Militarizing Of Civilian Law Enforcement Going On A Long Time
This article was published by the Progressive Review 18 years ago. But with NSA spying on American citizens and the town of Ferguson MO taking military action against its own citizens it seems scarily contemporary. For example, it mentions that Governor Ronald Reagan’s high aide, General Louis Giuffrida, “in 1970 had written a paper for the Army War College in which he called for martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. Among his ideas were “assembly centers or relocation camps” for at least 21 million “American Negroes.”
Also cited is Major Ralph Peters who is described as believing that “at home, use of the military appears inevitable to him … “at least on our borders and in some urban environments” Peters has since not only appeared regularly on Fox News but has written columns for the NY Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Newsweek.
The article below ends with a discussion of a 1992 Army War College paper written on “The Military Coup of 2012.”
Sam Smith, 1996 – The nomination of General Barry McCaffrey as drug czar symbolizes the nation’s dramatic retreat from the principle of separation of military and civilian power. It further demonstrates the degree to which the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 — which outlaws military involvement in civilian law enforcement — is being ignored and undermined by both the drug warriors and the Clinton administration.
Disturbing as the McCaffrey appointment may be, however, it is only an unusually visible sign of something that has been going on quietly for a long time — the military’s steady intrusion upon, and interference with, civilian America.
In order to avoid violation of the law, General McCaffrey has retired from the military, but he will not retire from his military contacts, philosophy, loyalty and access. He is, after all, a man some thought in line to become the next chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
General McCaffrey headed the US Southern Command, which provides military backup for American policy in Latin America — a policy long linked with support of dictatorships, suppression of dissidents, human rights abuses, death squads as well as chronically ineffective and corrupt management of drug smuggling. The price of this policy has been heavy: for example, over 100,000 people have been killed since 1960 in Guatemala, many of them by armed forces and police trained and supported by the US.
One former US ambassador to a Central American country says of Southcom, “I wouldn’t even let them in the country” because Southcom would “inexorably militarize political problems.” Today, he added, “very few countries outside of Central America welcome visits” from the commander of Southcom.
A Pentagon official describes Southcom’s role as “military to military diplomacy.” Rather then functioning like an old-fashion colonial army — “they’re not like the Bengal Lancers” — they go in and work quietly with the local military to make sure the right elements are in charge and show them how to put down dissidents and how to interrogate.
Press reaction to the McCaffrey appointment has been overwhelmingly favorable. This is perhaps not surprising. The media is increasingly composed of journalists who have had no military experience and who see war as just another movie script, even if the battle is on our borders or in our own cities.
These new journalistic romanticists are easy prey for Pentagon flacks and the drug warriors. Their understanding of such matters comes not from experience and history, but from Stalone and Schwarzenegger. So badly was the Iraqi War covered, for example, that Americans still don’t know how many of the enemy were killed. Or that the UN Food & Agriculture Organization found that over a half million Iraqi children may have died as a consequence of the economic sanctions we imposed after the conflict.
Meanwhile, in dangerous counterpoint, the American officer corps is increasingly composed of those who have had no democratic experience. With the end of the draft and the professionalization of the services, the leavening effect of reserve and national guard troops has greatly diminished. Further, officers like Colin Powell and Barry McCaffrey earned their spurs and their medals almost entirely in the defense of non-democratic regimes — from troglodytic sheiks in the Gulf to corrupt generals in Vietnam to drug-pushers in Latin America.
… The McCaffrey nomination also follows a dramatic increase in the use of the military and its resources, especially the National Guard, in domestic law enforcement — from Waco to Ruby Ridge to the inner city. It also follows greater intrusion of the military into high schools, the use of troops on the Mexican border for the first time in modern history and sporadic proposals to involve the Army in everything from inner city works projects to concentration camps for first time drug offenders.
Bill Clinton, who has rarely seen a civil liberty worth standing up for, even submitted legislation last year that would have virtually overturned the Posse Comitatus Act. His bill would have allowed the military to provide “technical assistance” to civilian law enforcement, a term Clinton himself defined as including “conducting searches, taking evidence, and disarming and disabling individuals.” So awful was this measure that even Casper Weinberger and Sam Nunn objected. As the director of the Florida ACLU, Robbyn E. Blumner, wrote in the St Petersburg Times:
Throughout history and around the world, involvement by the armed forces in civilian law enforcement is one of the trademarks of a repressive regime. Yet the administration’s proposals would chip away at the wall that separates the two and, by that action, greatly enhance the power of the presidency. In the wrong hands, the results could be devastating to freedom.
Much of the military’s intrusion has been accomplished without public notice. For example, the Pentagon has greatly expanded JROTC programs. Last year, the American Friends Service Committee found retired military personnel teaching approximately 310,000 students, ages 14 and up, in about 2200 high schools (with another 700 on the docket). As the AFSC pointed out:
Public schooling strives to promote respect for other cultures, critical thinking and basic academic skills in a safe environment. In contrast, JROTC introduces guns into the schools, promotes authoritarian values, uses rote learning methods, and consigns much student time to learning drill, military history and protocol, which have little relevance outside the military.
It pays off, though, for the Pentagon. Although the JROTC denies it is engaged in recruiting, 45% of all cadets completing the program sign up, mostly as enlisted personnel. AFSC also found that JROTC programs are more often found in schools with a high proportion of non-white students — now providing 54% of all cadets — and in non-affluent schools.
And what are these cadets being taught? Says the report:
A comparison of the JROTC curriculum and two widely used civilian high school civics and history textbooks demonstrates that the JROTC curriculum falls well below accepted pedagogical standards. Units on citizenship and history are strikingly different from standard civil texts on these subjects.
For example, . . . the JROTC text portrays citizenship as being primarily achieved through military service, provides only a short discussion of civil rights; and downplays the importance of civilian control of the military. . . .
In comparison to the civilian history text, historical events in the JROTC curriculum are distorted . . History is described as a linear series of accomplishments by soldiers, while the progress engendered by regular citizens is marginalized. America’s wars are treated as having been inevitable.
While it claims to provide leadership training with broad relevance, in fact the JROTC curriculum defines leadership as respect for constituted authority and the chain of command, rather than as critical thinking and democratic consensus-building . . . Finally, the text encourages the reader to rely uncritically on the military as a source of self-esteem and guidance.
Further, at a time that schools are trying desperately to discourage violence, the JROTC is teaching students how to kill more effectively. It is also teaching them — in a text that addresses the “Indian menace” that “Fortunately the government policy of pushing the Indians farther West, then wiping them out, was carried out successfully. ”
And just where did the idea come from for the expansion of military indoctrination in our high schools? From none other than that very media model of a major modern general: Colin Powell.
Following the LA uprising in 1992, writes Steven Stycos in the Providence Phoenix, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff “proposed a massive expansion of the program. Powell urged the new units be targeted to inner-city youth as an alternative to drug use and gang membership.” In New England the number of students involved nearly tripled.
Was Powell seeking citizen officers to balance the academy-trained military? Absolutely not. The JROTC students are grunt-fodder. Besides, while referring to ROTC as “vital to democracy,” Powell closed 62 college-based ROTC units during this same period. The inevitable result was that the proportion of academy-trained officers rose and the role of the citizen-officer diminished.
… One might further ask just when it became the business of the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to set policy on drugs and urban gangs, but in today’s Washington the question won’t produce more than a shrug. Thus when, upon McCaffrey’s appointment, Clinton transferred $250 million from the Pentagon to the drug czar’s office, no one took notice. The accounts are already heavily commingled.
Browsing DOD literature makes this clear. For example, there is the Manual for Civil Emergencies that says it applies not only to the various branches of the military services but
serves as a reference for other Federal, State and local agencies on how the Department of Defense supports civil authorities and DOD assets can be used to support civilian leadership priorities in returning their communities to a state of “normalcy.”
Those are DOD’s quote marks around the last word — a reminder that what may be normal to a general may not seem normal to an ordinary citizen. You have to watch the language carefully. For example, the manual defines hazards as “natural or man caused events, including, without limitation, civil disturbances, that may result in major disasters or emergencies.”
And what are civil disturbances?: “Riots, acts of violence, insurrections, unlawful obstructions or assemblages, group acts of violence and disorder prejudicial to public law and order. . .”
In short, words are so broadly defined as to mean almost anything the Pentagon wants them to mean — right down to a noisy crowd at the street corner. As Mort Sahl once pointed out, a federal conspiracy is now defined as “whenever two or three are gathered together.”
Another unnerving manual is the resource guide for the 1994 Counterdrug Managers’ Course at the National Interagency Counterdrug Institute at Camp San Luis Obispo CA. In it we learn that among the problems ordinary cops may face is that “the vast DOD bureaucracy will overwhelm the requesting law enforcement agency.”
The manual adds reassuringly, “To date such fears have proven to be unfounded. DOD has not become a law enforcement agency . . There is, however, much that DOD can do without usurping a police role.”
A few pages on, however, the manual lists what some of these things are:
In appropriate cases, armed forces personnel and equipment will be detailed directly to law enforcement agencies to assist in the fight.
The Department of Defense will be prepared to assist the Department of Justice with its responsibilities for incarceration and rehabilitation of drug criminals, through means such as training federal, state, and local personnel in the conduct of rehabilitation-oriented training camps for first-offense drug abuses and providing overflow facilities for incarceration of those convicted of drug crimes.[DOD will] arrange for assigning military personal to federal drug law enforcement agencies and the ONDCP [the office of the drug czar] to perform liaison, training, and planning functions as appropriate to assist in implementation of the National Drug Control Strategy and the DOD guidance for implementation of that strategy. [DOD will] review the potential for DOD to provide temporary overflow facilities, upon the request of appropriate federal, state, or local authorities, for incarceration of individuals convicted of drug crimes.
Verbal shell games are being played here. On the one hand, the Defense Department is declared not to be a law enforcement agency; on the other, its personnel and equipment “will be detailed directly to law enforcement agencies to assist in the fight.”
Such postmodern linguistic mush is a key part of the camouflage used to conceal the military’s mission creep. For example, the Navy is prohibited by the Posse Comitatus Act from engaging in domestic law enforcement, so the Coast Guard gets around this by hoisting a Coast Guard flag on any naval vessel it wants to use. The ship thereupon becomes a Coast Guard vessel — for the sole purpose of circumventing the law.
Of particular concern to anyone wishing to retain a democracy in the US are the oblique references to concentration camps for drug offenders. To be sure, the manual prefers Maoist phraseology — “rehabilitation-oriented training camps” — but it means the same thing. This idea may have been launched some years back by a former high US drug official named Robert Dupont, who proposed in the Washington Post that there be mandatory drugs tests for those attending school or getting a driver’s license. Those who failed drug tests repeatedly would be incarcerated in “large temporary health shelters.” There would be some invasion of privacy and civil rights, the doctor admitted, but “this is a price we would need to pay for life in a modern, interdependent community.”
The concentration camps, the manual notes, could also be used to provide “temporary overflow facilities . . . for incarceration of those convicted of drug crimes” at the request of “appropriate” officials.
Both Dupont and the manual use the word temporary. Does this refer to the quality of the gulags’ construction or to the transitory nature of their need? And if the latter, then what precisely are the conditions under which temporary overflow facilities would be required? One thing history teaches us is that drug use rises and falls in a stately fashion; there are no sudden mass LSD binges or waves of ecstasy parties that sweep the nation. On the other hand, what can change rather rapidly is the government’s desire and willingness to lock persons up –such as under martial law.
Finally, the manual indicates that not only are military personnel assigned to the drug czar but that the nation’s domestic drug strategy is subject to “DOD guidance for implementation of that strategy.” In other words, under McCaffrey our drug program will be run by a general, aided by military personnel, funded by military dollars and guided by military policy. In short, it is not unlike the sort of arrangement McCaffrey’s Southcom has worked out for places like Bolivia and Colombia. Our cities have become just another third world country to keep under the military’s control.
The handwriting has been on the wall for a long time. In speaking before the 1991 National Guard Association Conference, Lt. General John B. Conaway, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said:
Our commander in chief has declared war on drugs. Our mission as America’s National Guard in this war is clear: make America drug-free in as short a time as possible using any means necessary no matter what the cost.
So between January and August of the following year, the National Guard made nearly 20,000 arrests, searched 120,000 cars and searched over 1200 buildings. Said one National Guard official, “The National Guard is America’s legally feasible attitude-change agent.”
The regular Army, however, was anxious to get in the act as well. Lt. Gen. J. H. Bindford Peay III, the chief of staff for operations and plans, asserted in an Army publication a few years back that military forces are required for such purposes as internal peacekeeping, anti-drug operations and support of civil authorities to maintain stability in a rapidly changing America. Said Peay:
We can look forward to the day when our Congress repeals the Posse Comitatus Act and allows the Army to lend its full strength towards making America drug-free.
And Inside the Pentagon quoted the commander-in-chief of the US Special Operations Command saying in a speech:
[Drugs are] the greatest threat that is out there . . . We’ve got to get our stuff together. The battle is not going to be won in the source countries or in the transit countries. The battle is going to be won here in the United States and we better start doing something about it.
Such dreams have been partly realized without even bothering to repeal the troublesome Posse Comitatus Act. Thus we now find Army reservists working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in anti-pot forays. Said one Army official:
We want the public to become more aware of what we’re doing. This is an ongoing war on our soil. We want people to see the Army involved in a war right here — a war against drugs . . . We’re fighting a war in our own hometowns — a war we’ll fight every day until, finally, we win.
Considerable benefits accrue to those civilian law enforcement agencies that kowtow to the military. For example, AP has reported that the Pentagon intends to give police departments 2,000 of its helicopters over the next few years. On the other hand, when Arizona Governor Fyfe Symington spoke of using the state national guard to keep the Grand Canyon open during the recent budget crisis, the Pentagon went on alert and prepared to federalized the Arizona militia if necessary to prevent any such residual display of states rights.
Of course, bringing the might of the Pentagon to bear on recalcitrant pot planters is not quite as heroic as defeating the Evil Empire. And it can have some peculiar results. For example, citizens in Monterey County CA have been complaining about a US Marine invasion of the Los Padres National Forest and nearby private lands. These incursions are part of Operation Alliance run by a intergovernmental “coordination center” that handles military-civilian actions in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. The operation is under the control of Joint Task Force 6 in El Paso, which according to a Forest Service memo, “is now scheduled to handle all military drug raids done thru local law enforcement in the lower 48 states and Puerto Rico. The Forest Service gets military support by going through Operation Alliance.” (All military drug raids? Apparently no one has told the Forest Service that the Pentagon is not a law enforcement agency.)
For example, Mission JT-105-96 carried out “approximately October 5 through October 31, 1995” included:
Military over-flights and photography of National Forest Service land
Aerial reconnaissance about 500′ from the ground, but allowing aircraft as low as 100′ for “confirmation” and as low as 75′ for “inserting and extracting military personnel via rappel, fast-rope and spy operation.”
“Listening/observation posts on National Forest and National Forest Wilderness areas” and “overnight bivouac.”
Landing aircraft in the wilderness area in emergencies.
A situation report from one of the Marine teams described finding a “garden” and then tracing the waterlines to it. Later that afternoon a jogger wandered into their midst. They gave him a drink of water and lied to him about their purpose, claiming that they were training.
On October 15th Team Two was discovered by a woman on horseback who was clearly not pleased to find them. They repeated their lie about training. She said she feared for her daughter’s safety and that they had trespassed and broken a water main. She also blew the whistle on the operation when she got back to safety. Soon thereafter both Congressman Sam Farr and the Monterey Herald called and the “mission was compromised.”
There were other complaints. An investigative report cited
allegations made by concerned residents that this patrol had established a campfire, littered, defecated and left soiled toilet paper in an exposed condition in the watershed that supplies water to several homes.
The investigator found the allegations were true but happily had not occurred on private property.
The Civil Liberties Monitoring Project, formed by local citizens twelve years ago when the first assaults began, counted 100 complaints of invasions of privacy and illegal searches in 1995. There was also “a surprising amount of damage from helicopters.”
According to CLMP:
Helicopters overflights are often conducted at or near tree-top level (say 150′ from the ground) despite an agreement by law enforcement to maintain a 500′ height except when actually landing or taking off. The noise from these low flights is incredibly loud, causing much disturbance to wildlife, domestic animals and of course, human beings. A sudden loud noise from above triggers fight or flight response in most birds and animals. Much of the injury to animals is impossible to document in a largely forested rural area like the Mateel, but we have documented the deadly injury to a horse, death of a deer and its fawns, stampeding of cattle and destruction of eggs and young birds in the nest at several commercial aviaries. This latest effect is especially disturbing as we have several endangered species of birds in our forests including the spotted owl.
Adults can generally handle the effects of overflights. They get angry, call their congressperson, call the local sheriff, and make complaints. They document their grievances with us. This reduces the long-term effects upon them, if you don’t count a deep and abiding distrust of law enforcement and government in general. Two groups cannot handle the psychological effects well, however. They are children and Vietnam vets with flashback problems. We have documented cases of children becoming fearful of going outside, where they had previously enjoyed gardening with their parents; of nightmares about helicopters, and similar effects . . .
Vietnam vets flashbacks are well known, and we are seeing them here. In the worst case the vet was simply advised by his doctor to abandon his home and leave the area until the raids ended.
One of the ways the military conducts its domestic version of psychological and civil operations is to spy on American citizens. As far back the early 40s, for example, Army intelligence kept tabs on the likes of organizer Saul Alinsky. The practice blossomed with the civil rights and peace movements, possibly even, in the view of some investigators, including direct involvement of Army agents in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Today, the practice continues albeit in modern garb. According to the Computer Fraud and Security Bulletin, the National Security Agency is already spying on the Internet by “sniffing” data at key router and gateways hosts. NSA is also said to have made deals with Microsoft, Lotus and Netscape to prevent anonymous e-mail or encryption systems on the Net.
And last July, Charles Swett, who works for the Pentagon office handling “special operations and low intensity conflict” wrote an internal memo titled: Strategic Assessment: The Internet. The report, uncovered by the Federation of American Scientists, provides an overview of the Internet, particularly its usefulness for spying on both Americans and foreigners and for spreading disinformation during psychological operations.
Of course, Swett didn’t use those words, so to be absolutely fair let’s quote the man:
The Internet could also be used offensively as an additional medium in psychological operations campaigns and to help achieve unconventional warfare objectives. Used creatively as an integral asset, the Internet can facilitate many DOD operations and activities. . .
The Internet is a potentially lucrative source of intelligence useful to DOD. The intelligence can include . . . information about the plans and operations of politically active groups.
Networks of human sources with access to the Internet could be developed in areas of security concern to the US, and these sources could be oriented to seek specific needed information. If contracted and managed correctly, such a system could be much more responsive and efficient than the current complex, unwieldy, intelligence tasking and collection processes we must use.
It would be possible to employ the Internet as an additional medium for Psychological Operations (Psyops) campaigns. E-mail conveying the US perspective on issues and events could be efficiently and rapidly disseminated to a very wide audience. DOD intelligence agencies should investigate the role of the Internet in helping coordinate the operations of political activists and paramilitary groups in regions of interest.
The Internet should be incorporated in our Psyops planning as an additional medium.
Means of employing the Internet offensively in support of our unconventional warfare objectives should be employed.
While the talents of civ ops and pys ops could be clearly quickly turned from third world lands to our own, Swett specifically declares that his recommendations “should be carried out only in full compliance with the letter and the spirit of the law, and without violating the privacy of American citizens.”
Yet Swett himself sets a poor example. After all, he has already been spying on us. And his report gives a strong sense of what the forthcoming dossiers of the Pentagon’s Internet strategic assessment office will look like.
For example, he sees as “startling” the use of the Internet to organize against the Contract with America with its charges that it, in effect is encouraging “class war, race war, gender war, and generational war.”
He lumps as fringe groups the white supremacist National Alliance, the Michigan Militia, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Earth First, and People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.
He quotes from the Wall Street Journal:
Fringe groups are increasingly going on-line, gathering converts and seeking validation on the Internet. The network’s far-flung links and low-cost communications are a boon to backwater groups that can’t afford to use direct mail to make their pitches . . . The more a group is shut out of the mainstream, the more likely it is to go on-line.
Swett takes particular interest in the Institute for Global Communications and the Association for Progressive Communications, which he describes as “largest and most active international political groups using the Internet.” He calls IGC/APC (used by the Review among tens of thousands of others in the US and elsewhere) as “clearly a left-wing political organization.”
If this all sounds a tad familiar; it is. Only the source material back then was hard copy and it was deposited not on hard disk at the Pentagon but in the files of J. Edgar Hoover.
The military’s extraordinary role in contemporary civilian life can be traced back at least to the Carter administration. In a July 1983 series in the San Francisco Examiner, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Knut Royce reported that a presidential directive had been drafted by a few Carter administration personnel in 1979 to allow the military to take control of the government for 90 days in the event of an emergency. A caveat on page one of the directive said, “Keeping the government functioning after a nuclear war is a secret, costly project that detractors claim jeopardizes US traditions and saves a privileged few.” According to Royce there was a heated debate within the Carter administration as to just what constituted an “emergency.”
The issue arose again during the Iran-Contra affair, but even in the wake of all the copy on that scandal, the public got little sense of how far some America’s soldiers of fortune were willing to go to achieve their ends. When the Iran-Contra hearings came close to the matter, chair Senator Inouye backed swiftly away. Here is an excerpt from those hearings. Oliver North is at the witness table:
REP BROOKS: Colonel North, in your work at the NSC, were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the continuity of government in the event of a major disaster?
BRENDAN SULLIVAN: Mr. Chairman?
SEN INOUYE: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch on that.
REP BROOKS: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was the area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.
SEN INOUYE; May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I’m certain arrangements can be made for an executive session
With few exceptions, the media ignored what well could be the most startling revelation to have come out of the Iran/Contra affair, namely that high officials of the US government were planning a possible military/civilian coup. First among the exceptions was the Miami Herald, which on July 5, 1987, ran the story to which Jack Brooks referred. The article, by Alfonzo Chardy, revealed Oliver North’s involvement in plans for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to take over federal, state and local functions during an ill-defined national emergency.
According to Chardy, the plan called for ‘suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the government over to the Federal Management Agency, emergency appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declaration of martial law.’ The proposal appears to have forgotten that Congress, legislatures and the judiciary even existed.
In a November 18, 1991 story, the New York Times elaborated:
Acting outside the Constitution in the early 1980s, a secret federal agency established a line of succession to the presidency to assure continued government in the event of a devastating nuclear attack, current and former United States officials said today.
The program was called “Continuity of Government.” In the words of a recent report by the Fund for Constitutional Government, “succession or succession-by-designation would be implemented by unknown and perhaps unelected persons who would pick three potential successor presidents in advance of an emergency. These potential successors to the Oval Office may not be elected, and they are not confirmed by Congress.
According to CNN, the list eventually grew to 17 names and included Howard Baker, Richard Helms, Jeanne Kirkpatrick James Schlesinger, Richard Thornberg, Edwin Meese, Tip O’Neil, and Richard Cheney.
The plan was not even limited to a nuclear attack but included any “national security emergency” which was defined as:
Any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States.
This bizarre scheme was dismissed in many Washington quarters as further evidence of the loony quality of the whole Iran/contra affair. One FEMA official called it a lot of crap while a representative for Attorney General Meese described it as ‘bullshit.”
The problem is that there is a long history of compatibility between madness and totalitarian takeovers, Adolph Hitler being a prime but far from lone example. Further, there is plenty of evidence in this case that the planning was far more than simply an off-the-wall brainstorm. At least one report found that the US Army had even gone so far as to draft a legal document providing justifications for martial law.
Nor was the planning limited to crises involving the total breakdown of society as in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Among the justifiable uses of martial law were “national opposition to a US military invasion abroad” and widespread internal. dissent.
At least one high government official took the plan seriously enough to vigorously oppose it. In a August 1984 letter to NSC chair Robert McFarlane, Attorney General William French Smith wrote:
I believe that the role assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the revised Executive Order exceeds its proper function as a coordinating agency for emergency preparedness . . . This department and others have repeatedly raised serious policy and legal objections to the creation of an ’emergency czar’ role for FEMA.
FEMA was clearly out of control. Another memo, written in 1982 to then FEMA director Louis Giuffrida and given only tightly restricted circulation even within the agency, made this astonishing assertion:
Over the long term, the peacetime action programs of FEMA and other departments and agencies have the effect of making the conceivable need for military takeover less and less as time goes by. A fully implemented civil defense program may not now be regarded as a substitute for martial law, nor could it be so marketed, but if successful in its execution it could have that effect.
The memo essentially proposed that the American people would rather be taken over by FEMA than by the military. When those are the options on the table, you know you’re in trouble.
The head of FEMA until 1985, General Louis Giuffrida, also once wrote a paper on the Legal Aspects of Managing Disorders. Here is some of what he said:
No constitution, no statute or ordinance can authorize Martial Rule. [It commences] upon a determination (not a declaration) by the senior military commander that the civil government must be replaced because it is no longer functioning anyway . . . The significance of Martial Rule in civil disorders is that it shifts control from civilians and to the military completely and without the necessity of a declaration, proclamation or other form of public manifestation . . . As stated above, Martial Rule is limited only by the principle of necessary force.
Those words come from a time when Giuffrida was the head of then-Governor Reagan’s California Specialized Training Institute, a National Guard school. It was not, for Giuffrida, a new thought. In 1970 he had written a paper for the Army War College in which he called for martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. Among his ideas were “assembly centers or relocation camps” for at least 21 million “American Negroes.”
During 1968 and 1972, Reagan ran a series of war games in California called Cable Splicer, which involved the Guard, state and local police, and the US Sixth Army. Details of this operation were reported in 1975 in a story by Ron Ridenour of the New Times, an Arizona alternative paper, and later exhumed by Dave Lindorff in the Village Voice.
Cable Splicer, it turned out, was a training exercise for martial law. The man in charge was none other than Edwin Meese, then Reagan’s executive secretary. At one point, Meese told the Cable Splicer combatants:
This is an operation, this is an exercise, this is an objective which is going forward because in the long run . . . it is the only way that will be able to prevail [against anti-war protests.]
Addressing the kickoff of Cable Splicer, Governor Reagan told some 500 military and police officers:
You know, there are people in the state who, if they could see this gathering right now and my presence here, would decide their worst fears and convictions had been realized — I was planning a military takeover.
The Reaganites were not, however, the only ones with such thoughts. Consider this from a NSC directive written by Frank Carlucci in 1981:
Normally a state of martial law will be proclaimed by the President. However, in the absence of such action by the President, a senior military commander may impose martial law in an area of his command where there had been a complete breakdown in the exercise of government functions by local civilian authorities.
The military coup of 2012
To those who would dismiss all the foregoing as the fantasies of a paranoid conspiracy theorist, I fully understand. Such are our times, such is the propaganda in which our minds swim, that the real can frequently, almost inevitably, seem but a mirage.
But how about this? In the winter 1992 issue of Parameters, the quarterly of the US Army College, there appeared an article by Lt. Col. Charles J. Dunlap Jr. USAF Dunlap was a graduate of St. Joseph’s University, Villanova School of Law, the Armed Forces Staff College, and a distinguished graduate of the National War College. In 1992 he was named by the Judge Advocates Association as the USAF’s outstanding career armed services attorney. In short, not your average paranoid conspiracy theorist.
Dunlap’s article was called The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012. In it, he pretends to be writing to a fellow military colleague in 2012, explaining how the coup had occurred. With eerie precision he described America’s current state:
America became exasperated with democracy. We were disillusioned with the apparent inability of elected government to solve the nation’s dilemmas. We were looking for someone or something that could produce workable answers. The one institution of government in which the people retained faith was the military.2 Buoyed by the military’s obvious competence in the First Gulf War, the public increasingly turned to it for solutions to the country’s problems. Americans called for an acceleration of trends begun in the 1980s: tasking the military with a variety of new, non-traditional missions, and vastly escalating its commitment to formerly ancillary duties.
Though not obvious at the time, the cumulative effect of these new responsibilities was to incorporate the military into the political process to an unprecedented degree.
Dunlap quoted one of Washington’s journalistic cherubs, James Fallows, in a 1991 article:
I am beginning to think that the only way the national government can do anything worthwhile is to invent a security threat and turn the job over to the military . . . The military, strangely, is the one government institution that has been assigned legitimacy to act on its notion of the collective good.
Dunlap recounted the slow attrition of civilian independence from the military:
In 1981 Congress passed a bill, the Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies Act “specifically intended to force reluctant military commanders to actively collaborate in police work. By 1992, combating drugs had been declared a “high national security mission.”
By this same time, the military had become deeply involved in environmental cleanup, and would regularly show up in uniform in high crime areas.
The balance of power between the various services was being undermined by an emphasis on “jointness,” thus weakening an internal check on the military.
Dunlap then imagined what might happen next:
Other problems were transformed into “national security” issues. As more commercial airlines went bankrupt and unprofitable air routes were dropped, the military was called upon to provide “essential” air transport to the affected regions. In the name of national defense, the military next found itself in the sealift business. . . .The nations’ crumbling infrastructure was also declared a “national security threat.” As was proposed back in 1991, troops rehabilitated pubic housing, rebuilt bridges and roads, and constructed new government buildings . . . . Voices in both Congress and the military had reached a crescendo calling for military involvement across a broad spectrum of heretofore civilian activities. Soon, it became common in practically every community to see crews of soldiers working on local projects. Military attire drew no stares.
Not so long ago, Stephen Rosenfeld of the Washington Post wrote a bizarre and scary column praising one of the Army’s advocates of Dunlap’s bad dream. Rosenfeld described US Army Major Ralph Peters this way:
At home, use of the military appears inevitable to him — though not yet to an American consensus — “at least on our borders and in some urban environments” . . . He deplores our military’s reluctance to join the war on drugs, which he attributes to a fear of failure. He would dutifully prepare for the traditionally ‘military’ missions, plus the new one of missile defense. But he would be ready to engage with drugs and crime, terrorism, peacekeeping, illegal immigration, disease control, resource protection, evacuation of endangered citizens . . .
What Dunlap was described and Peters advocated was not a bold military stroke against the civilian government, but simply a coup by attrition. Wrote Dunlap:
By the year 2000 the armed forces had penetrated many vital aspects of American society. More and more military officers sought the kind of autonomy in these civilian affairs that they would expect from their military superiors in the execution of traditional combat operations . . . They convinced themselves that they could more productively serve the nation in carrying out their new assignments if they accrued to themselves unfettered power to implement their programs.
By 2012, it was all over.
Col. Dunlap’s calculations are that we have about 16 years to come up with an alternative approach.
And he may be a bit optimistic.