Human Rights

Michelle Alexander: Missile Strikes in Syria Will Be As Ill-Fated As Nation's Punitive Justice System

Famed civil rights activist and author of The New Jim Crow says we should prioritize humanitarian relief over punitive action or we'll repeat same mistakes as we carry out daily at home.

Notable civil rights activist and attorney Michelle Alexander has once again shown how U.S. policy is driven by an ideology of punishment and punitive actions rather than smart political decisions.

This week on Facebook, Alexander wrote how she was surprised that so much of the debate on Syria has been focused on punitive, military action rather than the humanitarian consequences - namely how many Syrian people may die or whether the attacks will restore peace in the troubled nation:

“The parallels to our criminal punishment system couldn't be more clear.  For decades, our nation has been obsessed with meting out ever harsher punishment for crimes large and small - regardless of whether locking up millions and relegating them to a permanent, second-class status actually hurts or helps the very communities we claim that we are trying to protect," she said.

As Alexander notes, the desire in our country to obtain express authority and control over poor communities of color has led to a political culture where eagerness to punish has become the norm.  Despite major budget cuts, closing of schools, bankrupt states and sequestration, our country always seems to have an endless money supply when it comes to going to war and building prisons.  

 “Now we see a similar dynamic playing out as our government aims to show who's boss in the Middle East. We could be debating how best to provide humanitarian relief to the staggering number of Syrian refugees fleeing the war. But a "line" has been crossed. Instead of considering how we might alleviate suffering, our President wants to attack - missile strikes and bombs are deemed the answer,” she said.

Alexander argues that the trillion dollars our nation has spent "waging the drug war" might have been better spent investing in education, job creation, and drug treatment in ghettoized, crime ridden neighborhoods, rather than on strikes and military action. 



Jodie Gummow is a senior fellow and staff writer at AlterNet.


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