Marines train for "crowd control" in West Virginia

 
ABC TV News last night (Saturday, July 31) aired a story of Marines "training" onn the streets of a West Virginia town for crowd control and urban combat. A series of chilling video clips showed Marines in full riot gear moving forward in rank while beating nightstick-like batons in unison against the plastic riot shields they carried.


The scene was identical to many recent protests where similarly armed police have used such tactics to steamroller protestors. Other video showed a new type of "non-lethal" stun grenade and various hardware such as rubber bullets for use in controlling/dispersing large crowds. The news commentator said the exercises were being conducted on the streets of small-town America to give Marines a feel for how real people would react to their presence. The official "explanation" for these exercises is that the Marine participants will soon be deployed to Iraq, where they will use their training to quell street protests.

Several questions/observations come to mind:

1. Why are Marines being trained in these type of police tactics at all? Aren't we spending a gazillion dollars to train Iraqi police to handle these very situations?

2. What is the interest of the United States in using such intimidation tactics on crowds of ordinary Iraqi citizen demonstrators? Apparently there is no fear that such protestors would represent an armed threat, otherwise the marines would be battle-equipped, not carrying batons and shields and other "non-lethal" toys.

3. What sort of large-scale "street protests" is the U.S. anticipating in Iraq - and why? Haven't they been insisting that only a few "foreign insurgents" and diehard "Saddam supporters" were causing all the trouble?

4. To date, the only (non-combat) public protests in Iraq have been noisy but peaceful. Why the sudden interest in controlling these people to the point of screwing them down? Wasn't the (ostensible) purpose to "liberate" them, and to establish "democracy"? (Oh, forgot, this IS what democracy looks like. Silly me.)

5. People usually don't protest in significant ways or numbers unless there's something damned important to protest against. What does the U.S. know that it isn't saying about what they have in store for the long-suffering Iraqi people?

6. Is this "training" the Marines are receiving really intended to be useful on a practical level in Iraq, or will Iraq simply be Phase II of training to use these forces right here in America? I'm not a big fan of conspiracy theories, but it's a fact that the Bush administration has cancelled the Posse Comitatus Act and virtually eliminated the line between civilian and military control of civil affairs. Really makes me wonder about our own future and the potential for martial law.

After watching this on TV, I went looking for a transcript on the ABC News website. Nothing. Not even a reference. Maybe they just haven't updated yet - the last content listed was from Friday - but we shall see.

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