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.
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 Blanco and Mayor 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.
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.
Now here's a bit of news that is truly alarming:
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.
Well, you know what I'm going to say. Why aren't the Democrats screaming about this? We simply do not have an opposition party in this country. I grieve for the country that was.