Scott Olsen Speaks — With Difficulty — After Getting His Skull Cracked Open By Oakland Cops

USA TODAY: The scene, Olsen said, reminded him of Iraq — the helicopters overhead, the explosions, the smoke. After he was hit, there were frantic curses and cries of “Medic!” “It seemed like a battle, like war,” he said. “It did bring that back to me.” He was standing with an ex-sailor in uniform between the main bodies of police and protesters. Olsen wore his Marines’ camouflage jacket over a Veterans for Peace T-shirt. He was posing for pictures, he said, and trying to use his status as a veteran to keep the peace. After he was hit on the side of the head, he became a mute witness to his rescue by other demonstrators. “They kept asking me, ‘What’s your name?’ ” he recalled. “I couldn’t get the words out.” At the hospital he was in a medically induced coma for about 24 hours while having surgery to repair his skull and ease pressure on his bruised, swollen brain. He didn’t regain basic speech for more than two weeks. The Oakland police, who have said officers had been targets of rocks and bottles earlier on Oct. 25, say they are investigating the incident. “How long does it take to get to the bottom of that?” Olsen asked. MORE

RELATED: The U.S. Government — in the name of Terrorism — has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil… It’s a very small step to go from supporting the abuse of defenseless detainees (including one’s fellow citizens) to supporting the pepper-spraying and tasering of non-violent political protesters.

Why is that such a small step? Because of the countless decisions we made in years past to undermine our own attitudes toward the rule of law and individual rights. Every time we looked the other way when the president asked for the right to detain people without trials, to commit searches without warrants, to eavesdrop on private citizens without even a judge knowing about it, we made it harder to answer the question: what is it we’re actually defending?

In another time, maybe, we might have been able to argue that we were using force to defend the principles of modern Western civilization, that we were “spreading democracy.” Instead, we completely shat upon every principle we ever stood for, stooping to torture and assassination and extrajudicial detention. From the very start we unleashed those despotic practices on foreigners, whom large pluralities of the population agreed had no rights at all. But then as time went on we started to hear about rendition and extralegal detention cases involving American citizens, too, though a lot of those Americans turned out to be Muslims or Muslim-sympathizers, people with funny names.

And people mostly shrugged at that, of course, just as they shrugged for years at the insane erosion of due process in the world of drug enforcement.The population mostly blew off these developments, thinking that these issues only concerned the guilty, terrorists, drug dealers, etc. Who cared? If you don’t have anything to hide, it shouldn’t bother you that the government might be checking your phone records, seeing what sites you’ve been visiting, or quietly distributing armored cars and submachine guns to every ass-end suburban and beyond-suburban police force in America. We had all of these arguments in the Bush years and it’s nothing new to assert that much of our population made a huge mistake in giving up so many of our basic rights to due process. What’s new is that we’re now seeing the political consequences of those decisions.

Again, when we abandoned our principles in order to use force against terrorists and drug dealers, the answer to the question, Who and what are we defending? started to change. The original answer, ostensibly, was, “We are defending the peaceful and law-abiding citizens of the United States, their principles, and everything America stands for.” Then after a while it became, “We’re defending the current population of the country, but we can’t defend the principles so much anymore, because they weigh us down in the fight against a ruthless enemy who must be stopped at all costs.”  Then finally it became this: “We are defending ourselves, against the citizens who insist on keeping their rights and their principles.” MORE

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