Michael Brown, Eric Garner and 12-year-old Tamir Rice — the very mention of those names calls to mind the protests that have filled our nation's streets in recent weeks — in Ferguson, Mo., New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and places in between.
The teenager, along with the father of six, and the grade-school child represent deeply racist and unjust social structures where criminals and thugs masquerading as law-enforcement officers have implicitly been granted a license to kill with impunity.
The nationwide demonstrations on behalf of black and brown victims of the resulting American police state remind us that our country is decidedly on the wrong track.
Statements by New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio, Attorney General Eric Holder, President Barack Obama, and the United Nation's special rapporteur on torture call us all to a drastic change of direction.
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Ironically, however, that call to change should be first addressed directly to Holder and Obama. They, after all, are in charge of a national and worldwide police state of which Ferguson and Staten Island represent merely the tip of an iceberg.
In that light, all of us must apply pressure for profound systemic reform that far surpasses anything our leaders have in mind.
What lies below the iceberg's tip is not only a generalized culture of guns and violence, but U.S. militarism whose first response to every problem — in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere — is not diplomacy, but to sell arms, kill and maim.
In fact, the U.S. drone program displays all the characteristics of the attacks on Brown, Garner and Rice. They include racial profiling, disproportionality, cover-up and impunity.
Each of these markers surfaced in the case of the a drone assassination of Abdulrahman Al-awlaki. He was a 16-year-old U.S. citizen murdered by drone along with his teenage cousin and at least five other bystanders.
On Oct. 14, all of them were eating dinner at an open-air restaurant in southern Yemen when the missile hit.
Abdulrahman's crime? He happened to be the son of al-Qaida leader, Anwar Al-awlaki, who had himself been killed in a drone attack three years earlier. Other than that, no evidence of any crime by the boy has ever been provided by U.S. authorities.
Neither has there been explanation of his extra-judicial assassination. No one responsible has been identified or punished.
Do you see the connections with Brown and Garner? All of this means that national responses to what happened in Ferguson and Staten Island must include, but go far beyond:
■ Reforms of law-enforcement culture.
■ De-militarization of police arsenals.
■ Special independent prosecutors to handle incidents involving deaths by police officers.
Our nation has to address the root of the problem, which is a worldwide policy of extra-judicial killings and racial profiling codified in drone policy as "signature strikes."
We must publicize the guilt of our leaders while completely withdrawing support from the policies of the worldwide U.S. police state.