President Trump’s remarks last week characterizing purported lawlessness in cities like Portland and Chicago as “worse than Afghanistan” were offered as grounds for sending federal officers into these and other cities over the objections of local officials. President Trump has also characterized Black Lives Matter protesters themselves as terrorists, while also floating the possibility of designating Antifa as a terrorist organization. These actions have all been rightly and widely condemned. The President does not have the authority to designate “Antifa” or other domestic groups as terrorist organizations. And the President’s treatment of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or other federal law enforcement agencies as paramilitary forces that he can deploy at his discretion against cities “run by Democrats” has produced substantial legal and political pushback (with lawsuits, a Department of Justice investigation, resistance from mayors, criticism from former Republican DHS officials and legal scholars).
Yet the common thread between would-be terrorist designations and the suggestion that American cities should be subjected to the same treatment as those in Afghanistan – where the United States military once served as a belligerent occupier – deserves more sustained attention. By making visible relationships that are usually obscured from public view, President Trump’s brutal instincts may inadvertently help connect the dots between two important movements that have both gained momentum in part thanks to his presidency. What the President has made plain is the deep connection between militarized domestic policing and America’s wars abroad. Understanding this broader context means that calls to defund the police must also echo demands to end this country’s endless wars.
Read the full article in Just Security.