Everyone remembers that Abu Ghraib business back in 2003 – at that prison we ran in Iraq, to house the bad guys. We had been abusing those bad guys, and those doing the abusing had taken lots of pictures, because they thought it was cool. There was the iconic shot of the guy in the hood standing on a box, about to get a massive electrical shock perhaps to his private parts, and the shot of our pretty young Army lass leading a naked prisoner around on a leash, like a dog. That was just a hint at what was really going on. There were many thousands of those pictures, many of which are still being withheld, and revelation after revelation of other physical and sexual abuse, and all sorts of torture – Americans are inventive, if nothing else – and rape, and sodomy, and what seemed to be murder. Our folks had done all this.
George W. Bush was in a tight spot. All that stuff about spreading democracy, which was a fine thing, because we were the good guys in this world, there to bring sweetness and light when before there was only darkness, now seemed a joke. The Muslim world turned against us, or the few that were willing to cut us some slack, because we did want to make things better, turned on us. The rest of the world did too, even Tony Blair. Something had to be done, so Bush told the world none of this had anything at all to do with our official polices – those torture memos came to light years later – and these were isolated incidents, the work of a few “bad apples” – and they would be punished.
They were. Seventeen soldiers and officers were removed from duty, and eleven low-level soldiers were charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery. Over the next three years these folks were convicted in courts-martial and sent to military prison for a bit and then dishonorably discharged. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the commanding officer of all detention facilities in Iraq, was reprimanded and busted down to Colonel – and that was that. Bush would not look into who might have authorized this stuff in the first place, for obvious reasons. He had. Cheney had. Rumsfeld had. The same sort of thing was going on in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. There was a documented policy for much of this, supported by secret legal findings from some very odd people, but back then, no one knew about any of that. George W. Bush had contained the mess.
Then the nation turned on Bush for throwing our soldiers under the bus. These weren’t “bad apples” – these were heroes, doing a tough job in the toughest of places, where everyone hated them, and where many were likely to kill them. Sure, maybe they went a bit too far, once or twice, but that was understandable. But consider the circumstances, and what we were asking them to do. We were asking them to bring peace and stability to a chaotic situation. That’s not easy. Often, that’s not pretty. Some will die, but such things happen. It’s the same as with white cops in the black inner city – they were there to protect and serve. They were the good guys, and George Bush had betrayed them. Every conservative voice in the country was raised in anger, joined by anyone who actually supported our troops, and Bush was hounded from office. He didn’t dare run for a second term. He had betrayed our troops. He secretly flew back to Texas, to live in shame.
No, wait – that didn’t happen. Even conservatives, and those who supported our troops even if they thought all conservatives were fools, at best, were appalled by the pictures, and then by the supporting narratives. All of this had happened. There were bad apples. We had to admit that, and do something about it. That wasn’t who we are. We’re better than that. The voices who argued that what had happened at Abu Ghraib was right and proper, and that no one should be punished, because we don’t punish our heroes, were drowned out. Only Dick Cheney still says such things – probably because he’d like to stay out of jail. There are certain things you just don’t do, no matter how pure your motives and how tough the job is.
It’s the same with white cops in the black inner city. You don’t shoot unarmed black kids dead. There are other ways to handle the guy who scares you. You don’t choke a guy selling untaxed single cigarettes to death, because… well, because something. You don’t jump out of your police cruiser and immediately shoot and kill a twelve-year-old kid carrying a toy gun, in two seconds flat – no questions asked. A grand jury may find that you’re doing a tough job in the toughest of places and cut you some slack – the Cheney argument – and refuse to indict you for anything at all, but there are some things you just don’t do. The police killing unarmed civilians, fairly often now, and almost always black kids, explains why we’re seeing spontaneous protests nationwide, protests that only grow.
Those protests probably aren’t going to subside, and this sort of thing had to happen:
A gunman who announced online that he was planning to shoot two ”pigs” in retaliation for the police chokehold death of Eric Garner ambushed two officers in a patrol car and shot them to death in broad daylight Saturday before running to a subway station and killing himself, authorities said.
The suspect, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, wrote on an Instagram account: ”I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs,” officials said. …
Police said he approached the passenger window of a marked police car and opened fire, striking Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in the head. The New York Police Department officers were on special patrol doing crime reduction work in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.
”They were, quite simply, assassinated – targeted for their uniform,” said Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who looked pale and shaken at a hospital news conference.
This was the resolution:
Brinsley took off running as officers pursued him down to a nearby subway station, where he shot himself in the head. A silver handgun was recovered at the scene, Bratton said.
”This may be my final post,” Brinsley wrote in the Instagram post that included an image of a silver handgun. The post had more than 200 likes.
This guy lost it, but he seemed to be angry that the police lost it:
The shootings come at a tense time; Police in New York and nationwide are being criticized for their tactics, following the July death of Garner, who was stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Amateur video captured an officer wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck and wrestling him to the ground. Garner was heard gasping, ”I can’t breathe” before he lost consciousness and later died.
Demonstrators around the country have staged die-ins and other protests since a grand jury decided Dec. 3 not to indict the officer in Garner’s death, a decision that closely followed a Missouri grand jury’s refusal to indict a white officer in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old. Bratton said they were investigating whether the suspect had attended any rallies or demonstrations.
If so, he got it wrong – Brinsley was black and these police officers were Asian and Hispanic – but, well, they were cops. After that Abu Ghraib business back in 2003, the locals started blowing up more and more of our armored vehicles, full of guys who had nothing to do with Abu Ghraib. It’s the same sort of thing, and that’s not exactly fair to the “heroes” on the front lines, doing a tough job in the toughest of places – and once again, the argument that there are no bad apples has returned:
Former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly placed the blame on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for fanning the flames of antipolice anger during the protests earlier this month.
“I think when the mayor made statements about that he had to train his son – who is biracial – to be careful when he’s dealing with the police, I think that set off this latest firestorm,” Kelly said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” “And quite frankly, the mayor ran an antipolice campaign last year when he ran for mayor.”
You don’t warn your black-looking kid about the police getting a bit too enthusiastic. You support the troops, without question, or you don’t, and if you don’t, you should be ashamed.
Or you can have it both ways:
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said de Blasio had “undercut his cops” with his comments, but did not blame the mayor. “I blame the shooter and nobody else,” Graham said.
Or you can have it the other way:
NAACP president Cornell Brooks said it’s not fair to blame de Blasio or U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who launched federal investigations into the deaths of Garner and Michael Brown after local grand juries failed to indict the police officers involved those killings.
“We have a violence problem,” Brooks said.
New York Rep. Gregory Meeks also dismissed criticism of the mayor and attorney general.
“They’ve been trying all along to bring the city together,” Meeks said. “This heinous act is, as the mayor said, it tears away at the fabric of our society. And so we stand with the police department…. I think that the tone that the mayor is trying to set is a tone that brings people together.”
And there is the mayor:
At a press conference Saturday night at the hospital where the officers were pronounced dead, de Blasio strongly condemned the slayings.
“When a police officer is murdered, it tears at the foundation of our society,” the mayor said. “It is an attack on all of us. It’s an attack on everything we hold dear. We depend on our police to protect us against forces of criminality and evil. They are a foundation of our society, and when they are attacked, it is an attack on the very concept of decency.”
But he should be ashamed:
At a separate press conference, Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, blasted the mayor.
“There is blood on many hands, from those that incited violence under the guise of protest to try to tear down what police officers do every day,” Lynch said.” That blood on the hands starts at the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.”
And there was this argument that we had a bad apple here:
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he understands the law enforcement community’s criticism of the mayor.
“But this is not about one voice,” Adams said. “This is about the voice of the entire city crying out for unity, crying out saying, ‘How do we come together and deal with real issues in policing, and at the same time protect our officers?'”
“Those who were calling for police reform were not calling for police retribution,” he added. “They were not calling for harm to police. And we cannot allow someone to get in the way of moving towards police reform.”
Ismaaiyl Brinsley was, you see, a bad apple, a very bad apple, but the former mayor, Rudy Giuliani, is having none of that crap:
“We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everybody should hate the police,” Giuliani said during an appearance on Fox News on Sunday. “The protests are being embraced, the protests are being encouraged. The protests, even the ones that don’t lead to violence, a lot of them lead to violence, and all of them lead to a conclusion. The police are bad, the police are racist. That is completely wrong.” …
The former mayor also criticized President Barack Obama, Holder, and Al Sharpton for addressing the underlining racial tensions behind the failure to indict the white police officers who killed [Eric Garner on Staten Island] and Mike Brown in Ferguson. “They have created an atmosphere of severe, strong, anti-police hatred in certain communities. For that, they should be ashamed of themselves,” he said.
This, then, is about authority. Rudy Giuliani was simply speaking up for and defending authoritarian freedom, the freedom of those in authority to do what they think best, no questions asked, because they’re the good guys who keep us safe, even if much of what they do seems immoral and criminal, or just gleefully cruel. Those who question that create an atmosphere of severe and strong hatred of authority. Then all is lost, and they will be to blame when it is. People will die.
Kevin Drum turns that around:
Fair enough. But I assume this means we can blame Bill O’Reilly for his 28 episodes of invective against “Tiller the Baby Killer” that eventually ended in the murder of Wichita abortion provider George Tiller by anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder. We can blame conservative talk radio for fueling the anti-government hysteria that led Timothy McVeigh to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City. We can blame the relentless xenophobia of Fox News for the bombing of an Islamic Center in Joplin or the massacre of Sikh worshippers by a white supremacist in Wisconsin. We can blame the NRA for the mass shootings in Newtown and Aurora. We can blame Republicans for stoking the anti-IRS paranoia that prompted Andrew Joseph Stack to crash a private plane into an IRS building in Austin, killing two people. We can blame the Christian Right for the anti-gay paranoia that led the Westboro Baptist Church to picket the funeral of Matthew Snyder, a US Marine killed in Iraq, with signs that carried their signature “God Hates Fags” slogan. We can blame Sean Hannity for his repeated support of Cliven Bundy’s “range war” against the BLM, which eventually motivated Jerad and Amanda Miller to kill five people in Las Vegas after participating in the Bundy standoff and declaring, “If they’re going to come bring violence to us, well, if that’s the language they want to speak, we’ll learn it.”
And, of course, we can blame Rudy Giuliani and the entire conservative movement for their virtually unanimous indifference to the state-sanctioned police killings of black suspects over minor offenses in Ferguson and Staten Island, which apparently motivated the murder of the New York police officers on Saturday.
In short, we can blame conservatives for all the killing for which they are responsible:
Or wait. Maybe we can’t do any of those things. Maybe lots of people support lots of things, and we can’t twist that generalized support into blame for maniacs who decide to take up arms for their own demented reasons. Maybe that’s a better idea after all.
Maybe it is a better idea, which the president seems to think:
President Obama called for “patient dialogue” in a statement Saturday night “unconditionally” condemning the shooting deaths of two New York City police officers.
“Two brave men won’t be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification,” the president, vacationing in Hawaii, said in a statement. “The officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day – and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day.”
Obama went on to ask for a rejection of “violence and words that harm,” and said people should instead “turn to words that heal – prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen.”
His critics will say he wants it both ways – you respect authority or you don’t – but there’s Attorney General Eric Holder:
I condemn this afternoon’s senseless shooting of two New York City police officers in the strongest possible terms.
This was an unspeakable act of barbarism, and I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of these two brave officers in the line of duty.
On behalf of all those who serve in the United States Department of Justice, I want to express my heartfelt condolences to the officers’ loved ones and colleagues. I will make available all of the resources of the Department to aid the NYPD in investigating this tragedy.
This cowardly attack underscores the dangers that are routinely faced by those who protect and serve their fellow citizens. As a nation we must not forget this as we discuss the events of the recent past. These courageous men and women routinely incur tremendous personal risks, and place their lives on the line each and every day, in order to preserve public safety. We are forever in their debt.
Our nation must always honor the valor – and the sacrifices – of all law enforcement officers with a steadfast commitment to keeping them safe. This means forging closer bonds between officers and the communities they serve, so that public safety is not a cause that is served by a courageous few, but a promise that’s fulfilled by police officials and citizens working side by side.
His critics will say it’s too late for that. His critics will point out that he’s already said his Department of Justice will look into the Ferguson and Staten Island incidents, probably because he’s black, like Obama. He’s already betrayed the cops. You respect authority or you don’t, and then there’s the woman that Obama nominated to follow him as our next Attorney General. That would be the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Loretta Lynch:
I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of this afternoon’s brutal and senseless attack on two NYPD Officers, and I join Attorney General Holder in expressing my deepest condolences to the families of these fallen heroes…
Today’s assailant struck at the heart of our city – the dedicated officers who pledge their lives to safeguard us all. Today, two have fallen, in a stark reminder of the challenges and risks that our law enforcement officers face every day, both in New York City and throughout our nation.
Let us take this time to grieve with their families, and join the NYPD and all New Yorkers in honoring them for their sacrifice.
She’s black too. She doesn’t mean a word of it, and the blogger Maha responds:
Bernie Kerik – you do remember Bernie Kerik – stepped up and said that Mayor de Blasio and Al Sharpton have “blood on their hands.” …
I am seriously tired of the way conservatives – or the Right, or whatever they want to call themselves – steadfastly refuse to take responsibility for anything, just as I fear the NYPD is not going to reform until it can honestly appreciate that there are legitimate reasons people are angry with them. And just once I’d like to see Bernie Kerik and Rudy Giuliani own up to their own role in creating a dysfunctional and violent NYPD. Yes, maybe we’re all at fault here, to some extent. Apparently many are blaming Mayor de Blasio because he met with protesters. They wanted him to ignore protesters? And the heads of the NYPD should have been meeting with them too, for that matter, instead of acting like spoiled children whining that people are either for them or against them.
And how much any of this really has to do with the murders of Ramos and Liu possibly will never be known, since the perp is dead.
There is that, but someone has to speak up for the freedom of those in authority to do what they will, without question.
Then we get to laugh at them, and then work out how there might be some things you just don’t do. We did figure that out with Abu Ghraib after all.