- 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 may 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 claim-improperly, but so what? -that 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 he'd 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 administration's 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 government's 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
charge-mostly of resident aliens, but also of American citizens-and 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 spies-Operation
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 way--courtesy of a $385-million grant by the US Army Corps of
Engineers to Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc--of 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 United States.
- As we go about our daily lives--our shopping, our escapist
movie watching, and even our protesting and political organizing-we 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 isn't an alarmist. He says he doesn't 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 president's 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 version-a move that has the endorsement
of all 50 governors--but 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 droves-especially mid-level officers.
- If we are headed for martial law, better that it be with
a broken military. Maybe if it's broken badly enough, the administration
will be afraid to test the idea.
- Sidebar: Why US troops should question orders:
- Mounting evidence that football star Pat Tillman, who
famously gave up a high-paying pro career to sign up as an Army Ranger
and fight Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, may have been assassinated in a high-level
conspiracy to prevent him from returning to the US as a prominent war critic
should make even hardened military people question orders from their commander
in chief, particularly if those orders involve arresting or shooting American
citizens. Tillman, it is now known, had turned strongly against the war
in Iraq as early as late 2003, and was telling his platoon to vote against
Bush. There are reports too that he was contacting war critics like Noam
Chomsky from Afghanistan about coming out as a war critic in 2004--a prospect
which must have terrified the war-mongers in the White House and Pentagon.
- The military initially claimed Tillman had been killed
in combat, then later claimed his death was from friendly fire. It is now
known that an investigation at the time found no evidence of any enemy
fire at all, and Tillman's death came from three close shots from an M-16
to the forehead, execution-style. Memos have been found from Pentagon lawyers
congratulating each other for having buried a doctor's report on the possibility
- If this is what the government does to its critics, how
can soldiers believe anything they are being told?
- Of course, the shabby treatment afforded to insured troops
should also be having an effect on morale.
- Maybe the way to respond to a declaration of martial
law is, like the Israelites on the first Passover, to prominently display
a sign on one's front door saying, "Support the troops: Bring them
- DAVE LINDORFF is a veteran, award-winning investigative
reporter based in Philadelphia. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara
Olshansky, is "The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing
President George W. Bush from Office" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and
now available in paperback). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net