Eric Zuesse – Is the US actually a ‘Police State’?
Police State (1) (foto tenor.com)
Police State (foto Omnibus)
Is the US actually a ‘Police State’?
On 25 January 2021, America’s National Public Radio headlined “Fatal Police Shootings Of Unarmed Black People Reveal Troubling Patterns” and reported that
For at least 15 of the officers (…), the shootings were not their first – or their last, NPR found. They have been involved in two – sometimes three or more – shootings, often deadly and without consequences.
Of the officers involved in the deadly shootings of unarmed Black people over the last five years, 13 were charged with murder. Two were found guilty.
NPR’s report alleged a number of reasons for that “without consequences,” but ignored the most important one: In 1967, the US Supreme Court created what is, in practical reality, a new law, almost a total ban against convicting a police officer of murder if he kills someone while on the job. The ‘Justices’ called this judge made law (subsequently reaffirmed by the Supreme Court many times, the latest being in 2020) “qualifed immunity,” but it is very close to being total immunity, and thus virtually all of the many abuses that NPR reported there can be traced back to it. Being a mainstream ‘news’ medium, the deeper level of reality is censored out by the editors and managers.
The United States and its allies do not call the US a “Police State,” but, if this phrase has any meaning, then it clearly does apply, and a strong case can be presented that the US might even be more of a police state than is any other nation on Earth.
Is the phrase “police state” anything more than propaganda that a government uses against a foreign government that it wants to overthrow – such as the US did against Iraq before invading it in 2003, and against Libya and Syria since 2011, and against Venezuela since 2012, and against Ukraine since 2013, and in all instances destroyed those countries, allegedly to ‘bring democracy and human rights and the rule of law, and fight against corruption’ there (as if that were honestly the intention)?
The phrase “Police State” is used propagandistically to denigrate a foreign nation that one’s own Government and its news media don’t like and might even be hoping to conquer by means of subversion, or sanctions, or coup, or perhaps invasion by either the aggressor’s own troops or else hiring mercenaries – such as, for example, the US did against Syria, hiring Al Qaeda and Kurdish separatists as ‘rebels’ there, to bring regime change to Syria – all the while labelling as “a Police State” the Government that the aggressor is trying to overthrow. The aggressor country alleges itself to be attacking the target country because that target country is ‘a Police State’ and ‘violates human rights’ – and the aggressor and its allies have continued this ‘civil war’ against Syria ever since 2012, destroying Syria and refusing to pay even a cent for restitution and reconstruction in Syria. They wreck the ‘Police State’, and then abandon it. This is merely one example of a ‘Police State’, as that phrase is commonly employed. This phrase is just a tool to ‘justify’ an invasion. It’s a ‘justification’ for international war crimes.
So, there is a lot of hypocrisy in many common usages, of the phrase “Police State,” by the US and its allies; and one must always be aware of the propagandistic usage of such phrases or words as “Police State,” and “regime,” because the speaker or writer might actually represent that, more than does the Government which that person is propagandistically criticizing.
However, objective usage of the phrase “Police State” is also possible (though far less common). That usage would be based upon rankings, according to reasonably reliable numerical measures, as being the basis for an objective comparison of countries; and, so, this will actually be done here – not the normal, propagandistic, usage of the phrase “Police State.” This is about only actual Police States.
The measures that will be applied here will be two: (1) the percentage of the population who are in prisons; and (2) the percentage of the population who have been shot dead by police during the latest tabulated year.
The ranking of the world’s most powerful nation, USA, will be shown in boldface in the listings below, because the usage of the phrase “Police State” is extraordinarily common in this country to refer to lands that its billionaires want to conquer and haven’t yet added to their list of ‘allies’ or vassal nations (such as Iran, China, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela), but our usage for the phrase “Police State” is different from that propagandistic one; and, so, here it is.
First are the rankings of the world’s countries according to the numbers of prisoners per million inhabitants (though Wikipedia gives those numbers for 223 nations, only the top 12% – only the top 26 nations, out of these 223, and which have populations of over a million inhabitants – will be shown here, because Wikipedia fails to list the nations in rank order, and even fails to indicate their respective ranks at all, and also because only the very worst 26 of the nations might reasonably be considered to be “Police States”).
Honduras = 229
So, those are the candidates to be considered as being possibly “Police States.” Conspicuously NOT included as possible candidates here are (just to name some of the ones that the nation which has the world’s highest imprisonment rate – America – claims or believes to be ‘Police States’ (and the respective actual figure for each of them): China (120), Vietnam (128), Yemen (53), Zimbabwe (114), Syria (60), Iraq (126), Sudan (52), Philippines (179), Hungary (173), Venezuela (178), SaudiArabia (197), Qatar (53), Uzbekistan (150), Tajikistan (120), Kyrgyzstan (161), Kazakhstan (156), Mexico (163), Libya (139), Laos (130), Kenya (102), India (34), Palostan (38), and Nigeria (36). None of those is even nearly as much of a Police State as America is. So, none of them is a Police State.
Here are the percentages of the population who have been shot dead by police during the latest tabulated year as shown at Wikipedia.
Denmark, Iceland & Switzerland = 0
USA is the 20th in that list of 60 countries, and may therefore reasonably be considered to be in the top half, as having a higher than normal percentage of its people killed annually by its local police forces. The countries that score worse (higher) than America on that list tend to be lands which have far lower per capita GDPs than America does, and are therefore commonly called “Third World” or “poor” countries by Americans; and some of these countries – such as Iran and Venezuela – are routinely reported in American news media as being Police States. All of the industrialized countries except the US on that list have lower, not higher, levels of killings by police, than America does, and are therefore less appropriate to be called a “Police State” than the US. is. Of the nations that US media treat as being “civilized,” the only one that is in the top half as having an abnormally high frequency of police executing people who are in their custody is America itself. This is especially remarkable because America is also the country which also has (and by far) the world’s highest percentage of its people imprisoned behind bars.
So: not only does the US lock up a higher percentage of its population than does any other country in the entire world, but it is also the only wealthy country whose police forces execute an abnormally high percentage of the country’s population. Certainly, therefore, if the phrase “Police State” objectively means anything at all, then it applies to the United States of America.
Virtually all of the people whom the American criminal ‘justice’ system imprisons and executes are poor people, who, if they have violated any laws at all, have violated the types of laws that apply especially against the very poorest of Americans.(Only few Americans are in prison for convictions of “white collar” or upper class crimes. Furthermore, there appears to be a considerable amount of sheer racism that is involved, because the ethnic skew of Americans who become executed by police, and also of Americans who become imprisoned, both skews are intensely against black people. For example, on 31 December 2015, Britain’s Guardian bannered “Young black men killed by US police at highest rate in year of 1,134 deaths”, and reported that, “Young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers in 2015.” Most of those killings by police were not processed to any conclusion by American courts; but some were, and, of the 1,134 people killed by police in 2015, only 23% (255 of the 1,034) became ruled by a court as having been “justified.” The other 77% might not have been (even according to American laws, which are obscenely slanted in favor of police against anyone whom they arrest or try to arrest). That news article didn’t say how many, if any, of the murderous police became convicted by any court, but only 23% of these 1,034 cases even were evaluated by a court as having not been murder by the police officer. So, the situation in the United States seems to fit very well a Police State. It is non accountability regarding individuals who exercise the power of the government, especially against the poor and minorities.
Further about that non accountability, I headlined on 21 August 2020, at Strategic Culture, “US Judge Urges Supreme Court to End US Police State It Imposes”, and reported that, “A black US District Court Judge in Mississippi – one of America’s most bigoted against Blacks states – issued on August 4th a 72 page decision, Jamison versus McClendon, containing a plea for the US Supreme Court to discontinue its imposition of police legal immunity when police are being accused of – while on the job – having violated Constitutionally guaranteed rights of American citizens (such as by shooting or killing innocent persons – such as George Floyd). Legally immune police is what defines a police state; and, so, this was a black judge’s request for the US Supreme Court to end the existing police state it imposes in America – to end a police state that this judge attributed to (and which he documented to have been produced by) choices that the US Supreme Court itself had made, and that only they therefore can possibly reverse.”
The judge was Carlton W Reeves. I continued.
Reeves went on to say, “Our courts [he was referring here to today’s US Supreme Court] have shielded a police officer who shot a child while the officer was attempting to shoot the family dog (117).” That was a case which had been only recently decided by the US Supreme Court, on June 15th, and which decision by this Supreme Court was ignored by the nation’s press, since that decision exposes how totalitarian this country has actually become. That Supreme Court decision, which (especially because of the recent headlines about the George Floyd murder case) should have been front page news throughout the country, was instead hidden from the public by the ‘news’ media, though that decision – and the others which were similarly dismissed that day on the very same ground of “qualified immunity” of police officers – probably constituted the most important decision of the current Supreme Court term, and directly relate to the George Floyd case. That June 15th decision (now virtually a precedent protecting the murderer of George Floyd) ruled in a slew of cases that had been brought against police officers by their victims. This Supreme Court dismissed all of them, on the basis of this absurd court-precedent, which had been established in 1967, and which was further defined in 1982. It’s “qualified immunity”, and asserts that police are allowed to do anything to anyone unless Congress has passed a specific law against what they did, and in that law, has described and identified exactly the same circumstances that the claimant against the police is claiming had existed – each and every detail of it – in his/her specific case. It’s a Supreme Court precedent, for a police state (unaccountable government-officials) to be ‘Constitutional’ in America, and this black judge in Mississippi was here essentially begging the US Supreme Court to reverse the precedent that the 1967 Supreme Court had established (and which had been reaffirmed and worsened yet further, by the Supreme Court in 1982).
Prior US Supreme Court rulings had placed judge Reeves into the position that, in the specific case he now was ruling upon, he had to choose either to rule in favor of the US Constitution (and convict the cop) and then being virtually certain to be overruled on appeal, or else ruling (as he now was doing) in accord with the US Supreme Court’s existing precedents and against the U.S. Constitution (and rule that cop ‘innocent’) and thereby being safe against being overturned on appeal. He was pleading with today’s Supreme Court: please change your precedent on this, so that judges such as I won’t, in the future, have to choose between either the Constitution or else being reversed on appeal. He didn’t want to continue being merely a cog in an evil (Constitution violating) machine.
That “evil” doesn’t consist ONLY of police murdering innocent people. For example, the framing of innocent persons is almost routine in the United States and other dictatorships. Non accountability is the rule there, but, since police are near the bottom of the power totem pole, way below national leaders – and even farther below the billionaires who control the Government – the news-media, even in dictatorships, are allowed to expose it, if and when they find it. And doing so “helps sell newspapers.” That’s a safe way to do it, because that type of ‘sensationalism’ poses no threat against the billionaires.
Russia isn’t even listed in Wikipedia’s article on killings by police per 10 million residents. However, Britain’s Guardian headlined on 13 January 2016, “200 people died in Russian police custody in 2015, says website”, and reported (apparently intending to make a hostile impression against Russia’s Government, which is something that both Britain’s and America’s billionaires seem to be unanimously in favor of doing) that
Each month, the official figures showed that between nine and 29 people died at police stations across the country, with very few cases ever investigated further.
To convert those numbers into killings by police per 10 million residents (and Russia has 144 million, so 10 million is 7% of it) would be not “nearly 200 people” but instead nearly 14 people, which would place Russia into the category of Luxembourg, India, and Canada, on that. America’s rate of killings by police is about 2.5 times higher than Russia’s.
Usually, a Police State has a Constitution, but if this is a written Constitution (which not all countries have – UK doesn’t, and Israel doesn’t, for examples), then that nation’s Supreme Court routinely finds ways to ‘interpret’ it so as to ‘justify’ unConstitutional laws, and unConstitutional actions by that regime’s officials; and this is what has happened, which judge Carlton Reeves was objecting to. But he was actually saying that the blame was specifically against the US Supreme Court itself, ever since 1967, because that Court had created this not law, but it was and is instead merely judicial ‘precedent’ – it didn’t come from Congress. The US Supreme Court had itself created this (in effect) ’law’. Of course, when it’s an unwritten ‘Constitution,’ then even overtly the regime’s jurists are constantly ruling what that ‘Constitution’ is, and what it isn’t, and therefore an unwritten Constitution is like chewing gum, and can become turned into virtually any shape at all, by the Court. All the judge needs to do is to cite existing precedents for it. However, a written constitution doesn’t necessarily mean that the Government adheres to it. But an unwritten constitution is virtually an invitation to dictatorship.
Even a written constitution can be totalitarian and yet still the regime calls itself a “democracy.” The Netherlands are a good example of this – and thus it’s far more blatantly a dictatorship than America is, because Holland’s Constitution (unlike America’s) is itself ridiculous. That Constitution’s five most important Articles are
(1) Members of the judiciary responsible for the administration of justice and the Procurator General at the Supreme Court shall be appointed for life by Royal Decree.
So, the King has total veto power; he even appoints all Ministers and judges, and yet absorbs none of the blame for any of their decisions, because “The Ministers, and not the King, shall be responsible for acts of Government.” And, of course, the judges alone are ‘responsible’ for their rulings. There is no accountability. To call that a ‘democracy’ is farcical. And, yet, when a confidential NATO poll asked the residents in 53 countries whether they agree with the statement “My country is democratic”, Netherlands ranked 13th highest at 66% “Yes,” and America ranked 38th highest at 48% “Yes”; so, even though the Netherlands aren’t a democracy even on paper, the Dutch population are much more convinced that they live in a democracy than Americans are. That is ridiculous on top of ridiculous.
Things are not what they are said to be. However, the Netherlands definitely are not a Police State – not by a long shot. Not every dictatorship is also a Police State. But America is both a dictatorship and a Police State.
In addition, the United States spends around half of the entire world’s money that is devoted to the Military, and this too is consistent with the US being a Police State, even a global one – and very much in a class by itself about being so.
All of this is discussing actual Police States, not employing the propagandistic usage of that phrase.
Throwing labels around (such as ‘Police State’) is what propagandists do. But social scientists cannot afford to. Where do any such people (social scientists) even exist, at all? The public drown in all the propaganda. And this is how today’s dictatorships function: by means of propaganda.
Issues about Government – what is mis called “political science,” even though there isn’t yet any scientific theory existing in that field – are inextricably connected to issues about criminal justice: police, courts, and laws. Following below are two discussions of criminal justice, exemplifying this: first, a reformist proposal, such as is accepted to be published in a dictatorship; and, then, a much deeper revolutionary proposal, which a dictatorship won’t allow to become widely distributed (and so it never was).
Lots of people are rightly saying that Trump was wrong to jump in for his friend and overrule the line prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation. But what was wrong about it was not overruling an overly harsh sentence. What was wrong about it was that he did it for a friend instead of across the board. We are in bad need of criminal justice reform. Let’s overrule all of these insane sentencing recommendations for first time non-violent offenders.
Suppose that most of the officers of an urban police force were to patrol the suites rather than the streets (leaving sufficient cars on the streets to cover emergency calls). (…) This pattern of enforcement would begin to ensure that the crimes of rich and poor would be detected equally.
The vast majority of dictatorships, throughout history, have been controlled – often behind the scenes – by the super rich (especially in fake ‘democracies’), who also control the ‘news’ media. That’s the reason why the latter, far deeper, type of analysis (from Pepinsky & Jesilow) gets squelched and is therefore not made available to the public in a dictatorship. And it’s why anyone who would say merely “Let’s overrule all of these insane sentencing recommendations for first time non violent offenders” can get plenty of publicity, and is acceptable to teach in places such as Harvard – the world’s most billionaire endowed university. But what is taught by individuals such as professors Pepinsky & Jesilow is not.
It’s not merely a dictatorship: it’s one that is also a police state (even a global Police State).
On 22 June 2020, Britain’s Guardian headlined “‘State sanctioned violence’: US police fail to meet basic human rights standards”, and reported on a study that had just been published by the Law School at the University of Chicago, which examined 20 big city US police departments, and it found that “not one met the minimum standards established by human rights law.” Furthermore, “Across Europe, policing policies are much more closely aligned with Human Rights directives.” The US Government, at its federal level, was found to be grossly deficient in the very same measures, of accountability and rule of law, that that Government pontificates against, issues sanctions against, and invades. Yet those European Governments still ally with the US regime, instead of condemn its aggressions.
The US actually is a “Police State.” It is certainly the world’s leading Police State.
Updated from the original posting at Strategic Culture.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic versus Republican Economic Records, 1910 – 2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.