On Tuesday, President Bush warned the nation that outbreaks of Bird Flu may require massive quarantines enforced by the US Military. He said that the military would be better able “to prevent people from coming in to get exposed to the flu”, although he failed to explain why that task couldn’t be carried out by the National Guard. Bush’s comments echoed the same themes we’ve heard repeatedly since Hurricane Katrina: that the president needs the power to deploy troops within the country at his own discretion and without any legal restrictions. It is a conspicuous attempt to militarize the country and declare martial law, although the media has scrupulously avoided the obvious conclusions.
Bush now claims that he will need to deploy the military following a terrorist attack, a national disaster, or after the outbreak of a flu-epidemic. “Sending in the troops” has seemingly replaced “tax-cuts” as the one-size-fits-all answer for every question asked of any member of the hard-right administration.
“I am concerned about avian flu” Bush opined. “I'm concerned about what an avian flu outbreak could mean for the United States and the world. If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country? And who best to be able to affect a quarantine? One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move. So that's why I put it on the table. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have…. I think the president ought to have all options on the table to understand what the consequences are -- all assets on the table, not options -- assets on the table to be able to deal with something this significant.”
Even before Katrina, Donald Rumsfeld had repeatedly expressed interest in using the military domestically. According to many reports the delay in getting relief to the victims of the hurricane was the result of a power-struggle between the administration and local officials (Governor Kathleen Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin) over who would control the operation. The administration was determined from the onset to federalize the effort and put the Pentagon in charge. This caused a 3-day holdup in the federal response to the tragedy. The choice was made to withhold aid until the governor capitulated. It is impossible to calculate the number of lives that may have been lost by this decision.
The main obstacle to Bush’s militarization scheme is the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. The Act bans the military from participating in policing activities on US soil. It does not, however, prevent the military from helping out in national disasters. This is what is so troubling about Bush’s request to change the law; it shows a clear intention to assert military authority wherever the troops are deployed. It is clearly not an attempt simply to help out.
A careful look at New Orleans shows the danger of this. The military presence has been used to establish order and to set the precedent for future deployments. Blackwater mercenaries are not really part of the relief effort at all, but are employed to harass and intimidate the locals and to protect private property. One of their many functions was to force the evacuation of local homeowners and to strip them of their legally registered firearms, a clear violation of the 2nd Amendment. Their presence is intended to soften the attitudes of citizens to seeing military personnel on their streets and to help them adjust the effects of a transformed America.
Dr. Irwin Redlener, associate Dean of Columbia University’s School of Public Health for Disaster Preparedness, told the Associated Press that giving the military a law enforcement role would be an “extraordinarily Draconian measure” that would be unnecessary for the distribution of vaccines.
“The translation of this is martial law in the United States,” said Redlener.
“Gene Healy, a senior editor at the conservative Cato Institute, said Bush would risk undermining ‘a fundamental principle of American law’ by tinkering with the act, which does not hinder the military’s ability to respond to a crisis.”
“What it does is set a high bar for the use of federal troops in a policing role. That reflects America’s traditional distrust of using standing armies to enforce order at home, a distrust that’s well-justified.” The use of the military “can result in serious damage to American life and liberty,” Healy added. (CNN)
The intention to use the military in a “policing role” creates a permanent state of martial law that can’t be fully grasped out of context. In the last few months the administration has made a number of dramatic changes to the system which have upset the critical balance between the co-equal parts of government. Just three months ago, Bush issued an executive order that created the National Security Service (NSS), a branch of the FBI that now works entirely under his authority. It is America’s first secret police, no different than the East German Stasi or the Soviet Union’s KGB. It operates completely beyond congressional oversight and is answerable to the president alone. It is Bush’s personal Gestapo.
Also, less than a month ago the 4th Circuit Court ruled that the president had the power to declare any American citizen an “enemy combatant” and summarily rescind all of his human and civil rights -- including even the right to know the reason for which he is being he imprisoned. The ruling confers absolute authority on the president and ends of any meaningful notion of “inalienable rights.”
Also, just last week the Senate Intelligence Committee “approved legislation that allows Pentagon Intelligence operatives to collect information from US citizens without revealing their status as government spies.” The Pentagon may now conduct clandestine investigations of American citizens without the traditional safeguards that are applied to FBI. In effect, the legislation revokes the fundamental guarantees of privacy under the 4th Amendment and “green-lights” the Pentagon to operate covertly against American citizens whether they are legitimate terrorist suspects or simply political enemies.
In another shocking development, President Bush said he will veto the upcoming Pentagon budget of $435 Billion if the bill contains any provision that limits the “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners.” The President’s action implies that he has the right to torture and abuse according to his own judgment, a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, the 1996 Treaty on Torture and the 8th Amendment.
And, finally, the revised version of Patriot Act is quickly moving through the Congress. The new edition eviscerates the last feeble strands of the 4th Amendment and paves the way for “administrative subpoenas,” which allow law enforcement to carry out searches without judicial oversight.
This is the context in which we should evaluate the push to use the military in domestic affairs. Every change that has taken place within the government has been designed for one purpose alone: to increase the power of the president. If the congress chooses to overturn the Posse Comitatus Act, they will have removed the last bit of rickety scaffolding that protects the country from becoming a de facto military dictatorship. The power to deploy troops within the nation is the power to use the military against American citizens. It transforms the “people’s army” into a direct threat to the democracy it is supposed to serve.
This is the essential vision of the globalists who currently control all the levers of state-power in Washington. They’ve now articulated their intention to use any conceivable national tragedy to achieve their objective of colonizing America through force of arms and establishing the supreme authority of the president.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: email@example.com.
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