ACCUMULATING PERIPHERALS


It’s more a lift than a shove by mattsteinglass
July 31, 2008, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Drugs, United States, Vietnam

The US Embassy was gracious enough to invite me to check out the training program a

A Vietnamese counter-narcotics officer handcuffs an American playing the role of a drug offender during DEA training exercises. Hanoi, July 30, 2008.

A Vietnamese counter-narcotics officer handcuffs an American playing the role of a drug offender during DEA training exercises. Hanoi, July 30, 2008.

team of American Drug Enforcement Agency officers have been conducting for 80 Vietnamese counter-narcotics police, border guards and customs officers in Vietnam for the past week. Most of it seemed to be pretty physical: planning and executing raids, getting into and out of the building, arresting suspects. There were some entertaining sessions involving paint-pellet pistols. (US firearms and tactics instructor Joe Boix to the Vietnamese officers whose performance he was reviewing: “In the first incident, we had two misses at close proximity. We have got to be careful with our shooting and make every shot count, so we can all get home safely.”)

There were a couple of things I found interesting. The first was that the training seemed so far removed from the intricate questions of the drug trade; it didn’t seem much different from what an Israeli Army friend of mine once showed me about how he’d been trained to “take a room”. Well, no, that’s not true — his training involved spraying the room with automatic weapons fire, so I guess that’s different. But still, it was just surprisingly physical; one instructor was showing the police how to put a man on the ground, handcuff his hands behind his back, move him to a sitting position, and then hoist him to his feet. (“It’s more a lift than a shove.”) Almost like a very hostile yoga session or something.

The second point was how seamlessly, for a law enforcement officer, thinking about your own safety translates into thinking about effective use of force against the person you’re arresting. (See that above statement by Boix.) And that in turn just reinforced, for me, the reasons why the introduction of weapons into a situation always heightens everyone’s risk. One person’s safety is another person’s threat. I realize the gun-control issue is off the table in American politics for the foreseeable future, but I still can’t really understand how someone can think that a world where everyone is armed is a safe world.

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