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What Would You Do If Bush Declared Martial Law?

02/20/2007 12:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

An editorial in the New York Times yesterday pointed out, for those of
us who didn't realize it, that the Bush administration had inserted two
provisions into last October's defense budget bill that would make it
easier to declare martial law in the US. Senators Leahy and Bond have
introduced a bill to repeal these changes, and it is important that
voters keep track of this bill and hold their Congresspeople to account
on it. Along with several other measures the Bush adminstration has
proposed, the introduction of these changes amounts, not to an attack
on the Congress and the balance of power, but to a particular and
concerted attack on the citizens of the nation. Bush is laying the
legal groundwork to repeal even the appearance of democracy. Any
senator who does not vote in favor of the Leahy/Bond repeal of these
provisions should promptly be recalled by his or her constituents.

That said, and without underestimating the seriousness of these
provisions, I have to point out that with this as with other legal
maneuvers like the Military Commissions Act, I have to wonder who Bush,
Cheney, Rove, etc. think they are governing. Were they planning to
spring these things on us? One day, we were supposed to wake up, and
martial law would be declared, and we were supposed to actually pay
attention to it? Where are they keeping the troops who were going to
patrol our neighborhoods? Who was it who was going to disarm the
population? Who was their base going to be, when they sought public
support for martial law? Who was going to round us up and where were
they going to put us?

It is in these sorts of things that the byzantine thinking and strange
psychological make-up of the Bushies comes out. Let's say that Bush
imagines (with Gonzalez and Cheney) the enhanced joys of bringing the
war home. No longer is his command "over there"--it is now "over here".
He can go out onto the White House lawn and issue edicts, and then
perhaps he can be driven around Washington, or over into Virginia, and
watch civilians obey his orders in a way that the Iraqis seem unwilling
to do. I am assuming that the purpose of such an exercise would be to
renew and intensify the now-diminishing frisson Bush gets from feeling
himself the boss of all he surveys. But we all know it would not work.
Very few people believe Bush or take his needs and desires seriously
any more. Bush, or his keepers, know this, too, or they would not have
introduced these provisions secretly. There was a time, when the nation
was in a panic, when he could purloin things openly, and no one dared
defy him. That was the appropriate occasion for these martial law
changes. Now, or even last fall, was not that time. The Republicans
must have suspected that to make such provisions known would have meant
jeopardizing an iffy mid-term election even more than it already was,
so they hid them. But the fact that they hid them makes them a hundred
times more suspect--are the Bushies planning a coup after all?

And if they are planning a coup, what's the goal? Who is going to fall
in line? Arnold Schwarzenegger, my very own governor? Chet Culver?
Kathleen Sebelius? Eliot Spitzer? Since the US is a corporatocracy,
would we then all be forced to work for $2.00 per hour? Give up all
workplace benefits? Attend the religious services of our choice on
Sunday? Devote even more of our tax dollars to the war machine and the
oil machine? Haven't they taken everything already? Try as I might, I
cannot imagine martial law in the US, except as something the
population would agree to under threat from...from whom? Correct me if
I am wrong (I know you will), but the last time martial law was
declared was during the Civil War, and Americans, though the threats to
the Union were profound and omnipresent, didn't like it then. I can't
even imagine what would happen now.

Our armed forces can't subdue Iraq. I can't imagine that Bush thinks
they could subdue New England or the West Coast, much less the whole
US. To imagine himself commanding such a thing seems like magical
thinking at its most obvious. So, what would you did if Bush declared
martial law, laugh?

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