Martial Law

Many folks accept, some with a sense of high probability, that the US will suffer a terrorist attack, perhaps of horrific proportions. If that happens, as General Tommy Franks and others have suggested, democracy could well fail and the US Constitution could be brought down and replaced by martial law. An attack would leave a terrified US populace, many of them so desperate for a sense of order, so lustful for revenge against the terrorists (to be identified by the War Machine, of course) that they will follow the US Government in lockstep. Nuke Iran and Syria immediately (as neocons have wanted to do for quite some time)? No problem. Arrest and intimidate anyone who dares speak out against the government? Hey, national security is at stake. Vigilantism waged against dissident u201Ctraitorsu201D? We're fighting for the survival of Western civilization, for God's sake.

But that can't happen here!

Well it can happen here. Consider the moral character of those in the White House and consider the demonstrated failure of Congress to stop them on their long march to disaster. Americans would be wise to adopt the attitude toward government leaders held by their ancestors. In 1787, citizens harbored disdainfully little trust in government. After viewing the original version of the US Constitution, they found no explicit enumerations of a citizen's right to bear arms, to speak freely, to get a fair trial, etc. Show it to us in writing, demanded the patriots and thus, two years later, was born the Bill of Rights. They assumed, and so should we, that government leaders, unchecked, have limitless potential for harm toward the citizenry.

This is the government, after all, that runs a gulag network of CIA prison camps. These facilities were u201Cblacku201D (so secret that they didn't ostensibly exist) until being outed, anonymously, to the Washington Post. One camp, fittingly, is in a former Soviet compound in Eastern Europe. Who the prisoners are, how they are interrogated or even how many make it out alive is unknown. While Dick Cheney fights tooth and nail to prevent any reining in of American brutality in the questioning of prisoners overseas, President Bush threatens to veto the John McCain anti-torture bill that passed in the Senate 90-9. If we, the people, allow government leaders to commit unnamed, unaccounted-for tortures upon those we hold in far-flung gulags – in u201Csupportu201D of a war that these leaders can't explain to the American people or the world – it won't be surprising when, in the event of domestic chaos at home, they visit like horrors upon their own citizens.

Senator Joe Lieberman, Honorary Co-Chairman of the hawkish, right-wing Committee on the Present Danger and a firm supporter of the war in Iraq, has this to say: “The fear…of federal military usurping state and local authority and, in the worst case, martial law imposed by a president has to give way to the reality of lives on the line.” Senator John Warner expressed similar sentiments in a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Both men were speaking in the context of natural disasters, after the post-Katrina government rescue debacle. Since Katrina, the mention of martial law is trendy in government circles and in the media. The trouble is: it's a short conceptual leap from the pushing of a recalcitrant homeowner out of a hurricane zone at the end of a federal bayonet, to the violent dispersal of angry crowds gathered to voice disapproval of a fascist state.

How would the neocon think tanks view martial law? Michael Ledeen, a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, and close and trusted White House adviser, has this to say on p. 173 of his book Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli's Iron Rules Are As Timely and Important Today As Five Centuries Ago: u201CParadoxically, preserving liberty may require the rule of a single leader – a dictator – willing to use those dreaded ‘extraordinary measures,’ which few know how, or are willing, to employ.”

According to the Boston Globe, Ledeen in a 2003 speech to the American Enterprise Institute, asserted our nation's insatiable lust for war by claiming that “All the great scholars who have studied American character have come to the conclusion that we are a warlike people and that we love war. . .What we hate is not casualties but losing.” Did anyone in the media ever challenge an administration spokesman to defend Ledeen's staggeringly wrongheaded, anti-American values? Did any of the (self-described) scholars at AEI that day ask why the GD fool would say such a thing? President Bush, for his part has personally offered these congratulations to the AEI: u201CAt the American Enterprise Institute, some of the finest minds in our nation are at work on some of the greatest challenges to our nation. You do such good work that my administration has borrowed 20 such minds.u201D

The leaders of the War Machine – with their gulags, their lies, their senseless, immoral war – do not treat enemies and purported enemies terribly well. In the event of martial law, it would be nave indeed to suspect that they would treat Americans any better. Patriots – left, right and center – should unite under the American flag to stop the War Machine today while they still can. The impeachment of Bush and Cheney is the obvious place to start. We, the people, should demand it of the US Congress, just as statesmen and citizens of their time demanded the Bill of Rights. Congress should be ordered, as well, to act responsibly and responsively and in the best interest of the sovereign Republic of the United States of America, not in the interest of neocon warmongers.

November 12, 2005