only one time of year that Black history is even acknowledged in Amerika—although not ‘officially’ recognized. That would be Black History Month. The charges issued just a week before the commencement of Black History Month. Hmmm…
In the context of Black History Month, no honest account of Amerika can avoid the fact that ours has been a history of continued suffering and resistance. And the Amerikan Establishment has been both at the root of our suffering and a fierce opponent of our resistance. The latter is demonstrated in its trumping up charges nearly 40 years old to vilify the BLA and its symbol of resistance against brutal national oppression of New Afrikans. This is political persecution plain and simple.
And what of Martin Luther King? Our brotha who was also murdered by government forces, the very same government that was venomously opposed to making his birthday a national holiday. These facts are now beyond dispute, although the mainstream media refuses to report them. Like the BPP, King was a target of the vicious government covert action program called COINTELPRO (the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program). This program, as described in an internal FBI memorandum dated August 25, 1967, was calculated:
…to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist, hate-type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership, and supporters, and to counter their propensity for violence and civil disorder.
The pernicious background of such groups, their duplicity, and such publicity will have a neutralizing effect. Efforts of the various groups to consolidate their forces or to recruit new or youthful adherents must be frustrated. No opportunity should be missed to exploit through counterintelligence techniques the organizational and personal conflicts of the leadership of the groups and where possible an effort should be made to capitalize upon existing conflicts between competing black nationalist organizations. When an opportunity is apparent to disrupt or neutralize black nationalist, hate-type organizations through the cooperation of established local news media contacts or through such contact with sources available to the Seat of Government, in every instance careful attention must be given to the proposal to insure the targeted group is disrupted, ridiculed, or discredited through the publicity and not merely publicized.
Intensified attention under this program should be afforded to the activities of such groups as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Revolutionary Action Movement, the Deacons for Defense and Justice, Congress of Racial Equality, and the Nation of Islam. Particular emphasis should be given to extremists who direct the activities and policies of revolutionary or militant groups such as Stokley Carmichael, H. “Rap” Brown, Elijah Muhammad, and Maxwell Stanford.
Another internal FBI memorandum dated March 9, 1968, made clear the Bureau’s meaning and intentions in proposing to “neutralize” those who promoted fundamental changes in the living conditions of the poor and oppressed nationalities. It urged that, “the Negro youths and moderates must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teaching, they will be dead revolutionaries.”
Before his assassination, King was a major target of subversion at the hands of the FBI and other US intelligence agencies, including Military Intelligence Groups. FBI memoranda show orders given to “neutralize” King as late as one month before his death. A lengthy discussion of some of the many illegal actions against King can be found in the Church Committee’s Congressional Report of 1976, entitled Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, Books II and III, especially Book III, pp. 79-184. The report points out that:
[T]he “neutralization” program continued until Dr. King’s death. As late as March 1968, FBI agents were being instructed to neutralize Dr. King because he might become a “messiah” who could “unify, and electrify the militant black nationalist movement, “if he were to abandon his supposed ‘obedience’ to ‘white liberal doctrines’ (nonviolence) and embrace black nationalism.” Steps were taken to subvert the “Poor People’s Campaign” which, Dr. King was planning to lead in the spring of 1968. Even after King’s death, agents in the field were proposing methods for harassing his widow, and Bureau officials were trying to prevent his birthday from becoming a national holiday.
King was indeed questioning his earlier assumptions and moving towards a more radical perspective:
By 1964, King was not only firmly established as a preeminent civil rights leader, but was beginning to show signs of pursuing a more fundamental structural agenda of social change. Correspondingly…the [FBI]’s intent had crystallized into an unvarnished intervention into the domestic political process, with the goal of bringing about King’s replacement with someone “acceptable” to the FBI.
– Ward Churchill, et al., The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Dissent in the United States (Boston; South End, 1990), p. 97
Military surveillance of King began far earlier than the FBI operations against him:
The government’s interest in Dr. King went considerably beyond “snooping,” however, to constitute one of the most prolonged surveillances of any family in American history. In the early years of the [20th] century, Lieut. Col. Ralph Van Deman created an Army Intelligence network targeting four prime foes: the Industrial Workers of the World, opponents of the draft, Socialists and “Negro unrest.” …Van Deman was much preoccupied with the role of black churches as possible centers of sedition.
By the end of 1917, the War Department’s Military Intelligence Division had opened a file on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s maternal grandfather, the Rev. A.D. Williams, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and first president of the Atlanta NAACP. King’s father, Martin Sr., William’s successor at Ebenezer Baptist, also entered the army files. Martin Jr. First shows up in these files, (kept by the 111th Military Intelligence Group at Fort McPherson in Atlanta), in 1947, when he attended Dorothy Lilley’s Intercollegiate school; the army suspected Lilley of having ties to the Communist Party.
Army intelligence officers became convinced of Martin Luther King Jr.’s own Communist ties when he spoke in 1950 at the 25th anniversary of the integrated Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee. Ten years earlier, an army intelligence officer had reported to his superiors that the Highlander school was teaching a course of instruction to develop Negro organizers in the Southern cotton states.
By 1963, so Tennessee journalist Stephen Tompkins reported in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, U-2 planes were photographing disturbances in Birmingham, Alabama, capping a multilayered spy system that by 1968 included 304 intelligence offices across the country, “subversive national security dossiers” on 80,731 Americans, plus 19 million personal dossiers lodged at the Defense Department’s Central Index of Investigations.
A more sinister thread derives from the anger and fear with which the army high command greeted King’s denunciation of the Vietnam War at Riverside Church in 1967. Army spies recorded Stokley Carmichael telling King, “the man don’t care you call ghettoes concentration camps, but when you tell him his war machine is nothing but hired killers you got trouble.”
After the 1967 Detroit riots, 496 black men under arrest were interviewed by agents of the army’s psychological operations group, dressed as civilians. It turned out King was by far the most popular black leader. That same year Maj. Gen William Yarborough, assistant chief of staff for intelligence, observing the great antiwar march on Washington from the roof of the Pentagon, concluded that the empire was coming apart at the seams. There were, Yarborough reckoned, too few reliable troops to fight in Vietnam and hold the line at home.
In response, the army increased its surveillance of King. Green Berets and other Special Forces veterans from Vietnam began making street maps and identifying landing zones and potential sniper sites in major US cities. The Ku Klux Klan was recruited by the 20th Special Forces Group, headquartered in Alabama as a subsidiary intelligence network. The army began offering 30.06 sniper rifles to police departments, including that of Memphis.
In his fine investigation, Tompkins detailed the increasing hysteria of Army Intelligence chiefs over the threat they considered King to pose to national security. The FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover was similarly obsessed, and King was dogged by spy units through early 1967. A Green Beret special unit was operating in Memphis on the day he was shot. He died from a bullet from a 30.06 rifle purchased in a Memphis store, a murder for which James Earl Ray was given a 99-year sentence in a Tennessee prison. A court-ordered test of James Earl Ray’s rifle raised questions whether it in fact had fired the bullet that killed King.
-Alexander Cockburn et al., Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press (Versco, NY 1999)
But more revealing of the government’s role in King’s murder are the findings of attorney William F. Pepper, based on his 25-year extensive investigation of King’s death and the government cover-ups that followed. His findings and the results of a wrongful death lawsuit he filed and won in 1999 on behalf of the King family concerning Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination are exhaustively reported in his 2003 book An Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King. King’s wife, the late Coretta Scott King, had this to say about Pepper’s book:
For a quarter of a century, Bill Pepper conducted an independent investigation of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. He opened his files to our family, encouraged us to speak with the witnesses and represented our family in the civil trial against the conspirators. The jury affirmed his findings, providing our family with a long-sought sense of closure and peace, which had been denied by official disinformation and cover-ups. Now the findings of his exhaustive investigation and additional revelations from the trial are presented in the pages of this important book. We recommend it highly to everyone who seeks the truth about Dr. King’s assassination.
From the jacket of the book comes this summary of its contents:
On the evening of April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King was in Memphis supporting a worker’s strike. By the end of the day, top-level army snipers were in position to knock him out if ordered. Two military officers were in place on the roof of a fire station near the Lorraine Motel, to photograph the events. Two black firemen had been ordered not to report to duty that day and a black Memphis Police Department detective on surveillance duty in the fire station was physically removed from his post and taken home. Dr. King’s room at the motel was changed from a secluded, ground-floor room to number 306 on the balcony. Lloyd Jowers, owner of Jim’s Grill, which backed onto the motel from the other side of the street had already received $100,000 in cash for his agreement to participate in the assassination. He was to go out into the brush area behind the grill with the shooter and take possession of the gun immediately after the fatal shot was fired. When the dust settled, King had been hit, and a clean-up procedure was immediately set in motion. James Earl Ray was effectively framed, the snipers dispersed, and witnesses who could not be controlled were killed, and the crime scene was destroyed.
William Pepper, attorney and friend of Dr. King and the King family, became convinced after years of investigation that not only was Ray not the shooter, but that King had been targeted as part of a larger conspiracy to stop the anti-war movement, and to prevent King from gaining momentum in his promising Poor People’s Campaign. Ten years into his investigation, in 1988, Pepper agreed to represent Ray. While he was never able to successfully appeal the sentence before Ray’s death, he was able to build an airtight case against the real perpetrators. In 1999, Lloyd Jowers and co-conspirators were brought to trial in a wrongful death civil action suit on behalf of the King family. Seventy witnesses set out the details of a conspiracy in a plot to murder King that involved J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, Richard Helms and the CIA, the military, the local Memphis police, and organized crime figures from New Orleans and Memphis. The evidence was unimpeachable. The jury took an hour to find for the King family. But the silence following these shocking revelations was deafening. Like the pattern during all the investigations of the assassination throughout the years, no major media outlet would cover the story. It was effectively buried.
Until now, the details, evidence, and personalities of all these nefarious characters have gone unreported. In An Act of State, you finally have the truth before you—how the United States government effectively shut down one of the most galvanizing movements for social change by stopping its leader dead in his tacks.
The very government that is concerned today with prosecuting the killings of a few anonymous policemen, is the same one that continues to effectively whitewash its own role in the assassination of one of Amerika’s most well known Black political and religious leaders, and whose memory it pretends to respect and promote. But the sad irony and bitter contradiction in the entire King affair is toward the end of his life, King acknowledged that, “the greatest purveyor of violence on earth is my own government.” Yet, while denouncing Black self-defense such as that symbolized by the efforts of the BLA, he looked to the very same violent government—indeed the very government that killed him—to defend him against its own violence. So, no, it is no coincidence that just as New Afrikans are commemorating and remembering the birthday of this slain Black civil rights leader and our rich history of struggle and resistance against institutionalized oppression, that the government has instituted show trial proceedings to vilify and persecute the example of New Afrikans who took courage in hand and rose to the challenge of defending us against the “greatest purveyor of violence” against people of color.
And what about the murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in 1969? Hampton, the charismatic chairman of the Illinois chapter of the BPP and Mark Clark, Defense Captain of the Peoria Chapter of the BPP were both assassinated on December 4, 1969 by Chicago police in cooperation with the FBI. Both Comrades Hampton and Clark had been drugged by FBI agent provocatuer and informant William O’Neal and were, as a result, asleep in bed when police shot them at point blank range. Both Illinois state Attorney General Edward Hanrahan and David Goth, the cop who led the raid, were exposed as having given false statements to the media about the raid. A civil suit was filed and won on behalf of the Hampton and Clark families, but none of the involved federal agents and police were ever punished. Yet, today the FBI is heading a witch-hunt against former BLA members.
And what about Comrade George L. Jackson, murdered by San Quentin prison guards in August 1971, which triggered prison uprisings around the country culminating in the Attica rebellion? The facts of the government plot to kill him are set out in the investigative study by Eric Mann in Comrade George: An Investigation into the Official Story of His Assassination (1972). Again no prosecutions are being pursued.
Then there’s the tragedy of the MOVE family, whose Philadelphia, PA headquarters was bombed on May 13, 1985 by police, who also fired over 10,000 rounds into the MOVE house. As a result, six adults and five children were murdered. Those who attempted to flee the fire were shot at and only two MOVE members escaped the blaze. Again no police were charged or convicted, however, Ramona Africa, the only adult who survived the fire, was charged and convicted of riot and conspiracy, and was imprisoned for seven years. Upon her release she filed and won a lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia. But no amount of money recovered from litigation can replace the lives of our slain leaders and comrades.
The pattern is unmistakable…
It has always been the case in Amerika, (since racial divisions were first created in the 1600’s by the wealthy ruling class to divide poor white against poor Black, and to empower the whites to violently repress Blacks and other peoples of color), that the lives of poor Blacks have no value in the eyes of those who hold power. From the white slave patrols, to the Klan, to the modern police and even military; deadly violence against the dark faces at by the hands of the armed thugs of the ruling class is part and parcel of the U.S. social contract. However, counter-violence against the same forces in defense of the lives of their Black victims is unacceptable. Just as the routine rape of Black wimyn by white men in the South throughout U.S. history was the expected norm, against which Blacks were forbidden to resist. It took a nationwide campaign to win the acquittal of Joann Little who was charged with murder, for killing a white Washington, NC sheriff deputy in August 1974, who entered her jail cell and attempted to rape her at knife point.
This completely lopsided power dynamic and the resultant police violence and injustice against Black life, provoked most every major urban Black uprising in Amerika. Many of the major revolts of 1964 through 1958 were provoked by incidents of police violence against or murders of Blacks. Major uprisings followed the assassinations of Dr. King and Malcolm X.
Malcolm X was another of our leaders murdered with government complicity and even now the government refuses to release most of its over 50,000 pages of intelligence files on Malcolm. The 1991 uprisings in Los Angeles and other cities were incited by the videotaped brutal beatings of Black motorist Rodney King by police. The 2002 uprising in Benton Harbor, Michigan was triggered by the police killing of Black motorcyclist Terrance Shern. The 2005 uprising in Toledo, Ohio was triggered by the earlier murder of a Black man by police electrocuting him nine times with a taser and the subsequent violent protection by police of a Nazi demonstration, and so on. The cycle repeats, the power imbalance continues, and Black self-defense is vilified and criminalized.
Many of us choose to ignore or forget, some of us simply don’t know and most have been wooed by shows like Cops, CSI, America’s Most Wanted, and so on, into denying the real role that the political police have played in and against the New Afrikan nation in Amerika. They have had a hand in persecuting all of our genuine leaders and in the murders of each one who’s died a violent death; they’ve created and continue the infrastructural deterioration and internal implosion of our communities with narcotics infestations, and they’ve instigated armed violence amongst our youth. With minimal success, Black congressperson Maxine Waters has been trying for years, from within established channels, to expose and compel action against the CIA’s role in creating and continuing the urban crack cocaine epidemic, and arming and instigating major armed gang violence beginning in the early 1980’s; they’re the enforcers of the genocidal policy of depopulating our communities, through arrests and imprisonments, of massive numbers of Black males, thereby undercutting our ability to reproduce, and removing Black fathers and role models from Black social life; they’ve operated inside our communities as an occupying army with their training, postures and methods becoming more and more militaristic every year; and they murder, beat, brutalize and slander us with impunity and total immunity from “legal” challenge. Essentially, they are the hired guns of the wealthy ruling class whose function is that of repressing and containing the poor, marginalized and oppressed lower class sectors.
But nowhere was the repressive function of the police, and U.S. military, shown more blatantly within Amerika, in modern times, than in the neglect and violence against stranded, sick, hungry dehydrating and terrified poor Blacks in the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. Outrage over those events spanned the globe. Even the usually apolitical Black entertainers, (who otherwise know enough to keep their mouths closed about Amerika’s duplicitous politics on race, poverty and the brutality of Black life in Amerika), spoke out. In the context of New Afrikan struggle and resistance, that situation is worthy of close scrutiny.
For those that recall, the Louisiana governor declared a “shoot to kill” martial law in New Orleans, upon claims that looting and violence were sweeping the city. Blacks were “looting,” but whites doing the same were simply “finding” food and basic needs for survival. Specifically referred to—as the final incident that triggered the need for martial intervention—were claims that some “black gang bangers” on an overpass had fired on the US Army Corps of Engineers while busy doing repair work. The army supposedly returned fire, killing several of these youths. Images of these dead youth were beamed into homes across Amerika by the corporate news media. It was declared that under these dangerous circumstances, “rescue and relief” operations, (which the police—federal and state—were not much involved in anyway), would be terminated and martial law declared to restore order against the unruly Black population.
In the words of Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force, as quoted by the Army Times, “this place is going to look like Little Somalia, we’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.”
This call to official violence against a desperate, hungry, sick and already officially neglected population is problematic. Not because it departs from the way Black folk in Amerika are already treated, but because of the level of violence called forth and the fabricated justifications made for declaring martial law. First let’s look at the justifications.
Reporter Jeremy Scahill gives a very different account of what happened on that overpass near the Ninth Ward. According to his report, private mercenaries from the Alabama-based company, Bodyguard and Tactical Services (BATS) killed those youth and then casually told both US Army forces and state police, who showed up later, what they’d done. No reports were filed, no questions asked, the army and troopers went their way as did the BATS mercenaries. No one cared that the mercs could’ve been lying about why they shot those Black youth. And it seems the U.S. Army decided later to take responsibility. Someone would have to explain the bodies of several Black youth riddled with .223 rounds, which is the standard caliber bullet of U.S. military assault rifles. Scahill’s report, entitled “Blackwater Down,” was printed in the October 10, 2005 issue of The Nation.
This account of the merc’s conduct and the subsequent military bailout, is consistent with the observations of the behaviors of such mercs made by Brig. Gen. Karl Horst, deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division in charge of security in Baghdad. He stated in September 2005 of such mercenaries operating in Iraq: “These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There’s no authority over them, so you can’t come down on them hard when they escalate force…They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath. It happens all over the place.”
And what about Brig. Gen. Gary Jones’ remarks that New Orleans would be turned into a “Little Somalia,” that martial law meant not policing the city, but a “military operation”? of course we know that Somalia is an Afrikan country, so Jones’ point of comparison between Somalia and the stranded Black New Orleans population in this regard is obvious. But let’s look at Somalia. What was it that the U.S. military did in Somalia during the 1992 US/UN invasion that he was saying would be repeated in New Orleans?
There were times when [US troops] shot at everything that moved, took hostages, gunned their way through crowds of men and women, finished off any wounded who were showing signs of life. Many people died in their homes, their tin roofs ripped to shreds by high-velocity bullets and rockets. Accounts of the fighting frequently contain such statements as this: “One moment there was a crowd, and the next instant it was just a bleeding heap of dead and injured.” Even with a degree of restraint on the part of the gunners, the technology deployed by the US Army was such that carnage was inevitable.
– Alex de Waal, “U.S. War Crimes in Somalia,” New Left Review, No. 230, July/August 1998, p. 143
A December 8, 1993 New York Times article reported that the U.S. government estimated “6,000 to 10,000 Somali casualties in four months last summer” alone, with “two-thirds” of these being women and children, compared to 26 U.S. soldiers killed. Also, a July 1993 report Somalia: Human Rights Abuses by the United Nations Forces reported atrocities committed by U.S. and UN soldiers, including shooting into crowds of protesters, attacking a hospital and bombarding political meetings.
To present date, no one knows what the joint martial forces did in New Orleans under martial law. There were reports of combat raids and explosions, but reporters were kept out and recording equipment was often confiscated and smashed by soldiers and mercs. No account has been given or even sought of the total death toll in the Gulf region, nor the causes of these deaths (whether a result of drowning, illness, dehydration, or official violence). I suspect that autopsies would find many Black bodies riddled with shrapnel and .223 rounds. But, of course, no investigations or inquiries are being made. Yet, the FBI, in collaboration with various local police departments, is pursuing criminal proceedings of alleged BLA activities from over 30 years ago.
Scahill’s report closed with a warning quote from one of the mercs in New Orleans, stating, “This is a trend. You’re going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations.”
This reality is even more ominous when we look at who most of these mercs are; that is, where they come from. The vast majority of these paramilitaries are past members of the U.S. military’s special operations units, like army Rangers (Green Berets), Delta Force, Navy Seals, Force Recon, etc. These units are largely manned by a closed society of white supremacist and racist white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs).
Stan Goff, a retired career Special Operations soldier, spanning from the Vietnam era through the 1990’s, describes the special brand of anti-Black racism that pervades this community of Amerika’s most highly trained ground combat forces:
In the world of Military Special Operations, I have seen Anti-Africanism function as the litmus test for assimilation of non-WASP soldiers. Asians, Europeans, Jews, American Indians, Polynesians, Latinos, all can be legitimized in the eyes of their peers by sharing in the Special Ops contempt for African Americans. This is my experience. Black people have a special place in Special Operations—the bottom.
– Stan Goff, Hideous Dreams: A Soldier’s Memoir of the U.S. Invasion of Haiti (Soft Skull: Canada, 2000)
Goff pointed out how (and why) Blacks are systematically and quite deliberately weeded out of the elite Special Operations community, and increasingly reduced in the less combat capable conventional ground forces. Goff’s observations bear quoting at length:
When I was in Vietnam, I never saw two Black soldiers greet each other without givin’ up dap. White officers were clearly uncomfortable with it, and some Black NCOs were pressured to put a stop to these elaborate improvisational handshakes.
It never worked. Dap was as much a part of Black GI culture as Motown.
And make no mistake. It was oppositional culture. White officers were right to feel uncomfortable with it. It was an open display of Black solidarity by Negroes with guns. When African American GIs spoke with one another, they referred to one another as “Black” with the same frequency guys call each other “man” (another vestige of Black oppositional culture, as opposed to “black ops”).
This new, super-elite, “black ops” unit’s “operators” will have hardly a Black face to be seen. In the U.S., “black ops” is always done by white operators. No one is going to teach large numbers of African Americans these clandestine skills.
Every time in the history of the United States that Black soldiers have fought in wars, there has been an outbreak of Black resistance afterward. Surely this is no surprise.
I referred earlier to Odoacer, a mercenary in the service of Rome, leader of the Germanic soldiers in the Roman army, who deposed the western Roman emperor, Romulus Augustus, in 476 AD, and thereby terminated the Western Roman Empire.
There is a limit to how much an oppressed people within a state will take. Rumsfeld and his ilk know this. You can bank on it.
When the Bush regime made the claim that the US was attacked by people who hate freedom and democracy, the irony was not likely lost on African Americans or any other oppressed nationality.
I stress African Americans here because Black people are the very embodiment of white ruling class fear, especially in the military. Three out of ten soldiers in the Army today are African American, as is one out of ten officers. Until you look at Special Operations.
Negrophobia, and not generalized racism, is characteristic of special ops units, and the more rarefied the unit, the whiter it gets—with a few honorary Aryans from Hispano-Latina and Pacific Islander ranks. There are special places for Black Soldiers in Special Operations: kitchens, supply rooms, personnel offices, and motor pools.
This lack of “minority” participation as “operators” in Special Operations began to leak some years ago. In 1999, the Rand Corporation released a report that attempted to describe Barriers to Minority Participation in Special Operations Forces (SOF), which attempts to put an empirical mask over SOF racial exclusion, even repeating many of the urban myths within SOF about why Black soldiers are so vastly under-represented there. “They can’t swim,” and so forth.
When we put two and two together, we will likely end up with four. I saw Special Operations schools’ cadre use every available opportunity, particularly those numerous aspects of periodic evaluations that are subjective, to weed out Black soldiers. Not all of the cadre did it, but there were enough spread out over the process to ensure the “correct” result.
Conventional ground forces were to be held back for any but the most banal military tasks: mop-up and guard duty. The new emphasis on using SOF for any decisive ground combat tasks is partly predicated on the Powell Doctrine fear of US casualties. Interestingly enough, in an article for the Spring 2003 Color Lines, Glen Ford, a veteran of the Vietnam era 82nd Airborne Division, showed how conventional combat arms units are now being systematically loaded up with southern whites and Latinos, and lowering Black participation. No reason to take any chances.
The secret fear is BPCSSD. Black post-combat social stress disorder. Not to be confused with PTSD, posttraumatic stress disorder.
Black troops who go to war, especially if they are required to fight become restive and uncooperative when they get home. They ask embarrassing questions, like, “where’s ours?” BPCSSD.
Let there be no doubt that the American white terror of Black rebellion still haunts the psyches of our pale ruling class. The U.S. Army has a disproportionate number of Black troops. Having too many of them crossing the psychological barrier against squeezing triggers on human targets can’t strike the Man as a very good idea
Vietnam taught the white U.S. ruling class a lot of lessons about the military conscript force of many oppressed nationalities and expose them to combat for colonial objectives, when their lives at home mirror the conditions against which their ostensible enemy is fighting.
Open and violent rebellion in the form of armed confrontations and fraggings by Black soldiers were common in Vietnam.
By 1973, as U.S. forces were well along in a phased withdrawal from Vietnam, the U.S. Armed Forces were dumping the draft.
They didn’t want citizen-soldiers any more. They wanted mercenaries. Do what you’re told and collect your check.
And now, with the immense expense of the new higher-tech War Department, whose cost will tear the frayed carpet from under the U.S. working class, with workers of oppressed nationalities hitting bottom first, they sure don’t want a bunch of Negroes with guns coming home with role conflicts.
They don’t need any BPCSSD. In Iraq today, against all Rumsfeld’s calculations, there are thousands of Black folk doing Uncle Sam’s wet work, even as Rumsfeld’s military is attempting to minimize their numbers in combat arms. As they are obliged to occupy Iraq, many come from communities that are occupied by the police at home. BPCSSD will be returning from Iraq, soon, at a station near you.
– Stan Goff, Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century (NY: Soft Skull, 2004)
Taken together, the foregoing should be unsettling in the extreme to any Black in Amerika with even a fraction of common sense. Let’s summarize what we have to consider.
- New Afrikans in Amerika have suffered and continue to suffer brutal political, economic, social and cultural oppression at the hands of the Establishment.
- The Establishment’s political police operate as the most direct violent oppressors of New Afrikans.
- Every genuine effort of New Afrikan leaders and common people to speak out against and challenge our oppressor, and to seek the most basic respect of our human rights and improvement of our political and economic conditions, has been met with official persecution, violence and murder. The Establishment then replaces out slain leaders with ones it deems ‘acceptable.’
- While the Establishment has wantonly murdered New Afrikans and our genuine leaders, it criminalizes and vilifies our efforts to defend our people and selves against its murderous violence.
- At the same time that the Establishment is stepping up its militaristic posture and preparedness against New Afrikan communities, it is decreasing the presence of Blacks in its military ground combat forces, excluding us from any operational training in the combat skills of its most elite ground combat forces, and nourishing the spread of anti-Black racist sentiment within its military combat rank and file.
- The role of mercenaries who harbor anti-Black sentiments is expected to see increased involvement in ‘control’ of urban unrest—the same sort of ‘unrest’ which is repeatedly provoked by police abuse and murder of Blacks.
- The Establishment’s police forces do not act in the interest of Black people, nor does it effect any positive changes in our communities in relation to “crime control” or “narcotics control,” nor social stability in general. The police operate instead as an occupying army in our communities and facilitate the spread of crime and dope to keep our communities divided and unstable and thus unable to unite and organize.
- The Establishment can and will manufacture false justifications for declaring open war (namely martial law) against New Afrikan communities, and setting loose mercenaries and soldiers who nurture desires to engage Blacks in a genocidal race war.
COINTELPRO is alive and well. The political police are as active as ever in repressing dissent and the liberation struggles of oppressed nationalities within Amerika. Puerto Rican independista leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios was assassinated on September 23, 2005 by FBI snipers, provoking outrage across Puerto Rico. Last year, FBI director, Robert Mueller, appeared before a senate subcommittee to announce the FBI’s “threat assessment” program; a modern COINTELPRO focusing on subverting the political education of U.S. prisoners, under the pretext of protecting Amerika from possible violent acts of radical prisoners returning to society. This is the very same FBI that targeted Martin Luther King, an avowed pacifist, with the claimed motive of preventing his potential violence. Our political leaders continue to be persecuted. Indeed one of the men charged on January 23, 2007 for alleged BLA actions against police, is our New Afrikan comrade and political prisoner Jalil Muntaqim (aka Anthony Bottom) who recently authored a book on New Afrikan liberation, We Are Our Own Liberators.
We must pay close heed to the words of comrade George Jackson, which are as vital to our survival today as when he first wrote them over 35 years ago:
[I]t should never be easy for them to destroy us. If you start with Malcolm X and count all of the brothers who have died or been captured since, you will find that not even one of them was really prepared for a fight. No imagination or fighting style was evident in any one of the incidents. But each one that died professed to know the nature of our enemies. It should never be easy for them. Do you understand what I’m saying? Edward V. Hanrahan, Illinois State Attorney General, sent fifteen pigs to raid the Panther headquarters and murder Hampton and Clark. Do you have any idea what would have happened to those fifteen pigs if they had run into as many Viet Cong as there were Panthers in that building. The VC are all little people with less general education than we have. The argument that they have been doing it longer has no validity at all, because they were doing it just as well when they started as they are now. It’s very contradictory for a man to teach about the murder in corporate capitalism, to isolate and expose the murderers behind it, to instruct that these madmen are completely without stops, are licentious, totally depraved—and then not to make adequate preparations to defend himself from the madman’s attack. Either they don’t really believe their own spiel or they harbor some sort of subconscious death wish.
Any questions why we need our own independent Community Security Forces and a New Afrikan National Guard? BPCSSD.
Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!