- The looming collapse of the US military in Iraq, of which
a number of generals and former generals, including former Chief of Staff
Colin Powell, have warned, is happening none too soon, as it my be the
best hope for preventing military rule here at home.
- From the looks of things, the Bush/Cheney regime has
been working assiduously to pave the way for a declaration of military
rule, such that at this point it really lacks only the pretext to trigger
a suspension of Constitutional government. They have done this with the
active support of Democrats in Congress, though most of the heavy lifting
was done by the last, Republican-led Congress.
- The first step, or course, was the first Authorization
for Use of Military Force, passed in September 2001, which the president
has subsequently used to claimÐimproperly, but so what? Ðthat the
whole world, including the US, is a battlefield in a so-called War on Terror,
and that he has extra-Constitutional unitary executive powers to ignore
laws passed by Congress. As constitutional scholar and former Reagan-era
associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein observes, that one claim,
that the US is itself a battlefield, is enough to allow this or some future
president to declare martial law, since you can always declare martial
law on a battlefield. All hed need would be a pretext, like another terrorist
attack inside the U.S.
- The 2001 AUMF was followed by the PATRIOT Act, passed
in October 2001, which undermined much of the Bill of Rights. Around the
same time, the president began a campaign of massive spying on Americans
by the National Security Agency, conducted without any warrants or other
judicial review. It was and remains a program that is clearly aimed at
American dissidents and at the administrations political opponents, since
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court would never have raised no
objections to spying on potential terrorists. (And it, and other government
spying programs, have resulted in the governments having a list now of
some 325,000 suspected terrorists!)
- The other thing we saw early on was the establishment
of an underground government-within-a-government, though the activation,
following 9-11, of the so-called Continuity of Government protocol, which
saw heads of federal agencies moved secretly to an underground bunker where,
working under the direction of Vice President Dick Cheney, the government
functioned out of sight of Congress and the public for critical months.
- It was also during the first year following 9-11 that
the Bush/Cheney regime began its programs of arrest and detention without
chargeÐmostly of resident aliens, but also of American citizensÐand
of kidnapping and torture in a chain of gulag prisons overseas and at the
Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.
- The following year, Attorney General John Ashcroft began
his program to develop a mass network of tens of millions of citizen spiesÐOperation
TIPS. That program, which had considerable support from key Democrats (notably
Sen. Joe Lieberman), was curtailed by Congress when key conservatives got
wind of the scale of the thing, but the concept survives without a name,
and is reportedly being expanded today.
- Meanwhile, last October Bush and Cheney, with the help
of a compliant Congress, put in place some key elements needed for a military
putsch. There was the overturning of the venerable Posse Comitatus Act
of 1878, which barred the use of active duty military inside the United
States for police-type functions, and the revision of the Insurrection
Act, so as to empower the president to take control of National Guard units
in the 50 states even over the objections of the governors of those states.
- Put this together with the wholly secret construction
now under waycourtesy of a $385-million grant by the US Army Corps
of Engineers to Halliburton subsidiary KBR Incof detention camps reportedly
capable of confining as many as 400,000 people, and a recent report that
the Pentagon has a document, dated June 1, 2007, classified Top Secret,
which declares there to be a developing insurgency within the U.S, and
which lays out a whole martial law counterinsurgency campaign against legal
dissent, and you have all the ingredients for a military takeover of the
- As we go about our daily livesour shopping, our
escapist movie watching, and even our protesting and political organizingÐwe
need to be aware that there is a real risk that it could all blow up, and
that we could find ourselves facing armed, uniformed troops at our doors.
- Bruce Fein isnt an alarmist. He says he doesnt see martial
law coming tomorrow. But he is also realistic. He says, This is all sitting
around like a loaded gun waiting to go off. I think the risk of martial
law is trivial right now, but the minute there is a terrorist attack, then
it is real. And it stays with us after Bush and Cheney are gone, because
terrorism stays with us forever. (It may be significant that Hillary Clinton,
the leading Democratic candidate for president, has called for the revocation
of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq, but not
of the earlier 2001 AUMF which Bush claims makes him commander in chief
of a borderless, endless war on terror.)
- Indeed, the revised Insurrection Act (10. USC 331-335)
approved by Congress and signed into law by Bush last October, specifically
says that the president can federalize the National Guard to suppress public
disorder in the event of national disorder, epidemic, other serious public
health emergency, terrorist attack or incident. That determination, the
act states, is solely the presidents to make. Congress is not involved.
- Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, has added an amendment to the upcoming Defense bill, restoring
the Insurrection Act to its former versionÐa move that has the endorsement
of all 50 governorsbut Fein argues that would not solve the problem,
since Bush still claims that the U.S. is a battlefield. Besides, a Leahy
aide concedes that Bush could sign the next Defense Appropriations bill
and then use a signing statement to invalidate the Insurrection Act rider.
- Fein argues that the only real defense against the looming
disaster of a martial law declaration would be for Congress to vote for
a resolution determining that there is no War on terror. But they are such
cowards they will never do that, he says.
- That leaves us with the military.
- If ordered to turn their guns and bayonets on their fellow
Americans, would our heroes in uniform follow their consciences, and their
oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States? Or would
they follow the orders of their Commander in Chief?
- It has to be a plus that National Guard and Reserve units
are on their third and sometimes fourth deployments to Iraq, and are fuming
at the abuse. It has to be a plus that active duty troops are refusing
to re-enlist in drovesÐespecially mid-level officers.
- If we are headed for martial law, better that it be with
a broken military. Maybe if its broken badly enough, the administration
will be afraid to test the idea.
- Dave Lindorff's most recent book is http://www.amazon.com/dp/0312360169?tag=commondreams-20/ref=nosim
- The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006).
His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net.