Mad Dog Impunity: From Washington and Riyadh to Chicago

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This is an age of murderous, racist, and imperial impunity – and it isn’t just about the orange beast Donald Trump.

Look at the prolonged celebration of the dearly departed mad-dog mass killer and warmonger John McCain. For day after day last week, the man was hailed as a messianic clarion of peace and justice. One almost wondered if media who lovingly covered the McCain Festival were watching for a resurrection.

Who (except for the ex-Senator’s wild-eyed daughter Meghan) gave the longest funeral speech in honor of Jesus H. McCain as the lifeless killer’s death tour reached its sick imperial apotheosis in the [White] National[ist] Cathedral last Saturday?  It was Barack Obama, who once joked to a White House staffer that it “turns out I’m pretty good at killing people.”  Obama,the Drone King champion of targeted assassination.

The Bushes and Obamas sat next to each other at the (White-)National(ist) Cathedral (of American Imperial Exceptionalism). Wasn’t that sweet? The corporate media thought so.  It expected the masses to get all hopey-changey for a new era of bipartisan harmony when it reported that Dubya handed Michelle Obama a “piece of candy” during the funeral.

It turned out it was just a cough drop.  But Michelle and Bush43 were seen talking playfully at the McCain.  Perhaps this was their dialogue:

George: “You know, Michelle, I killed more people than your husband did.”

Michelle: “Yes George, that’s true, but Barack widened the geographic scope and the body count of the drone war. He blew up Libya. He really expanded the US military presence quite dramatically in Africa. He covered your ass on torture. You were just getting started on bailing out Wall Street. Barack really followed through on that. And he had you way beat on deporting immigrants and on prosecuting and imprisoning whistle-blowers. And don’t forget Honduras. And he did all this while pretending to be a liberal.  Now, that was impunity!”

There’s no limit to the moral impunity of the American imperial oligarchy, which the Obamas have entered at no small gain to their net worth. It’s been that way from the beginning and since long before the racist mogul Donald Trump shat himself into the White House with no small help from the “lying neoliberal warmonger”Hillary Clinton

At least Obama doesn’t have to worry about the racist white U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) coming after him with a bull-whip.  Isakson spoke about his dearly departed colleague McCain on the Senate floor last week. After strangely lauding McCain as one of the many military personnel who “saved us as a country” and “kept our freedom when we [were] about to lose it” (before the National Liberation Front took Los Angeles), Isakson said that “John was the best of our generation.  John was and is [resurrection?- P.S.]  a great man.…He gave everything for us…Anybody who in any way tarnishes the reputation of John McCain,” Isakson intoned, “deserves a whipping.”

A whipping?  How chillingly Antebellum that sounded, coming from the mouth of a right-wing Senator from the Deep South.

The authoritarian impunity of Isakson’s shameful statement was remarkable.

Impunity is everywhere now. The vicious, arch-reactionary, and U.S.-sponsored state of Saudi Arabia recently denied that there were children among the busload of Yemini children their military blew up (killing 40-plus kids) with U.S. weapons in northern Yemen earlier this summer.  So what if the evidence is clear as day that the Saudis murdered more than 40 Yemeni children on the bus full of Yemeni children the Saudis bombed?

Call it the cold impunity of flat denial, flat falsehood.

Trump didn’t know about the payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal before the 2016 elections.

He did a great job for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

Global warming is a Chinese hoax.

Trump really meant to say “wouldn’t,” not “would.’

Mexican immigrants are “rapists” and “murderers.”

Trump didn’t really lose the popular vote in 2016; illegal immigrant voter fraud stole it from him.

Obama was born in Kenya.

The Central Park Park Five We’re Guilty.

Trump is a man of peace.

Two plus two equals five.  Love is hate. Black is white.

The school-bus bombing was just a drop in the bucket of the many thousands of innocent Yemeni civilians the Saudis have butchered with U.S. logical military assistance and military hardware in the last few years.  These killings are part of a large campaign of criminal U.S.-sponsored campaign of siege warfare that has turned Yemen into a horrific humanitarian catastrophe.

Think it started with Trump’s grotesque embrace of the Saudi kingdom?  Think again.  The U.S. petro-imperialist embrace of the head-chopping Sunni Wahhabist Saudi Kingdom goes back to Franklin Roosevelt. Forty-Four kept that embrace very much alive.  President Barack “I’m Pretty Good at Killing People” Obama signed off on the crucifixion of Yemen. He did so with gross impunity, to the approval of monsters like his fellow McCain eulogist Henry Kissinger.

Shift your lens to Obama’s supposed “home town” Chicago. Jason Van-Dyke, the white Chicago cop who senselessly, criminally, and fatally shot the Black youth Laquan McDonald sixteen times — sixteen times — in October 2014 recently went to the Chicago Tribune on the eve of his absurdly delayed murder trial (which starts today) to say that he prays every day and is “extremely nervous,” about “the possibility of spending the rest of my life in prison for doing my job as I was trained as a Chicago police officer.” The Tribune gave a sympathetic hearing to this child-killer.

Van Dyke has somehow pleaded Not Guilty to a heinous and grotesque crime that is readily view-able online. Watch the tape.  You can see Laquan walking away from his murderer. You can see Laquan’s prone body lying on the ground, jolted again and again as the crazed, mad-dog killer Van Dyke pumps one more bullet after another into the murdered 17-year old. You can see smoke rising out of Laquan’s dying body as Van Dyke blasts one more slug after another into his victim.

It was despicable how long it took for the tape of the McDonald killing to go public. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and States Attorney Anita Alvarez tried to cover up the crime, but the people confronted impunity and forced the dashcam video-recording (a smoking gun if ever there was one) into the open and demanded that Van Dyke be tried.

The Tribune has tried to help Van Dyke’s lawyer pollute the jury pool prior to jury selection by printing his prattling about how (in the murderer’s words) “Any loss of life was extremely difficult…You don’t ever want to shoot your gun. It doesn’t matter if it’s to put down a stray animal or something like that. Nobody wants to shoot their gun,” Van Dyke told the Tribune.“I never would have fired my gun if I didn’t think my life was in jeopardy or another citizen’s life was.”

Watch the tape and reflect on the sheer impunity of that statement – and on the racist impunity of the Tribune helping this killer cop try to contaminate the jury pool.

The corporatist and imperialist Zionist Rahm Emmanuel was Obama’s first White House chief-of-staff. He played that role with brazen impunity, berating and threatening liberals and progressives who foolishly wanted Obama’s neoliberal, white-pleasing presidency to tilt ever so slightly portside.

As Chicago’s new mayor, Rhambo hosted a conference of the U.S.-led Western military alliance – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – in May of 2012.  He turned the city’s downtown into a monument to the Orwellian impunity of the modern corporate and military police state as thousands of peace activists prepared to march against the provocative gathering of imperial warmakers. I was impressed by the chilling overkill of the giant high-tech and multi-jurisdictional and private-public partnership of repressive force on display, replete with Long Range Acoustic Devices set to split the ear drums of marchers who got too carried away with “free speech” and public assembly.

I watched a moving ceremony at the Near South Side intersection of State and Cermak Streets. Dozens of U.S. military veterans gave brief speeches about war crimes they’d witnessed and been ordered to commit. The ex-soldiers threw their military medals away in the direction of the McCormick Place Convention Center, where NATO met.

One of the many hundreds of Chicago riot police assembled to intimidate and scatter the crowd pointed his baton at me and made a baseball swing with it. He lifted his visor and revealed the smiling face of a white-ethnic guy I used to play baseball with from Chicago’s Southeast Side (the notorious former racist Chicago Alderman Eddie Vrdolyak’s neighborhood). The last time I’d seen him he’d been a small-businessmen with a new career dream.  He wanted, he said with sheer racist impunity, “to become a Chicago police officer” and “to lock-up niggers.”  The uniform he wore showed that he’d gotten his wish.

Think that cop doesn’t enjoy watching the Laquan McDonald death video and isn’t rooting for Van Dyke’s exoneration?  God knows how many white Amerikaners back the right of police to gun down Black youths with sheer impunity.

It should be noted that Jason Van Dyke is telling more truth than Chicago authorities want to admit when he says he was “doing [is] job as [he] was trained as a Chicago police officer.” Sparked by the Van Dyke-McDonald incident, one of very many “officer-involved shootings” resulting in the death of a young Black person in Chicago during this and the previous centuries, the U.S. Justice Department conducted and released in Obama’s final days last year its Investigation of the Chicago Police Department.  The Obama-Eric Holder DOJ reported as follows:

“Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers engage in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, that is unreasonable…[and] in violation of the Constitution, [and reflecting]… a collection of poor police practices…used routinely within CPD. …Officers engage in tactically unsound and unnecessary foot pursuits, …these foot pursuits too often end with officers unreasonably shooting someone—including unarmed individuals. …Officers shoot at vehicles without justification and in contradiction to CPD policy. …Officers exhibit poor discipline when discharging their weaponsand engage in tactics that endanger themselves and public safety, including failing to await backup when they safely could and should; using unsound tactics in approaching vehicles; and using their own vehicles in a manner that is dangerous. Among the most egregious uses of deadly force we reviewed were incidents in which CPD officers shot at suspects who presented no immediate threat. …CPD us[ed] less-lethal force, often Tasers, including in drive-stun mode, against people who posed no threat, and us[e] unreasonable retaliatory force and unreasonable force against children. … CPD officers use force against people in mental health crisis where force might have been avoided. …CPD does not investigate or review these force incidents to determine whether its responses to these events were appropriate or lawful, or whether force could have been avoided.”

The “post-racial” Obama-Eric Holder Justice Department didn’t particularly want to highlight the role of race in this police impunity.  But the DOJ found it difficult to completely avoid the color question since, as they reported:

“CPD’s pattern or practice of unreasonable force and systemic deficiencies fall heaviest on the predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods on the South and West Sides of Chicago, which are also experiencing higher crime. Raw statistics show that CPD uses force almost ten times more often against blacks than against whites. As a result, residents in black neighborhoods suffer more of the harms caused by breakdowns in uses of force, training, supervision, accountability, and community policing.”

“Suffer more” is certainly an understatement. And the notion of a white teenager being shot sixteen times by a Chicago police officer is completely unimaginable.

Impunity starts at home. If you want to see the rebellions it can inspire, keep an eye on Chicago when and if this criminal justice system exonerates Jason Van Dyke

*A longer version of this essay was previously published atBlack Agenda Report.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).