Two issues are being debated concurrently in the United States these days. On the one hand, critics of the Bush administration say that, from the look of things, the Bush/Cheney regime has been working assiduously to pave the way for a declaration of military rule in the US, such that at this point, in the words of one critic, “it really only lacks the pretext to trigger a suspension of Constitutional government.” In an article published by CommonDreams.org on July 27, 2007, Dave Lindorff, author of the book “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), says that Bush and Cheney “have done this with the support of Democrats in Congress, though most of the heavy lifting was done by the last Republican-led Congress.”
On the other hand, talk of impeachment is getting louder. In an article published by the Seattle Post Intelligencer on July 27, 2007, Hubert G. Locke, former dean of the Daniel J. Evans Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington, says that “on the eve of a congressionally mandated assessment of the unending madness in Iraq, strange and ominous signs are beginning to appear in all sorts of odd and curious quarters that this nation (the US) should not have to endure another 18 months of the George W. Bush administration and that, if we do, it might well be at the nation’s peril.”
As Locke notes, “Much of the current dismay swirls around Vice-President Dick Cheney, who is busily ignoring rules of government he doesn’t like and declaring his office to be beyond the purview of anyone’s scrutiny, while actively setting about to demolish any government agency that has the impertinence to suggest otherwise.”
Locke says, “Cheney’s advocacy of interrogation techniques for ‘enemy combatants’ that many think tantamount to torture, of monitoring phone calls and e-mails without bothering about (court) warrants, and of ignoring the niceties of the Geneva Convention when dealing with terrorists has put him out of favour even with a growing number of conservatives. Some want to jettison him as a hopeless drag on the Republican Party’s electoral prospects next year; others are beginning to join the throng that is convinced Cheney is out of control and needs to be dispatched for the health and safety of the republic itself.”
Arguing that the threat of martial law in the US is real, Lindorff says, “The first step, of course, was the first Authorisation for Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed in September 2001, which the president has subsequently used to claim improperly (but so what?) that the whole world, including the US is a battlefield in a so-called ‘War’ on Terror, and that he has extra-Constitutional unitary executive powers to ignore laws passed by Congress.”
As constitutional scholar and former Reagan-era associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein observes, that one claim, that the US itself is a battlefield, is enough to allow Bush or some future president to declare martial law, “since you can always declare martial law on a battlefield. All he would need would be a pretext, like another terrorist attack inside the US.”
The AUMF was followed by the PATRIOT Act, passed in October 2001, which undermined much of the US Bill of Rights. The PATRIOT Act is an assault on constitutional protections so atrocious that legislators in several US states and local officials in more than 200 cities, towns and counties across the land have passed resolutions or ordinances condemning and rejecting its abuse of civil liberties.
More than 25 million Americans live in states or communities that have officially declared that they oppose those parts of the PATRIOT Act and the even more draconian Homeland Security Act of January 2002 that trample on their freedoms. Yet the Bush administration has continued to ignore such protests and has continued to press ahead with an agenda that has had the effect of turning America more and more into a police state.
Even libraries in America are under siege. Under the PATRIOT Act, which was enacted by Congress with hardly any debate, the FBI has the right to obtain a court order to access any records that American libraries have of books borrowed by customers. Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act allows law enforcement agencies to peer into Americans’ reading habits and Internet activity, not only at the nation’s libraries but in bookstores as well.
Around the same time that the PATRIOT Act was passed in October 2001, President Bush began a campaign of massive spying on Americans by the National Security Agency (NSA), conducted without any court warrants or other judicial review. As Lindorff notes, the campaign “was and remains a programme that is clearly aimed at American dissidents and the administration’s political opponents, since the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA) would never have raised objections to spying on potential terrorists.”
This, and other government spying programmes, have resulted in the Bush administration having a list now of some 325,000 “suspected terrorists”!
In October 2006, Bush and Cheney, with the help of a compliant Republican-controlled Congress (as it then was, before the November 2006 mid-term congressional elections in which the Democratic Party won control of both the Senate and House of Representatives), put in place some key elements needed for a military putsch.
As Lindorff notes, “There was the overturning of the venerable Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which barred the use of active duty military inside the United States for police-type functions, and the revision of the Insurrection Act, so as to empower the president to take control of National Guard units in the 50 states even over the objections of the governors of those states.”
Put this together, says Lindorff, “with the wholly secret construction now under way - courtesy of a $ 385-million grant by the US Army Corps of Engineers to Halliburton subsidiary KBR Inc - of detention camps reportedly capable of confining as many as 400,000 people, and a recent report that the Pentagon has a document, dated June 1, 2007, classified Top Secret, which declares there to be a developing ‘insurgency’ within the US, and which lays out a whole martial law counterinsurgency campaign against legal dissent, and you have all the ingredients for a military takeover of the United States.”
It is no coincidence that the contract for the building of detention camps in the US has been awarded to Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), the construction subsidiary of Houston-based oil services giant Halliburton Corporation. Before Dick Cheney became George W. Bush’s running mate in the 2000 presidential campaign, he was Halliburton’s CEO for five years (1995-2000). When Cheney left Halliburton, he was given a $ 37 million severance package by Halliburton and continues to receive $ 100,000 a year from the company under a deferred payment arrangement. He also has stock options worth $ 18 million in Halliburton. The company’s share price has shot up over the last four years as the result of the huge profits it has earned from well over $ 12 billion worth of reconstruction, supply and services contracts it has been awarded in Iraq by the Bush administration through a manifestly non-transparent no-bid process. If Cheney were to cash in his stock option today, he would earn a windfall profit of more than $ 49 million.
Says Lindorff, “As we (Americans) go about our daily lives - our shopping, our escapist movie watching, and even our protesting and political organising - we need to be aware there is a real risk it could all blow up, and that we could find ourselves facing armed, uniformed troops at our doors.”
Former Reagan-era associate deputy attorney general Bruce Fein is not an alarmist. He says he doesn’t see martial law in the US coming tomorrow. But he is also realistic. He says, “This is all sitting around like a loaded gun waiting to go off. I think the risk of martial law is trivial right now, but the minute there is a terrorist attack, then it is real. And it stays with us after Bush and Cheney are gone, because terrorism stays with us forever.”
Bush claims that the 2001 AUMF makes him commander-in-chief of a “borderless, endless war on terror.” It may be significant that Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for president, has called for the revocation of the 2002 AUMF against Iraq, but not for the revocation of the 2001 AUMF.
As Locke notes in his article in The Seattle Post Intelligencer, the US “media are also speaking these days of a looming constitutional crisis as committee chairs in the House and Senate confront a White House refusal to provide requested documents regarding the firings of US attorneys by the Justice Department.”