A Gentle Reminder……..

During Friday’s NBC Evening News, presenter Brian Williams lowered his tone, looked even more serious than usual, and declared, “Today is a landmark in American history. The Iraq War has, of today, lasted longer than World War Two.”

Now, it seems from my dim, British, recollection that World War II began in 1939 and ended in 1945.

The Iraq War may eventually last longer than World War II, but it has some ways to go yet.

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The Killing Continues………

Last Tuesday, Kathryn Johnston, a ninety-two year old grandmother was gunned down by plain clothes narcotics officers in her own home. The case created headlines around the globe, highlighting the brutal tactics employed by US law enforcement in its long-running, yet vain attempts to win the “War on Drugs”.

Yesterday, Sean Bell was shot dead by police as he was leaving a New York nightclub where he and friends had been holding a stag-party. Sean was to have been married later that day.

According to police, the club was under surveillance “due to a long history of drug dealing, prostitution, and weaponry complaints….”. There was no evidence Sean Bell and his friends were involved in any of those matters. Indeed, the police had no reason to believe they were. It didn’t stop them firing over fifty rounds at their vehicle as they drove away.

The police excused their actions saying the group had an altercation with another man outside the club and they “feared a gun may be produced”. As Bell and Co began to drive away their car hit an unmarked police vehicle. It was then the police opened fire, killing Bell and seriously wounding two other men in the car. One of the injured men sustained eleven gunshot wounds and is in a critical condition.

Does any crime, other than perhaps murder, justify such legal butchery? Is America, beneath its thin veneer of civilization, still living by the law of the gun as it was in the days portrayed by such ultra-machismo characters as Wayne, Widmark and Cooper, when Hollywood perpetrated the myth that the only good outlaw was a dead outlaw?

Sean Bell wasn’t even an outlaw. Other than careless driving there seems little the police could have charged him with. His only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He was just another innocent victim of overzealous, cold-blooded, legalized terminators who consider even the possibility of illegal drug possession sufficient cause to gun someone down.

Another sad news item flashing around the globe, reinforcing the outside world’s opinion of life in America.

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Another Unwinnable War……….

Kathryn Johnston was a woman living in fear. Most of the time she lived alone at her rundown house in Atlanta, Georgia. It was one of the roughest neighborhoods in town; crime was a daily occurrence. Only recently a 72 year old woman had been raped in the area.

Last Tuesday night, three men battered down her door and forced their way into Kathryn Johnston’s home. In a desperate effort to defend herself she grabbed a gun and began firing. The men fired back, killing her.

She probably never lived long enough to learn these men were fighting the longest war in America’s history. A false war. Like most of the wars America has undertaken in recent years – an unwinnable war.

They call it the “War on Drugs.” The men were plain clothes law enforcement officers.

Atlanta’s Assistant Police Chief, Alan Dreher, called the killing “tragic and unfortunate” . Roughly translated into police language that means “inconvenient”. The police shun such adverse publicity. It brings criticism of their high-handed, thuggish, methods of fighting this unwinnable war. According to Mister Dreher, drugs were found on the premises. The police would not reveal the type until the lab had completed tests. This means the police didn’t know if what they found was really an illegal drug or not. Either that, or they were simply playing for time.

No-one in their right mind would suggest that the market in illegal substances is anything less than seedy, attracting the very worst of the criminal element. It would also be wrong to deny the police have a tough time trying to fight the crazy war thrust upon them by a moralistic public and self-righteous politicians.

As appears so often to be the case, America has yet again got its priorities about-face. Guns are legal and acceptable, drugs are not.

Were that situation reversed, Kathryn Johnston would still be alive and three police officers would not be in hospital recovering from the gunshot wounds she inflicted on them in her own self-defence; the neighborhood where Kathryn Johnston lived would not be laid waste by drug-related crime, and thousands of police officers nationwide would be freed to concentrate on crimes that presently are never solved due to shortage of man-power.

Fighting an unwinnable war is a frustrating business. It makes for heavy-handed methods. Such actions as occurred last Tuesday night do nothing for the nation’s self-image, or how it is perceived by the rest of the world.

Just as events in Iraq are forcing a rethink of American government policy, resulting almost certainly in a withdrawal of troops over time, so the “War on Drugs” – ongoing for over half a century – requires a drastic rethink and measures to decriminalize, thus forcing the illegal pushers out of business once and for all.

Perhaps then, poor unfortunates like Kathryn Johnston could stop living in fear of every knock on the door.

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