By Dave Lindorff
The looming collapse of the US military in Iraq, of which a number of generals and former generals, including former Chief of Staff Colin Powell, have warned, is happening none too soon, as it my be the best hope for preventing military rule here at home.
From the looks of things, the Bush/Cheney regime has been working assiduously to pave the way for a declaration of military rule, such that at this point it really lacks only the pretext to trigger a suspension of Constitutional government. They have done this with the active support of Democrats in Congress, though most of the heavy lifting was done by the last, Republican-led Congress.
The first step, or course, was the first Authorization for Use of Military Force, 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 is itself a battlefield, is enough to allow this or some future president to declare martial law, “since you can always declare martial law on a battlefield. All he’d need would be a pretext, like another terrorist attack inside the U.S.”
The 2001 AUMF was followed by the PATRIOT Act, passed in October 2001, which undermined much of the Bill of Rights. Around the same time, the president began a campaign of massive spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, conducted without any warrants or other judicial review. It was and remains a program that is clearly aimed at American dissidents and at the administration’s political opponents, since the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court would never have raised no objections to spying on potential terrorists. (And it, and other government spying programs, have resulted in the government’s having a list now of some 325,000 “suspected terrorists”!)
The other thing we saw early on was the establishment of an underground government-within-a-government, though the activation, following 9-11, of the so-called “Continuity of Government” protocol, which saw heads of federal agencies moved secretly to an underground bunker where, working under the direction of Vice President Dick Cheney, the “government” functioned out of sight of Congress and the public for critical months.
It was also during the first year following 9-11 that the Bush/Cheney regime began its programs of arrest and detention without charge-mostly of resident aliens, but also of American citizens-and of kidnapping and torture in a chain of gulag prisons overseas and at the Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.
The following year, Attorney General John Ashcroft began his program to develop a mass network of tens of millions of citizen spies-Operation TIPS. That program, which had considerable support from key Democrats (notably Sen. Joe Lieberman), was curtailed by Congress when key conservatives got wind of the scale of the thing, but the concept survives without a name, and is reportedly being expanded today.
Meanwhile, last October Bush and Cheney, with the help of a compliant Congress, put in place some key elements needed for a military putsch. 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 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 U.S, 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.
As we go about our daily lives–our shopping, our escapist movie watching, and even our protesting and political organizing-we need to be aware that there is a real risk that it could all blow up, and that we could find ourselves facing armed, uniformed troops at our doors.
Bruce Fein isn’t an alarmist. He says he doesn’t see martial law coming tomorrow. But he is also realistic. “Really, by declaring the US to be a battlefield, Bush already made it possible for himself to declare martial law, because you can always declare martial law on a battlefield,” he says. “All he would need would be a pretext, like another terrorist attack on the U.S.”
Indeed, the revised Insurrection Act (10. USC 331-335) approved by Congress and signed into law by Bush last October, specifically says that the president can federalize the National Guard to “suppress public disorder” in the event of “national disorder, epidemic, other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident.” That determination, the act states, is solely the president’s to make. Congress is not involved.
Fein 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.” (It may be significant that Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for president, has called for the revocation of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq, but not of the earlier 2001 AUMF which Bush claims makes him commander in chief of a borderless, endless war on terror.)
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has added an amendment to the upcoming Defense bill, restoring the Insurrection Act to its former version-a move that has the endorsement of all 50 governors–but Fein argues that would not solve the problem, since Bush still claims that the U.S. is a battlefield. Besides, a Leahy aide concedes that Bush could sign the next Defense Appropriations bill and then use a signing statement to invalidate the Insurrection Act rider.
Fein argues that the only real defense against the looming disaster of a martial law declaration would be for Congress to vote for a resolution determining that there is no “War” on terror. “But they are such cowards they will never do that,” he says.
That leaves us with the military.
If ordered to turn their guns and bayonets on their fellow Americans, would our “heroes” in uniform follow their consciences, and their oaths to “uphold and defend” the Constitution of the United States? Or would they follow the orders of their Commander in Chief?
It has to be a plus that National Guard and Reserve units are on their third and sometimes fourth deployments to Iraq, and are fuming at the abuse. It has to be a plus that active duty troops are refusing to re-enlist in droves-especially mid-level officers.
If we are headed for martial law, better that it be with a broken military. Maybe if it’s broken badly enough, the administration will be afraid to test the idea.
July 28 2007
By David Swanson
It’s remarkably common for a grandson to take up his grandfather’s major project. This occurred to me when I read recently of Thor Heyerdahl’s grandson taking up his mission to cross the Pacific on a raft. But what really struck me was the BBC story aired on July 23rd documenting President George W. Bush’s grandfather’s involvement in a 1933 plot to overthrow the U.S. government and install a fascist dictatorship. I knew the story, but had not considered the possibility that the grandson was trying to accomplish what his grandfather had failed to achieve.
Prescott Sheldon Bush (1895 to 1972) attended Yale University and joined the secret society known as Skull and Bones. Prescott is widely reported to have stolen the skull of Native American leader Geronimo. As far as I know, this has not actually been confirmed. In fact, Prescott seems to have had a habit of making things up. He sent letters home from World War I claiming he’d received medals for heroism. After the letters were printed in newspapers, he had to retract his claims.
If this does not yet sound like the life of a George W. Bush ancestor, try this on for size: Prescott Bush’s early business efforts tended to fail. He married the daughter of a very rich man named George Herbert Walker (the guy with the compound at Kennebunkport, Maine, that now belongs to the Bush family, and the origin of Dubya’s middle initial). Walker installed Prescott Bush as an executive in Thyssen and Flick. From then on, Prescott’s business dealings went better, and he entered politics.
Now, the name Thyssen comes from a German named Fritz Thyssen, major financial backer of the rise of Adolph Hitler. Thyssen was referred to in the New York Herald-Tribune as “Hitler’s Angel.” During the 1930s and early 1940s, and even as late as 1951, Prescott Bush was involved in business dealings with Thyssen, and was inevitably aware of both Thyssen’s political activities and the fact that the companies involved were financially benefiting the nation of Germany. In addition, the companies Prescott Bush profited from included one engaged in mining operations in Poland using slave labor from Auschwitz. Two former slave laborers have sued the U.S. government and the heirs of Prescott Bush for $40 billion.
Until the United States entered World War II it was legal for Americans to do business with Germany, but in late 1942 Prescott Bush’s businesses interests were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act. Among those businesses involved was the Hamburg America Lines, for which Prescott Bush served as a manager. A Congressional committee, in a report called the McCormack-Dickstein Report, found that Hamburg America Lines had offered free passage to Germany for journalists willing to write favorably about the Nazis, and had brought Nazi sympathizers to America. (Is this starting to remind anyone of our current president’s relationship to the freedom of the press?)
The McCormack-Dickstein Committee was established to investigate a homegrown American fascist plot hatched in 1933. Here’s how the BBC promoted its recent story:
“Document uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by right-wing American businessmen. The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression. Mike Thomson investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy.”
Actually, if you listen to the 30-minute BBC story, there is not one word of so much as speculation as to why this story is so little known. I think a clue to the answer can be found by looking into why this BBC report has not led to any U.S. media outlets picking up the story this week.
The BBC report provides a good account of the basic story. Some of the wealthiest men in America approached Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, beloved of many World War I veterans, many of them embittered by the government’s treatment of them. Prescott Bush’s group asked Butler to lead 500,000 veterans in a take-over of Washington and the White House. Butler refused and recounted the affair to the congressional committee. His account was corroborated in part by a number of witnesses, and the committee concluded that the plot was real. But the names of wealthy backers of the plot were blacked out in the committee’s records, and nobody was prosecuted. According to the BBC, President Roosevelt cut a deal. He refrained from prosecuting some of the wealthiest men in America for treason. They agreed to end Wall Street’s opposition to the New Deal.
Clearly the lack of accountability in Washington, D.C., did not begin with Nancy Pelosi taking Dubya’s impeachment off the table, or with Congress’ decision to avoid impeachment for President Ronald Reagan (a decision that arguably played a large role in installing Prescott Bush’s son George H.W. Bush as president), or with the failure to investigate the apparent deal that George H.W. Bush and others made with Iran to not release American hostages until Reagan was made president, or with the failure to prosecute Richard Nixon after he resigned. Lack of accountability is a proud tradition in our nation’s capital. Or maybe I should say our former nation’s capital. I don’t recognize the place anymore, and I credit that to George W. Bush’s efforts to fulfill his grandfather’s dream using far subtler and more effective means than a military coup.
Bush the grandson took office through a highly fraudulent election that he nonetheless lost. The Supreme Court blocked a recount of the vote and installed Dubya.
Prescott’s grandson proceeded to weaken or eliminate most of the Bill of Rights in the name of protection from a dark foreign enemy. He even tossed out habeas corpus. The grandson of Prescott, that dreamer of the 1930s, established with very little resistance that the U.S. government can kidnap, detain indefinitely on no charge, torture, and murder. The United States under Prescott Bush’s grandson adopted policies that heretofore had been considered only Nazi policies, most strikingly the willingness to openly plan and engage in aggressive wars on other nations.
At the same time, Dubya has accomplished a huge transfer of wealth within the United States from the rest of us to the extremely wealthy. He’s also effected a major privatization of public operations, including the military. And he’s kept tight control over the media.
Dubya has given himself the power to rewrite all laws with signing statements. He’s established that intentionally misleading the Congress about the need for a war is not a crime that carries any penalty. He’s given himself the right (just as Hitler did) to open anyone’s mail. He’s created illegal spying programs and then proposed to legalize them. Prescott would be so proud!
The current President Bush has accomplished much more smoothly than his grandfather could have imagined a feat that was one of the goals of Prescott’s gang, namely the elimination of Congress.
July 28, 2007
U.S. Army Sgt. Juwan Johnson got a hero’s welcome while home on leave in June of 2004.
“Not only did I love my son – but my god – I liked the man he was becoming,” his mother, Stephanie Cockrell, remembers.
But that trip home was the last time his family saw him alive.
When Johnson died, he wasn’t in a war zone, he was in Germany.
“He had finished his term in Iraq,” his mother said. “I talked to him the day before his death. He said, ‘Mom, I’m in the process of discharging out. I’ll be out in two weeks’.”
On July 3, 2005, Sgt. Johnson went to a park not far from his base in Germany to be initiated into the ‘Gangster Disciples,’ a notorious Chicago-based street gang. He was beaten by eight other soldiers in a “jump-in” – an initiation rite common to many gangs.
“My son never spoke of joining a gang,” Cockrell told CBS News correspondent Thalia Assuras.
Johnson died that night from his injuries. His son, Juwan Jr., was born five months later.
“I feel like I didn’t prepare him enough to deal with this and I should have,” his mother said. “But how would I have known there were gangs in the military? I could have had that talk with him.”
Evidence of gang culture and gang activity in the military is increasing so much an FBI report calls it “a threat to law enforcement and national security.” The signs are chilling: Marines in gang attire on Parris Island; paratroopers flashing gang hand signs at a nightclub near Ft. Bragg; infantrymen showing-off gang tattoos at Ft. Hood.
“It’s obvious that many of these people do not give up their gang affiliations,” said Hunter Glass, a retired police detective in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the home of Ft. Bragg and the 82nd Airborne. He monitors gang activity at the base and across the military.
“If we weren’t in the middle of fighting a war, yes, I think the military would have a lot more control over this issue,” Glass said. “But with a war going on, I think it’s very difficult to do.”
Gang activity clues are appearing in Iraq and Afghanistan, too. Gang graffiti is sprayed on blast walls – even on Humvees. Kilroy – the doodle made famous by U.S. soldiers in World War II – is here, but so is the star emblem of the Gangster Disciples.
The soldier who took photos if the graffiti told CBS News that he’s been warned he’s as good as dead if he ever returns to Iraq.
“We represent America – our demographics are the same – so the same problems that America contends with we often times contend with,” said Colonel Gene Smith of the Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command reported 61 gang investigations and incidents last year, compared to just 9 in 2004. But army officials point out less than 1 percent of all its criminal investigations are gang related.
“We must remember that there are a million people in the army community,” Smith said, “And these small numbers are not reflective of a tremendous, pervasive, rampant problem.”
The rise in gang activity coincides with the increase in recruits with records. Since 2003, 125,000 recruits with criminal histories have been granted what are known as “moral waivers” for felonies including robbery and assault.
A hidden-camera investigation by CBS Denver station KCNC found one military recruiter was quick to offer the waiver option even when asked, “Does it matter that i was in a gang or anything?” That is well within military regulations.
“You may have had some gang activity in your past and everything … OK … but that in itself does not disqualify…,” the recruiter said.
Military regulations disqualify members of hate groups from enlisting, but there is no specific ban on members of street gangs. Sgt. Juwan Johnson’s family says such a prohibition is long overdue.
“Just maybe we can save someone else’s child … somebody else’s husband … somebody else’s father,” his mother said. “I would have loved to have seen him with his child, I really would have — that part is hard, that part is hard.”
This month a military court sentenced two of Juwan Johnson’s attackers to prison.
by David Forbes
The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office arrested activists Mark and Deborah Kuhn in West Asheville Wednesday morning after a complaint that the couple was desecrating an American flag. They say a deputy invaded their home and used excessive force. [The photo at right, taken by a neighbor, shows Mark on the ground, with Deborah standing by, during the arrest.]
The flag was hung upside down as an act of protest and had several statements pinned to it, including a picture of President Bush with the words “Out Now” upon it and one explaining the meaning of the upside down flag, a sign of distress.
The Kuhns, along with several neighbors and witnesses, assert that a sheriff’s deputy violently invaded their home at 68 Brevard Road. The sheriff’s office claims that the couple assaulted deputy Brian Scarborough and resisted arrest.
According to the report from the sheriff’s office, Scarborough arrived at the home at 8:45 a.m. in response to a complaint about the desecration of a flag.
Lt. Randy Sorrell says that while the address was in the city of Asheville, “when we receive a complaint that the law is being broken, we have to respond.”
Under a rarely enforced state statute, it is a misdemeanor to desecrate or trample a U.S. or North Carolina flag. The Kuhns said the flag was taken as evidence, though the sheriff’s department has no record of it.
After knocking on the door, the couple answered it and, after being shown the statute, said they complied and took the flag down. Scarborough then asked for their identification.
“The flag covered our whole front porch; he comes up with this printout about the law and tells us that we can’t attach things to the flag, that we’re desecrating it,” Deborah Kuhn said. “We tell him we’re not meaning to desecrate it — all we had was a picture of [President] Bush with ‘out now’ on it and a note saying this was not a sign of distress or disrespect. We did this because the country is in distress and we don’t know what to do.”
Then, she said, Scarborough “started talking arrest, so we took the flag down. He kept wanting to see our ID. We refused. We said, ‘Why should we show you our ID — are you arresting us?’; so we walked back into the house and closed the door.”
There, the accounts diverge. According to Deborah Kuhn, Scarborough “tried to force the door, but we got it closed and locked it with the deadbolt. He then kicked it, punched the glass out, unlocked our door and came after us.”
The sheriff’s office report states that “the man [Mark Kuhn] refused to identify himself and slammed the door on the officer’s hand, breaking the glass pane out of the door and cutting the officer’s hand.”
However, the Kuhns’ account is backed up by Jimmy Stevenson, who was working with Ace Hardwood Floors nearby and asserts that he saw Scarborough break down the door.
“I saw that one cop [Scarborough] pull up and I saw those people come out on the porch and start talking to him,” Stevenson said. “They took their flag down, asked the officer to leave and closed the door. Then he started kicking the door, he kicked it about five or six good times, then he laid right into it. After he got done kicking it, he broke the window out – I saw him hit the window.”
Deborah Kuhn says that Scarborough then “pursued my husband into the kitchen, they were scuffling, [and] Mark was trying to get away from him. He pulls out his billy club and I call 911 and say that an officer has broken into our house and is assaulting us.”
Scarborough sustained a cut to his arm when the window broke and Mark Kuhn had several cuts on his face from the scuffle with Scarborough.
“I was just trying to defend myself and back away from him,” Kuhn said. “They never, ever told us why we were being arrested until we were in jail.”
Deborah Kuhn asserted that no warrant was displayed or permission asked to enter the house. After calling 911, she says, she ran outside and began screaming for help.
Sam York, who lives nearby the couple, was awakened by the struggle, as the Kuhns and Scarborough both came out into the yard. “I woke up to Debbie screaming,” he said. “Mark and Debbie were saying ‘you assaulted us’ and the officer [Scarborough], was demanding their identification. Then another officer threatened them with a taser. He told Debbie to back away or he’d taser her and demanded that Mark get on the ground.”
Sorrell confirms this part of the account: “When they were outside, one of the other officers produced a taser and he [Mark Kuhn] surrendered and submitted.”
Deborah Kuhn’s screams also drew the attention of Shawn Brady and several of his roommates, who live next door to the couple. “I run outside and ask them what’s going on and there’s cops chasing Mark around his car,” Brady said. “They threaten to taser him and demand that he get on the ground. He gets on the ground and we ask them what they’re being charged with. They tell us it’s none of our concern. I tell them they’re our neighbors and it is our concern.”
Neal Wilson, who lives with Brady, also saw the deputy produce the taser, he says. After repeated questions, Brady and roommate Tony Plichta said that the deputies replied that “they didn’t know yet” what the couple would be charged with.
“This is an outrage,” Brady said. “The 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments were clearly broken today.”
Plichta expressed similar anger. “They actually wanted to know why we cared — these are our neighbors,” he said.
Following the arrest, the Kuhns were taken to the Buncombe County Detention Facility, where they were charged with two counts of assaulting a government official, and one count each of resisting arrest and desecrating an American flag. Their son posted their bail shortly afterwards.
This was not the first time that the flag had attracted attention. On July 18, with just the upside-down flag hanging, an Asheville police officer stopped by to inquire about the situation.
“He was very polite and just said that because it was a sign of distress, he wanted to make sure everything was OK,” Deborah Kuhn said. “We said we had it out as a show of desperation — our country is in distress and we just don’t know what to do. We asked if we had violated any ordinance. He said, ‘No, you have every right.’”
After that, Deborah Kuhn said that she posted up the picture of Bush and the explanation of their reasons for displaying the flag in protest.
A couple of days later, Mark Kuhn said that a man in military fatigues came to their door, and was driving a car with a federal license plate. “He stood here telling me that I needed to take the flag down or fly it right,” he said.
Kuhn adds that he assumed the man was with the National Guard, due to the nearby armory.
Wilson, Plichta and Brady said that after the man stopped by, they also saw him drive by several times during the following days, and one night, witnessed several other men in fatigues taking pictures of the flag.
Furthermore, Wilson said that as the Kuhns were being arrested and taken off, he saw a man in fatigues drive by and shout “Go to jail, baby!”
After his experience, Mark Kuhn said he is convinced this is not an isolated occurrence. “If Americans don’t wake up to the martial state we’re in, the cops, the police, the sheriffs, the state police will all come to our door and take us away if we allow this to happen – it’s time for America to wake up.”