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John Whitehead's Commentary

Machinery of Death: When the Government Acts as Judge, Jury and Executioner [SHORT]

John Whitehead

The government should not be in the business of killing its citizens.

Nevertheless, the U.S. government continues to act as judge, jury and executioner over a populace that have been pre-judged and found guilty, stripped of their rights, and left to suffer at the hands of government agents trained to respond with the utmost degree of violence.

That the death penalty was recently abolished in Virginia is just the tip of the iceberg.

While any effort to scale back the government’s haphazard application of the death penalty—meted out as a punishment, a threat, and a chilling glimpse into the government’s quest for ultimate dominion over its constituents—is a welcome one, capital punishment remains a very small part of the American police state’s machinery of death.

Yet it’s not enough to declare a moratorium on federal and state death penalty executions.

What we need is a moratorium on federal and state violence in all their varied forms, because as long as government-sanctioned murder and mayhem continue unabated, the right to life affirmed by the nation’s founders in the Declaration of Independence remains unattainable.

The danger is real.

Everything about the way the government operates today (imperial, unaccountable and manifestly corrupt) flies in the face of what the founders sought to bring about: a representative government that exists to protect and preserve the life, liberty, property and happiness of its people.

Police violence is but one aspect of the government violence dispensed without restraint or respect for the rights of the people, but it is widespread.

The casualties are legion.

At a time when growing numbers of unarmed people have been shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety, even the most benign encounters with police can have fatal consequences.

This is what happens when you empower the police to act as judge, jury and executioner.

This is what happens when you indoctrinate the police into believing that their lives and their safety are paramount to anyone else’s.

Suddenly, everyone and everything else is a threat that must be neutralized or eliminated.

And then you have U.S. Marshals—the federal government’s de facto national police force—who may be even more violence and unaccountable.

“One reason for the high level of violence,” according to an in-depth investigation by The Marshall Project, USA TODAY and the Arizona Republic: “The Marshals Service’s rules are looser than those of many major police departments. Marshals are not required to try to de-escalate situations or exhaust other remedies before using lethal force. And marshals are allowed to fire into cars. Though body cameras have become routine in major police departments, marshals do not wear them.”

Marshal task forces, which are made up of local law enforcement officers who get deputized as federal agents but are not necessarily given any special training, are also shielded from prosecution by the Justice Department.

Look more closely and you may find that many of the same cops who serve on marshal task forces also serve on local SWAT teams.

For instance, 23-year-old Casey Goodson was shot and killed outside his family home in Columbus, Ohio by a deputy police officer who also happened to be a member of a marshals task force and the local SWAT team. Although the cop claimed to have shot Goodson in the back for waving a gun while driving, that police account conflicts with other accounts, which suggest Goodson was shot on the doorstep while holding a bag of sandwiches. Goodson was not a target of a police investigation.

Sariah Lane, 17 years old, was killed on her way to the grocery when an Arizona cop, also working as a marshal task force member, fired into a Toyota Corolla in which she and her boyfriend were passengers. Task force members, out to get the driver of the car for violating his parole, used an unmarked car to ram the Corolla in a parking lot, boxed it in with other unmarked cars, and then started firing into the car. Lane was shot in the back of the head with a hollow-point bullet.

Lane’s alleged killer, Detective Michael Pezzelle, trains police officers around the country to “be polite, be professional, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.

Talk about a recipe for disaster: take poorly trained cops, deputize them as federal marshals, grant them immunity from prosecution, and authorize them to use deadly force to kill someone who poses an “imminent danger.”

To that noxious stew add the government’s interest in adopting domestic terrorism legislation to “better monitor and regulate the environments in which extremist ideologies proliferate” and the Biden administration’s pivot to have FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) assist states and cities in their fight against domestic extremism.

Not to be outdone, the Department of Homeland Security is also considering ramping up its initiatives to combat domestic terrorism by expanding training, providing technical assistance to local jurisdictions for threat assessment investigations, and developing strategies to combat the influence of false online narratives.

Translation: the government is about to rapidly expand its policing efforts to focus on pre-crime and thought crimes.

Given the government’s tendency to manipulate labels to suit their purposes (case in point: consider how interchangeably the government uses the terms terrorist, extremist and anti-government), that could easily put a target on the back of any American who dares to challenge the government’s agenda or hold it accountable to the rule of law.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is how “we the people” become enemies of the state.

The ramifications are so far-reaching as to render almost every American an extremist in word, deed, thought or by association.

WC: 986

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

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