by Ajamu Baraka, published on Black Agenda Report, September 8, 2021
A new report on cost of US domestic and international militarization brings the domestic situation into sharp focus. The US ruling elite appears to be preparing for one of three scenarios in the near future: system collapse, a fascist response, or a radical left turn toward a non-capitalist politics.
Even beyond the “normal” counterinsurgency efforts by intelligence agencies against domestic political opposition, with a special emphasis on Black opposition by the U.S. state’s repressive apparatuses, the state has also been moving with great determination to shore up the military capacity of its domestic army, commonly referred to as the police.
While many were made aware of “new” programs of state surveillance and repression of Black political organizations through efforts like the FBI’s labeling of certain Black opposition groups with the catch-all term of “Black Identity Extremists,” and even cases of surveillance and harassment of the more moderate groups like Black Lives Matter (BLM), the more insidious efforts of state repression, such as the establishment of Fusion Centers, the role of the Joint Terrorist Task Forces, and the enormous amounts of military grade equipment transferred from the Federal government to police forces across the country, escaped critical scrutiny. Part of the reason why this occurred was because over the years, these programs’ most dramatic increases occurred under the Obama Administration.
However, a new report by the National Priorities Project titled State of Insecurity: The Cost of Militarization Since 9/11 (pdf), revealed the scale and cost of domestic and international militarization. The report estimated that, under guise of the “war on terror,” more than 21 trillion dollars was spent over the last twenty years. Domestically, it documented how through new agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its training and funding of federal programs for local police departments, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent over the years. And when the Department of Defense’s 1033 program is added, the amount goes into the billions to enhance the military capacity of police departments across the country.
First noticed by the public when local authorities in Ferguson, Missouri showed up with armored vehicles, advanced battlefield weapons and wearing camouflage in response to the demonstrations sparked by the murder of Mike Brown. But what the public saw was the result of a process that began decades earlier, again sparked by urban uprisings and militant political opposition organized by the Black Liberation Movement in the 1960s and 70s. These efforts were the genesis of Special Weapons and Tactical Teams (SWAT) that were buttressed with an array of federal programs over the years, including the DOD 1033, which has transferred some 4.7 billion in surplus military equipment to thousands of police departments.
However, while dramatic, there was not much that was not unknown to activists, especially Black activists, including the fact that, with the increase use of military equipment by law enforcement, studies demonstrated there was a “statistically significant relationship between 1033 transfers and fatalities from officer-involved shootings across all models.”
The war on terror, like the “war on drugs” and the “war on crime,” always ends up being simply the continuation of the containment war waged by the white supremacist settler-colonial state against captive nations and peoples in the territory known as the United States of America.
Domestic colonial containment and imperialist counterrevolutionary policies are costly. But the brunt of the price is paid by the colonized and exploited working classes and peoples of the U.S. that pay for and die in U.S. wars of aggression, and by the peoples and nations that are bombed, subverted politically, sanctioned to death, and destroyed by the U.S. state and its European allies.
On the same day that the National Priorities Project report was issued, Brown University’s Cost of War Project release a report that estimated the war in Iraq and Afghanistan killed almost a million people and cost more than $8 trillion dollars.
But, while the cost of war in terms of lives and materials is important, it is even more important to be cognizant of the logic that is in play. Is it ironic or just reflective of a deeper logic being guided by the rulers that even as the public reacts with revulsion from the information that, after more than 2 trillion dollars transferred from the people’s resources to the pockets of the military/industrial complex in support of the illegal war on Afghanistan, representatives from both parties overwhelmingly pass legislation giving yet another increase to military spending, this time to the tune of $24 billion. Is this a gesture of contempt for the public or an understanding that force and violence will be required if the U.S.-based rulers are to maintain hegemony?
As the economic, political, and moral crisis of capitalism deepens, it is clear that the rulers have made their decision. And that decision is intensified class warfare in the U.S and abroad.
This understanding is important because it recognizes that, because of the commitment to neoliberal market fundamentalism and the irreconcilable contradictions that emerged from capitalism’s structural crisis that began in 2008 and sharpened with the covid pandemic, the system has only three interrelated paths, separately or in combination, that the state and ruling class is preparing for: system collapse, a fascist response, or a radical left turn toward a non-capitalist politics.
That is why the Biden administration has not departed from the overall logic of the Trump administration with the redeployment of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, the intensification of belligerence toward China, the continued illegal occupations in Syria and Iraq, expansion of AFRICOM, subversion of efforts at anti-colonial national liberation projects in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and domestically with the continuation of the DOD 1033 program and money for more police on the streets of the U.S.
The U.S./EU/NATO Axis of Domination prepares for and carries out war, but we must work for peace, a radical peace.
The Black radical peace tradition says:
“Peace is not the absence of conflict, but rather the achievement by popular struggle and self-defense of a world liberated from the interlocking issues of global conflict, nuclear armament and proliferation, unjust war, and subversion through the defeat of global systems of oppression that include colonialism, imperialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy.”
This fight, the fight for a new world free from all forms of oppression, is the mission of our time. But let us once again be more specific before we embrace this abstract principle. We say that, concretely, this new world can only be built when we defeat the Pan European white supremacist, colonial/capitalist patriarchy. We say again, without equivocation, that this is the primary contradiction and the primary task of revolutionaries globally.
Ajamu Baraka is the national organizer of the Black Alliance for Peace and was the 2016 candidate for vice president on the Green Party ticket. Baraka serves on the Executive Committee of the U.S. Peace Council and leadership body of the United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC). He was awarded the US Peace Memorial 2019 Peace Prize and is the recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.