Egypt: Tear Gas May Be Non-lethal But It’s Lethal to Democracy

At Salon, Avi Asher-Schapiro reports from Tahrir Square that a “protester, who told me his name was Karim, held up a used teargas canister and pointed to the label: ‘Made in USA.’ … The serial number and blue markings on the tear gas canister indicate that it was manufactured by Combined Systems Incorporated (CSI), a weapons manufacturer based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.” In fact:

This is not the first time CSI ‘s products have been used against Egyptian citizens. During Egypt’s January revolution, CSI tear gas was employed by the Mubarak regime against demonstrators in Tahrir Square. … According to the State Department web site, the United States gave Egypt $1.2 million in 2009 for tear gas, riot control agents, and associated equipment.

Also, in January, Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel reported:

Jawaher Abu Rahmah’s January 1, 2011 death after she was overcome with tear gas at a protest in Bil’in has triggered a mobilization against the companies that provide Israel’s tear gas. … Combined Systems Inc. of Jamestown, Pennsylvania is the primary provider of tear gas to the Israeli army.

Why exactly does possession by the Egyptian military of U.S. made-tear gas offend the protestors, arguably more so than U.S. arms? Perhaps because they are aware that tear gas is not used in combat. Any use by the military is either to quell the populace in a country that it’s invaded and occupied — or, militarizing a police function, using it to suppress its own populace in the service of shoring up military rule.

At Salon, Glenn Greenwald also addressed this on Sunday, November 20.

… U.S. Government — in the name of Terrorism — has aggressively para-militarized the nation’s domestic police forces by lavishing them with countless military-style weapons and other war-like technologies, training them in war-zone military tactics, and generally imposing a war mentality on them. Arming domestic police forces with para-military weaponry will ensure their systematic use even in the absence of a Terrorist attack on U.S. soil; they will simply find other, increasingly permissive uses for those weapons.

In this instance, he was speaking of OWS crackdowns, which are bearing a stronger resemblance to those in Egypt every day.