Sovereign Society's Offshore A-Letter
COMMENT: Another Major Catastrophe.

Dear A-Letter Reader:
George Santayana, the Spanish philosopher, essayist, poet and novelist,
is best known for his oft-quoted statement, "Those who cannot remember
the past are condemned to repeat it."

Still good advice -- and worth remembering as President Bush comes up
with yet another one of his ideas of the day -- that perhaps the US
military should be put in charge of domestic police matters when a
major catastrophe occurs. (Critics might say the President himself
constitutes such an emergency, but we don't think, so far, that
warrants a military coup).

The operative factor here would depend squarely on how one defines
"major catastrophe" -- an elastic phrase that could be expanded at the
stroke of a presidential pen. (Read some of those Presidential
Emergency Declarations now in effect and you may have trouble sleeping

The President's press secretary would not say precisely what the
president wants that trigger to be, other than an "extraordinary
catastrophe" (which is sort of what has happened to the President since
Katrina blew through the Gulf and the Bush administration). But putting
the military in charge should not require a request from a governor, as
it now does, he said. Good-bye states rights.

Of course, the President is still in a "do something" mode, having
gotten much of the blame (some of it undeserved) for the dismal,
disorganized response to Hurricane Katrina. That's always a dangerous
place for a politician to be after a televised major mess, as witness
the PATRIOT Act as the wrong headed "solution" to future 9-11s. The
Bush administration, in the PATRIOT Act, and with unconstitutional
detention and torture of terrorism suspects, already has sacrificed
the principles we were supposed to be defending. Are we now to believe
a military trained to kill the enemy is going to play the role of
Officer Clancy? And with wars all over the globe, where do we get these
millions of new policemen? A compulsory draft for police?

There are a great many very good reasons why the long-standing
statutory prohibition against the military acting as domestic policemen
should not be suspended, now or in the event of a major emergency.

The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act now limits the role of the US military in
our lives and keeps America from becoming a banana republic. The law was
adopted after a 15-year military occupation by the US Army as post-Civil
War law enforcement in the southern states. (There's a major history
lesson to be learned right there).

Currently, America's military is largely prohibited from acting as a
domestic police force. They cannot participate in arrests, searches,
seizure of evidence and other police activity on US soil. The Coast
Guard and National Guard troops under the control of state governors
are excluded from the Act. And the law doesn't stop the military from
providing emergency supplies and keeping order in a disaster.

For the last 20 years America has experienced the horror of the
militarization of its own local and state police. There were military
"advisors" during the slaughter at Waco, Texas, and who can forget
a flack jacketed federal agent waving a machine gun at a terrified
Elian Gonzalez. But similar events, where people are assaulted in their
homes by SWAT teams waving machine guns, threatening to shoot, and
trashing the house as a tactical distraction, happen every day in the
US, without media attention. It's all part of the failed war on drugs
that has burdened us with a gigantic police establishment spending
billions every year to no good purpose.

The most dangerous aspect of police militarization isn't the machine
guns. It's the change in police attitudes. In a constitutional republic
policemen are supposed to be "peace officers." Police militarization
promotes maximal use of force as a solution, even when no force at
all is required. Police think of themselves as an occupying army, and
the public comes to think of them as the same. That's a real disaster!

Isn't it bad enough that domestic US policing is approaching a sad
state of militarization? Must we step off the precipice and turn the
country over to an occupying army under control of the Pentagon?

We think not. The US can meet any major catastrophe if we have
proper leadership at all levels, and an end to government by cronyism.

That's the way it looks from here.