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MT: Militarized Police, Veterans & the Constitution

The New York Times reported in June on militarized police and the supply of military equipment to America’s state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies.

It may be some small consolation to know that aside from joining the list of “Sunshine States”, Montana also appears to only have one Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, compliments of the Department of Homeland Security — at least the Times’ infographic only shows one MRAP in Montana.

Two seemingly disparate issues — the state affairs for the newest crop of combat veterans and the militarization of American law enforcement agencies — have coalesced, and they hit as close to home in Montana as anywhere.  Ferguson, Missouri, may be a long way from Montana, but concern has risen here following a number of SWAT deployments and police shootings in Billings over the last year and a half — two of which were fatal shootings by the same officer in just over a year.

We also have one of the highest numbers of veterans per capita among the fifty states, with an accompanying high rate of combat casualties.

Ferguson,  the rise of ISIS and the beheading of James Foley, the shoddy treatment of our veterans in greatest need all point to a federal bureaucracy pollyannish in its notions of foreign policy and at best inept in the implementations of domestic; at worst it is callous, aggressive and self-absorbed.

The last few weeks have seen a plagiarism scandal take down a sitting U.S. Senator from Montana and his subsequent initial attempt to pass his failure off as the result of PTSD.  That didn’t fly, but it prompted reflection.  Generations of veterans were incensed, but few if any said or wrote about why; and what wasn’t written or spoken is the very thing  others do not understand, especially as it pertains to the generation of veterans immediately prior to this one.

It is this: they have fought the war we were supposed to fight.

That may not sound like a big deal, but it is.  It may sound like war-hawk rhetoric, but it isn’t.

All politics aside, the fact is that our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, and for some even our grandchildren, are shouldering the burden that was ours to bear.  They are paying the price that was ours to pay.  They have been taken from their families, sent a world away, borne heat and cold and have bled and died, and it wasn’t their duty to do: it was ours.

No matter that the decision not to take Baghdad in 1991 may have been best.  I have never spoken to any Gulf War veteran who didn’t say they knew we were going back.

But we didn’t go back.

Our children did.

Bad enough that the war our generation was called to fight got passed to another generation.  But add to that the federal government’s betrayal of these men and women in matters of their necessary care?  Add to it a foreign policy so disconnected from reality that their sacrifice, their blood and their tears are cast aside, treated with such brazen contempt?

It is too much to bear.

Add to all that the militarized police among American law enforcement and the use of that force against American citizens in our home states and home towns and what do you get?

You get this: on August 22, Missouri’s Oath Keepers published an “open letter of warning to Governor Nixon“:

MRAP Funded by DHS

The rapidly escalating militarization of America’s police is fundamentally incompatible with our Constitution and incompatible with a free nation, and inevitably leads to violence against We the People and gross violations of our rights, for which so many of our brothers have fought, bled, and died throughout this nation’s history…. 

Governor Nixon, you stand at a critical moment in history.  You must reverse course and set the example for other states to follow, to demilitarize our police and bring police methods back within the bounds of the Constitution.  A failure to do so will further place millions of us American veterans who still take our oaths seriously on a fateful collision course with a burgeoning police state that is going down the same road that other nations have traveled, with tragic ends….

Our grandfathers and fathers fought against totalitarian police states overseas.  Please don’t force us to fight against one here at home.   Demilitarize the police now, and let us all live in peace under the Constitution, with liberty, and justice, for all.

John Walsh may not yet be gone,  and he may be very nearly forgotten, but in the end he may help more vets through his failure than through whatever political success he may have enjoyed.  And for that, perhaps, we can give thanks.

Michael Mattson

Michael Mattson is State Editor for Watchdog Wire - Montana. He is founder and Executive Editor of The Hellroaring Review, an online literary journal that focuses on very short ("flash") fiction, as well as The Hellroaring Report, a news aggregator focused on the Mountain West and Northern Plains. Contact Michael at Montana@WatchdogWire.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Hell_Roaring

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Categories: Government Transparency, Must Read, Opinion
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