Monday, June 16, 2008

Issues to Care About: Volume I

Over the next couple of weeks (and for as long afterward as I'm able) I'll be posting a series of blogs that seek to cut through the smears, flotsam, and other non-issues that will likely again dominate this nation's presidential campaign. If you're sick, tired, and disillusioned with flag pins and tribal African headdresses, read on. If you're not, read on anyway...this is for everyone.

President Bush Takes Covert Steps Towards Martial Law

Precisely 22 months ago, President Bush privately (indeed, almost secretly) signed into law the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007. The law, in effect, permits President Bush to not only position troops anywhere in the United States, but also to take control of national guard soldiers without the consent of state or local authorities in order to "suppress public disorder." The president's signing of the law essentially revises a 200-year-old law known as the Insurrection Act and repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which reads: "Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both." This act has been the United States' citizens' most explicitly stated protection against the possibility of tyranny enforced by a declaration of martial law, a tactic commonly utilized nowadays by authoritarian governments to brutally put down populist movements against unpopular rule.

Getting specific, Section 333 of the JW Defense Authorization Act reads: "...the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in federal service--to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a national disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (or "refuse" or "fail in") maintaining public order--in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."

Thusly, with one swipe of the pen, no clearly referenced author, and dangerously vague prose, the President has been granted sweeping powers to not only utilize the United States armed forces for the purpose of quashing dissidence, but also to determine what constitutes this "insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy."

In 2007, Major General Timothy Lowenberg (Adjutant General of the Washington National Guard, as well as Director of the Washington Military Department) testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the "Insurrection Act Rider and State Control of the National Guard." Speaking out in particular against Section 1076, the General asserted and confirmed that the law had effectively stricken irrelevant "one hundred years of law and policy...without any publicly or privately acknowledged author or proponent of the change."

Not only that, but a domestic military organization has already been established; Northern Command (NORTHCOM) was approved by Secretary of Defense Gates on March 15th, 2007. Simply put, President Bush has seen fit to declare himself dictator.

While there has been absolutely no mention of this in the mainstream media, and little reaction from our elected officials in Congress, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), noting that "Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty," has introduced Senate Bill 513, which seeks to repeal Section 1076 of the John Warner Act.

As of now, the bill has yet to move beyond the introduction phase, according to When and if, however, the bill comes up for consideration, it must be drafted into law so that this President, and the others to follow, will not retain the ability and the "right" to arbitrarily enact an authoritarian rule.

Note: Credit for the story and quotes is due to author Frank Morales, as well as the student and faculty researchers for Censored 2008. Many of my forthcoming posts will be based on selections from the Censored series, as well as from the writings of Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Charlie Savage, and Jeremy Scahill, and I thank them for their diligence in upholding and fighting for the tenets of open government, freedom of information and of the press, and for democracy in general.

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