September 26th, 2008

camo at halloween


For those who don't speak army, that's the way one says, 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division.

They are home from Iraq. The next two years will be guaranteed, "dwell time", which is army speak for time they won't be deployed overseas. Up until earlier this week, I'd have said, "won't be deployed," without the caveat of overseas. But we are told they are going to be assigned to Northern Command.

Lots of people are up in arms about this, and with good reason; we have a national antipathy against this, going back to before we were a nation. Among the grievances in the Declaration of Independence were these:

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States

After the Civil War we passed the Posse Comitatus Act; which was a strange piece of legislation. It's purpose was to stop the army from making sure blacks were allowed to vote. But the idea, that the Army, save in time of absolute need (as defined in The Insurrection Act), wasn't to be used inside the boundaries of the US was codified.

Now... there have been, post-Katrina, some changes to the insurrection act. The mmost notable being:

, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that--

(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and

(ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2);

As you may imagine Bush made a signing statement; invoking the magial powers of his unitary executive: In other words, he is assserting the right to use the army anytime he likes, which has been the case since 2005, when the following footnote was part of a memo by Jay Bybee:

We recently opined that the Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U.S.C. s. 1385 (1994), which generally prohibits the use of the Armed Forces for law enforcement purposes absent constitutional or statutory authority to do so, does not forbid the use of military force for the military purpose of preventing and deterring terrorism within the United States. See Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President and William J. Haynes II, General Counsel, Department of Defense, from John C. Yoo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Robert J. Delahunty, Special Counsel, Office of Legal Counsel, Re: Authority for the Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities within the United States at 15-20 (Oct. 23, 2001).

Given the broad powers already being claimed in the need to fight the "War on Terror" (suspension of habeas corpus, the use of torture, extraordinary rendition, warrantless wiretapping, and who knows what all other things are all being fomented under the rubric of figting terror) that's a blank check; which he wrote to himself. He's already said he's willing to break the law to "fight terror", what makes this one more special than any other? Not a damned thing).

In practical terms, 1 BCT isn't enough to establish Martial Law. Los Angeles, for example, is too large, physically, and too riddled with alternate routes of transit, to make one brigade able to really control it. San Fransico is more compact, but the Bay Area is as spread out as L.A. Much of the metropoli are the same.

It's also not unheard of for the Army to be called out in the US. Katrina is the most recent example. But those were ad hoc deployments, and humanitarian in focus. This one has a whole lot of other things. The insurrection act has a "disperse clause", which is to say, they read the Riot Act and if you don't go home, they can arrest you.

They did that in St. Paul, after they'd block all means of departing. Then they arrested everyone for not leaving. Add something like the Area Denial Weapon and things could get ugly.

Why this unit? Why now?

Those are really good questions. There are already a lot of troops with training in this stuff. It's part of the Mission Essential Task List (METL) of every Nat. Guard unit. My unit does eight hours of training it every year. Which means, in the eight years we've been doing it I've got 56 hours of time doing riot control. That's a lot.

These guys will get more, but that's not the point, because, in practical terms, to break up a riot only takes about eight hours of serious training, and the guard is better suited to it. Why? Because the guard is local. The units on this duty for the Army will be sent into a place they have been told is in serious revolt.

Look at St. Paul. The imported cops from all sorts of places. There are reports that some had shirts which read, "Got Protester?" That's a terrible attitude, and one which opens huge doors to abuse. No way to track that guy down if he does something out of line, which ties into, For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States," just swap, "harms" and it's not too far off the mark, because the, "good faith" defense will be offered up, that and, "obeying lawful orders".

It's not the numbers, it's the establishment of a dedicated command structure. It's the continutity of doctrine. I know how to do a lot of things, set up a claymore mine, mark a path in a minefield, set up a hasty fighting position, conduct tactical questioning, mark out a range card, set up a perimeter, &c., &c., &c..

I know them because I was trained. I was trained because there were established Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTP) to teach these things to me. This command will build them. The soldiers of the 1st BCT/3ID will learn them. The unit which replaces them will learn them, and so on. The staff will codify them. Soldiers will rotate through the positions. The whole army will, eventually, be taught that part of their job is to keep order; to keep the citizens of the US in line.

That's nasty. We have not, to date, had a culture in the Army which sees the people as, fundamentally, different from the Army/Marines/Navy/Air Force (and keeping riot control to the Nat. Guard helps keep this integration stronger). But it's possible to develop one. Thomas Risks talks about this in, Making the Corps.

Seeding the army with people who see the citizens as needing the Army to keep them from riot (even if they never have to do it) is starting to separate them. Take it far enough, let the solution get saturated, and that might crystalise in to a coup. I don't see it as being soon, but I wonder at the choice of location for this Hq. Colorado Springs is a really right-wing part of the nation, almost to the point of fetish. I worry about that coloring those who are assigned to the command. Is that overboard? Maybe.

But eight years ago I'd have told you a president who boasted of breaking the laws, who signed bills into law, while writing down they didn't apply to him, who demanded the right to torture people and disappear americans (Jose Padilla was in custody for at least six weeks before it was announced... if they'd not announced it, who would have known?) was impossible.

I was wrong about that.

One does not prepare for what an opponent will do, but what an opponent can do. And this allows the gov't to do a lot: a lot of things which are anathema to the gov't of a free people. That we might never lose freedom because of it does not make it right, much less tolerable. That it might never be used in the ways I fear does not make it any less of a threat.

We, the people, are the gov't. We don't need to be saved from ourselves, much less protected from ourselves. Assembling to petition for the redress of grievance will not always be quiet. It will not always be polite. It will certainly, at times, be embarrassing for the gov't. It will (one hopes) often be spontaneous, and without prior permission.

Having an army available to stop that... is unamerican.

hit counter

My letter to my reps.

This is variation of the letter I sent Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Ver), who is smart enough to realise that as the head of an important committee he has a need to hear from more than just his direct constituents, would Reid and Pelosi were that smart.

In any case, it's what I sent my senators, and a couple of representatives (Dreir, Asshole-Calif. needs to be scared silly; and lose his seat).

I have grave reservations about the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac Bailouts. Not because they don't need to be salvaged, but because of the structure of the rescue.

My problems with AIG have more to do with the power it vests in the Treasury to affect policy by manipulating the things AIG insures. It moves a huge amount of power to the Executive, which is, no matter who sits in the White House, a terrible Idea.

I much prefer the Swedish model, were equity was mandated, at dollar for dollar, and the Gov't was able to restabilise the banks; and return them to public control in three years.

In the present circumstance, a blank check, of not less than $7,000,000,000,000 is being demanded; without oversight, accountability, or apparent plan. It is unconscionable. This problem has been evident for at least a couple of years to me (I knew there was grave trouble coming when Alan Greenspan reccomended ARMs to first time home buyers with less than perfect credit).

A blank check, much less one with unfettered power, is unacceptable. The people asking for it have shown no sense of fiscal responsibilty to this point, and I see no reason to expect a sudden change of habit.

Feel free to make use of it yourself.