Domestic Discord

Middle East Violence, U.S. Riots Rooted In Same Global Anger

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The United States has responded to terror attacks at home with a military police response that is out of place in a democratic country.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The crisis was sparked by the shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old, Michael Brown, by a white officer.
    • A preliminary autopsy shows Mr. Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head.
    • News of the riots and police response spread quickly on Twitter, as it did during Arab Spring protests.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

moritz koch

 

Long after Arab Spring revolutions have faded, scenes of civil commotion are still daily fare in world news – tear gas clouds, street battles and security forces with raised assault rifles.

But the latest riot scenes come far from Cairo, Gaza, Iraq or Syria. They’re being beamed from Ferguson, Missouri – a suburb of St. Louis and smack in the middle of America. Night after night, police in military uniforms confront angry youths.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon proclaimed a state of emergency, imposed a curfew and on Monday called up the state National Guard, following the worst night of violence since an unarmed black teenager was killed by a white police officer on August 9.

Black residents of Ferguson, which has a mostly white police force, have taken to the streets in protests now entering their second week. The demonstrations had mostly been peaceful, but were marked by bursts of violence and looting that stirred memories of 1960s racial unrest in Detroit and Los Angeles. On Sunday night and early Monday, police responded to gunfire and firebombs with tear gas, rubber bullets and more arrests.

 

President Obama has authorized air attacks against the Islamist advance in Iraq. But ultimately bombs and bullets can only buy time. Terrorism is the symptom of a crisis that can only be resolved politically.

As the violence increases, many Americans scarcely recognize their own country.

In the years since the 2001 terror attacks, local police forces have undergone a transformation across the United States. The preservers of order have turned into paramilitary organizations. Instead of serving and protecting people, they spread fear. In Ferguson, armored transport vehicles rumble down suburban streets.

Camera teams and journalists come under fire.

The similarity between images from Ferguson and the Middle East is not a coincidence. They are connected. President Barack Obama, the first African-American U.S. president, must acknowledge that his electoral victories have not ended tensions between whites and blacks in his own country. Likewise, his decision to end the U.S war in Iraq has not brought peace to the Middle East.

Bringing U.S. troops home from foreign battlefields has gone hand-in-hand with a domestic arms build-up. Military equipment that the Army brought home is being recycled as the Pentagon opens its arsenal to police. In the fight against feared terrorism at home, local police forces take whatever they can get.

 

Not Gaza, Missouri. Source: AFP
Not Gaza, Missouri. Source: AFP

 

The bitter irony is that the military equipment, which should have no place on the streets of a constitutional democracy, is desperately needed in Iraq – now more than ever. In the northern part of the country, Kurdish militia are fighting with small arms to stop the advance of Islamist forces that have seized armored vehicles and artillery from Iraqi army depots – made, by the way, by the United States.

President Obama has authorized air attacks against the Islamist advance in Iraq. But ultimately bombs and bullets can only buy time. Terrorism is the symptom of a crisis that can only be resolved politically.

This is what Iraq has in common with Ferguson, Missouri. Parts of the population feel excluded in both. As different as the violence and circumstances are – it is nourished by the same thing. Seething anger.

Moritz Koch is Washington correspondent for Handelsblatt. He can be reached at koch@handeslblatt.com

 

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