Saturday, January 29, 2011

Life Is A Riot: Looters Rule, From Baghdad To L.A.

By Nicholas Stix

April 16, 2003
Toogood Reports/A Different Drummer

Weeks before Saddam Hussein was toppled — in person and symbolically, in the form of statues — the New York Times started its campaign for the postwar defeat of the American military. Columnists Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman, and the Times’ editorial writers, insisted that virtually immediately after victory, America would have to turn over control to the democratic will of the Iraqi people, and get out of the country.

Our rivals and enemies (take your pick) in France, Germany, and Russia, have informed us that the U.S. enjoys neither credibility nor legitimacy, which only the U.N. has, and that Iraq must be turned over to the authority of the U.N. and so-called international law.

Arab nationalists in the region have also decried America’s presence in Iraq. Speaking from the United Arab Emirate’s capital, Abu Dhabi, on the Larry King Show last Thursday, Salah Negm, of Arab news outlet al-Arabiya, maintained that there had never been a “foreign power occupying an Arab capital in fifty years.”

The U.N. only has legitimacy or credibility in the eyes of diehard internationalists and enemies of America. As for Negm, either he suffers from amnesia, regarding the 1990 invasion of Kuwait City by Saddam Hussein’s army, or he uses “foreigners” as a code-word for “infidels.” When Larry King asked Negm whether the anti-American line of the Arab world (read: Negm’s own opinion) would change, if weapons of mass destruction were found, Negm dodged the question, and King let him get away with it.

Even George Bush, apparently yielding to such pressures, has promised the Iraqis that they would “soon” be voting for their own government. I hope Bush was either humoring our enemies, or that he will rethink his position. If “democratic” elections take place in Iraq anytime soon, 106 American soldiers and two journalists will have died in vain.

A disturbing sign has been the widespread looting that Iraqi thugs have gotten away with, right in front of passive American soldiers. Donald Rumsfeld, who has to know better, tried to rationalize such riotous criminality as the letting loose of a liberated people: “The task we’ve got ahead of us now is an awkward one ... It’s untidy. And freedom’s untidy. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here.”

“And for suddenly the biggest problem in the world to be looting is really notable.”

Not really, Mr. Secretary. As one reporter asked Rumsfeld, last Friday, “If you were at the mercy of looters, how long would you feel liberated?”

Similarly, GOP talking heads, who would otherwise never rationalize lawlessness, have spoken like socialists, of the “redistribution” of wealth that Saddam had stolen from the Iraqi people. The talking heads ignored the looting and robbing of ordinary Iraqis’ homes, of hospitals and museums, and the general attitude of lawlessness encouraged by passivity from those in charge. Rumsfeld, a two-time secretary of defense and former Navy flier, should know better than anyone, that there is a centuries-old method for preventing chaos in a newly conquered, er, I mean, liberated, piece of real estate. The victors must immediately impose order, and stop looting (which is often the same thing). The traditional method is to shoot looters. When looters and those contemplating looting, see or hear of dead looters, they stop what they are doing, or never get started.

(In the absence of order from American troops, some Iraqis took justice into their own hands, seizing, beating, and apparently shooting some suspected looters. I say, “apparently,” because reporters and cameramen, who showed us the seizing and beating of the suspects, suddenly censored themselves, and spoke only of hearing gun shots from the vicinity of where the suspects had been taken.)

More modern-style leaders may have troops first fire warning shots, and really progressive leaders have soldiers fire rubber bullets, or even carry unloaded weapons. But you can bank on this: An occupying army’s success at restoring order — whether in a foreign or domestic setting — will be in inverse proportion to its gentleness.

Feels Just Like Home

We have seen similar disorder many times at home. During the 1992 black race riot in Los Angeles, for instance, national guardsmen who were never seen shooting anyone — because their weapons were unloaded — were laughingstocks. Early on in L.A., it was the thousands of besieged Korean merchants who took to the roofs of their businesses with the assault weapons demonized by the gun confiscation movement, who did more than the police or the national guard, to discourage looters.

On March 8, 2001, in Berkeley, black teenagers rioted, er, demonstrated on behalf of a return of affirmative action, by pillaging a Foot Locker sneaker store, right in front of passive police, who did not even intervene when the rioters beat a white passerby to a pulp. Millions of people saw photographs of the looters around the world on the Internet, yet police claimed that they could not identify any of the looters.

InThe New Leviathan in 1942, philosopher-historian R.G. Collingwood observed the early manifestations of such ‘progressive” law enforcement, when he spoke mockingly of “an age of rubber truncheons.”

We’re Americans, We’re Your Friends

Nothing is more indicative of a lack of order, than looters’ ability to run wild. The orders not to shoot looters in Iraq came straight from the Oval Office. I’m convinced that Pres. Bush made that decision out of fear of how it would play for people around the world — and especially the Arab world — to see news footage of white American soldiers shooting Iraqi looters. Although I think that Pres. Bush is in general a brilliant diplomatic gamesman, this was a bad decision. Bush chose the wrong moment, to be humble.

On Friday, CENTCOM spokesman (or should I say, “spokesperson”?) Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks’ spin on this policy was, “If the coalition simply imposed control on the population, that wouldn’t achieve the desired effect. We wouldn’t be everywhere and we might also alienate a population that doesn’t need to have another regime with a grip around its neck.”

Officers in the field repeated the White House talking points to reporters. They didn’t have enough men, er, persons, to keep order. That was like saying, ‘We don’t have enough persons to win.’

I think the mismanagement of order in Iraq derives from a misbegotten desire to placate the Arab and European streets, respectively, but that’s not all. Most contemporary American leaders have tired of ... leadership. Beaten over the head for thirty-odd years with propaganda about “ugly Americans” by the media they loathe, politicians have nonetheless acquiesced to the media’s line, and desire nothing so much as to be liked. Indeed, when I lived in West Germany (1980-85), when some Germans referred to Americans mockingly as “nice” (“nett”), meaning “vacuous” and “morally lightweight.” But then, I was waxing sentimental; Germans probably don’t refer to Americans as “nett” anymore.

And yet, Bush has failed to placate anyone. The media pilloried him for the chaos, which his supporters sought to softpedal as exaggerated or even beautiful. The same socialist non-governmental organizations that sought to derail both the Afghanistan (“Infinite Justice,” er, I mean “Enduring Freedom”) and Iraq campaigns, screamed that they couldn’t distribute aid amid chaos, not that they had any problems earlier with Moslem-instigated chaos. And even the Iraqi people are quickly souring on Bush, for his refusal to impose order. And so, Bush is now re-hiring some of Hussein’s strongmen, who had only days before joined the ranks of the unemployed. Surely you remember them: They’re the guys we sent our boys to Iraq to remove.

(Some observers have denied the appropriateness of comparing the use of Hussein’s thugs to rebuild Iraq, to the use, in postwar West Germany, of Nazis to rebuild the country. The observers never explained, however, why such comparisons are unfair.)
When Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York (1994-2001), his legion of critics emphasized his lack of niceness. Giuliani’s Democrat predecessor, Ed Koch, even published a book with the baby-talk title, Giuliani: Nasty Man. (The real story behind the Giuliani mayoralty was that Giuliani’s “toughness” on crime was a mask. In fact, Rudy Giuliani accelerated the program of affirmative action policing that gave black crime suspects privileged treatment (see here, here, and here).

Time was, toughness not only was not perceived as a weakness or defect in an American leader, but was a trait which politicians strove to project. The first major politician in my lifetime whom I can recall striving to appear “sensitive” was George McGovern, who in the 1972 presidential election said he was ready to get down on his hands and knees, and beg the North Vietnamese to return American POWs.

TV viewers and radio listeners in Kosovo, Srebrenica, and Rwanda, all would have felt right at home, with the images and reports of UN “peacekeepers” standing down, while mobs ran wild.

UN “peacekeepers” in Rwanda (800,000 murdered in 1994) and Srebrenica (7,000 murdered in 1995) permitted thousands of people to be butchered under their noses. In newly conquered Kosovo, in 1999, the numbers were in the double digits, but all the same, locals knew that those pretty blue helmets had more to do with a fashion show, than a show of force. Well, what do you expect of an organization that pretends to world sovereignty, but refuses to take the responsibilities that go with it?

Broken Theories

And yet, while it makes sense for America’s enemies to tout the importance of U.N. “peacekeepers,” the biggest hypocrites of late, have been those GOP writers and supporters who usually cite the “broken windows” theory of crime. That theory, formulated by George Kelling, Catherine M. Coles, and James Q. Wilson, argues that a failure to crack down on minor, “quality-of-life” crimes leads to disrespect for law, the breakdown of order, violent crime, and ultimately, chaos.

(Broken windows theory could also be called the Wambaugh-LAPD theory, since its core idea was suggested in 1971 by then-LAPD detective, Joseph Wambaugh, in his seminal police novel, The New Centurions. Wambaugh expressed an institutionally-anchored view of the pre-Rodney King LAPD. However, Wambaugh embedded the need for cracking down on vice within a deeply pessimistic view of history, which anticipated the destruction of Western Civilization through what would soon be called multiculturalism.)

The impotence of those entrusted with keeping the peace, was not a foreign sight to viewers in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Cincinnati. Urban police in the U.S. — media campaigns fabricating hoaxes such as “racial profiling” notwithstanding — have been standing down in front of mobs since the 1991 pogrom in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, in which a black mob yelled “Kill the Jew,” before murdering Yankel Rosenbaum. Mayor David Dinkins had the police stand down, and permit the mob to “vent” for three days, until Dinkins, who was the city’s first black mayor, spoke to blacks, and one threw a bottle at him.

The handcuffing of the police during the Los Angeles riots, in which according to Denise DiPasquale of the University of Chicago, “resulted in 52 deaths, 2,500 injuries and at least $446 million in property damage.” During a later L.A. riot, following the Lakers’ winning of the NBA championship on June 19, 2000, police stood down, while looters and vandals variously destroyed and stole millions of dollars in property. Rather than being ashamed, city officials actually bragged about their non-policing strategy. And on February 27, 2001, Kristopher Kime was murdered in Seattle during Mardi Gras, by a group of black thugs. While a large, black mob stomped and robbed lone whites, Kime went to the aid of a petite white woman, who was being brutally beaten by several black men, and was beaten to death, as nearby police stood around. Police had been ordered not to do their jobs by Chief Gil Kerlikowske.

Presaging Baghdad, TV cameramen in Seattle censored themselves and protected black thugs, by turning their cameras away from many violent crimes.

The conventional wisdom since Los Angeles, 1992, has variously rationalized the riot as an expression of outrage at the acquittal of the four policemen charged with beating black motorist Rodney King (who was drunk, led police on a high-speed chase, and then resisted arrest), to the riot as a rebellion. From my vantage point, the riot was a response to correctly perceived weakness and timidity on the part of police.

Urban police and elected officials have been guided in recent years by a managerial philosophy of permitting “persons of color” to “vent.” Hence, those responsible for order permit chaos, and (in America) the murder of expendable whites, as a way, they think, to make nice with the natives.

In the book, Exit Voice and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States, Albert O. Hirschman describes a “liberal” and a “conservative” theory, respectively, of riots. In the liberal theory, riots are not normal; thus, when one occurs, it must be as a reaction to some injustice. According to the conservative theory, as presented by Hirschmann, order is an achievement, which is always in jeopardy. A riot can happen anytime. Thus, it is not disorder that requires explaining, but order.

Via the ideology of third-worldism, aka multiculturalism, today in Iraq, we see the closing of the circle, in which the same barbaric, cowardly, irrational thinking that has undermined all of America’s institutions is being universalized.

America is presuming to tell Iraqis how to get their house in order, but Americans don’t know how to take care of their own affairs. The alliance of racist minority politicians and mainstream media whose members are gripped both with fascination and fear of violent non-whites, has succeeded in beating down most American politicians. And now, American leaders increasingly are exporting their shortcomings.


Anonymous said...

In 1969, after Nixon replaced LBJ in the White House, there was mild surprise that the riots that had taken place the last several years seemed to stop. Why weren't blacks rioting now that the Republicans were in power?

Somewhere that year I saw an item in one of the news magazines on this subject. An unnamed Nixon administion official was quoted as saying, "You riot against your friends. Mitchell (the attorney general) means business."

I was a college freshman in 1969 and this quote has stayed with me. The rioters of the 60's were indeed "rioting against their friends" in that they knew the authorities wouldn't come down on them very hard. By 1992, they wouldn't react to riots at all.

David In TN

Californian said...

The situation is a little more complex. The police want to win the publicity war. They wait until rioting grows large enough for the media to notice and the public to demand something be done. This way, the rioters are clearly defined as bad guys and the police as the cavalry coming to the rescue, so to speak.

A lot of this is an outgrowth of the 1960s, when the police were condemned for over-reacting. Perhaps the police are on to something. As the Tet Offensive showed, it's possible to win the battle but still lose the PR war. So now the police win the PR war, and if it means a few innocent people getting stomped, well, I imagine, they consider this to be the price of victory.