On October 1, 2008, President Bush deployed a brigade -- which means three to four thousand warriors -- somewhere in America. We do not know where they are deployed though citizens have informally reported to me having seen military vehicles and troops in Georgia and Alabama. We do know that their official mandate according to the first report is 'crowd control' as well as action in the event of a mass civilian catastrophe. Initial reports described their technology 'module package' as involving Tasers and rubber bullets.
According to Amnesty International, more than 300 people in the United States have died since 2001 as the result of being Tasered by law enforcement authorities. According to the first reports, the mission includes subduing 'unruly individuals.' After an outcry, more recent statements from military spokesmen have backed off from identifying those tasks as being the ones the troops will be charged with. Why worry about the deployment of troops in our nation?
First, the founding generation set a bright line to keep military from policing our streets in 1807 because they knew from their own experience how easily military forces -- King George's -- could subdue civilian society. The First Brigade is Bush's force: they are not answerable to Congress or to the Governors of states: they are answerable to the Commander in Chief. In an Alternet posting, I interviewed Air Force Colonel (retired) David Antoon who noted that the troops must obey the president, even if he asks them to arrest Congress or fire on civilians or attack media outlets. If they do not obey orders, he notes, they face five years in
We should not have to remind ourselves that these scenarios are unlikely to understand that this power is dangerous. Antoon himself calls the deployment 'ominous.' Troops on our streets makes us something less than a democracy: one definition of a police state is when a leader sends his own military units into civilian streets. Meanwhile the civilian policing of citizens is becoming more brutal. Hundreds of preemptive arrests took place in St Paul, dozens of journalists were arrested.
I was phoned yesterday by Monica Bicking, a young, well-scrubbed Midwesterner who is one of eight perfectly ordinary young Americans charged as 'terrorists' under the Minnesota Patriot act after being arrested at the RNC.
I learned only this week that there is little good footage of the RNC brutality because police demanded the cameras of reporters or exposed their film. Some of the footage we
have, showing random unprompted mass arrests, was buried in the ground
by a protester so it could survive.
Police forces have become more violent toward civilians due to resources as well as pressure from Homeland Security money and personnel. Prior to this summer's conventions, $50 million was sent to both Denver and St. Paul, much of which was used to arm and train police to act against citizens.
In St. Paul, funds were sent in advance to pay off the lawsuits against police forces that were guaranteed to arise from the planned abuse of citizens. This sort of thing is happening across the country. The tactic has established a closed circle that has turned citizens' law enforcement agencies into contractors of a state that is directing acts of increasing severity against US citizens. Now a military brigade is being deployed.
The Bush administration has unilaterally decided to defy federal laws that have kept the military off our streets since 1807, almost since the birth of this nation: The John Warner Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 expanded the president's authority to deploy troops within the United States. The people raised a hue and cry -- and this power was then substantially limited by a new provision in the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. But Bush signaled, with a signing statement, that he would not recognize these new limitations. We may be called unpatriotic for fearing these soldiers on our streets. We should see through this. Our military are indeed brave and overwhelmingly decent. And, as I note, they can be prosecuted for refusing to follow orders. But history -- and the Zimbardo experiments, and Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo -- has taught us clearly that decent kids under duress and following strict orders can do appalling things. Our men and women in uniform over there have followed many orders that are still giving them PTSD and nightmares at home.
Air Force Colonel Antoon notes further:
I am not a constitutional scholar. But history, which we as Americans ignore at our own peril, clearly suggests that martial law trumps civil law. As I said, and as you have written, I believe we are in great peril if we have American troops who have been trained to "destroy the enemy ... in close combat" patrolling American streets. Posse Comitatus is essential because American soldiers are not trained for such things as civil disobedience -- they are trained to kill. The US military "Warrior's Creed" clearly states: "I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
One only need look at the events in 1970 when the National Guard was called on to the campus of Kent State University. These soldiers instinctively did what they had been trained to do: kill.
President Bush has not called out a small National Guard unit. He has mobilized a battle hardened army brigade. President Bush's signing statement to dismiss the law of Posse Comitatus is gravely ominous.
And Michael Ratner, who is head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, adds: "I don't think it's chance that at the time of the greatest economic crisis in this country since 1929 the military is employed to insure that popular unrest does not get out of hand. It's dangerous to have troops on our streets. The military is not trained in protecting constitutional rights; it shoots first. It is the first step to go along with the stripping of rights that has already occurred.
So: why, indeed, worry? In Iraq, our soldiers have, as a matter of practice, according to Human Rights Watch, taken the wives of alleged 'insurgents' -- many of them innocent citizens -- hostage, as a way to pressure their husbands to turn themselves in. Amnesty International and the Center for Constitutional Rights and Human Rights Watch have all confirmed that our soldiers have carried out directives to threaten minors in custody with rape and other kinds of abuse. Superbly careful documentation by Michael Ratner, Jane Mayer, Seymour Hersh and others confirm that our soldiers have carried out directives to strip civilians naked, sexually humiliate them and torture them -- sometimes to death. Some have followed directives to cover up these civilians' deaths. As a matter of policy in Iraq our soldiers obey orders to burst into civilian homes armed but without warrants. According to Reporters without Borders, US military have carried out orders to arrest journalists and hold them without charges in abusive conditions. A handful of respected journalists are in U.S.-held prisons right now.
Oh, but you say, that is a battlefield; Iraq. But according to the White House's definition of the 'War on Terror', as Bruce Fein, former Reagan administration official, of the American Freedom Agenda, notes, the whole world is a battlefield. Both he and Ken Roth of Human Rights Watch confirm that it is this legal definition of the whole world as a battlefield that the administration has used to justify seizing people and rendering them as they change planes at JFK. If the whole world is a battlefield, then the US is a battlefield. The war has come home.
We should worry because history shows that there are no magic shields that protect citizens in a weakening democracy once troops are deployed in civilian streets. It is folly to assume that military units would never obey orders to take action against their own fellow civilians -- say 'unruly individuals' at a protest or turned away from a voting booth. Chinese soldiers round up at gunpoint Chinese parents protesting tainted milk; German soldiers arrested Germans in 1933; Italian soldiers obediently beat up Italian editors and journalists in 1920; Russian soldiers brutalize compatriot Georgians. Lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild say that these are legitimate questions to ask now: The U.S. military reports to the Commander in Chief -- not to Congress.
If the U.S. is a battlefield does military law override civilian law? The president has said he can call anybody an 'enemy combatant': can the Third Battalion seize U.S. citizens and keep them in military detention? What about interrogation? What rules apply? If the First Brigade is sent to the Washington Post newsroom to seize 'inflammatory' or 'classified' work threatening 'national security', and the executive editor resists, can they Taser him? Detain him? Col. David Antoon says that if ordered to, they must do all of this. If reporters take pictures of the altercation can the Third Battalion seize their film? Arrest them? If ordered to, Antoon says they must. If the president declares a state of emergency and Congress disagrees, he can send the First Brigade into the halls of Congress, according to Antoon. History shows that once troops are visibly deployed in the vicinity of a parliament, parliamentarians become very passive -- even while the nation is still a technically functioning democracy.
The president has troops, and we don't. Remember: if the President declares a state of emergency, he can unilaterally take over even the National Guard. Congress has no troops and, in this scenario, neither do we. Here is what you must do.
Battle Plan Actions:
1. Wake up. Resist the temptation to yield to denial. This is exactly as bad as it sounds. Tell everyone you know. Even our representatives do not understand this. I reported the deployment in Baltimore last week -- the head of the city council had heard nothing about it. A citizen told me tonight that when John Kerry was in Massachusetts a few days ago, when told of the First Brigade's deployment, he said he had not heard of it.
2. Groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights, The National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU are our army now. They are our leadership in the legal fight while we fight in the trenches. We need to at least quintuple their budgets IMMEDIATELY. They need to hire enough brigades of lawyers to get us out of prison and to fight these abuses. Fundraisers for them and write them the biggest checks you can NOW.
3. Form yourselves into Democracy Commando teams of twenty to thirty citizens. I give you the technique in Give Me Liberty. You basically register your friends and set out tactically to support your U.S. representative and let the field office know what you have done so that your voice is as powerful as that of the special interests' and lobbyists.
4. Tell your representatives about the deployment. Bombard your city council members, state representatives and Congress people to pass laws immediately to stop their operation on your streets and to disarm the Homeland-Security-corrupted police forces in your town.
5. Call on your U.S. representatives to overturn the Patriot Act and on your state representatives to do the same to any state Patriot Acts. Demand that city council members ban the use of Tasers, rubber bullets and preemptive arrest. Most urgently, demand that they refuse any additional Homeland Security money. Establish and publicize communities that are refusing Homeland Security money. This has to be as firm as sanctions against South Africa. It is entirely tainted, it is blood money and it is being used to wage war against citizens.
6. Fundraise for ads in your local media to alert people to the threat of Homeland Security money and military deployment. Write op-eds for your local media.
7. Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi (The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder) has written a powerful and carefully argued case for the trial for murder of George Bush. He asserts that any district attorney in the country from whose district a soldier has been killed in Iraq can bring charges. Call your DA and ask that he or she file charges against George Bush for murder. I argue that a coup has taken place, without the headlines. History shows that only prosecution
of such leaders secures society adequately for accountable elections and general stability.
8. Call on Republican voters you know to alert them to the danger. Ask them to bombard their representatives with demands that they form a Patriots' Committee to break ranks with the regime. The Committee must let the attorneys know they will have a bloc of support on the Hill. Ask your Senators and Congressmen to reach out to disaffected CIA State Department and U.S. Military leaders to sign a new Declaration of Independence, a personal commitment to refuse to comply with a rogue government that has deployed U.S. forces at home.
9. Write to military Web sites explaining that troops have been deployed in violation of the principle of posse comitatus -- which has been subverted. Ask family members to request that troops that have been deployed against America lay down their arms and refuse orders. Tell them this is a higher patriotism. Set up a set of funds where citizens -- especially major donors -- of both parties can set up escrow accounts to help military families with the legal prosecutions
and other harassment that will follow.
10. Print out copies of the User's Guide to the Declaration of Independence and the Bill or Rights (see www.myamericaproject.org for the documents) and pass them out to everyone you see. While there, sign up with our new mission to
witness the vote, to raise money for the lawyers, to organize real protest, to fight this war for liberty.
11. Remember that without liberty we are nothing. Remember that the Founders counted on us to act. Remember that courage is called for in times such as these.
The Battle Plan Part I
The Battle Plan Part II
Naomi Wolf is the author of Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries, the sequel to her New York Times best-seller, The End of America.