Archive for the ‘military’ Category
Bret A. Moore, a former Army psychologist, comes to the defense of soldiers featured in the WikiLeaks video. He convincingly argues that the behavior displayed by the soldiers is not an aberration, but rather the fruit of careful and deliberate training by the military to dehumanize them (and the enemy).
In the footage, which shows a gung-ho US helicopter attack that results in the death of 12 people, including two unarmed reporters, the soldiers are heard laughing jovially post-slaughter. “Look at those dead bastards,” one says. “Nice,” responds another.
Of course, seeing and hearing these atrocities made sheltered citizens balk. A vast majority of Americans don’t serve in the military, they haven’t been asked to sacrifice anything in order to decimate entire overseas societies, and they certainly don’t have to worry about the media violating their gentle sensibilities by showing them harsh images of what their tax dollars are being used for, though they will receive a hefty dose of government propaganda. Thus, Americans were left gaping at the uncensored WikiLeaks video, thinking: How could those unfeeling monsters act so callously?
Well, for starters, the US military built them to be killing machines.
“You don’t want combat soldiers to be foolish or to jump the gun, but their job is to destroy the enemy, and one way they’re able to do that is to see it as a game, so that the people don’t seem real,” says Moore.
Right. They have to dehumanize human beings. Soldiers must adopt an abnormal lack of empathy, and fill the vacuum with strongly amoral conduct. In other words, they must behave as psychopaths, unquestioningly mowing down human beings who cross their paths — even if those humans include reporters and children — as they did in the case of the WikiLeaks footage.
During the Bush years, the government made all kinds of disastrous endeavors into the world of privatization. The US military’s duties were privatized under the banner of Blackwater, which quickly descended into a hellish nightmare of massacres, child prostitution, fraud, and a global war against Islam.
But since these armed mercenaries work for a private company, there is no system of accountability in place to ensure operatives are prosecuted for their crimes. The US military has procedures in place to deal with rogue soldiers, but private armies do not have to adhere to any guidelines when their roid-filled lunatics shoot 17 unarmed civilians.
The US ultimately dropped the charges against Blackwater, inciting outrage in Iraq. In turn, Iraq ordered Blackwater out of the country, not that this in any way hurt the company’s business model. Blackwater is currently in the running for a $1 billion contract to train Afghanistan’s national police force.
When the name started to draw too much attention, Blackwater employees created a shell company called “Paravant.”
Not good. Nathanial Frank, one of the country’s leading experts on DADT, reports that the repeal of the anti-gay military policy is in “grave peril.”
But wait! Top military brass, Colin Powell, the troops, and the Pentagon all support the repeal. A majority of Americans think DADT should be reversed, too. Perhaps most importantly of all, Dick Cheney supports the repeal. When was the last time liberals and Dick Cheney agreed on anything?
Surely, if there’s one thing Democrats can’t fuck up, it’s repealing DADT –a decision that enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support.
Yet despite the military’s move to relax and soon do away with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” repeal in Congress is in grave peril. This is so even though the much-vaunted super-majority in the senate is not necessary to repeal the current policy. As Sen. Carl Levin, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee explained to his colleague, Sen. Joe Lieberman, an amendment to repeal the policy can be added to the must-pass Defense Authorization bill, which would turn the tables on the “no-to-everything” Republicans: the amendment would require a supermajority not to pass, but to remove, meaning that in order to keep the ban in place, the GOP would have to block the entire Pentagon spending bill, publicly undercutting the military.
The Defense Department recently began placing the Predator and Reaper mission clips on YouTube. Ranging from relatively detached wide shots of bombings taken by onboard cameras to startlingly graphic close-ups, the so-called “drone porn” has been a smash hit, as it were, tallying over 10 million views.
Now, I don’t want to launch into a “kids these days” diatribe about how the human race is de-evolving into a pack of bloodthirsty, warmongering savages. I don’t believe video games, or violent films, make kids any less human or more prone to attack each other. However, I do blame a disconnection from the consequences of battle for this kind of war fetishism.
President Obama has issued orders for the implementation of his Afghanistan strategy to military officials and cabinet members. The plans include sending 55,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan (when counting the 21,000 he dispatched last winter shortly after his inauguration) as part of Obama’s grand scheme to “finish the job.” After this new escalation, more than half of the 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will have been sent by Obama.
What does “finish” and “the job” mean? Perhaps the president will enlighten us tonight during his speech at West Point, but for now, one has to assume the declaration in part means to build up the Afghanistan government and the military. It’s time for those Afghans to start taking some personal responsibility! ABC News (11/30/09):
“While tomorrow night’s speech will have many audiences … a senior administration official tells ABC Newsone key message will resonate with all of them: ‘The era of the blank check for President Karzai is over. . . The president will talk about, this not being ‘an open ended commitment’…”
Update: This article originally stated that Halo 3 has now sold more copies than the “Harry Potter series.” This refers to the Harry Potter video game series, and not the films.
The September 2009 NPD video game sales report has just been released, and Halo 3: ODST was the big winner, pulling in over 1.5 million units sold and tripling its nearest competitor. Halo 3 is a dream recruiting tool for the military, a perfect amalgam of propaganda and entertainment that highlights all of the unrealistic, hyper-machismo badassery of Hollywood-style war, while completely whitewashing the moral relativism of real-world conflicts.
The Halo trilogy’s protagonist is the Master Chief, a cybernetically-enhanced human super-soldier (though in ODST, the game focuses on the soldiers known as Orbital Drop Shock Troopers or ODSTs). The Master Chief aids future humanity in battling the Covenant, a theocratic alliance of alien races. Like in most video games, the alien races are designed as the anti-human, horrible, amoral, disgusting beasts created for one purpose: to be destroyed. That’s just smart business. After all, a complex video game illustrating the complicated gray areas of morality that exist in war wouldn’t be as enjoyable to impressionable 12-year-old boys (the industry estimates claim that at least 20 percent of the players are between 12 and 16.)
Today, President Obama unfurled his shiny plan to keep 35,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq under a “new mission of training, ” and to send 17,000 more troops into Afghanistan. This may seem like a sleight of hand artifice (removing troops from Point A, only to drop them in Point B,) but many hawkish pundits, columnists, and bloggers respond to criticism of Obama’s plan by deploying the straw-man directive for readers to “consider the alternative.”
Meaning, I guess, we’re supposed to concede the point that keeping armed forces in Iraq is better than some imagined, hypothetical scenario where all hell breaks loose the second our forces leave, the country dissolves into sectarian warfare (worse that the civil strife that has already occurred,) and some kind of apocalyptical genocide breaks out (the kind of genocide we care about, not the Darfur or Congo kind.)
Let’s set aside the points that sectarian violence may be declining because of mass exoduses from Iraq, a significant amount of the population being dead, and US forces bribing Iraqis not to shoot each other, (all of which the Washington Post described as troops “stop(ping) a sectarian civil war.”) What is this “alternative” I’m supposed to be considering?
Over at Politico, Yousef Munayyer imagines the alternative to permanent occupation as crafty foe behaving themselves only until the final US Blackhawk helicopter departs the Iraq landscape so they can then rain down terror upon the population.
The fundamental problem with measuring success in the fight against insurgency is that we can never be sure if they have stopped fighting because they have given up or because they are just laying low and waiting for us to leave. I don’t know if I would call 50,000 troops “residual” but the heart of the problem is that we simply can’t move out quicker because we just don’t know what will happen.
This is a variation of the “consider the alternative” argument. Because the US military does not yet possess the gift of clairvoyance, we have to remain committed in the region indefinitely because, gee, just consider what might happen in this hypothetical I’ve invented.
It’s like John McHugh (R-NY) said today after his meeting with Obama. We have to consider the possibility that something bad may happen, like “the situation on the ground deteriorat(ing) and violence increas(ing),” which may very well happen because, ya’ know, we totally ripped apart the Iraqi infrastructure and societal fabric. But how do US troops occupying the region convey a new era of autonomy and peace to the Iraqis? They don’t. They can’t. Their presence just delays the inevitable: US troops leaving the region, and chaos and strife following a tumultuous time, followed by (hopefully) rebuilding. That’s what will happen if the troops leave tomorrow. That’s what will happen if the troops leave in December. The only difference is less men and women of all nationalities will die if it happens tomorrow.
To be sure, Iraq and Afghanistan are tremendously volatile regions, but deploying the “consider the alternative” argument is manipulative. Sure, something bad can happen at any given moment. Something bad might be happening in Denmark right now, or rather, something bad may happen eventually. That’s a 1% chance, and Dick Cheney says that’s all we need. Shall we invade? Something bad is actually happening in Darfur and the Congo right now, so why aren’t our troops on their way there?
We don’t know what may happen, but we do know what has happened. The wars have been disastrous, and the explanations for the decrease in violence in Iraq ranges from speculative to insincere. Killing off the population and bribing those who remain isn’t a diplomatic strategy. It’s making the best of a fucked-up situation. It’s reason for shame, but it’s certaintly not a mandate to stay in the region indefinitely because a handful of hawkish pundits keep lobbing hypotheticals at the American population.
It’s just until December! comes the scream of rationalization for a new Magic Number pull-out date. We have to remain in the region until December to ensure a fair, free election. Mind you, we can’t figure out how to run our own elections, but we’re going to import democracy to the Iraqis. International organizations independently monitor elections all the time, but suddenly we need an occupying force to handle procedures. With the help of the UN, elections are held in 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, with about 15 million citizens eligible to vote. If we’re hanging around to see how the Iraqis really feel about the US occupation, they’ve already been abundantly clear that they want us gone. Furthermore, it’s more than a little insulting to imply that Iraqis can’t handle their own elections without Big Brother America holding their hands throughout the process. It’s also ridiculous to imply Iraqis are somehow better off with Americans in their country. In some respects, things in Iraq are worse now than they were pre-American invasion. Take, for example, the looting of museums, disappearance of electricity, and appearance of smoking craters.
“In an ideal world, the Iraqi security forces could handle the election security themselves,” says Dennis Hertel (D-MI), Vice-President of the International Elections Monitors Institute (IEMI). “Whenever there is a threat, you have to make sure the security is adequate so people can vote. Violence is intimidation for the people participating in the election.” And Hertel admits that the best possible scenario is for third party, international watch groups to monitor the elections without a military presence: “The best thing is if you don’t have to have armed forces, or even legal officers for elections.”
Surely, Iraqis may need help rebuilding, training their military, and protecting their citizens, but a unilateral occupation isn’t the answer to their problems. It is only a promise of continued strife and violence. If the United States is serious about helping (and not occupying,) they should throw full support behind the UN and look for partners in the international community to provide non-military aid.
I guess we’re supposed to take Obama’s new Iraq and Afghanistan plans very seriously because they suddenly have bipartisan support. But the fact that John McCain, the man who once said that it would be totally cool if our troops remained in Iraq “for 100 years,” now agrees with Obama’s wartime policies is a very, very bad sign. When McCain later had to explain his comment because it was tremendously awful, he cited a longstanding, ugly truth of American power: we occupy a lot of countries. It’s just part of that crazy stuff we do all the time.
There are 737 military bases scattered around the planet, which staff roughly 2,500,000 US military personnel. It’s become commonplace to send our troops to foreign countries and station them there indefinitely. It’s become so banal that the so-called Progressive candidate, Barack Obama, can admit to keeping 35,000-50,000 armed troops in Iraq (with no deadline,) toe the line with John McCain and John Boehner, and the mainstream media accepts that this is a responsible, sane plan. It’s accepted because, once again, something bad is out there…waiting.
The Taliban are bad news. Hardly anyone disputes that. They terrorize innocents (particularly women, young girls, and anyone trying to receive an education,) but unilateral military action has never nurtured diplomatic relations. America has been in Afghanistan for eight years, and all that has been accomplished is a resurgent Taliban insurgency that is busily overwhelming areas of Pakistan, a country with a nuclear weapon. But a continuation of unilateral firebombing of civilian-populated regions doesn’t work. Unlike the reasons to stay in the Middle East afforded to us by the mainstream media, that’s not speculation.
Occupying a country and terrorizing the population ensures only one thing: blowback. Yes, pulling out of Iraq may lead to bad things that will demand attention from the international community and the UN, but the United States galavanting across the region and crushing indigenous people inspires only hatred.
This isn’t some radical, new lesson we have to learn. We’ve known this since 1991 during the Gulf War, when our Saudi Arabia-stationed bases pissed off this guy named Osama bin Laden. How many little Osamas are witnessing the brute, awful strength of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan? How many members of their families and communities have our troops killed?
This just doesn’t make sense for Obama’s administration, or for our country. Our military and money is spread preciously thin. As Paul Krugman explained in his column today, Obama’s economic plan just may work, as long as nothing bad happens (like blowback from our irresponsible and irrational actions abroad):
According to the Obama administration’s budget projections, the ratio of federal debt to G.D.P., a widely used measure of the government’s financial position, will soar over the next few years, then more or less stabilize. But this stability will be achieved at a debt-to-G.D.P. ratio of around 60 percent. That wouldn’t be an extremely high debt level by international standards, but it would be the deepest in debt America has been since the years immediately following World War II. And it would leave us with considerably reduced room for maneuver if another crisis comes along.
That doesn’t really sound like Era of Responsibility, does it? Everything will be fine as long as nothing bad happens ever again because of these stupid things we’re doing in other people’s countries, and none of the people we’re bombing remember it was us, who bombed them. I’m sure Krugman wasn’t imagining another 9/11 in his hypothetical, but it’s a distinct possibility considering we’re broke, and our military is crouched in a foreign desert, messing with the locals.
A long-term goal for this mess should be to make the Taliban and radicalism unappealing. That won’t happen if we keep bombing countries. Poor, desperate people tend to falls into the clutches of radicalism because radicals can point up to the American jets that just decimated entire villages and say, “They did it.” Militarism only fuels more anti-America fervor. Charity and multilateral efforts to help a people (not through occupation,) but through aid will gradually make such radicalism unappealing. It’s not a quick fix. It will take generations, but it’s worth adopting some patience into our foreign policy strategies.
And sure, there will always be a handful of baddies out there that hate us (and will always hate us,) and they’ll try to hurt us. But let’s consider this alternative: A surplus in the economy from the money saved not waging wars abroad, and a strong military at home (including care for veterans.) Imagine skilled interrogators, who know how to coax forth answers with a game of chess, and not waterboarding. Imagine well-trained intelligence officers networking abroad, or new, secure American infrastructure and a well-funded FDA to keep our food safe. Imagine justice and accountability, and the permanent banishment of secret prisons and tribunals so that future terrorist attacks cannot possibly be justified to the world as self-defense or “pay back.”
Even in this imagined alternative, we can never be fully protected from the possibility of something bad happening. We can only be properly equipped to deal with the aftermath in a rational way. What we certainly do not need is 35,000-50,000 troops in Iraq and 17,000 more troops in Afghanistan. No imagined alternative will justify this empirical behavior.
A newly declassified document gives a fascinating glimpse into the US military’s plans for “information operations” – from psychological operations, to attacks on hostile computer networks.
As the world turns networked, the Pentagon is calculating the military opportunities that computer networks, wireless technologies and the modern media offer.
From influencing public opinion through new media to designing “computer network attack” weapons, the US military is learning to fight an electronic war.
The declassified document is called “Information Operations Roadmap”. It was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University using the Freedom of Information Act.
Officials in the Pentagon wrote it in 2003. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, signed it.
The “roadmap” calls for a far-reaching overhaul of the military’s ability to conduct information operations and electronic warfare. And, in some detail, it makes recommendations for how the US armed forces should think about this new, virtual warfare.
The document says that information is “critical to military success”. Computer and telecommunications networks are of vital operational importance.
The operations described in the document include a surprising range of military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks.
All these are engaged in information operations.
Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military’s psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.
“Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our domestic audience,” it reads.
“Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public,” it goes on.
The document’s authors acknowledge that American news media should not unwittingly broadcast military propaganda. “Specific boundaries should be established,” they write. But they don’t seem to explain how.
“In this day and age it is impossible to prevent stories that are fed abroad as part of psychological operations propaganda from blowing back into the United States – even though they were directed abroad,” says Kristin Adair of the National Security Archive.
Public awareness of the US military’s information operations is low, but it’s growing – thanks to some operational clumsiness.
Late last year, it emerged that the Pentagon had paid a private company, the Lincoln Group, to plant hundreds of stories in Iraqi newspapers. The stories – all supportive of US policy – were written by military personnel and then placed in Iraqi publications.
And websites that appeared to be information sites on the politics of Africa and the Balkans were found to be run by the Pentagon.
But the true extent of the Pentagon’s information operations, how they work, who they’re aimed at, and at what point they turn from informing the public to influencing populations, is far from clear.
The roadmap, however, gives a flavour of what the US military is up to – and the grand scale on which it’s thinking.
It reveals that Psyops personnel “support” the American government’s international broadcasting. It singles out TV Marti – a station which broadcasts to Cuba – as receiving such support.
It recommends that a global website be established that supports America’s strategic objectives. But no American diplomats here, thank you. The website would use content from “third parties with greater credibility to foreign audiences than US officials”.
It also recommends that Psyops personnel should consider a range of technologies to disseminate propaganda in enemy territory: unmanned aerial vehicles, “miniaturized, scatterable public address systems”, wireless devices, cellular phones and the internet.
‘Fight the net’
When it describes plans for electronic warfare, or EW, the document takes on an extraordinary tone.
It seems to see the internet as being equivalent to an enemy weapons system.
“Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will ‘fight the net’ as it would an enemy weapons system,” it reads.
The slogan “fight the net” appears several times throughout the roadmap.
The authors warn that US networks are very vulnerable to attack by hackers, enemies seeking to disable them, or spies looking for intelligence.
“Networks are growing faster than we can defend them… Attack sophistication is increasing… Number of events is increasing.”
US digital ambition
And, in a grand finale, the document recommends that the United States should seek the ability to “provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum”.
US forces should be able to “disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum”.
Consider that for a moment.
The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet.
Are these plans the pipe dreams of self-aggrandising bureaucrats? Or are they real?
The fact that the “Information Operations Roadmap” is approved by the Secretary of Defense suggests that these plans are taken very seriously indeed in the Pentagon.
And that the scale and grandeur of the digital revolution is matched only by the US military’s ambitions for it.
South Korea has railed for years against the Japanese government’s waffling over how much responsibility it bears for one of the ugliest chapters in its wartime history: the enslavement of women from Korea and elsewhere to work in brothels serving Japan’s imperial army.
Now, a group of former prostitutes in South Korea have accused some of their country’s former leaders of a different kind of abuse: encouraging them to have sex with the American soldiers who protected South Korea from North Korea. They also accuse past South Korean governments, and the United States military, of taking a direct hand in the sex trade from the 1960s through the 1980s, working together to build a testing and treatment system to ensure that prostitutes were disease-free for American troops.
While the women have made no claims that they were coerced into prostitution by South Korean or American officials during those years, they accuse successive Korean governments of hypocrisy in calling for reparations from Japan while refusing to take a hard look at South Korea’s own history.
“Our government was one big pimp for the U.S. military,” one of the women, Kim Ae-ran, 58, said in a recent interview.
Scholars on the issue say that the South Korean government was motivated in part by fears that the American military would leave, and that it wanted to do whatever it could to prevent that.
But the women suggest that the government also viewed them as commodities to be used to shore up the country’s struggling economy in the decades after the Korean War. They say the government not only sponsored classes for them in basic English and etiquette — meant to help them sell themselves more effectively — but also sent bureaucrats to praise them for earning dollars when South Korea was desperate for foreign currency.
“They urged us to sell as much as possible to the G.I.’s, praising us as ‘dollar-earning patriots,’ ” Ms. Kim said.
The United States military, the scholars say, became involved in attempts to regulate the trade in so-called camp towns surrounding the bases because of worries about sexually transmitted diseases.
In one of the most incendiary claims, some women say that the American military police and South Korean officials regularly raided clubs from the 1960s through the 1980s looking for women who were thought to be spreading the diseases. They picked out the women using the number tags the women say the brothels forced them to wear so the soldiers could more easily identify their sex partners.
The Korean police would then detain the prostitutes who were thought to be ill, the women said, locking them up under guard in so-called monkey houses, where the windows had bars. There, the prostitutes were forced to take medications until they were well.
The women, who are seeking compensation and an apology, have compared themselves to the so-called comfort women who have won widespread public sympathy for being forced into prostitution by the Japanese during World War II. Whether prostitutes by choice, need or coercion, the women say, they were all victims of government policies.
“If the question is, was there active government complicity, support of such camp town prostitution, yes, by both the Korean governments and the U.S. military,” said Katharine H. S. Moon, a scholar who wrote about the women in her 1997 book, “Sex Among Allies.”
The South Korean Ministry of Gender Equality, which handles women’s issues, declined to comment on the former prostitutes’ accusations. So did the American military command in Seoul, which responded with a general statement saying that the military “does not condone or support the illegal activities of human trafficking and prostitution.”
The New York Times interviewed eight women who worked in brothels near American bases, and it reviewed South Korean and American documents. The documents do provide some support for many of the women’s claims, though most are snapshots in time. The women maintain that the practices occurred over decades.
In some sense, the women’s allegations are not surprising. It has been clear for decades that South Korea and the United States military tolerated prostitution near bases, even though selling sex is illegal in South Korea. Bars and brothels have long lined the streets of the neighborhoods surrounding American bases in South Korea, as is the case in the areas around military bases around the world.
But the women say few of their fellow citizens know how deeply their government was involved in the trade in the camp towns.
The women received some support for their claims in 2006, from a former government official. In a television interview, the official, Kim Kee-joe, who was identified as having been a high-level liaison to the United States military, said, “Although we did not actively urge them to engage in prostitution, we, especially those from the county offices, did often tell them that it was not something bad for the country either.”
Transcripts of parliamentary hearings also suggest that at least some South Korean leaders viewed prostitution as something of a necessity. In one exchange in 1960, two lawmakers urged the government to train a supply of prostitutes to meet what one called the “natural needs” of allied soldiers and prevent them from spending their dollars in Japan instead of South Korea. The deputy home minister at the time, Lee Sung-woo, replied that the government had made some improvements in the “supply of prostitutes” and the “recreational system” for American troops.
Both Mr. Kim and Ms. Moon back the women’s assertions that the control of venereal disease was a driving factor for the two governments. They say the governments’ coordination became especially pronounced as Korean fears about an American pullout increased after President Richard M. Nixon announced plans in 1969 to reduce the number of American troops in South Korea.
“The idea was to create an environment where the guests were treated well in the camp towns to discourage them from leaving,” Mr. Kim said in the television interview.
Ms. Moon, a Wellesley College professor, said that the minutes of meetings between American military officials and Korean bureaucrats in the 1970s showed the lengths the two countries went to prevent epidemics. The minutes included recommendations to “isolate” women who were sick and ensure that they received treatment, government efforts to register prostitutes and require them to carry medical certification and a 1976 report about joint raids to apprehend prostitutes who were unregistered or failed to attend medical checkups.
These days, camp towns still exist, but as the Korean economy took off, women from the Philippines began replacing them.
Many former prostitutes live in the camp towns, isolated from mainstream society, which shuns them. Most are poor. Some are haunted by the memories of the mixed-race children they put up for adoption overseas.
Jeon, 71, who agreed to talk only if she was identified by just her surname, said she was an 18-year-old war orphan in 1956 when hunger drove her to Dongduchon, a camp town near the border with North Korea. She had a son in the 1960s, but she became convinced that he would have a better future in the United States and gave him up for adoption when he was 13.
About 10 years ago, her son, now an American soldier, returned to visit. She told him to forget her.
“I failed as a mother,” said Ms. Jeon, who lives on welfare checks and the little cash she earns selling items she picks from other people’s trash. “I have no right to depend on him now.”
“The more I think about my life, the more I think women like me were the biggest sacrifice for my country’s alliance with the Americans,” she said. “Looking back, I think my body was not mine, but the government’s and the U.S. military’s.”
Several bloggers today have pointed to this obviously disturbing article from Army Times, which announces that “beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the [1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division] will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North” — “the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.” The article details:
They’ll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it.
They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack. . . .
The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.
“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”
The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.
“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body”. . . .
The brigade will not change its name, but the force will be known for the next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced “sea-smurf”).
For more than 100 years — since the end of the Civil War — deployment of the U.S. military inside the U.S. has been prohibited under The Posse Comitatus Act (the only exceptions being that the National Guard and Coast Guard are exempted, and use of the military on an emergency ad hoc basis is permitted, such as what happened after Hurricane Katrina). Though there have been some erosions of this prohibition over the last several decades (most perniciously to allow the use of the military to work with law enforcement agencies in the “War on Drugs”), the bright line ban on using the U.S. military as a standing law enforcement force inside the U.S. has been more or less honored — until now. And as the Army Times notes, once this particular brigade completes its one-year assignment, “expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one.”
After Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration began openly agitating for what would be, in essence, a complete elimination of the key prohibitions of the Posse Comitatus Act in order to allow the President to deploy U.S. military forces inside the U.S. basically at will — and, as usual, they were successful as a result of rapid bipartisan compliance with the Leader’s demand (the same kind of compliance that is about to foist a bailout package on the nation). This April, 2007 article by James Bovard in The American Conservative detailed the now-familiar mechanics that led to the destruction of this particular long-standing democratic safeguard:
The Defense Authorization Act of 2006, passed on Sept. 30, empowers President George W. Bush to impose martial law in the event of a terrorist “incident,” 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. . . .
It only took a few paragraphs in a $500 billion, 591-page bill to raze one of the most important limits on federal power. Congress passed the Insurrection Act in 1807 to severely restrict the president’s ability to deploy the military within the United States. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 tightened these restrictions, imposing a two-year prison sentence on anyone who used the military within the U.S. without the express permission of Congress. But there is a loophole: Posse Comitatus is waived if the president invokes the Insurrection Act.
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 “condition” is not defined or limited. . . .
The story of how Section 1076 became law vivifies 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 clearly signaled its intent and almost no one in the media or Congress tried to stop it . . . .
Section 1076 was supported by both conservatives and liberals. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, co-wrote the provision along with committee chairman Sen. John Warner (R-Va.). Sen. Ted Kennedy openly endorsed it, and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), then-chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was an avid proponent. . . .
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned on Sept. 19 that “we certainly do not need to make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law,” but his alarm got no response. Ten days later, he commented in the Congressional Record: “Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy.” Leahy further condemned the process, declaring that it “was just slipped in the defense bill as a rider with little study. Other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals.”
As is typical, very few members of the media even mentioned any of this, let alone discussed it (and I f
ailed to give this the attention it deserved at the time), but Congressional Quarterly‘s Jeff Stein wrote an excellent article at the time detailing the process and noted that “despite such a radical turn, the new law garnered little dissent, or even attention, on the Hill.” Stein also noted that while “the blogosphere, of course, was all over it . . . a search of The Washington Post and New York Times archives, using the terms ‘Insurrection Act,’ ‘martial law’ and ‘Congress,’ came up empty.”
Bovard and Stein both noted that every Governor — including Republicans — joined in Leahy’s objections, as they perceived it as a threat from the Federal Government to what has long been the role of the National Guard. But those concerns were easily brushed aside by the bipartisan majorities in Congress, eager — as always — to grant the President this radical new power.
The decision this month to permanently deploy a U.S. Army brigade inside the U.S. for purely domestic law enforcement purposes is the fruit of the Congressional elimination of the long-standing prohibitions in Posse Comitatus (although there are credible signs that even before Congress acted, the Bush administration secretly decided it possessed the inherent power to violate the Act). It shouldn’t take any efforts to explain why the permanent deployment of the U.S. military inside American cities, acting as the President’s police force, is so disturbing. Bovard:
“Martial law” is a euphemism for military dictatorship. When foreign democracies are overthrown and a junta establishes martial law, Americans usually recognize that a fundamental change has occurred. . . . Section 1076 is Enabling Act-type legislation—something that purports to preserve law-and-order while formally empowering the president to rule by decree.
The historic importance of the Posse Comitatus prohibition was also well-analyzed here.
As the recent militarization of St. Paul during the GOP Convention made abundantly clear, our actual police forces are already quite militarized. Still, what possible rationale is there for permanently deploying the U.S. Army inside the United States — under the command of the President — for any purpose, let alone things such as “crowd control,” other traditional law enforcement functions, and a seemingly unlimited array of other uses at the President’s sole discretion? And where are all of the stalwart right-wing “small government conservatives” who spent the 1990s so vocally opposing every aspect of the growing federal police force? And would it be possible to get some explanation from the Government about what the rationale is for this unprecedented domestic military deployment (at least unprecedented since the Civil War), and why it is being undertaken now?
UPDATE: As this commenter notes, the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act somewhat limited the scope of the powers granted by the 2007 Act detailed above (mostly to address constitutional concerns by limiting the President’s powers to deploy the military to suppress disorder that threatens constitutional rights), but President Bush, when signing that 2008 Act into law, issued a signing statement which, though vague, seems to declare that he does not recognize those new limitations.
UPDATE II: There’s no need to start manufacturing all sorts of scare scenarios about Bush canceling elections or the imminent declaration of martial law or anything of that sort. None of that is going to happen with a single brigade and it’s unlikely in the extreme that they’d be announcing these deployments if they had activated any such plans. The point is that the deployment is a very dangerous precedent, quite possibly illegal, and a radical abandonment of an important democratic safeguard. As always with first steps of this sort, the danger lies in how the power can be abused in the future.