By James Bovard
Martial law” means obey soldiers’ commands or be shot...
Fri Jul 20, 2007 18:22
 

 
“Martial law” means obey soldiers’ commands or be shot.
http://zmagsite.zmag.org/JulAug2007/bovard.html

Martial Law
Working for the Clampdown
By James Bovard

How many pipe bombs might it take to end U.S. democracy? Far fewer than it would have taken a year ago. The Defense Authorization Act of 2006, passed on September 30, empowers President George W. Bush to impose martial law in the event of a terrorist “incident” or if he or other federal officials perceive a shortfall of “public order” or even in response to antiwar protests that get unruly as a result of government provocations.
FULL REPORT:
http://zmagsite.zmag.org/JulAug2007/bovard.html



http://zmagsite.zmag.org/JulAug2007/bovard.html

On February 24, the White House conducted a highly publicized drill to test responses to Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) going off simultaneously in ten American cities. The White House has not disclosed the details of how the feds responded, but it would be out of character for this president to let new powers he sought to gather dust. There is nothing to prevent presidents from declaring martial law on a pretext than there is to prevent them from launching a war on the basis of manufactured intelligence.

Senators Leahy and Kit Bond (R-MO) are sponsoring a bill to repeal the changes. Leahy urged his colleagues to consider the Section 1076 fix, declaring, “It is difficult to see how any Senator could disagree with the advisability of having a more transparent and thoughtful approach to this sensitive issue.”

He deserves credit for fighting hard on this issue, but there is little reason to expect most members of Congress to give it a second look. The Section 1076 debacle exemplifies how the Washington establishment pretends that new power will not be abused, regardless of how much existing power has been mishandled. Why worry about martial law when there is pork to be harvested and photo ops to attend? It is still unfashionable in Washington to worry about the danger of the open barn door until after the horse is two miles down the road.

James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy and eight other books.

http://zmagsite.zmag.org/JulAug2007/bovard.html




Section 1076 of the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 changed the name of the key provision in the statute book from Insurrection Act to Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order Act. The Insurrection Act of 1807 stated that the president could deploy troops within the United States only “to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.” The new law expands the list to include “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition”—and such “con- dition” is not defined or limited.

These new pretexts are even more expansive than they appear. FEMA proclaims the equivalent of a natural disaster when bad snowstorms occur and Congress routinely proclaims a natural disaster when there is a shortfall of rain in states with upcoming elections. A terrorist “incident” could be something as stupid as the flashing toys scattered around Boston last fall.

The new law also empowers the president to commandeer the National Guard of one state to send to another state for up to 365 days. Bush could send the New York National Guard to disarm the residents of Mississippi if they resisted a federal law that prohibited private ownership of semiautomatic weapons. Governors’ control of the National Guard can be trumped with a simple presidential declaration.

The story of how Section 1076 became law demonstrates how expanding government power is almost always the correct answer in Washington. Some people have claimed the provision was slipped into the bill in the middle of the night. In reality, the Administration signaled its intent and almost no one in the media or Congress tried to stop it.

The Katrina debacle appears to have drowned Washington’s resistance to military rule. Bush declared, “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.”

His initial proposal generated only a smattering of criticism and there was no “robust discussion.” On August 29, 2006, the Administration upped the ante, labeling the breached levees “the equivalent of a weapon of mass effect being used on the city of New Orleans.” Nobody ever defined a “weapon of mass effect,” but the term wasn’t challenged.

Section 1076 was supported by both conservatives and liberals. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, co-wrote the provision, along with committee chair Sen. John Warner (R-VA). Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) openly endorsed it and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), then-chair of the House Armed Services Committee, was an avid proponent.
http://zmagsite.zmag.org/JulAug2007/bovard.html
 

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