Earlier this week, former Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore said that the National Guard should be mobilized in Philadelphia to assist police with our explosive crime problem. “We are only one month into 2012, and there are already 32 murders on the books,” observed Moore in a press release before helpfully noting: “That’s more than a murder a day.” That he called for military intervention after months of absolutely zero notoriety for his declared candidacy against incumbent Congressman Bob Brady is hardly coincidental, as Mayor Nutter press guy Mark McDonald pointed out when he told the DN’s Philly Clout blog that Moore’s idea was “a misguided proposal by a political candidate in search of media attention.” But the truth is that Moore’s plan doesn’t go far enough.
Deploying any branch of the United States Armed Forces in a law enforcement or “peacekeeping” role on American soil is tricky business, and taking out murderous crackheads in Kingsessing and villainous thugs in Point Breeze is not exactly what our brave men and women signed up for.
Plus, if you call in camouflaged soldiers with big guns and body armor and send them rolling up Broad Street in tanks, suddenly you’ve got Christiane Amanpour and freaking Wolf Blitzer showing up at City Hall asking lots of questions. Think the national media had a field day with Pukemon? Whether the lead story is “Murder Capital USA” or “Martial Law Lockdown in Birthplace of Freedom,” it’s a PR nightmare that even James Carville couldn’t talk his way out of, and all those summer vacationers set on seeing the Liberty Bell and Rocky statue might start looking around for other options. I hear Detroit is on the upswing.
But, on the other hand, if the city were to secretly contract the services of Blackwater, well, we might be getting somewhere. You’ll remember the “shadow army” corporation, which actually went through some name changes recently from Blackwater to Xe Services, LLC to Academi, from the Iraq war, where it got lots of bad press for its tactics. (Hence the name changes.) While the police department and National Guard have codes of conduct and citizens and politicians to answer to, Academi is a private corporation. Its handsomely paid contractors answer to the guy who signs their paychecks. Civil rights don’t exist in their world, and if you try to capture one of their takedowns with your little cell phone camera, well, you might just find out firsthand the meaning of extraordinary rendition. There are, after all, lots of empty warehouses over the bridge in Camden.
I’m not saying that we wouldn’t get our hair mussed, to borrow a phrase from the incomparable George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove, as he explained that inaction on the part of the president would cause the United States to “suffer virtual annihilation.” But that’s where we’re at. Virtual annihilation. In Dr. Strangelove, the characters were coping with a new reality of war, where man-to-man combat had been replaced by doomsday devices and weapons measured in the megatons. And here in Philadelphia, we’re faced with a new kind of urban war and a new kind of criminal, one with absolutely no morality and no fear of consequences, for whom killing serves no real purpose. They have no agenda. They have no message. They kill for fun. They are not citizens who deserve full protection under the law. They are, in fact, domestic terrorists.