Listen to God\’s Voice

Words of wisdom for today

Those Paranoid Founders and Their Fear of Standing Armies

from the JBS
written by Becky Akers
Thursday, Dec 4, 2008

Distinguishing America from banana republics used to be easy. In the former, citizens walked freely, without interference from soldiers; in the latter, soldiers patrolled freely, without interference from citizens. But that distinction is dying. A federal government that now rivals third-world despots when it comes to torturing folks or imprisoning them without trial no longer scruples to turn its military on its own citizens. Accordingly, the Pentagon hopes to deploy 20,000 American troops for domestic duty by 2011.

No need to fear a military dictatorship, though: “Pentagon officials” assured the Washington Post that these units will only “help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe.” And how do the Feds define “other domestic catastrophe”? Very broadly.
In 2006, Congress passed and President George Bush signed the “John W. Warner Defense Authorization Act.” Lurking among the legislation’s 591 pages was a provision that authorized the president to declare martial law for “emergencies” ranging from another 9/11 to an outbreak of measles. Section 1076 said: “the President may employ the armed forces… to… restore public order” should “a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition” strike.
Congress has since repealed the Act, replacing it with the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008.” So Bush resorted to one of his infamous signing statements, alleging that “Provisions” of the new legislation “purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations…. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President.”
In other words, President Bush craves the limitless power Section 1076 handed him, so he’s sticking with it.
Meanwhile, American troops will learn how to “respond” to such “threats” as “pandemic flu, a terrorist attack, hurricane, earthquake and catastrophic chemical release.” But just as the government stretches the definition of “catastrophe” to include storms and the sniffles, its idea of “response” differs from ours.
You may think that survivors of a terrorist attack need family, food, a doctor. Unfortunately, soldiers carry M-16’s, not meals and medicine. And they don’t heal: they kill people and break things. We saw how the military “responds” to a natural disaster when it forced residents of New Orleans from their homes at gunpoint. Anyone up for having the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, lately returned from “patrolling [Iraq] in full battle rattle,” rescue him after an earthquake?
An army’s purpose is to abuse people. That’s why Americans – and their British ancestors – abhorred a professional, or standing one. England’s Saxons learned this lesson during the Norman invasion when soldiers under William the Conqueror devastated their country, then forced the victims to house their conquerors and pay taxes.
The Saxons contrasted these horrors with the behavior of their own militias – a difference James Madison articulated centuries later: an army “subdu[es] the force, of the people” while also producing “debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few.” Militias, by contrast, exist solely for self-defense. People arming themselves only when directly threatened and only to protect their homes have little enthusiasm for roistering about other countries, plundering and attacking folks who aren’t endangering them.
No wonder Madison and the founding generation loved militias but feared a standing army as one of liberty’s “most dreaded enemies.” When an army pillages abroad, government has all the excuse wanted to raise taxes while tarring those who object as unpatriotic. And when it stays home, the army is handy for suppressing dissent.
The American colonists suffered both these calamities. The British Army battled French forces for control of North America from 1754 to 1763. Colonists died in these battles and endured retaliatory raids on their farms and towns. They also watched their taxes rise. When they protested, most famously with the Boston Tea Party, the British government dispatched troops to North America once again. This time the Redcoats would fight their fellow citizens, not French soldiers.
Lacking an income tax, government’s favorite method of extortion was tariffs. Controlling a port with a garrison and some cannon let customs officers monitor all incoming and outgoing goods. Not surprisingly, the colonists became expert smugglers. That soon had Redcoats stalking their streets, searching for contraband and rebels.
This infuriated eighteenth-century Americans. Patrolling soldiers infuriated nineteenth-century ones, too, during the Union Army’s reign over Southerners after the Civil War. So egregious was the exploitation that Congress passed the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. This punished officials who sicced soldiers on citizens with fines and even imprisonment. It reinforced the earlier Insurrection Act of 1807 (which had prohibited the Feds from calling out the armed forces to quash rebellion) even as it codified the Anglo-American tradition that armies do not enforce domestic law.
Tragically, such enforcement no longer outrages most Americans. Indeed, we welcome it, so enthusiastically that we pay for it. We do make one concession to our anti-militaristic heritage: we euphemize the officers stalking our streets in search of contraband and rebels as “police.”
Cops first appeared in American cities midway through the nineteenth century. Today’s version performs the functions the British Army did in the 1770’s: they quell protest and look for infractions of the government’s rules. No more waiting for victims of burglary or assault to report the crime as colonial constables had: Redcoats and cops actively ferret out scofflaws to fine them and increase the government’s revenues. Cops may not collect customs duties anymore as the Redcoats did, but they do write traffic tickets.
They are also heavily armed, far more so than almost any taxpayer. As the government continues to criminalize innocuous behavior, as it legislates against our pleasures and prosperity, it increases both the number of lawbreakers and our incentives to rebel. And so it must also increase cops’ firepower.
The Founding Fathers’ hatred of standing armies and their warnings against these “most dreaded enemies” of freedom certainly apply to the police, particularly as police forces have been incrementally nationalized in our larger urban centers. And there’s another danger: armed cops patrolling neighborhoods, “serving” and “protecting” us, have accustomed Americans to standing armies.
Indeed, most are horrified at the suggestion that we abolish police departments. Nor did they so much as blanch when Section 1076 turned Bush into the semblance of a military dictator.
Will they rouse themselves once an outbreak of flu sends soldiers rampaging through their homes, rounding up the healthy for compulsory vaccinations while consigning the sick to quarantine camps?
Then again, protest won’t matter at that point.
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Written by tfheringer

December 8, 2008 at 12:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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