Friday :: May 14, 2004

Liberals Are Citizens Too!

by pessimist

Sometimes the American media surprises me - and it's a good surprise.

Take today's New York Times editorial:

The Wrong Direction

Mr. Bush and his Republican allies in Congress should stop trying to evade responsibility by accusing those who want to ask tough questions of being disloyal to the troops and the war effort.

People are supposed to ask tough questions! It's our duty as citizens to keep pressing for answers to our questions, to get attention for our demands and grievances.

Not to do so would lead to dire consequences.

Citizens of any country must exercise their rights and responsibilities if they expect to keep both. We in America have become lax in our exercise, and the predations of the BFEE/PNAC Petroelum Pirate Posse are proof that we as a nation are no political Charles Atlas. We'd rather watch Friends than live our own lives in our own world. Fraser and his lovelife difficulties are more important than the erosion of our civil liberties.

Back in 1992, a military officer, (then) Lt. Col Charles J. Dunlap Jr., Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, U.S. Central Command, at MacDill AFB, Florida, wrote a chilling essay on a military takeover of the United States entitles The Origins of the American Military Coup 2012.

In this essay, Col. Dunlap presents a situation in which the military steps in to take control when the population has given up on democracy and demands strong leadership. The fact that the people themselves are the source and foundation of strong leadership has been lost on them, as it is with our real-world population.

Dunlap wrote:

"Faced with intractable national problems on one hand, and an energetic and capable military on the other, it can be all too seductive to start viewing the military as a cost-effective solution. We made a terrible mistake when we allowed the armed forces to be diverted from its original purpose." Amid rising crime, failing schools, a stagnant economy, and a gridlocked political system, the can-do U.S. military stood out in a no-solution society. Having remade themselves in the aftermath of Vietnam, the armed forces emerged from the Gulf War as "America's most--and perhaps only--trusted arm of government."

The fact that the military can be seen as 'the only trusted arm of the government' should be very troubling. As I read the Constitution, there are three branches of government (really!) and none of them are named 'military'.

Such an attitude, that the military is seen as part of the government, troubles at least one observer - in Indonesia.

Contemplating the possibility of a military coup d'etat

Indonesia's societal malaise was readily apparent in 2003. According to a poll earlier this year, 78 percent of Indonesians believed the country was on the "wrong track." One researcher declared that social indicators were at their lowest level in 20 years. The country suffered from a "deep pessimism about politicians and government after years of broken promises."

Meanwhile, TNI's political faction in the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) abstained from two votes leading up to the special legislative session in 2001. Generals refused to uphold President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid's emergency decree, designed to keep him in power. Still, in Maluku and Aceh military operations succeeded in reducing the brutality that often characterizes territorial military action.

People began to dream of a return of the Soeharto legacy. As people are looking for someone or something that could produce workable answers to the nation's crises, the military appears to have been successful in restoring a considerable degree of public confidence.

Of course, political oxygen as such may be insufficient for a military coup. Nonetheless, another oxygen prevails, i.e. a praetorian guard mentality in the military. Both the ouster of Gus Dur (2001) and discussion on Article 19 of the draft of the Armed Forces bill (2003) indicate some important points.

Disobeying Gus Dur, constitutionally the supreme commander of the military, was not, according to the military, an act of insubordination.

With a strong belief that "loyalty to the government must be in line with that to the people," the move against him was justified because the president was engaging in a political struggle with his legislature, also political institutions.

While the fall of Gus Dur showed that the military can continue to influence events, debate on Article 19 of the draft of the Armed Forces bill may illuminate another military fixation. Indeed, the article, under which the Armed Forces chief is required only to inform the president 24 hours after deploying troops when he determines the well-being of the state is at risk, was not an indication that army conservatives were preparing a contingency measure in anticipation of anything going wrong in the 2004 election.

Since mid-2001 senior officers have been genuinely concerned about the civilian political leadership, about the involvement of party leaders in money politics and especially, about their perception that politicians show more concern for rebel casualties in places like Aceh than the casualties of their own army.

Military coups have been seen somewhat less frequently since the mid-1980s. The failure of military regimes in Latin America to resolve the economic and political problems appeared to have made the military much more reluctant to intervene in politics. In contrast to past crises, the armed forces sat on the sidelines through economic crises such as the Asian crisis in Thailand in 1998 or the Argentinean crisis of 2002.

Failed transition to democracy, either in the form of ineffective government, the shortsighted interest of civilian elites or mounting corruption, could invite military intervention.

Democracy is a fragile institution that must be continuously nurtured and scrupulously protected. The old credo that the military is the guardian of the state is taking on special meaning for the Indonesian Armed Forces, amidst a prevailing strong ideological fixation and an ingrained, self-defined, quasi-religious mission of protecting the state. The political role of the military will not end in 2004. I was somewhat nervous when an active general told me, "despite being no longer in the legislature, the military will use the authority with which it is vested to take part in safeguarding and controlling the reform movement."

I was even shocked when a young, Western-educated colonel [said] "a soldier fails to live up to his oath to serve the country if he does not speak out when he sees his civilian or military superiors executing policies he feels to be wrong." By definition, a military coup is simply the use of the threat of military force to remove a particularly unpopular leader; the military may not directly assume power. This occurred twice in the Philippines in 2003. Let us hope that the 2004 elections do not fail to establish an effective government, and thereby further deepen political apathy.

According to this page, the Indonesian military is empowered under law to act in such a manner:

When Suharto and the military assumed power in 1966, dwi fungsi, the concept of the dual function of the military, was legitimized and became official policy. Rationalized by various articles in the Constitution, the military was able to pursue the operations seen as crucial to national defense: intelligence operations, combat operations, and territorial operations. These operations included suppressing political dissent and quelling separatist organizations.

Although the military's role in national politics has declined drastically, its political influence has not been entirely eliminated. The TNI still maintains a regional and local infrastructure presence that could be used as a channel though which to exert political pressure.

It Can't Happen Here

So what does Indonesia's troubles with their military getting involved with politics have to do with the United States? One of Col. Dunlap's major theses is that the military was increasingly called upon to perform domestic duties, such as law enforcement.

Currently, Under the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 (inspired by President Grant stationing Federal troops at polling places during the disputed Election of 1876 - which may have had an undue influence over the ballot boxes, stealing the victory for Hayes - sound familiar?), the US Military is banned from performing domestic law and order duties. Such acts are allowed for the National Guard, who function as the State militia under the control of the governor, but only during a state of emergency. This law is under assault as an impediment to 'national security'.

With the National Guard and the Reserves, heavily represented by the nation's police and firemen, in Iraq and Afghanistan, domestic law and order is theoretically at risk. If a situation like the 1992 LA Riots were to break out, the nation would have no choice but to press a unit like the 82nd Airborne, just rotated out of the Middle East, into domestic law enforcement regardless of the Posse Comitatus Act - there would be no other choice. Something like this reminds me of the New York soldiers rushed to that city to quell the Draft Riots of July 1863 just days after having fought the momentous Battle of Gettysburg. Tired soldiers do ugly things, and the law won't be there to be enforced.

This may not be so obvious to us, but someone who has had direct observation of a military government is quite concerned:

About the article entitled The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012 by Lieutenant Colonel Charles J. Dunlap, Jr.

Dear Sir:

I read the article entitled: The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012. I found it to be very interesting and eloquent. Is funny, to me, that it say that it is not a 'prediction'.

I will tell you though that in precisely the same year of 1992 I made a 'prediction', that: "Sometime within the next 20 years we will be wanting (and some will die in the attempt) to get out of the USA just like there has for so many years people have died to come into the USA, such the Mexicans, Vietnamese, Cubans etc etc.

I am a Cuban woman, I left Cuba in 1960 as a 13 year old teenager with my parents and sisters, and for as long as I can remember I have always wanted to come into the USA. This has been a dream that I have shared with many in the world which has viewed the USA as a place that we can come and make our dreams come true. A true place of liberty.

I will not bore you with any stories about 'unfairness' done to me. I think that unfairness can happen anywhere.

I have, however, observed what has been happening to this wonderful country politically, and spiritually for the last 30 years, and specially paying attention to the last 10 years, and have come to the conclusion that things are developing in a way that is almost like we're painting ourselves into a corner and won't be able to 'back out' of these situations without doing some damage, maybe even irreparable damage.

All of it has been born out of greed for both money and power.

Nothing new here, empires have come and gone all throughout history, they rose they fell and everyone of them based on hunger for power and money, and along with that came also boredom, and too much time in their hands.

After 9-11 and when talk about the war started, and it was clear to me that there was a lot of manipulation going on with convincing the public how the war on Iraq was necessary. I could see how blindly the people were following, believing anything they heard the government tell them.

I remember how when Castro first won the revolution and how anyone that did not agree with his views was considered 'unpatriotic', we were either for him or against him and considered an enemy.

How we lost any rights based only on the fact that we saw things differently!

I see the same patterns going on right now, and as I watched it unfold I remember what I have said since 1992!! and I thought 'Oh my God it has started!!'

It brakes my heart to watch it happen, maybe we will come to our senses, who knows!? and 'catch it before it falls'. There is a lot more I could tell you but it would make this e-mail very, very long, and I just wanted to share my thoughts with you. Thank you for your time. Respectfully, C. Day
Written by: Connie Day at 2003/12/31 - 10:08

Show Your Papers

Blind obedience is a requirement of those in military service. The fact that someone sees, as I do, too many civilians acting this way is not a good thing. Society can totally break down, as it did in LA, and no one will do anything without someone else telling them to do it. Remember Edward James Olmos taking a broom out into the streets to lead the clean up? Shouldn't it have been obvious that a clean up was necessary? Are we so passive that it takes a celebrity or an authority figure to get us motivated to act?

Certainly, these times call for action. Those who see a reason to act will act. But will those who act be SEEN?

There have been indications lately that the military is stirring over the outrages they have been asked to commit by the Bush (mis)Administration. They are seeing their beloved organizations, their very lives, being destroyed for political and economic gains, and this galls them.

America's military coup

For decades, Rumsfeld has had a reputation as a great white shark of the bureaucratic seas: sleek, fast-moving and voracious. As counsellor to Richard Nixon during the impeachment crisis, his deputy was the young Dick Cheney, and together they helped to right the ship of state under Gerald Ford.

Under Bush, the team of Cheney and Rumsfeld spread across the top rungs of government, drawing staff from the neoconservative cabal and infusing their rightwing temperaments with ideological imperatives. The unvarnished will to power took on a veneer of ideas and idealism. Iraq was not a case of vengeance or power, but the cause of democracy and human rights.

The fate of the neoconservative project depends on Rumsfeld's job. If he were to go, so would his deputy, the neoconservative Robespierre, Paul Wolfowitz. Also threatened would be the cadres who stovepiped the disinformation that neoconservative darling Ahmed Chalabi used to manipulate public opinion before the war. In his Senate testimony last week, Rumsfeld explained that the government asking the press not to report Abu Ghraib "is not against our principles. It is not suppression of the news."

War is peace.

Six National Guard soldiers from a West Virginia unit who treated Abu Ghraib as a playpen of pornographic torture have been designated as scapegoats. Will the show trials of these working-class antiheroes put an end to any inquiries about the chain of command?

In an extraordinary editorial, the Army Times, which had not previously ventured into such controversy, declared that "the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons ... This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountabilty here is essential - even if that means relieving leaders from duty in a time of war."

Remember the example from Indonesia?

William Odom, a retired general and former member of the National Security Council who is now at the Hudson Institute, a conservative thinktank, reflects a wide swath of opinion in the upper ranks of the military. "It was never in our interest to go into Iraq," he told me. It is a "diversion" from the war on terrorism; the rationale for the Iraq war (finding WMD) is "phoney"; the US army is overstretched and being driven "into the ground"; and the prospect of building a democracy is "zero".

In Iraqi politics, he says, "legitimacy is going to be tied to expelling us. Wisdom in military affairs dictates withdrawal in this situation. We can't afford to fail, that's mindless. The issue is how we stop failing more. I am arguing a strategic decision."

One high-level military strategist told me that Rumsfeld is "detested", and that "if there's a sentiment in the army it is: Support Our Troops, Impeach Rumsfeld".

The Council on Foreign Relations has been showing old movies with renewed relevance to its members. The Battle of Algiers, depicting the nature and costs of a struggle with terrorism, is the latest feature. The seething in the military against Bush and Rumsfeld might prompt a showing of Seven Days in May, about a coup staged by a rightwing general against a weak liberal president, an artefact of the conservative hatred directed at President Kennedy in the early 60s.

In 1992, General Colin Powell, chairman of the joint chiefs, awarded the prize for his strategy essay competition at the National Defence University to Lieutenant Colonel Charles Dunlap for The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012. His cautionary tale imagined an incapable civilian government creating a vacuum that drew a competent military into a coup disastrous for democracy.

The military, of course, is bound to uphold the constitution. But Dunlap wrote: "The catastrophe that occurred on our watch took place because we failed to speak out against policies we knew were wrong. It's too late for me to do any more. But it's not for you."

The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012 is today circulating among top US military strategists.

The question is: just what conclusion will these analysts draw? Will they demand that action be taken to uphold and defend the Constitution, or will they call for a military takeover of the United States?

As this opinion paper puts it:

The citizenry asks the military to supply a host of functions over a period of time-internal law enforcement (fighting riots in Los Angeles), patrolling the border, providing humanitarian services, fighting forest fires, etc.

Now, the military is very good. If you give them a job, they will do it. But, let's use this analogy: In sports you like to play home games. In war you like to play away games. ... Our military has been very effective and projecting power and defending the U.S., not so much by sitting at the border, but by reassuring our allies. The problem rather lies in civilians who over commit the military to duties civilians should be performing.

If you look at Latin American military or African military, they are very heavily involved in domestic politics. They are very good at repressing the people, but they are not very good at external wars. And a number of scholars argue that that's one of the causes of the institutional changes of the military getting involved in doing these sorts of social humanitarian operations. The more the military is politicized, the more it's criticized, the more corrupt it's going to be, and what's going to happen is that it's going to deteriorate.

Certainly, our officer corps isn't interested in that. They have invested their lives into making the military what it is today, warts and all, and they have a lot to lose. They aren't going to sit idly by while they discover just how much power they have and just how little real opposition they face. A true patriot will rise to the call of defending the nation. A true opportunist will rise to dominate and destroy it.

Which will it be?

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pessimist :: 9:50 AM :: Comments (2) :: Digg It!