Volume 78 - Number 37 / February 11 - 17, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Talking Point

Obama must roll back creeping domestic militarism

By Frank Morales

As signs of the economic meltdown begin to be felt
across Europe, the number of industrial protests over job cuts and low prices is growing. From Greece to Russia, France to Britain, from Iceland to Latvia and Bulgaria, a wave of protests and demonstrations are targeting governments responsible, or so it’s felt, for the deepening economic crisis.

Frightened and angry masses of people, in fear of losing their jobs, their security, health benefits and their homes are rising up.

Here in America, the resentments and concerns have yet to erupt in mass protests. The reasons for such passivity are numerous. Perhaps the recent presidential election has had the effect of offering hope beyond reason in a time of crisis. Suffice to say though, the U.S. government, in its role as protector of the ruling elites who pay its bills, is fixated with securing its status over the next phase of the ongoing depression. And in the face of potential protests, as is usual, the U.S. elite reaches for its gun, specifically its police and military apparatus.

“Brigade homeland tours start October 1”. That was the headline in the Sept. 30, 2008, issue of the Army Times newspaper. The article announced a Pentagon plan to shift an active unit of troops (fresh from three years in Iraq) to a
domestic “response force requirement” here on the home front, at which time the unit might, according to the Army Times report, “be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control.”

One of the most pressing issues that should be on the agenda of the Obama administration, and on the minds of those who supported him, is the democratic requirement to rein in and roll back the creeping militarism on the home front — a police state that threatens to undermine any possibility of a democratic resurgence in this country.

The barely noticed Army Times piece told the story of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team: “Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months,” reported Army Times staff writer Gina Cavallaro, “the 1st B.C.T. will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command (a domestic military command set up in 2002).”

The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Co., but the soldiers with the 1st B.C.T., who returned in April after 15 months in Iraq, will operate out of their home post at Fort Stewart, Ga.

Called the Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear or High-Yield Explosive Consequence Management Response Force, its acronym, C.C.M.R.F., is pronounced “sea-smurf.” These “sea-smurfs,” Cavallaro reports, have “spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle,” in a combat zone, and now will spend their 20-month “dwell time” — time troops are required to spend to “reset and regenerate after a deployment” — armed
and ready to hit the U.S. streets.

Reported on at the time by Amy Goodman and “Democracy Now!” and public intellectuals Naomi Wolf and Daniel Ellsberg, the Army Times report
originally noted that the forces would use nonlethal weaponry domestically. Later, the military changed its tune, not only regarding the use of so-called nonlethal weapons, but on the whole issue of the use of troops to deal with “civil unrest.” Now pitching it all to the public as a counter-terror and counter-W.M.D. operation, the Pentagon plans to field some 4,700 troops in three separate units to be deployed domestically over the next two years.

Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Goodpaster, a public-affairs officer for Northern Command, told Amy Goodman that the overall mission was a humanitarian one, designed to save lives and help communities recover from catastrophic events. Nevertheless, the military forces would have weapons on-site, “containerized,” Goodpaster said — that is, stored in containers — including both lethal and so-called nonlethal weapons. They would have mostly wheeled
vehicles, but also access to tanks, she said. The spokesperson said that any decision to use weapons would be made at a higher level, perhaps at the Secretary of Defense level.

Further clarification was offered on Dec. 12, 2008, by Gerry Gilmore of the American Forces Press Service, who stated that, “the Pentagon’s three new rapid response task forces will assist civil authorities during possible terrorist attacks or natural disasters, but they won’t perform law-enforcement missions,” according to a “senior Defense Department official.” Noting that the “Posse Comitatus Act prohibits active duty military members from conducting domestic law enforcement operations,” Gilmore goes on to point out — quoting Paul McHale, whose rather longwinded title is assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and America’s security affairs — that “in the event of civil disturbances and some other types of emergencies, active U.S. military units could be ordered by the president to assist civil authorities in establishing order
as part of the Garden Plot domestic security plan.”

“These are,” according to McHale, “active military units that are prepared, under law, to ensure constitutional rights and the enforcement of federal law, under the Insurrection Act, to be deployed for a domestic security mission.”

In other words, regardless of how the Pentagon sells its latest deployments of troops on the home front, the Garden Plot operation, the Pentagon’s decades-old civil disturbance suppression apparatus, will continue to see to it that “security affairs” — i.e. the military policing of protest, characterized as “civil unrest” — remains a high priority.

As for insurrection, recall the 2007 John Warner Defense Act, signed into law by former President Bush, and still in effect, which ceded to the Executive the legal right to station troops anywhere in the country without the consent of local governors or National Guard officials, and to do so for the purposes of suppressing “civil disorder.” That edict, specifically, Section 1076 of the 2007 act, entitled “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies,” Section 333, remains operative, providing the legal framework for moving riot troops around the country at will, allowing for unilateral and naked military occupation of the
homeland and, by design, the suppressing of the rights of the inhabitants therein.

So, in sum, while the catastrophic blows of the economic collapse wreak havoc on American society, especially its poor and working people, the means are being put in place to suppress our genuine and justifiable grievances and rage. Ominously, the Army brigades’ new “tour” is founded upon earlier maneuvers, legal and otherwise, which have for decades greased the wheels of an increasing symbiosis between the police and the military here within America.

Currently rationalized as a war on terror, the creation and deploying of military units to police the homeland is really part of a counterinsurgency war against the American people, a counterinsurgency war functioning in a pre-emptive and proactive way, anticipating “civil disorder” as a as consequence and reaction to continuing, immoral and unjust militarist, global plunder abroad and
economic plunder and theft at home. With the deteriorating myth of upward mobility and the reality of downward slide for millions of Americans, though, the likelihood of “unrest” is high.

 

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