The media race is once again on to distill mass murder into a motive that can then be analyzed, debated and profited from long past the burials to come. This is America in 2016, where a bloodbath in the streets is simply more riveting fodder for cable news.
Then again, take any country in which a third of the population would welcome a culture war, stock that country with an endless supply of firearms including military-grade weapons, add in toxic political voices at the highest levels of political discourse, and this is the inevitable result. What is happening all around us is not happening to America, it is America.
Two headlines from Google News, 33 minutes apart:
Official: 5 Soldiers Killed in Shooting in S Sudan Capital
New York Times – 10 minutes ago
Two Snipers Kill Five Officers, Wound Several Others At Dallas Protest
NPR – 43 minutes ago
America is at war. Many of the battles are individual skirmishes, many of the victims have been innocents. Yesterday, however, saw a tactical assault on law enforcement in a major city in the United States. Read those two headlines again.
For more context, read this. If you want a deeper understanding of why we are where we are, follow the link in that post and keep reading.
If you just want to keep yourself alive, recognize that for the time being every peace office in the United States is going to be on the edge of hysteria. That does not exonerate crimes committed by the police, but it does give bad cops even more of an excuse to kill, and good cops every incentive to shoot first if there’s any doubt.
Move slowly. Do what’s asked of you. Keep your hands in plain view.
— Mark Barrett
Adam Gopnik of the NewYorker gets it.
Annalisa Merelli at Quartz gets it.
Dahlia Lithwick and Mark P. McKenna at Slate get it.
The WSJ reports on a series of ambush attacks against law enforcement the day after the Dallas shootings. Note that the motives are all over the place, but the act and effect is the same. People with guns using their guns when they are outraged or out of their minds. Not hardened killers, not career criminals — just people with ready access to firearms.
The President of the United States, Barack Obama, gets it.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown gets it. (More here from the LAT.)
On that note, one of the most important books about the Iraq War was Breaking Iraq, written by Colonel Ted Spain. In that book Spain details the societal disintegration that took place because there was no viable police force in place — either American MP’s or Iraqi citizens — to keep order after the invasion.
In the United States today, by which I mean literally on this day, every single police officer on duty is dumping adrenaline into their bodies simply because they are doing their jobs. Combine that adrenaline with the weapons on their hips and the weapons freely on display in society, and the resulting carnage is inevitable.
We need the police. Good police, honest police, but police nonetheless. Arming everyone not only makes it harder to identify criminals, it makes it harder to identify criminal cops. If everyone is in perpetual fear of their life, with their finger on a trigger, no one can be guilty of reckless homicide. Guns, in any context, are an escalation, if not an instigation, and guns are eroding the ability of the police — the good police, the honest police — to do their jobs.
All you need to do to understand what happens when the police can no longer maintain order is look at Iraq. Before the war, Spain was a police officer in Greenville, North Carolina.
Nine days after the police killings in Dallas, one man with one weapon killed three armed officers and wounded three more in Baton Rouge, Louisiana:
While multiple factors were involved in both attacks against law enforcement, those attacks were asymmetrically successful precisely because the killers were able to arm themselves with weapons capable of unleashing so much killing power.
It’s a measure of how corroded the American psyche is that after only nine days, a second attack killing multiple officers seems almost normal — because it is almost normal. People are lawfully allowed to own weapons that will allow them to kill multiple human beings with impunity, whether those human beings are a classroom full of first graders or multiple armed and trained public servants.
All it’s going to take to kill ten or twenty law enforcement officers — in the same way that a single armed attacker was able to kill 49 human beings and wound another 50+ at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando just over a month ago — is for a small team to set up an ambush firing from multiple lines of sight at multiple distances, redeploying as needed under covering fire.
Without diminishing the importance of any other factors, in all of these attacks and so many more, the body count is a function of one thing and one thing only. It’s the guns. One man with a weapon of war is virtually unstoppable until he runs out of ammunition. Multiple individuals working together in a tactical assault can overwhelm any law enforcement response, including SWAT, unless those individuals have also had combat training and experience under fire.
This isn’t normal. Don’t let it become normal.