The Nine Worst Lawfare Injustices in the US and What They Tell Us About Ourselves

Downs, Steve

Publisher:  CounterPunch
Date Written:  28/01/2019
Year Published:  2019  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23374

"Lawfare" is when the law is weoponized and directed against a group of people declared to be an enemy. This is a brief history with nine examples.



The law should apply equally to everyone. The 14thAmendment guarantees to all Americans the "equal protection of the laws". But when we go to war this guarantee is often violated. War means designating an "enemy" to be defeated using every available means including the law. We call this "lawfare" when the law, instead of providing equal protection, is bent to become a weapon of war against a certain targeted "enemy"....

After World War II, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover targeted certain groups, especially black militants and civil right activists, as "enemies" and declared lawfare on them, using fake charges, wrongful convictions, disruptive lies, and even targeted assassinations in a Counter Intelligence Program known as COINTELPRO. Eventually COINTELPRO was exposed, and a congressional committee found that the FBI had essentially waged war on its own citizens in violation of constitutional guarantees. The FBI was prohibited from engaging in such conduct in the future....

COINTELPRO officially ended in 1971 soon after it was exposed. But in the same year, the Nixon Administration started a "War on Drugs", ostensibly to attack drug addiction, but in fact to continue the lawfare against African-Americans as Administration officials later acknowledged. Thousands of African Americans were targeted and convicted of drug offenses, and the prison population swelled to such a disproportionate extent with black prisoners that we now talk about the mass incarceration of people of color. Michelle Alexander wrote a searing exposé of this in her book, The New Jim Crow. We are still living with the mass incarceration of a whole generation of young men of color, and the devastation that this targeting brought on black communities.

After 9/11, the Bush Administration announced a new war – a "War on Terror", ostensibly aimed at identifying and convicting a tiny group of "terrorists" that supposedly were loose in the US. The FBI focused on Muslims as the new "enemy", and the restrictions imposed on the FBI after COINTELPRO were quietly removed. Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly said that if there was even a 1% chance that someone might engage in terrorism, the government must respond as though it was a certainty. In practice, this meant that it would be better to convict 99 innocent Muslims than to let one potentially guilty Muslim go free. The prisons quickly began to fill up with hundreds of innocent Muslims, who were entrapped or railroaded in the lawfare of the War on Terror.
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