FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cops Are Now Less Cautious Than Soldiers In Iraq

by JONATHAN CARP

The shooting on Capitol Hill of Miriam Carey, an unarmed woman who refused police commands to stop her car, was a familiar situation for any veteran of the Iraq War, with one significant difference — rather than moving through a progressive escalation of force while attempting to defuse the situation, Capitol Hill police officers went straight for their firearms and shot to kill. Since returning from my service as an Army combat medic in Baghdad six years ago, I have watched American police become more aggressively violent than my fellow soldiers and I were ever trained to be.

Much of the Iraq War was about securing neighborhoods, and much of that work was done by soldiers manning checkpoints, like the checkpoints Carey drove through during the incident that led to her death.  Had this incident occurred in Baghdad and not Washington, D.C., the soldiers manning the checkpoint would have first drawn their weapons as the police officers did, but before firing at the driver would have fired into the ground in front of her and into her engine in an attempt to disable the car, as well as employing nonlethal munitions to smash through her windshield and lasers to temporarily blind her. Capitol Hill police did none of these things. After drawing their weapons, their first response to Carey’s refusal to cooperate was to open fire in a busy area of a major city. The video shows that they did not fire into the ground nor to disable her car, but clearly were aiming to kill Carey for disobeying their commands to exit her car. No nonlethal methods were attempted and nonlethal munitions, considered an essential piece of equipment for any checkpoint in Baghdad, may not have been available at these checkpoints in the US capital.

In Iraq in 2007, the year I spent in Baghdad, nine hundred Americans were killed along with 23,000 Iraqis per IraqBodyCount.com. By comparison, in that same year 75 American policemen died violently, despite American cops outnumbering American soldiers in Iraq by a factor of four. While of course the American invasion of Iraq caused far more death and destruction than anything American police have yet done, an examination of the policies set in place by military and police leadership respectively leads to troubling conclusions. While horrendous abuses were of course perpetrated on the Iraqi people, including not least the invasion itself,  police in the U.S. are regularly encouraged to behave far more aggressively toward American citizens than our officers directed us to behave toward Iraqis.

Stories of cops doing things soldiers are forbidden to do have become sadly common. In Iraq, we were instructed to spare animals as much as possible; police officers routinely gun down family pets. We were told to be as respectful as possible toward the occupants of the houses we searched and only employed “dynamic entry” when we were likely to face violent resistance; as Radley Balko has documented, dynamic entry and abuse of the inhabitants of searched homes have become routine for American police, even during investigations of nonviolent, victimless crimes. Soldiers manning our checkpoints were trained to use a range of nonlethal options before resorting to lethal force; as we saw on Capitol Hill yesterday, American police officers react first with deadly force.

Police militarization is a hot topic lately, especially in libertarian circles, but American police are beyond anything contemplated by the American military. While abuses certainly occurred in Iraq and elsewhere, our procedures as soldiers in a war zone were designed to avoid violence and protect the lives of the Iraqis, and we understood that that meant accepting some risk ourselves as soldiers. American police today appear unwilling to accept any risk whatsoever and seem willing to kill anyone and anything that could possibly be seen as a threat; according to the chief of the D.C. police, Cathy Lanier, these police officers “did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

While Lanier’s statement may be true in terms of police policy, we cannot accept those policies. Deadly force cannot be the first and last choice for dealing with any potential threat, and police officers must be trained to strive always to protect the lives of citizens, especially of suspects. Policing is a dangerous job, but as someone who has held another dangerous job, I must say that our American police need to understand and accept the risks they take when they accept the badge and understand that they are there to protect others before themselves.

Jonathan Carp is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a nurse. He lives in Tacoma, WA.

More articles by:

Jonathan Carp is a fellow at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He works as a nurse in Tacoma, WA.

January 17, 2018
Seiji Yamada
Prevention is the Only Solution: a Hiroshima Native’s View of Nuclear Weapons
Chris Welzenbach
Force of Evil: Abraham Polonsky and Anti-Capitalist Noir
Thomas Klikauer
The Business of Bullshit
Howard Lisnoff
The Atomized and Siloed U.S. Left
Martha Rosenberg
How Big Pharma Infiltrated the Boston Museum of Science
George Wuerthner
The Collaboration Trap
David Swanson
Removing Trump Will Require New Activists
Michael McKinley
Australia and the Wars of the Alliance: United States Strategy
Binoy Kampmark
Macron in China
Cesar Chelala
The Distractor-in-Chief
Ted Rall
Why Trump is Right About Newspaper Libel Laws
Mary Serumaga
Corruption in Uganda: Minister Sam Kutesa and Company May Yet Survive Their Latest Scandal
January 16, 2018
Mark Schuller
What is a “Shithole Country” and Why is Trump So Obsessed With Haiti?
Paul Street
Notes From a “Shithole” Superpower
Louisa Willcox
Keeper of the Flame for Wilderness: Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Sinister Plan to Kill the Iranian “Nukes” Deal
Franklin Lamb
Kafkaesque Impediments to Challenging Iran’s Theocracy
Norman Solomon
Why Senator Cardin is a Fitting Opponent for Chelsea Manning
Fred Gardner
GI Coffeehouses Recalled: a Compliment From General Westmoreland
Brian Terrell
Solidarity from Central Cellblock to Guantanamo
Don Fitz
Bondage Scandal: Looking Beneath the Surface
Rob Seimetz
#Resist Co-opting “Shithole”
Ted Rall
Trump Isn’t Unique
January 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Democrats and the End(s) of Politics
Paul Tritschler
Killing Floor: the Business of Animal Slaughter
Mike Garrity
In Targeting the Lynx, the Trump Administration Defies Facts, Law, and Science Once Again
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Hong Kong Politics: a Never-Ending Farce
Uri Avnery
Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)
Dave Lindorff
Yesterday’s ‘Shithole Countries’ Can Become Classy Places Donald, and Vice Versa
Jeff Mackler
Lesser Evil Politics in Alabama
Jonah Raskin
Typewriters Still Smoking? An Interview with Underground Press Maven John McMillan
Jose-Antonio Orosco
Trump’s Comments Recall a Racist Past in Immigration Policy
David Macaray
Everything Seems to Be Going South
Kathy Kelly
41 Hearts Beating in Guantanamo
Weekend Edition
January 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
George Burchett
Wormwood and a Shocking Secret of War: How Errol Morris Vindicated My Father, Wilfred Burchett
Roberto J. González
Starting Them Young: Is Facebook Hooking Children on Social Media?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Between the Null and the Void
Andrew Levine
Trump After Bannon: What Next?
John Davis
Mud-Slide
Ajamu Baraka
The Responsibility to Protect the World … from the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Stirs the Methane Monster
Paul Street
Lazy Liberals and “the Trump Effect”
Carmen Rodriguez
Trump’s Attack on Salvadoran Migrants
Mike Whitney
Oprah for President, Really?
Francisco Cabanillas
The Hurricane After Maria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail