Burb Rocking
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
  Outrage Fatigue (& Posse Comitatus)

Seen this?

Nation's Liberals Suffering From Outrage Fatigue (The Onion)

Portland, OR, resident Suzanne Marshal compared herself to an addict, needing increasingly large doses of perceived injustices to achieve a state of anger.

"Even though I know how seriously messed-up the situation is in Iraq, I've became inured to all but the most extreme levels of wrongdoing," Marshal said. "For months, no amount of civilian bombing could get me mad. Then those amazing photos of the tortured Iraqi prisoners hit the streets, and I got that old rush of overwhelming disgust with my government. Then more photos came out, and more officials were implicated, and now—I don't know. It's like a switch in my head turned off again...."

Well, if you check my profile you will see I'm no longer what you'd call young, and, yeah, I'm now what you'd call jaded by politics. But it took the last five years, two very questionable presidential election outcomes, the still-unexplained military and intelligence stand-downs where the current regime did everything it could to permit the attacks of September 11th, huge tax-breaks for the rich combined with huge deficits and cuts in basic services, the National Guard sent abroad (they're national, remember, for defending the nation - isn't it actually illegal to send them off to foreign lands to fight wars, whether such wars are misguided or not?), and the Patriot Act to get me there.

I was a perfect example of outrage fatigue.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday morning, as I tuned in to NPR, I heard someone reporting on the following story:

Bush looks to Pentagon to take lead in disasters by Julie Mason (The Houston Chronicle)

Sept. 25, 2005, 11:33 PM

"Part of the reason I've come down here [to Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio], and part of the reason I went to Northcom [U.S. Northern Command in Colorado], was to better understand how the federal government can plan and surge equipment to mitigate natural disasters," Bush said.

In the case of a terrorist attack, the Defense Department would automatically serve as the lead authority in overseeing a response, Bush said. But he added that the Pentagon also could take a top role in a large-scale natural disaster....

Currently, state governors are responsible for disaster preparedness and response, including calling in their National Guard units.

Governors can request assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If federal armed forces are brought in to help, they do so in support of FEMA and their activities are restricted by law.

Putting the planning and oversight in the Pentagon's hands would effectively federalize disaster response, possibly eroding states' legal rights....

What's being floated here is a trial balloon calling for the dismantling of the Posse Comitatus Act. The what? See below:

Posse Comitatus Act of 1878

10 U.S.C. (United States Code) 375

Sec. 375. Restriction on direct participation by military personnel: The Secretary of Defense shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to ensure that any activity (including the provision of any equipment or facility or the assignment or detail of any personnel) under this chapter does not include or permit direct participation by a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law.

18 U.S.C. 1385

Sec. 1385. Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act ofCongress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise toexecute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

This act was passed by southern lawmakers emerging from 15 years of military occupation in the defeated South after the Civil War (see the rest of the material to be found at the page linked to above). Its purpose was to safeguard the freedom of America's citizens by making military rule illegal in the United States. Freedom-loving citizens on both the right and the left have long understood the importance of preventing America's military from being used as a posse comitatus against her own people. Should this ever be allowed to happen, it would be tantamount to the institution of direct military rule in America and the total subversion of America's democracy.

Where have exemptions to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 been championed? Try not to be too surprised:

U.S. Northcom Fact Sheets Posse Comitatus Act (PCA)

Remember Northcom? Bush had just come from there prior to giving his speech on dispensing with the restrictions imposed by the Posse Comitatus Act (though he never actually mentioned the act by name).

The Bush-Cheney administration ignored the imminent disaster threatening New Orleans and the Gulf Coast until well after it was too late. It requires no stretching of the imagination to understand this may well have been done deliberately. In fact, it's almost the only way the administration's complete lack of response to the enormous crisis - for days - can make any sense. By doing nothing, the administration fostered an even bigger crisis, one in which it could be claimed the usual measures had proved insufficient. The historical severity of the disaster, and the government's failure to deal with it, then becomes the justification for ceding even more power to the federal government - once again at the expense of the freedoms of Americans. Sort of like Andrews Air Force Base, charged with the air defense of our nation's capital, standing down as a plane flew toward the District of Columbia for an hour and then slammed itself into the Pentagon - AFTER two planes had deliberately been crashed into the World Trade Center. And then using the government's failure to defend its people as an excuse for the government to weaken civil liberties while at the same time claiming new and greater powers for itself.

Déjà vu all over again? Yes, and again, and yet again.

If Congress fails to grow a pair and stand up to the neoconservatives, and thereby allows more steps toward military rule to be taken - such as, in this case, the abrogation of the prohibition on posse comitatus - I will take steps of my own. To leave this country. If America goes away from me, I will have no choice but to go away from America. If freedom can no longer be found here, then we must look for it elsewhere.

Hey, Junior, thanks for curing me of a very serious case of outrage fatigue. And you thought the Onion was only joking.

Why the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 is so vital to a functional American democracy:

From the right:
Posse Comitatus - Do You Think You're Safe? by Ed Henry (Western Missouri Shooters Alliance)

From the left:
Predators, Snipers and the Posse Comitatus Act by Kurt Nimmo (CounterPunch)
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