At the height of the Occupy Wall Street evictions, it seemed as though some diminutive version of "shock and awe" had stumbled in from Baghdad, Iraq, to Oakland, California.
US police forces had been "militarized", many commentators worried, as though the firepower and callous tactics on display were anomalies, surprises bursting upon us from nowhere.
There should have been no surprise. Those flash grenades exploding in Oakland and the sound of cannons on New York's streets simply opened small windows on to a national policing landscape long in the process of militarization - a bleak domestic no man's land marked by tanks and drones, robot bomb detectors, grenade launchers, Tasers and, most of all, interlinked video surveillance cameras and information databases growing quietly on unobtrusive server farms everywhere.
The ubiquitous fantasy of "homeland security", pushed hard by the federal government in the wake of September 11, 2001, has been widely embraced by the public. It has also excited intense weapons- and techno-envy among police departments and municipalities vying for the latest in armor and spy equipment. Read More