Domestic War Criminals: A People’s Court

Criminal behavior, when legitimated by the State, introduces a new legal category, a variant of the time-honored crime of treason to one’s own country, properly, a crime against humanity, turned inward, fully sanctioned by Constitution, law, and custom. Michigan has declared war on Flint, a take-no-prisoners reign of terror all perfectly NORMAL, and hence, until now, difficult to detect and/or oppose. As with practically all crimes committed under the name of law and order, the victim becomes the culprit, the perpetrator, the well-meaning administrator guilty of at most poor judgment while presumably addressing more pressing issues. That is where we’re at, in 2016, although actually long in the making, in state and nation alike. This whole area of judicial determination is, of course, off-limits and non-existent, and hence continues in the name of law-and-order, stability, even progress.

Michigan is no worse than America, Governor Snyder merely a replica in miniature of President Obama; one presides over the killing of individuals on a global basis, the other, a local basis—done with the detachment and coldness of an Eichmann, a necessary reserve for conveying the idea of respectability wrapped in the cloak of office and the expected deference of a citizen base. Whether murdering children through official acts by means of drone assassination, or by means of poisoned water the outcome of decisions in place to serve a particular agenda, it does not matter, for the result is the same: infanticide, usually extended to cover collateral damage as well, a civilian population at the mercy of authoritative force. Flint is a useful illustration of the transmission of totalitarianism downward, the atmosphere of criminality at the highest levels making possible, thinkable, executable, drawing inspiration from the creative fount of lawful lawlessness, behavioral patterns otherwise unacceptable in a society governed by democratic norms.

We look to Burns, Oregon as an example of insurrection, when the real insurrection on a far wider scale is committed by government itself (revolt against a civil authority or established government, therefore America a revolt against itself, a festering self-destructiveness founded on destruction of others, the weak, the poor, the marginalized, whether at home or abroad) in Flint, as chapter one in the concerted attack on working people and racial minorities, often the same. Flint did not have to happen, and that it has happened compels a need to know and suitable punishment. But how punish Barack Obama for promoting war, intervention, regime change, in addition, CIA and paramilitary forces at the ready, for opportunities the US seeks or creates along these lines (military bases in, at one count, 147 countries, a military budget snuffing out the chances of a decent, viable, social safety net), when this record represents the history, expectations, again, normality, of citizens and government alike? And how punish Rick Snyder for promoting class war, racial division, deepening impoverishment, in addition, lifetime human deprivation as children grow to adulthood with diminished IQs, physical defects, disease and illness still uncalculated given the monstrous consequences of lead poisoning, when this record also is internally standard operating procedure for the ghettoized industrial and racial communities in America? Affluent versus immiserated, the social-structural-ideological battle continues, America a growing wasteland of class rule, deep currents of ethnocentrism and xenophobia, a political system, Michigan a carbon copy of the nation, in which the cards are so stacked against those deemed of secondary human worth, that we can expect more Flints, just as we’ve come to expect more Vietnams and Iraqs, the Garrison State under siege, believed to be threatened by sinister forces within and without, hell-bent on desecrating the pecking order of values—global hegemony, domestic supremacy of wealth and race—which have served for centuries as designating America’s greatness.

No, war crimes are unpunishable when the force lies largely on one side. To see Flint as a case study of genocide, as I recently suggested in CounterPunch, will find little acceptance in the US, even among Flint’s own people, who, still in a state of shock, cannot believe they have been so misused by their own state government, the emergency manager system devised exactly, in the name of fiscal responsibility, to subjugate-humiliate-renew dependence of a social base already punished, and therefor an easy prey, to manufacturing abandonment, crumbling infrastructure, starved educational and social-service needs. The veil, now torn away from Flint, reveals what is in the making throughout the country: government at every level deceiving its own people, to be docile in the face of national wealth concentration, corporate inversion (the flight abroad to realize favorable tax-domiciles), further mergers and acquisitions to solidify capitalism’s power and wealth in defining the political process, the condition of labor rights, and treatment of the environment, and docile as well, at home, where the state, trespassing on local government, abandons all pretense at safeguarding the people’s health, favoring instead vested interests which enrich themselves at the expense of a degraded citizenry.

In light of the foregoing, I have an admittedly weak response—for now, to wit, the setting up of people’s courts throughout the state, to try Governor Snyder in absentia, since recall and impeachment are unlikely, and in these proceedings make clear the criminal and illicit conduct of state and business leaders alike in bringing the community of Flint to its knees. Let the ax fall on both political parties alike (similar to a Truth and Reconciliation proceeding in countries that have escaped from or overthrown dictatorial regimes), exposing the wounds which come from consistent favoritism to business over the needs of the people: Flint the capitalist fate awaiting us all. This may not be Auschwitz, but let the world know that America and Michigan show a real contempt for their own children, destining them for early and agonizing death, where fiscal responsibility is at issue, and, added incentive, driving home discrimination and making of the discriminated object lessons in knowing their place. Today, blacks and the poor, tomorrow … who knows whom is next? Flint is capable of establishing a chain-reaction. What can be done there, can be done in any community where the needs of capital and of the people conflict.

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Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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