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Modernizing Repression

Modernizing Repression: Police Training and NationBuilding in the American Century

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Modernizing Repression
    Book Description:

    As American troops became bogged down first in Iraq and then Afghanistan, a key component of U.S. strategy was to build up local police and security forces in an attempt to establish law and order. This approach, Jeremy Kuzmarov shows, is consistent with practices honed over more than a century in developing nations within the expanding orbit of the American empire. From the conquest of the Philippines and Haiti at the turn of the twentieth century through Cold War interventions and the War on Terror, police training has been valued as a costeffective means of suppressing radical and nationalist movements, precluding the need for direct U.S. military intervention and thereby avoiding the public opposition it often arouses. Unlike the spectacular but ephemeral pyrotechnics of the battlefield, police training programs have had lasting consequences for countries under the American imperial umbrella, fostering new elites, creating powerful tools of social control, and stifling political reform. These programs have also backfired, breeding widespread resistance, violence, and instability—telltale signs of “blowback” that has done more to undermine than advance U.S. strategic interests abroad.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-196-0
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations Used in Text
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    In a March 19, 2010, cover story, “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight,”News-weekreported that although the United States had spent $6 billion trying to create an effective police force in Afghanistan, officers could barely shoot a rifle or hit a target fifty meters away, and much of the ammunition wound up being used by insurgents. Mohammed Moqim, an eight-year veteran of the force, was quoted as saying: “We are still at zero. [Recruits] don’t listen, are undisciplined, and will never be real policemen.” Tracy Jeansonne, a sheriff from Louisiana who worked as a police trainer for the defense...

  6. Part I Taking Up the ʺWhite Manʹs Burdenʺ: Imperial Policing in the Philippines and the Caribbean

    • [Part I Introduction]
      (pp. 17-20)

      From the Philippine Islands in 1901 to Afghanistan in 2012, police training, through a cadre of technical specialists, has been a central facet of Washington’s foreign interventions. The programs evolved in distinctive ways and have been carried out by different bureaucratic agencies, including the military, the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, and, more recently, private mercenary firms such as DynCorp and Xe (formerly Blackwater). The primary motive, consistent across time and space, has been to fortify and gain leverage over the internal security apparatus of client regimes and to root out groups resisting U.S. power. In addition, the programs...

    • Chapter 1 The First Operation Phoenix: U.S. Colonial Policing in the Philippines and the Blood of Empire
      (pp. 21-36)

      “Let any critic try the nerve-racking sport of hunting well-armedbabaylanes, pulajanes, Moros or …ladrones[euphemisms for guerrilla bandits] before he censures the constabulary for firing quickly—and to kill.”¹ So wrote the soldier of fortune John R. White inBullets and Bolos: Fifteen Years in the Philippine Islands, his 1928 account of his tenure with the Philippines constabulary. Written as an adventure tale and a homily on the gallantry of American fighting forces, White’s book was characteristic of its time in its favorable reference to Kipling and the “white man’s burden.” Furthermore, it exemplifies the importance of the...

    • Chapter 2 ʺPopping Offʺ Sandinistas and Cacos: Police Training in Occupied Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua
      (pp. 37-52)

      In 1917, two years after the marines landed in Haiti to protect American business interests there, General Smedley D. Butler, one of the most decorated marines in American history, was sent to Haiti to create a police Gendarmerie that would serve the same purpose. Much like his counterparts in the Philippines, where he had spent a year battling nationalist forces in Cavite, Butler and his men sought to mold the force in the leatherneck image. He declared in his autobiography that “with shoes and buttons shining and hats cocked over one eye, they strutted with a swagger and basked in...

  7. Part II Under the Facade of Benevolence: Police Training and the Cold War in Southeast Asia from the ʺReverse Courseʺ to Operation Phoenix

    • [Part II Introduction]
      (pp. 53-56)

      Though separated by less than fifteen years from the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Caribbean, the post–World War II American occupation of Japan and the onset of the Cold War marked the opening of an entirely new era, one in which the United States emerged as the preeminent global power. Amidst a flowering of nationalist sentiment—what Tom Engelhardt referred to as the postwar “victory culture”—the United States was bent more than ever before on projecting its power and exporting its institutions to all corners of the globe, partly as a means of countering the influence of...

    • Chapter 3 ʺTheir Goal Was Nothing Less than Total Knowledgeʺ: Policing in Occupied Japan and the Rise of the National Security Doctrine
      (pp. 57-78)

      In the late 1940s, police recruits at a training academy established by the United States in Osaka were required to watch a feature-length film on democratic policing standards titledMidnight in a Great City. The story centered on a generational conflict between a father, a veteran of the police force who clung to traditional methods, and his son, who was schooled in modern scientific techniques. The two got into frequent arguments about the best way to track down criminals, and each followed his own approach. At the climax of the film, the father is wounded by a gangster. Through the...

    • Chapter 4 ʺLaw in Whose Name, Order for Whose Benefit?ʺ Police Training, ʺNation-Building,ʺ and Political Repression in Postcolonial South Korea
      (pp. 79-98)

      In July 1946, as part of an investigation by the American Military Government (AMG) in South Korea, an adviser asked the police chief in Kongju if he believed that left-wing leaders should be suppressed. The chief hesitated and asked, “As a policeman or echoing the opinion of the people?” After the adviser responded, “as a policeman,” the chief replied with a wink: “I cannot say because we are ordered not to express any opinions. Ninety per cent of the people would like to eliminate leftists.”¹ This conversation sheds light on the political function of the police, which was built up...

    • Chapter 5 ʺFree Government Cannot Exist without Safeguards against Subversionʺ: The Clandestine Cold War in Southeast Asia I
      (pp. 99-120)

      From 1956 to 1959 Jeter Williamson, the police chief in Greensboro, North Carolina, spent much of his time in the Philippines jungles, training rural police and constabulary units to suppress remnants of the Huk guerrilla movement. Like the constabulary officers of yesteryear, Williamson was willing to endure difficult field conditions in an effort to export professional American standards and improve police efficiency, now in the service of the Cold War. No Ugly American, he took pains to learn Tagalog and other dialects in the countries where he served, and he ate local foods. In Thailand, where he went after leaving...

    • Chapter 6 The Secret War in Laos and Other Vietnam Sideshows: The Clandestine Cold War in Southeast Asia II
      (pp. 121-140)

      In the spring of 1959, Paul H. Skuse, a CIA operative working undercover in Laos as a police adviser with the State Department’s International Cooperation Administration (ICA), invited two Hmong chiefs, Touby Lyfoung and Toulia Lyfong, to his French-style villa outside Vientiane for dinner with the aim of securing their cooperation in the escalating war against the Pathet Lao.¹ A deputy in the national assembly, Toulia was openly sympathetic to the Pathet Lao, and had urged the Hmong not to fight their fellow tribesmen. Touby was more fervently anticommunist and amenable to accepting aid from the United States, in part...

    • Chapter 7 ʺAs I Recall the Many Torturesʺ: Michigan State University, Operation Phoenix, and the Making of a Police State in South Vietnam
      (pp. 141-162)

      On April 19, 1965, a seventeen-year-old suicide bomber walked into the Flower nightclub in Dalat, Vietnam, seeking to emulate “heroes” who had given their lives for the anti-imperialist cause, including Nguyen Van Troi, a legendary guerrilla executed after attempting to assassinate Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge. The teenager detonated a bomb that killed thirteen people, including himself, and injured forty-two. In a brief suicide note he condemned the war and Vietnamese who collaborated with the United States. The greatest tragedy, he wrote, was that “U.S. imperialism had made Vietnamese kill Vietnamese.”¹ The young suicide...

  8. Part III The Cold War on the Periphery: Police Training and the Hunt for Subversives in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East

    • [Part III Introduction]
      (pp. 163-164)

      In 1974, CIA operative Philip Agee published an exposé, Inside the Company,which rocked the American foreign policy establishment. The book detailed Agee’s role in funneling money to centrist, anticommunist candidates in Ecuador and Uruguay, in infiltrating labor unions, and in collaborating with the military and secret police through USAID’s Public Safety Division to gain information on leftist groups and contribute to their dismantling. Agee concluded: “American capitalism, based on its exploitation of the poor, with its fundamental motivation in personal greed, cannot survive without force—a secret police force…. Now more than ever, exposure of CIA methods could help...

    • Chapter 8 Arming Tyrants I: American Police Training and the Postcolonial Nightmare in Africa
      (pp. 165-187)

      In 1961 the State Department issued a report outlining the importance of the police to postcolonial development in Africa. It proclaimed that in many nations, the police “[are] organized under rigid central control, live in barracks, operate in large groups, and make police stations into such formidable spots that any sane citizen wants to avoid them…. Public Safety officials believe we should use whatever leverage we have to induce these countries to establish civilian-oriented, western-style police forces. They recognize that this will be a long and difficult process, but the states of Africa that seek our help are probably more...

    • Chapter 9 Arming Tyrants II: Police Training and Neocolonialism in the Mediterranean and Middle East
      (pp. 188-207)

      In the mid-1950s a reporter asked a member of the Iranian Gendarmerie why he was shooting at fellow Iranians. “They are your brothers,” said the reporter. The officer replied, “Our shoes are American, our clothes are given by Americans, and our salaries are paid by them. They instructed us to fire.”¹ The response sums up the devil’s bargain local officials worldwide made in allying with the United States. In return for modern equipment and weapons capable of securing their power, they in effect gave up their sovereignty and helped to sow internecine conflict.

      As the reconstruction of western Europe proceeded...

    • Chapter 10 The Dark Side of the Alliance for Progress: Police Training and State Terror in Latin America during the Cold War
      (pp. 208-231)

      In fall 1955 Lee Echols, a national pistol shooting champion and veteran of the police programs in Japan, received a call from his friend Byron Engle asking him to go to Bolivia as part of the 1290-d program. Without hesitation, the forty-nine-year-old customs officer from Calexito, California, accepted and began work setting up training schools and pistol ranges and instructing the secret police in advanced methods of surveillance, interrogation, and infiltration. Fluent in Spanish, Echols subsequently went on to Uruguay and Cuba, where he created a special “traffic squad” (evidently a cover for more secret police operations) under Hernando Hernandez...

  9. Conclusion: The Violence Comes Full Circle—From the Cold War to the War on Terror
    (pp. 232-252)

    In his trilogy on the American empire, Chalmers Johnson demonstrates how the United States has historically projected its power through a variety of means, including economic blackmail and the manipulation of financial institutions, covert operations, propaganda, arms sales, and, most important, the development of a network of military bases whose scale dwarfs that of all previous empires, including Rome.¹ This book has sought to examine another important structural dimension of U.S. power, namely, the training of police and paramilitary units under the guise of humanitarian assistance, which preceded and continued through the era of global military bases. The central aim...

  10. Abbreviations Used in Notes
    (pp. 253-256)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 257-368)
  12. Index
    (pp. 369-384)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 385-387)