Posts from January 2009

Rapists in uniform #5: on invasions of privacy

Trigger warning. The video of a local news story, below, may be triggering for experiences of sexual violence.

When anarchists suggest that a civilized society can do without government or its cops, we are always asked how people in an anarchistic society would be protected from violent criminals like murderers and rapists. If we suggest that people could handle their own protection through consensual private arrangements — individual self-defense, cooperative community defense, or hiring out help, if need be — we are constantly told that we need monopolistic government control in order to ensure that professional police go about their policing in a way that’s transparent and accountable to the people.

In northern Ohio, a woman named Hope Steffey is suing the Stark County sheriff’s office and several of the deputies and prison guards working for them. Here’s why.

So, a gang of uniformed women and men, violently exercising the power of the State, pinned a screaming woman down on the floor of a jail cell and tore off her clothes to search her, over her screams of protest, while male guards were not only still in the cell, but in fact wrenching her arms behind her back, and then left her naked in the freezing-cold cell for six hours, in full view, without even a blanket to cover her body or keep herself warm. This was, of course, justified by means of unilaterally declaring Hope Steffey crazy, so that they could officially record that they had to inflict that kind of extreme violence and sexual humiliation on an imprisoned woman, over a period of hours — for her own good. Afterwards, when a local news station interviewed Hope Steffey, and aired video of what the cops and prison guards did, they ended up facing a series of unkind words about their character and professionalism. And here is how the dedicated public servants of the Stark County sheriff’s office have transparently and accountably responded the strains resulting from public exposure of their treatment of Hope Steffey:

CANTON — Stark County sheriff’s deputies who were vilified after a Cleveland television station aired video of them stripping a woman at the Stark County Jail have filed a lawsuit saying they are victims of one-sided reporting.

Last year, WKYC Channel 3 began airing reports on a lawsuit filed by a Salem woman who says she was strip-searched at the jail in October 2006. The reports included video of sheriff’s deputies and corrections officers pinning Hope Steffey to the floor of a jail cell and removing her clothes.

This week, those deputies — Kristin Fenstemaker, Laura Rodgers, Tony Gayles, Richard T. Gurlea Jr., Andrea Mays and Brian Michaels — sued reporter Tom Meyer, WKYC and its parent company, alleging defamation and invasion of privacy.

The lawsuit seeks damages of more than $25,000 and is assigned to Stark County Common Pleas Judge Charles E. Brown Jr.

— CantonRep.com (2009-01-30): Deputies sue TV station over reports about woman stripped naked

The lawsuit may seem obviously retributive; it may indeed seem like a thuggish attempt to silence criticism by shooting the messenger. But the strip-searchers would like the press, and a judge, to consider how hard it’s been on them, having their privacy invaded like that.

When you write about politics — and the politics of policing, especially — the problem is that, if you try to write anything more articulate than just expressing how much the whole thing makes you want to spit nails, you’ll soon find that the usual tools of satire, or even simple sarcasm, end up useless: the facts themselves, just as they are, constantly outstrip any sort of ridicule, no matter how over-the-top, that you could possibly craft.

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Welcome, Antiwarriors

Bob Kaercher hipped me to the fact that my post How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? is being featured today at the front page on Antiwar.com. I’m flattered; and presumably this also means that for the time being I’ll be getting a lot of readers who are more or less new to the blog.

So—welcome! By way of introduction, I’m Charles Johnson, also known as Rad Geek. I’m an individualist anarchist, originally from Alabama, now living in Las Vegas. I am a founding member of the Southern Nevada Alliance of the Libertarian Left and an occasional writer for The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty. If you’re new to the blog, here’s some things you might want to read which will give you some idea of where I’m coming from, and what I care about:

I believe that the nationalistic violence of the warfare State is closely linked with the paramilitary patrols, police state, and nationalistic violence of government border controls — which are nothing other than international apartheid. See for example:

I also believe that the violence of the U.S. government’s imperial military abroad is closely linked with the repressive violence of (increasingly militarized) paramilitary police forces within the U.S. See for example:

And I think that the violence of men’s wars and of men’s law enforcement are closely linked with the violent ideals of masculinity and patriarchy that men are brought up with in our society. For more, see:

On economics, I often write about the relationship between the economic privileges granted by the State, class, poverty, and labor solidarity:

In terms of strategy, I discuss my views on the most effective ways to work against government war and the violence of the State in:

Welcome, enjoy, and feel free to drop me a line about any thoughts, questions, comments, concerns, applause, brickbats, &c. &c. &c. that may occur to you — in the comments sections, or in private if you prefer.

How to be social while staying civilized

The latest issue of The Freeman (January/February 2009) — is now available online at their new and glossy revamped website. I mention this partly for its own sake, but partly also because, one of the things that you will find in that new issue, at the new website, is this:

Individualism Clashes with Cooperation? It Just Ain’t So!

By Charles Johnson • January 2009

Individualists get a bad rap in politics these days. That should come as no surprise; politics these days is dominated by electoral politics, and electoral politics is an essentially anti-individualistic enterprise. With free markets and other forms of voluntary association, people who can’t agree on what’s worthwhile can go their own ways. But the point of government elections is to give people in the political majority a means for forcing through their favorite laws, projects, and rulers over the objections of people in the political minority, and making everybody obey those laws, fund or participate in those projects, and acknowledge those rulers.

Still, even if it is unrealistic to expect individualism to get much respect from people who are deeply invested in electoral politics, it’s not too much to ask them not to try to score political points by totally distorting our position. In any case, if they do, it’s worth taking the time to set things straight.

For example, consider The Social Animal by neoconservative New York Times columnist David Brooks (September 12). He begins by quoting Barry Goldwater’s argument (from The Conscience of a Conservative) that Every man for his individual good and for the good of his society, is responsible for his own development. The choices that govern his life are choices that he must make; they cannot be made by any other human being… . Conservatism’s first concern will always be: Are we maximizing freedom?

Brooks says that Goldwater’s ideas seem to come from a vision of human life based on solitary, rugged individuals—the stout pioneer crossing the West, the risk-taking entrepreneur with a vision, the stalwart hero fighting the collectivist foe. Brooks protests that a tide of research in the human and social sciences has demonstrated that Goldwater’s old-fashioned individualist notions aren’t supported by the latest empirical evidence because, Brooks tells us, human beings are social creatures by nature, closely intertwined with each other in the fabric of a shared social life.

. . .

Maybe Brooks is right that Goldwater’s legacy is holding Republicans back politically. Individualistic ideas can be a tough sell, particularly since the obsessive focus on electoral politics as a panacea for every social ill ensures that genuinely individualistic ideas are almost never presented in the media or discussed in public forums. But whether he’s right or wrong about the best way for Republicans to fully modernize, I don’t care much about the Republican Party or its political prospects, or about Barry Goldwater’s reputation. I do care about the prospects for individualism and truly freed markets. And Brooks’s case against them commits a series of serious and misleading errors….

— Charles Johnson, The Freeman (Jan/Feb 2009): Individualism Clashes with Cooperation? It Just Ain’t So!

Read the whole thing.

The title of this post, for what it’s worth, was the original title of the column, and will make some more sense once you’ve read the article (the current title is based on the fact that it appeared in the regular It Just Ain’t So! department).

As always, I’d like to thank Sheldon Richman for the (very flattering) invitation, and for his very helpful editorial work. I’m especially happy to get the chance to put a distinctly Tuckerite understanding of individualism, complete with a cheer for wildcat unionism, and a reference to William Gillis’s freed markets, into an official publication of the Foundation for Economic Education.

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Rad Geek Speaks: a talk on Anarchism and its ideas TOMORROW, at the Las Vegas Anarchist Cafe. Las Vegas, 28 January 2009, 6:30pm

The Vegas Anarchist Cafe is a meet-up for networking, building community, and doing some outreach for anarchists in Las Vegas, which Southern Nevada ALL has been organizing together with unaffiliated local anarchists for the past several months. The main idea is just to give anarchists, anti-statists, and anarchy-curious fellow travelers a place to meet up and talk in an informal setting at a local coffee-house. There isn’t a fixed business agenda; the idea is to give people a place to find each other. Once they’ve found each other, A-Cafe can serve as a springboard for the independent projects that they may want to start.

After some discussions with regular A-Cafers, we’ve decided to start putting on a series of talks, presentations, skill-shares and open mics — tentatively titled the Free Speech Soapbox Series. The idea is to take an hour of the A-Cafe time for ongoing programming — including introductory material that may interest non-anarchists as well as anarchists, talks about issues local anarchists care about, organizing pitches for projects they are working on, how-tos to share skills amongst ourselves, presentations of classic anarchist lectures, etc. etc. etc. Talks take place during the middle 60 minutes of the Anarchist cafe (6:30pm – 7:30pm), with the 30 minutes before and the 30 minutes after available for the usual informal meet-up and chat.

I’m happy to announce that our first Soapbox talk will be TOMORROW, Tuesday 29 January 2009. And I will be doing the talk:

At this week’s A-Cafe, Anarchist philosopher Charles Johnson will present a special lecture on the topic What is Anarchism? presenting the ideas of Anarchism in theory and practice, and correcting common misconceptions. For anyone interested in the ideas of philosophical Anarchism, or interested in conversation.

The Anarchist Cafe meeting will begin at 6:00 PM. My talk will begin at 6:30 PM (and should run to about 7:30 PM, including time at the end for Q&A).

Here are the details on the event:

  • WHAT: Talk by Charles Johnson of Southern Nevada ALL on the ideas of Anarchism, the main misunderstandings about anarchy, and replies to the main objections.
  • WHEN: Wednesday, 28 January 2009, 6:30 PM.
  • WHERE: Weekly Anarchist Cafe @ The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Running Rebel Plaza (across the street from UNLV). 4550 S. Maryland Parkway; we’ll be in the meeting room off to the left of the entrance.

If you’re in the Vegas area (or even if you’re not), it’d be great to see you there. If you know anyone around abouts who might be interested in a general talk about Anarchism, then please do forward the announcement on to them.

Future Soapbox events are already being scheduled; in particular, next week will feature Las Vegas ALLy Kelly Patterson giving a talk on the Industrial Workers of the World, We Need the Wobblies Now More Than Ever! A Brief History of the Industrial Workers of the World. See the Vegas Anarchist Cafe website for more details.

More to come soon; watch this space.

See also:

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

(Indirectly via Austro-Athenian Empire 2009-01-25: The Atrocity of Hope.)

Guided by these principles once more we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we’ll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense. And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken — you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

— President Barack Hussein Obama (29 January 2009): Inaugural Address

The problem with that is that every day that United States government soldiers spend on beginning to leave, instead of actually leaving — every day that is spent on that responsibly instead of that leaving — every day that is spent in the forging of peace in Afghanistan, rather than in the practicing of it, by withdrawing all United States government soldiers immediately and completely — is another day when innocent Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis will be killed by this Peace President’s army and his policy of gradualism. Another day when yet more innocent people will be killed in the name of prolonging the final end of wars now universally acknowledged as catastrophic failures and stupid mistakes.

Yesterday in Iraq, Barack Obama’s responsibly leaving army blockaded a village, invaded a family home at 2:00 in the morning, and gunned down a mother and father in the bed they shared with their 9 year old daughter. (The girl, besides being orphaned, was also wounded by the gunfire.)

An Iraqi couple was killed in their bed Saturday morning as their daughter slept between them when U.S. forces raided their home.

The U.S. military said that the raid, in the area of Hawija, just west of Kirkuk, was an Iraqi government-approved operation against a wanted man and that the killings were in self-defense. But the family described the slayings of a modest farmer and his wife and the wounding of their daughter by U.S. forces as the three slept.

According to a U.S. military statement, at 2 a.m. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers entered the bedroom where the couple lay and the woman reached under the mattress. The soldiers told her multiple times to show her hands; when she didn’t, they shot her, the statement said.

The woman’s husband, Dhia Hussein Ali, jumped up and physically attacked the soldiers after his wife was shot, the statement said. The soldiers killed him in self-defense, the statement said. The couple’s 9-year-old daughter, Alham, was injured during the attack.

. . .

In the small village where Dhia Hussein Ali lived, his children and his father questioned the reason for the raid. Ali was a modest farmer with a small fish pool where he raised the popular carp eaten in Iraq, they said. The man was a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army.

Omar Dhia Hussein, 14, was in shock Saturday night. He said in a telephone interview that in the morning he’d seen his parents’ bodies side by side in their bed, the sheets covered in blood. The wall was covered with his father’s blood, he said.

At 2 a.m., Omar said, he heard a bang of a percussion grenade. When he opened his eyes he saw American soldiers standing over him in the room where he slept with his two sisters. Except for an Iraqi interpreter there were no Iraqis with the Americans, he said.

The interpreter shouted at the young boy.

You are hiding weapons, Omar recalled the interpreter saying. Where are you hiding the weapons? You are terrorists, you are hiding weapons in that unfinished house. Confess!

Omar began to cry and his sisters wept with him, he said. Then the American soldiers left and he heard gunfire next door. The soldiers carried Omar’s wounded sister from the room and took the remaining four children, including Omar, to his uncle’s home. Outside were at least four U.S. Humvees and two SUVs, Omar said. His grandfather, Hussein Ali, who lives next door saw no Iraqi soldiers, either.

After the Americans left, Omar and his sisters returned to their home with their grandfather. In his parents’ bedroom, Omar said, he saw his father’s body at the very edge of the right side of the bed, motionless and bloody.

His mother lay in the middle of the bed in a pool of her own blood. She’d been shot in the head, the family said.

Calgary Herald (2009-01-24): U.S. military raid kills Iraqi man, woman in their bed

Reporting from Baghdad — U.S. forces killed a couple and wounded their 9-year-old daughter during a raid on their home in northern Iraq early Saturday, U.S. military and Iraqi officials said.

The U.S. military said the man was suspected of being part of the militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq, but local officials said he was a retired colonel with no links to insurgent groups.

. . .

People in the village of Alewya, where the couple lived, said the raid involved helicopters and a security cordon that sealed off the village.

— Ned Parker and Saif Hameed, Los Angeles Times (2009-01-25): U.S. troops in Iraq kill couple, wound daughter in raid on home

On Friday, in Afghanistan, Barack Obama’s army forged peace by trooping into Laghman province, surrounding houses in a village, and then launching a raid where they killed 16 civilians — 2 women, 3 children, and 11 men — with gunfire and precision bombs dropped from planes.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticised a US military operation which killed at least 16 people in eastern Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai said most of those killed were civilians, adding that such deadly incidents strengthened Taleban rebels and weakened Afghanistan’s government.

Women and children were among those killed, Mr Karzai said.

The strike was the first controversy in Afghanistan involving US troops since US President Barack Obama took office.

In a statement, the president said two women and three children were among the dead in the attack, which the US said targeted a militant carrying a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG).

. . .

In response, a US military spokesman said there were plans to jointly investigate the incident with the Afghan government.

Originally the US said all of the dead, including one woman, had been militants who opened fire after its troops surrounded a compound in Mehtar Lam, about 60km (40 miles) east of the capital, Kabul.

. . .

However, officials in Laghman have since said there were civilians among the dead, a viewpoint now backed by the country’s president.

The US military insists that it goes to considerable lengths to avoid civilian casualties.

But the BBC’s Ian Pannell in Kabul says that as the US increases its military presence, it will be increasingly difficult to do so.

— BBC News (2009-01-25): Karzai anger at US strike deaths

On Friday, in Pakistan, Barack Obama’s army forged peace by firing missiles repeatedly into houses in several villages in the Waziristan region. Barack Obama’s missiles killed twenty-two people, about 15 of them civilians and at least 3 of them children. The idea was to help create the conditions for a lasting peace.

PAKISTAN received an early warning of what the era of smart power under President Barack Obama will look like after two remote-controlled US airstrikes killed 22 people at suspected terrorist hideouts in the border area of Waziristan.

There will be no let-up in the military pressure on terrorist groups, US officials warned, as Obama prepares to launch a surge of 30,000 troops in neighbouring Afghanistan. It is part of a tough love policy combining a military crack-down with diplomatic initiatives.

. . .

The airstrikes were authorised under a covert programme approved by Obama, according to a senior US official. It was a dramatic signal in the president’s first week of office that there will be no respite in the hunt for Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

Sarah Baxter, The Times (2009-01-25): Obama airstrikes kill 22 in Pakistan

Security officials said the strikes, which saw up to five missiles slam into houses in separate villages, killed seven foreigners — a term that usually means al-Qaeda — but locals also said that three children lost their lives.

Dozens of similar strikes since August on northwest Pakistan, a hotbed of Taleban and al-Qaeda militancy, have sparked angry government criticism of the US, which is targeting the area with missiles launched from unmanned CIA aircraft controlled from operation rooms inside the US.

. . .

Eight people died when missiles hit a compound near Mir Ali, an al-Qaeda hub in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region. Seven more died when hours later two missiles hit a house in Wana, in South Waziristan. Local officials said the target in Wana was a guest house owned by a pro-Taleban tribesman. One said that as well as three children, the tribesman’s relatives were killed in the blast.

— Tim Reid, The Times (2009-01-23): President Obama orders Pakistan drone attacks

Every one of these deaths is blood on Barack Obama’s hands. Every one of these people who were killed, were killed on Barack Obama’s orders and in the name of his war policy. Because Obama wants to wash his hands of the United States government’s war on Iraq and its war on Afghanistan, every day that he delays getting out, completely — delays getting out in the name of exit strategies and central fronts and responsibility — which is to say, delays that happen because he is still convinced that, with the right sort of gradualist policy, he can somehow try to win wars that should never have been fought — is another person who is killed so that Barack Obama, after being elected as a peace candidate, can adopt and prolong the collossal, catastrophic mistakes of a disastrous failure of a predecessor, so that he won’t come off as being soft on national defense.

We who have come here to Washington have come here because we feel we have to be winter soldiers now. We could come back to this country, we could be quiet, we could hold our silence, we could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we feel because of what threatens this country, not the reds, but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out….

. . .

Now we are told that the men who fought there must watch quietly while American lives are lost so that we can exercise the incredible arrogance of Vietnamizing the Vietnamese.

Each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn’t have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we can’t say that we have made a mistake. Someone has to die so that President Nixon won’t be, and these are his words, the first President to lose a war.

We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

— John F. Kerry (23 April 1971), then speaking for Vietnam Veterans Against the War before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

And today, the questions are questions for Barack Obama, the latest in a long and despicable line of men who have served their political ambitions with anti-war promises, and then went on killing so that they could win the peace.

So, Mr. Obama, how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq?

How do you ask a woman to be the last woman to die in Afghanistan?

How do you ask a child to be the last child to die in Pakistan?

How do you ask someone to be the last one to die for a mistake?

See also: