“In 1997, the Department of Defense set up the 1033 program as part of the National Defense Authorization Act to provide thousands of domestic police forces with “surplus” equipment of almost every imaginable militarized kind.
“Since then, thanks to your tax dollars, it has given away $7.4 billion worth of such equipment, some of it directly off the battlefields of this country’s forlorn “forever wars.” For items like grenade launchers, mine-resistant armored vehicles, military rifles, bayonets, body armor, night-vision goggles, and helicopters, all that police departments have to fork over is the price of delivery. The Pentagon has, in fact, been so eager to become the Macy’s of militarized hardware that, in 2017, it was even willing to “give $1.2 million worth of rifles, pipe bombs, and night vision goggles to a fake police department,” no questions asked. That “department” proved to be part of a sting operation run by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). “It was like getting stuff off eBay,” a GAO official said, “only, of course, for free”.
“The militarization (or, thought of another way, the commercialization) of the police has grown apace these last 23 years, while the Pentagon’s ever-soaring budgets for its ever-sinking wars could be thought of as the great American commercial success story of this century. With more and more taxpayer dollars in its wallet, it’s been on a remarkable looting spree. Ask yourself: has there been a weapons system it couldn’t have, a military base it couldn’t establish, a war expense Congress wouldn’t fund even while cutting back on crucial aspects of the domestic budget like infrastructure programs or disease prevention programs? No wonder the Pentagon could supply all those police departments with a cornucopia of goods with which to turn themselves into over-armed occupying forces in this country.
“It’s never thought of that way, but the Pentagon and the police have essentially been looting the coffers of the American taxpayer for a long time now and, in the Trump era, the process has only intensified. Nonetheless, even with protests over racism filling the streets of America, protests over defunding the Pentagon have yet to surface in any significant way. Perhaps it’s finally time. (Tom Dispatch 6/23/2020)” *
My question: were you aware of the above, dear reader? I certainly was not. In another country this would be called gross maladministration and misappropriation, if not corruption.
And what has this to do with Epicurus? Why, peace of mind, trust in both government and police, the unfairness of taxing the populace then arming a police force not entirely devoted to the welfare of all the people. If you know any history (doesn’t generally get you a job, so maybe you are not conversant with it?) you will spot a country in sharp decline. This is a painful and worrying conclusion I hate to arrive at.
* Tom Dispatch is a daily blog that concentrates on the military and the endless wars it fights.