When the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems begin to look like nails. This year alone, the U.S. government will spend roughly $740 billion on its military, though the real figure when you add in all costs exceeds a trillion dollars. With so much “invested,” as the Pentagon likes to say, in that military, there’s a strong tendency to see it as the solution to the most stubborn problems. All problems become nails either to be whacked down or pulled out and discarded depending upon which end of the military hammer our rulers choose to employ.
Americans are used to “our” military being used to hammer home American exceptionalism in faraway, foreign places. But what about when that hammer is deployed to Main Street USA to hammer peaceful protesters into line? Or, alternatively, to pull them out of the streets and into the jails? That hammer doesn’t seem to be such a solid “investment,” does it?
It appears the Trump administration has now backed away from plans to commit regular federal troops to “dominate” protesters. Opposition from retired generals and admirals like James Mattis, John Allen, and Mike Mullen may have helped. But if and when protests become more widespread or embarrassing to Trump personally, don’t be surprised if the “bunker boy” calls again for troops to be committed, the U.S. Constitution be damned. After all, he’s described peaceful protesters led by clergy in Washington, D.C. as “terrorists,” and we should all know by now what a “war on terror” looks like, led by generals like that same James Mattis.
Remember when a militarized hammer was a symbol of that Evil Empire, the Soviet Union? Remember when violent suppression of peaceful protests was something “they” did, you know, the bad commies, in places like Hungary and Czechoslovakia? As Paul Krugman has noted, today much of the GOP would cheer on Trump if he launched a military coup in the name of “law and order.”
Echoing this, one white American from Michigan told a reporter he “applauds” Trump’s crackdown and “fully supports” Trump if he orders federal troops into American streets to suppress protests. In the same story from the Guardian, reporting from the white suburb of St Clair Shores, many residents “share the president’s world view that the police and national guard are heroically battling violent agitators, not brutally suppressing largely peaceful protesters.”
The story noted that “Several men who were part of a construction crew called the protests ‘stupid’ and a ‘waste of time and energy.’ Some even suggested Floyd was at fault for his death because he allegedly committed a crime, despite general worldwide outrage at the brutal manner of his killing and the criminal charges it has now brought against the officers involved.”
So, you have Americans who support the brutal murder of George Floyd, with the police acting as judge, jury, and executioner, simply because Floyd allegedly passed a counterfeit bill. They even support a military crackdown, again in the name of “law and order.”
Who’s the evil empire now, America?