Martial Law In The U.S.?


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Since 9/11, several major hurdles to martial law inside the United States have been removed by the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress. All that really remains at this point is an excuse.

The first domino on the road to martial law comes in the form of the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed by Congress on September 18th, 2001. The Authorization says:

That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

This effectively gives president Bush a blank check in his use of the military for terrorist fighting as long as he can link the people involved to al Qaeda, who is believed responsible for the September 11th attacks. What the law clumsily fails to preclude is the use of the military to fight al Qaeda on American soil. President Bush has repeatedly used this Authorization as the green light for the War on Terror which the U.S. Military is fighting in many countries around the world (including the Philippines, Indonesia, Colombia, etc).

There are many issues that could be considered second dominos in a chain of events leading to Martial Law: The Patriot Act's curtailing of the Bill of Rights; The Administration's end run around FISA to spy on Americans; and, Cheney's "Continuity of Government" which ran the U.S. government from a secret location for months after September 11th are all good possibilities.

Let's skip ahead to the final dominos that now have us an excuse (or gut feeling?) away from Martial Law:

Last year, the Republican Congress, as part of the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act, overturned the Posse Comitatus Act, which barred the military from a domestic police role, and made revisions to the Insurrection Act that allow the president to assume control of the National Guard -- something that belongs to the Governors on domestic affairs.

Whether we believe the Bush Administration is truly capable of declaring Martial Law or we believe the military will follow such orders is beside the point. The Democratic Congress needs to act to reverse as many of the dominos as they can, starting with amending the Authorization to limit the use of military force to oversees operations.


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