Seven Magazine: Stop Mass Incarceration & Endless War

Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses the Sergeants Benevolent Association of New York City at an event Friday, May 12, in Washington, D.C. During his speech, Sessions said federal prosecutors “deserve to be unhandcuffed and not micromanaged from Washington.” Win McNamee/Getty Images

Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” — a move that marks a significant reversal of Obama-era policies on low-level drug crimes.
The two-page memo, which was publicly released Friday, May 12th, lays out a policy of strict enforcement that rolls back the comparatively lenient stance established by Eric Holder, one of Sessions’ predecessors under President Barack Obama.
“This is a disastrous move that will increase the prison population, exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and do nothing to reduce drug use or increase public safety,” Michael Collins, deputy director at the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement emailed to NPR. “Sessions is taking the country back to the 1980s by escalating the failed policies of the drug war.”
The memo also drew a long, scathing rebuke from Holder himself.
“The policy announced today is not tough on crime. It is dumb on crime,” he said in a statement. “It is an ideologically motivated, cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety.”
Ask, and it will be given to you;
Seek, and you will find;
Knock, and it will be opened to you.
~ Matthew 7:7

Click the image above or below for
A rough draft of Seven Magazine.


Endless War
As a candidate, President Donald Trump was deeply misleading about the sorts of military operations that he would support. He claimed to have opposed the 2003 Iraq War when he actually backed it, and to have opposed the 2011 Libya intervention when he actually strongly endorsed it, including with U.S. ground troops. Yet, Trump and his loyalists consistently implied that he would be less supportive of costly and bloody foreign wars, especially when compared to President Obama, and by extension, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This might be true, but nonetheless the White House is considering deploying even more U.S. troops to Syria, loosening the rules of engagement for airstrikes, and increasing the amount of lethal assistance provided to Syrian rebel groups.

Women walk past a graffiti, denouncing strikes by U.S. drones in Yemen, painted on a wall in Sanaa, Yemen February 6, 2017 (Reuters/Khaled Abdullah).

By at least one measure at this point in his presidency, Trump has been more interventionist than Obama: in authorizing drone strikes and special operations raids in non-battlefield settings (namely, in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia). During President Obama’s two terms in office, he approved 542 such targeted strikes in 2,920 days—one every 5.4 days. From his inauguration through today, President Trump had approved at least 75 drone strikes or raids in 74 days—about one every day. These include three drone strikes in Yemen on January 20, 21, and 22; the January 28 Navy SEAL raid in Yemen; more than seventy strikes in Yemen since February 28; and one reported strike in Pakistan on March 1.
Thus, people who believed that Trump would be less interventionist than Obama are wrong, at least so far and at least when it comes to drone strikes. These dramatically increased lethal strikes demonstrate that U.S. leaders’ counterterrorism mindset and policies are bipartisan and transcend presidential administrations. As I have noted, U.S. counterterrorism ideology is virulent and extremist, characterized by tough-sounding clichés and wholly implausible objectives. There has never been any serious indication among elected politicians or appointed national security officials of any strategic learning or policy adjustments. We are now on our third post-9/11 administration pursuing many of the same policies that have failed to meaningfully reduce the number of jihadist extremist fighters, or their attractiveness among potential recruits or self-directed terrorists. The Global War on Terrorism remains broadly unquestioned within Washington, no matter who is in the White House.

malesinc

Across the U. S., an astonishing number of Black men have spent some time in prison, yet corporate crime inflicts far more damage on society than all street crime combined.

Ed Burns

It’s not a war on drugs. Don’t ever think it’s a war on drugs. It’s a war on the Blacks. It started as a war on the Blacks, it’s now spread to Hispanics and poor Whites. But initially it was a war on Blacks. And it was designed basically to take that energy that was coming out of the Civil Rights Movement and destroy it.
~ Ed Burns
Co-creator of “The Wire”

HSBC

According to an article by Avinash Tharoor, Bank of America, Western Union, and JP Morgan, are among the institutions allegedly involved in the drug trade. Meanwhile, HSBC has admitted its laundering role, and evaded criminal prosecution by paying a fine of almost $2 billion. The lack of imprisonment of any bankers involved is indicative of the hypocritical nature of the drug war; an individual selling a few grams of drugs can face decades in prison, while a group of people that tacitly allow — and profit from — the trade of tons, escape incarceration.
According to the Corporate Crime Reporter:
Corporate crime inflicts far more damage on society than all street crime combined.Whether in bodies or injuries or dollars lost, corporate crime and violence wins by a landslide.
The FBI estimates, for example, that burglary and robbery – street crimes – costs the nation $3.8 billion a year.
The losses from a handful of major corporate frauds – Tyco, Adelphia, Worldcom, Enron – swamp the losses from all street robberies and burglaries combined.
Health care fraud alone costs Americans $100 billion to $400 billion a year.
The savings and loan fraud – which former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called “the biggest white collar swindle in history” – cost us anywhere from $300 billion to $500 billion.
David Simon

David Simon, co-creator of HBO’s “The Wire”

The factories are not going to be here anymore. We don’t need these people so the least we can do is hunt them. And when we hurt them we at least provide jobs for cops, DEA agents, lawyers and prison guards.
~ David Simon
Co-creator of HBO’s The Wire
The Law Needs Legitimacy

Killed by police

Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath:
[L]egitimacy is based on three things. First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to fell like they have a voice—that if they speak up, they will be heard. Second, the law has to be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same rules today. And third, the authority has to be fair. It can’t treat one group differently from another….
[W]hen the law is applied in the absence of legitimacy, it does not produce obedience. It produces the opposite. It leads to backlash.
A man walks past a burning police vehicle

A man walks past a burning police vehicle in Baltimore. Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

“The stories in the news today reminded me of the sentiments of almost fifty years ago when many young Black people felt that policing for them was unfair.”

New York Times op-doc:
“It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Nick Mosby, a member of the Baltimore City Council:
This is bigger than Freddie Gray. This is about the social economics of poor urban America. These young guys are frustrated, they’re upset and unfortunately they’re displaying it in a very destructive manner. When folks are undereducated, unfortunately they don’t have the same intellectual voice to express it the way other people do, and that’s what we see through the violence today.

As stated by Councilmember Mosby, the problems are lack of education and lack of opportunities.
In addition to the law needing legitimacy in domestic policies, the law also needs legitimacy in foreign policy. Politicians spent a great deal of time talking about ISIS, ISIL, or the Islamic State – a group that, so far, has not attacked the United States nor shown any signs of attacking the United States.
The War on Terror has become a business model.
According to a NPR report:
FBI Director James Comey said… that there is still no evidence that the San Bernardino, Calif., shooters had any contact with a foreign terrorist group like ISIS.
Yet, in reaction to the shootings talk tough about the Islamic State. Trump regularly promised to “bomb the sh–” out of the Islamic State also to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.  Cruz promised to bomb the Islamic State “into oblivion.”
Such talk exposes the hypocrisy and insincerity of America’s declaration of war on “radical Islam.” One of America’s closest allies is Saudi Arabia. The State Department has recently approved a $1.29 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia. Yet, Saudi Arabia is the country most responsible for the rise of radical Islam, and the largest benefactor to Islamic terrorist organizations. On September 11, 2001, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis. Mike Lofgren, who spent 20 years as a high-level staffer for various Republican senators, explains that “Saudi’s deep complicity in terrorism gets a nevermind from the State” because of its production of fossil fuels, but also because of its purchase of U.S. Treasuries and weapons.
In addition, Mike Lofgren writes how the war on terror has become a business model:
[James Risen’s Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War] has a simple and arresting thesis: the longest war in America’s history is pure nirvana for the greedy and unscrupulous. Whatever the architects of the war on terrorism thought they were doing, the Iraq War’s purpose rapidly evolved within the iron cage of the Washington public-private ecology into a rent-seeking opportunity for contractors and bureaucratic empire building for government employees. Its real, as opposed to ostensible, purpose seems to be endless, low-level war.
On the third day of his presidency, Barack Obama ordered his first drone strike on 23 January 2009, the inauguration of a counter-terrorism tactic likely to define Obama’s presidency in much of the Muslim world. Reportedly, the strikes did not hit the Taliban target Obama and the Central Intelligence Agency sought. Instead, they changed Faheem Qureshi’s life irrevocably.
Faheem Qureshi

Faheem Qureshi, who suffered serious injuries, including the loss of an eye, in the first drone strike ordered by President Obama. Photograph: Madiha Tahir

Two of Qureshi’s uncles, Mohammed Khalil and Mansoor Rehman, were killed. So was his 21-year-old cousin Aizazur Rehman Qureshi. It took nearly 40 days for Qureshi to emerge from a series of hospitals, all of which he spent in darkness. Shrapnel had punctured his stomach. Lacerations covered much of his upper body. Doctors operated on the entire left side of his body, which had sustained burns, and used laser surgery to repair his right eye. They could not save his left.
All Qureshi knows about Obama, he told the Guardian from Islamabad, “is what he has done to me and the people in Waziristan, and that is an act of tyranny. If there is a list of tyrants in the world, to me, Obama will be put on that list by his drone program.”
We can bomb the world to pieces, but we can’t bomb it into peace. ~ Michael Franti

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