Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Martial law - part 2

I invite you to remember something Bush said: "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier - so long as I'm the dictator." It was meant as a joke, of course, except that's no joking matter in a democracy. Well, it seems he is just itching to declare martial law as is explained in an article by Ted Rall entitled, "Giving democracy the bird: Bush asks Congress for martial law":

Creeping militarism leapt into full view with Bush's October 4 request to Congress to repeal the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits the use of the military in domestic policing except for the purpose of quelling a revolution. Citing the theoretical possibility that Asian avian flu, now only transmittable from bird to human, could mutate into a human-to-human form, Bush said: "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 effect a quarantine? One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move. I think it's an important debate for Congress to have."

Overturning Posse Comitatus would allow troops to break into houses and apartments and sweep the streets for flu victims, and forcibly contain them in Guantánamo-style camps. They could seal off cities or whole states. These extreme measures could also be deployed against U.S. citizens after hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, or even election disputes--whenever and wherever a president decides they are necessary.

Bush laid the groundwork for his assault on Posse Comitatus on September 26, when he explained his decision to unleash the 82nd Airborne upon Hurricane Katrina-devastated New Orleans: "I want there to be a robust discussion about the best way for the federal government, in certain extreme circumstances, to be able to rally assets for the good of the people." The Louisiana National Guard, meanwhile, was stuck in Iraq.

"The translation of this is martial law in the United States," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, associate dean of Columbia University's School of Public Health and director of its National Center for Disaster Preparedness. Redlener called Bush's proposal to deploy troops on American soil an "extraordinarily Draconian measure." Even Gene Healy, senior editor at the right-wing Cato Institute, said Bush's proposal would undermine "a fundamental principle of American law" that "reflects America's traditional distrust of using standing armies to enforce order at home, a distrust that's well-justified."
Travel to other countries and you'll find that a society's freedom is inversely related to the number of guys wearing camouflage, brandishing big guns and pulling people over at roadblocks. Blurring the distinction between policing and soldiering, as do the military police in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and Middle Eastern countries like Syria and Jordan, is a defining characteristic of repressive states.

If Congress repeals Posse Comitatus, we can kiss democracy good-bye forever.

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