Thursday, October 2, 2008

Blue Star Vice Presidential Candidates

(Cross posted from Gold Star Mom Speaks Out)

Dear Governor Palin & Senator Biden-

I know you are busy getting ready for the first and only vice-presidential debate of the 2008 presidential campaign. I'm sure you've both been practicing your debate skills, figuring out what temperament to show, running through the issues in your mind hoping to remember that factoid that will be the perfect comeback, the line that will go viral. I'm sure Gwen Ifil will ask questions about the economy, foreign policy, health care, maybe climate change, maybe energy, maybe choice, maybe event lipsticks or pigs. All those subjects, except pigs & lipstick, are important to let people get to know how you feel about those subjects, and as Vice President, how you would deal with them once in office. I'm guessing January is looming pretty large; the challenges, the opportunities to put your special mark on the fabric of our country. Vice President Palin? Vice President Biden? Just the sound of it is HUGE! Only 46 men in this country have been given that title.

What I really want you to talk about is foreign policy as it relates to the military. When I say military, I mean the troops; you know like Beau and Track and my son Ken, the men (and women) who make up the military. Beau, Track and Ken are our oldest sons, and in my case my only son, my only child.

Sarah, my son Ken, was 18 when he joined the military, just a year younger than Track, so I can relate to what you are going through. Your firstborn, leaving the nest to join the Army. Those are tough days; you worry about how they are doing during boot camp, how they will adapt. Back in 1995, Ken got orders for Bosnia shortly out of boot camp, and now your Track is heading to Iraq, so I really have walked in your shoes. Ken was 24 when he headed for Iraq and I was terrified every single one of those 384 days he was deployed. You cannot imagine how the war will take over your life when your child is on the front lines. That child that grew for 9 months in your womb now belongs to someone else and he's halfway around the world in harms way.

And Joe, your son Captain Beau Biden is being deployed later this week as far as I can tell. I know about operational security, so the date isn't really important, but he will miss sharing the excitement of the final days of this important presidential campaign. I suspect he's been pretty involved in your campaign and all of that will change with this deployment. I'm sure that you have a close relationship with your son as I did; it's just that way with single parent children.At the age of 39, Beau's a bit older than Ken was when he deployed, and as officers, life in Iraq is a little different. Beau leaves a lovely wife and 2 children at home, Natalie, age 4, and Hunter, age 2. They will miss their daddy terribly. 1 year separated from their daddy is a very long time to little ones like your grandchildren, Joe.

Now that I've shown you how this troop thing is personal, and an experience that we all share, you might see how the occupation in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan loom large in the lives of military families. Some may think our children are "deployable assets" and that they belong to the military, and while that is true, they will always be our little boys. Our sons grew up to serve their country, to stand up when called and we are so proud of the men they grew up to be.

Sarah & Joe, today you are Blue Star Families, those with a loved one serving in the military. On May 30, 2004, my son, Lt Ken Ballard was killed in Iraq and I became a Gold Star Mother. It is not a journey that I wish on anyone.

I don't want either of you to wear a black metal bracelet engraved with your child's name, rank, unit, date & place of death and the words OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM. I also don't want you to replace that blue star on your service flag with one of gold; I don't want another parent to receive a Gold Star Banner. I don't want you to know the reality of receiving that one knock on the door that will change your life forever. I really don't want you to know what it feels like to be escorted to the airport by your local police department and when you see that jet pull up to the gate and the doors of the cargo department open up to reveal a coffin that contains the remains of your oldest child, covered with a red, white and blue American flag, you know your child has made his last journey home. I don't want you to listen to the mournful notes as TAPS is played by an Army bugler in honor of your son's life. I don't want you to receive a folded flag from a general with the words "on behalf of a grateful nation...", I don't want you to know the emptiness in your heart knowing you will never feel your child's hug, never hear his laugh and never know what heights he might have attained. I don't wish any of this on anyone. Never. Ever.

Sarah & Joe, you both have a unique position as a military parent that very few people in this country understand; please use that experience and make a commitment to all the troops and their families that your administration will stop the shameless treatment of vets. Vow that war will only be used as a solution of last resort. I urge you both, as military parents, during this vice-presidential debate, to commit to ending the war in Iraq, bring the troops home and take care of them when they get here.

There's more: "Blue Star Vice Presidential Candidates" >>

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Leadership By Firedrill

Like most of us, I learned about and participated in fire drills at a very early age, starting in primary grades, then continuing all through middle and high school, in the military, and in the work environment. Fire drills are important, they prepare us to react to a dangerous situation, to remove ourselves from harm's way as safely and quickly quickly as possible. But fire drills do not prevent fires, nor do they guarantee to always protect us from sustaining casualties, nor do they extinguish fires. Fire drills are in essence an ad hoc response to an unplanned event, with temporary effect, minimizing but not always preventing casualties.

Common sense helps us to realize that in addition to fire drills, good management of fire protection involves fire prevention efforts, and effective fire suppression tools and tactics. Effective prevention includes knowledge of cause and effect coupled with appropriate proactive planning actions, effective suppression includes developing appropriate tactics to respond to individual and diverse situations, acquisition and training of effective manpower, acquisition and mastery of appropriate tools; taken together, this all adds up to effective strategic thinking by those charged with the responsibility to protect us from fires.

Over the course of the past seven plus years both the Bush administration and Congress (whether a Republican or democratic majority) have led our country through a series of fire drills, at varying degrees of success, but arguably, lacking in strategic thinking and action. Or have they? Has the strategy all along been to back the American people in to a corner through fear and intimidation garnered from natural events and human actions in order to consolidate power in to the office of the president, and perhaps more significantly consolidate the power and reach of corporate interests, who pull the strings of the Oval Office and both houses of Congress? All in service to the fulfillment of ever greater corporate greed.

The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center should have been a wake-up call, and the intelligence about Al- Qaeda available to our government prior to the 9/11 attacks should have led to appropriate, proactive, strategic planning and action, instead government and civilian resources were left scrambling, in a catch-up effort at protecting the security of our nation in the intervening years. Then based upon fear and misinformation the Bush administration hoodwinked the country in to an invasion and start of a five year war in Iraq in which our military assets have been exhausted, been disabled from protecting us in other parts of the world, lead to needless casualties of Americans and Iraqis, and put future generations of American tax payers on the hook to the foreign nations that have loaned the money to the United States to conduct the folly that is the Iraq war. All the while enriching war profiteering corporations (Haliburton, Blackwater, KBR, et al).

In the midst of all of the damage done to our economy, to human life, to our reputation and influence in the world because of the Iraq war, our government has taken us through more fire drills:

The natural disaster that was hurricane Katrina and the bungled fire drill that followed, including the complete mismanagement of the situation by the local, state and federal government entities and in particular FEMA.

The fire drill that has followed 9/11 and the pursuit of the "war on terrorism" has resulted in the suspension of our constitutional protections, when prisoners of the United States have been denied the right of habeus corpus, and where, playing upon fear and claiming urgency the FISA rules were overridden and the government allowed to listen and read virtually all of our telecommunications at will. The Constitution has been discarded in this fire drill.

Now capping an era of uncontrolled corporate greed, an era in which many demanded less government oversight in to various facets of life in the United States (in the financial sector, in protection of the environment, in mine safety, in health care, etc.), an era in which government intervention in the form of sound regulation has been ridiculed and avoided, an era in which the government, corporations and individual American citizens pursuing short sighted, greedy financial gains, have resulted in the latest fire drill, with a claimed immediate need to inject as much as or more than $700 billion of our hard earned cash in to the financial system. In essence saying to those who put the country in to this situation, "OK, you screwed up, but we will bail your asses out, and let you go back to playing your games all over again". The bailout bill as it seems to be presently constituted does little, if anything to address the root cause of the current financial disaster facing our country, it just, at best, restarts the economic cycle. It does not mandate any true change in behavior in the financial markets or in the conduct of business in the United States, it is simply just another fire drill, going through the motions of evacuating the financial industry principals, who through their playing with matches have started this conflagration, and evacuating them so they can play another day.

Is this really how we, as intelligent American people, as fathers and mothers responsible for providing a safe, nurturing environment compatible with a thriving life for our children want our society to operate, as one fire drill after another. With never an effort to embrace long term, strategic thinking, planning and actions. Never giving sufficient time, thought and effort towards building a better infrastructure, whether financial, medical, energy, transportation or telecommunications, to live safely and thrive in this county, but just constantly responding in a reactive, fire drill mode to the next crisis?

It is time that we, as American citizens, active in our role as owners of this society demand an end to governance by fire drill, time that we impose our will upon those who serve us in all governmental offices, whether elected or appointed, time that we say to the greedy, profit driven corporations and their lobbying agents that we have had enough of the fire drills, and that we demand more and smarter fire protection, that we demand fire suppression that serves not greedy corporation interests, but the greater good of all of the people.

There's more: "Leadership By Firedrill" >>

Monday, September 29, 2008




"Bush: economic situation is urgent"

And, Say, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, How Can I Get An Unlimited Credit Line That Never Goes Away No Matter How Much I Screw Up?

Stuff Dubya's ass with cash, I guess. See, if you're a nanosecond late on your low-interest credit card, they jack it up to what used to be known as usury-level rates, before the corporatists eliminated that Biblical term from our legal lexicon: It's what very bad people charge you to borrow money, you know, like Vinny the Nose? (Creditors can charge pretty much anything they want now, according to the Feds.)

But the bankers don't have to pay anything when they're late. In fact, if they totally default, YOU have to pay. At least, that's what the Republican Administration of George "Dubya" Bush in Warshenden DEE-see says. If you don't like it, you can vote for the tame corporatist Congressional Democrats Bushco suckered into supporting the bail-out. Or, you can move to Tierra Del Fuego. Your choice. The boat leaves in half an hour.

The good news is, we won't be able to afford the war any more. The bad news is, we never could. And now we can't afford anything else. Thanks, McBush.


For now, duplicating dollars on the Federal Reserve copy machine may stabilize markets. Or not. But, in the long run, it will drag the dollar down from its' sudden new heights, caused by trashing nearly every other economy in the world. A high dollar coupled with decreased foreign demand for US good & services could inch us into recession, whatever else happens. The Fed will have to pull those extra bucks back in eventually, causing yet another crunch in the credit markets. More of us won't be able to borrow as much money as cheaply or as easily for buying stuff, less stuff will get sold, companies will have to lay off workers, resulting in even lower sales for all industries, and, hey, isn't this what we call a race to the bottom?

It will take financial genius and a delicate hand on the wheel if we're not all going to be a lot poorer in the very near and not-too distant future. Not the kind of hands, or brains, that McCain or Palin have. Are we ready for a smart President, yet? Or will it be four more years of Zippy the Republican Pinhead? Are we having fun yet?

In the meantime, I mean, until we get rid of Bush, the sh*tstorm continues. With no Congressional accord on any solutions, thanks to the extreme right-wing Repukelickin's, the Bushco bureaucrats at Treasury and the Federal Reserve are free to write ginormous checks in your name with no, as McSame like to parrot, "preconditions." So, don't worry pretty baby, the bail-out is proceeding at full tilt, and without any oversight. Which is exactly what the Repukes wanted all along. And they've hung the whole thing on the Dems. If it weren't so FREAKIN' STUPID, I'd say it was brilliant.

"Fed makes billions available to battle crisis"
See, the bankers can fix this themselves! With your money, and no oversight.

' The Federal Reserve and foreign central banks moved Monday to pump billions of dollars to cash-strapped banks at home and abroad in a dramatic bid to break through a credit clog and spur lending. Under one new step, the Fed will boost the amount of 84-day cash loans available to U.S. banks. The Fed is increasing the amount to $75 billion, up from the current $25 billion starting on Oct. 6. Banks bid on a slice of the loans at an auction. That move will triple the supply of 84-day loans to $225 billion, from $75 billion, the Fed said. Meanwhile, the Fed will continue to make $75 billion worth of shorter, 28-day loans available to banks. All told, the total amount of cash loans — 84-day and 28-day — available to banks will double to $300 billion from $150 billion, the Fed said. Moreover, the Fed made an extra $330 billion available to other central banks. That boosted to $620 billion the total amount available to the central bank through currency "swap" arrangements, where dollars are traded for their currencies. That total is up from $290 billion previously being made available through such arrangements. '

"Investors swarm T-bills as House rejects bailout "
Industry freezes as government fumbles; banks hold out for hand-outs.
' To be sure, some of the problems in the credit markets, where corporate borrowers go to find loans, have been feeding on themselves. Much of the recent tightness in the markets has been caused by investors waiting for the outcome of the rescue package, which proposed to allow the Treasury to spend up to $700 billion buying banks' souring mortgage-backed debt. "I think everybody focusing on Washington froze the credit markets," said Howard Simons, strategist with Bianco Research in Chicago. Potential buyers figured the government under the plan would buy mortgage-backed securities, he said, but they did not know how it would go about it, or how much it would pay — and that kept them in wait-and-see mode. Furthermore, few companies have even tried to issue debt in the current environment. But while it is possible that fears are overblown, even the most daring investors appear hesitant to make contrarian bets — particularly given how many times academics, government officials and bank executives called a bottom to the global financial systems' woes, only to have their predictions blow up in their faces. The global financial landscape continues to change, keeping large and small investors alike on edge. '

"Bailout blow triggers stampede to safety"
"See the economy. See the economy fall. Fall, economy, fall." - Dubya's briefing book today.
' Uncertainty about what comes next, and whether the U.S. Congress can agree on legislation to relieve the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression sent investors into gold and U.S. Treasuries. Oil fell on fears of further economic slowdown, and the Japanese yen hit a 4-month high. Investors worried that a collapse in financial markets would tip the United States economy into a painful recession that drags the rest of the world down with it. World stocks, as measured by the MSCI's world index lost about $1.7 trillion on Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average posted its largest point decline ever while the benchmark S&P 500 had its worst day since the 1987 crash with an 8.8 percent drop. Latin American stocks tumbled 13 percent, their biggest decline in more than a decade. The shakeup in the financial landscape spread to Europe from the United States, with Belgian-French financial services group Dexia the latest to receive a bailout when three governments and key shareholders on Tuesday injected 6.4 billion euros ($9.18 billion) into the firm. That followed government rescues of Belgian-Dutch group Fortis NV, Germany's Hypo Real Estate Holding AG, British mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley Plc and bailout deals in Iceland, Russia and Denmark. Global central banks scrambled to relieve a severe squeeze in money markets by more than doubling the amount of dollar funding to $620 billion as banks hoarded cash, bracing for more trouble ahead in the worsening credit crisis. "With the financial storm as strong as ever and investors now looking to scramble and seek shelter, many see the Fed coming in and cutting rates to stimulate some confidence," Martin Batur, deputy head of dealing at IG Markets wrote in a note. '

"Fed's Hoenig: keeping dollar value key despite crisis"
The sky isn't falling? I guess our heads are all just shooting up into the stratosphere, where they will soon explode. Nothing to worry about, move along, move along.
' The Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank president said the Fed must stay focused longer term on holding down inflation to protect the dollar's value even though financial market turmoil is creating a sense that the "sky is falling." "It is imperative for monetary policy to maintain the value of the dollar," Thomas Hoenig told local business leaders at an economic forum in Gering, Nebraska. He said it was important not to overreact to financial market turmoil, which led to Monday's record points fall for the Dow Jones industrial average after a Congressional move to bail out the financial sector was voted down. "When I read and watch the news, I get a definite sense that the sky is falling," Hoenig said. "But we need to take a deep breath and think about what is happening." Exports remain a significant source of strength for U.S. growth, but are likely to tail off somewhat in the face of weaker global growth, he said. Despite risks to growth, Hoenig said the Fed cannot lose its focus on inflation, especially as recent high commodity prices work their way through to final product prices. "Inflationary pressure is one of the concerns I have," he said. "At 5.5 percent, (headline) inflation is too high, and will have a long-term impact on the economy." "I'll be more anxious than others to reduce excess liquidity" and start raising interest rates when that is feasible, Hoenig said. In response to a question, Hoenig said the Fed's massive injections of liquidity into gummed-up money markets are not inflationary for now but risk an inflation bubble if not reversed in a timely fashion. The central bank faces "a very delicate, difficult piece of surgery" to raise rates at the right time, Hoenig said. "It is a balancing act that requires great skill, great judgment." '

"Euro drops against dollar on European bank fears"
The Euro's down and the Yen is up. The dollar is in the details.
' The euro fell further against the dollar on Tuesday as fears grow about the health of European banks amid global turmoil after the failure of a US financial rescue plan, dealers said. The European single currency slipped to 1.4376 dollars from 1.4432 in New York late on Monday. Against the Japanese currency, the dollar rose to 105.06 yen from 104.03. The euro slid after US lawmakers rejected the 700-billion-dollar financial rescue plan touted by Washington as vital to avert economic collapse. "Credit worries are deepening over the European financial system... after the US bailout plan was rejected," said Saburo Matsumoto, chief foreign exchange strategist at Sumitomo Trust Bank. '

"Dollar hits 4-mth low vs yen on US stock market rout"
Well, folks, the money had to go somewhere: Zurich & Tokyo.
' The dollar slid to a four-month low against the yen on Tuesday as investors fled risky positions after the U.S. Congress failed to pass a $700 billion bank bailout package, sparking the biggest stock market rout since 1987. The dollar dropped as low as 103.53 yen on trading platform EBS, down 0.6 percent from late U.S. trade after having tumbled 1.8 percent on Monday. The yen and Swiss franc are seen as a safe-haven currency in times of financial market turmoil. '

"Business hits back after Congress bailout vote"
What campaign contributions purchase. Or not.
' Business lobbyists scolded the U.S. Congress and threatened political payback after lawmakers handed the financial services industry a stunning defeat by killing a $700-billion Wall Street bailout. The vote Monday in the House of Representatives to reject the rescue plan, proposed by the Bush administration September 20 and modified by congressional leaders over the past week, came as a rude shock to powerful and deeply entrenched interests. House members who supported the bailout have received about 50 percent more in campaign contributions from the finance, insurance and real estate sectors in their congressional careers than those who opposed the emergency legislation, said a campaign finance watchdog group after the vote. The Center for Responsive Politics, using data going back to 1989, said members of Congress who helped defeat the bailout had, on average, collected nearly $590,000 from the industries most affected over their careers, while the bailout bill's supporters had received $883,000. '

"FDIC asks to boost deposit limits"
Whew! Now the rich won't have to open a second bank account! You've saved them a trip! Thanks, peasants!
' The federal agency that guarantees bank deposits is asking Congress for temporary authority to raise the limit on the amount of money it insures for individual bank accounts. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Shelia Bair put out a statement late Tuesday afternoon asking that Congress allow her agency to increase the $100,000 limit per account that has been in place since 1980. "Unfortunately, there is an increasing crisis of confidence that is feeding unnecessary fear in the marketplace," Bair said. "To address this crisis of confidence, I do believe that it would be helpful for the FDIC to have the temporary ability to raise deposit insurance limits." '

"Stocks rally as Bush pushes revived bailout "
Heard on the Street: "PSSST- The fix is in. Pass it on!"
' U.S. lawmakers and President George W. Bush eased pressure on financial markets on Tuesday by starting work to revive a $700 billion bailout plan to stem a credit crisis that has spread beyond Wall Street to claim more European banks. U.S. stocks roared back -- a day after their worst sell-off in 21 years -- and the dollar rallied as investors bet Washington would manage to salvage a package to stabilize the financial sector after Monday's shock defeat on Capitol Hill. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shot up by more than 5 percent, the biggest one-day gain for that measure of the broad market in six years. '

"US 'casino' mentality blamed for planet's meltdown"
What happens in Wall Street doesn't stay in Wall Street, apparently.
' Astounded by the U.S. government's failure to resolve the financial crisis threatening the foundations of the global free market, fingers of blame are pointing at America from around the planet. Latin American leaders say the U.S. must quickly fix the financial crisis it created before the rest of the world's hard-won economic gains are lost. "The managers of big business took huge risks out of greed," said President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica, whose economy is highly dependent on U.S. trade. "What happens in the United States will affect the entire world and, above all, small countries like ours." In Europe, where some blame a phenomenon of "casino capitalism" that has become deeply engrained from New York to London to Moscow, there is more of a sense of shared responsibility. But Europeans also blame the U.S. government for letting things get out of hand. Amid harsh criticism is a growing consensus that stricter financial regulation is needed to prevent unfettered capitalism from destroying economies around the globe. And leaders of developing nations that kept spending tight and opened their economies in response to American demands are warning of other consequences — a loss of U.S. influence globally and the likelihood that the world's poor will suffer the most from greed by the biggest players in global finance. "They spent the last three decades saying we needed to do our chores. They didn't," a grim-faced Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said Tuesday. Even staunch U.S. allies like Colombian President Alvaro Uribe blasted the world's most powerful country for egging on uncontrolled financial speculation that he compared to a wild horse with no reins. "The whole world has financed the United States, and I believe that they have a reciprocal debt with the planet," he said. "This crisis underlines the excesses and uncertainties of a casino capitalism that has only one logic — lining your pockets," said German lawmaker Martin Schulz, chairman of the Socialists in the EU assembly. "It also shows the bankruptcy of 'law of the jungle' capitalism that no longer invests in companies and job creation, but instead makes money out of money in a totally uncontrolled way." The U.S. government's failure to apply rules that might have prevented the crisis is seen as a betrayal in many developing countries that faced intense U.S. pressures to liberalize their economies. In some developing nations, state enterprises were privatized, currencies were allowed to float against the U.S. dollar and painful measures were taken to bring down debts. These advances are at risk now that credit is drying up. Countries with commodities-based economies are particularly vulnerable since more industrialized nations could reduce their demand for everything from soy to iron ore. "It doesn't seem fair to me that those of us who endured so much hunger in the 20th century, who began to improve in the 21st century, should have to suffer due to the international financial system," Silva said. "There are going to be a lot of people going hungry in the world." "What's to blame? Imperialism, the United States, the irresponsibility of the United States government," said the self-avowed socialist and frequent U.S. critic. "From this crisis, a new world has to emerge, and it's a multi-polar world." China's influence in the outcome of all this could be profound because it is a huge investor in U.S. debt. It is already calling for strict new international regulatory systems to apply to globalized financial markets. '

"Main Street America angry over credit crisis"
Listen to your Kugel.
' As Wall Street collapses and politicians in Washington struggle to agree on a rescue package, credit markets across America are grinding to a halt, leaving many business owners and would-be borrowers alike without money to get by. Anger and blame are everywhere. While outraged voters besieged members of Congress with calls and e-mails demanding lawmakers reject a White House plan to bail out a sinking Wall Street, some experts believe the resulting stock crash and credit panic may spur a new rescue campaign. The House of Representatives voted the plan down on Monday, but top lawmakers said they hoped a revised bailout bill could clear in the near future. "Some of the folks in Congress ... will start to hear it from the other side now," said Al Kugel, chief investment strategist at Atlantic Trust in Chicago. Without a new plan, Kugel worries the credit shortage will get worse: "It will be like a boa constrictor has got the economy and just keeps squeezing." '

[Cross-posted at blog me no blogs, Coffeehouse Studio & Democracy For California.]


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Their troops are returning home...deployment on their own soil...

I posted this on my blog earlier today. And I'm wondering if anyone has heard about this?

I wrote:
In her book The Shock Doctrine Naomi Klein describes scenarios that have happened all over the world, instigated by amerikkkan economists and backed up by the CIA where whole populations were held hostage, intimidated, murdered, disappeared so that draconian economic agendas could be hatched and then carried out, imposed on the citizenry of countries in latin amerikkka but also in places like china, russia, poland, south africa...I'm including japan because it's so clear what was done to that country's economy and to its citizens after hiroshima and nagasaki.

Finally, with all their research abroad completed to disastrous effect elsewhere they are now ready to bring everything they've learned home.

Don't fantasize about heading north to kkkanada. Whatever happens south of the 49th eventually happens here in some way shape or form as well. Besides, anyone who pays attention to kkkanadian politics will tell you that our pm bears a striking resemblance to georgie the village idiot.

I can't say "And so, it begins...." because this has been unfolding for decades. I'll just say it continues...

betmo told me about this...

Army deploys combat unit in US for possible civil unrest

By Bill Van Auken
25 September 2008
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For the first time ever, the US military is deploying an active duty regular Army combat unit for full-time use inside the United States to deal with emergencies, including potential civil unrest.

Beginning on October 1, the First Brigade Combat Team of the Third Division will be placed under the command of US Army North, the Army’s component of the Pentagon’s Northern Command (NorthCom), which was created in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks with the stated mission of defending the US “homeland” and aiding federal, state and local authorities.

The unit—known as the “Raiders”—is among the Army’s most “blooded.” It has spent nearly three out of the last five years deployed in Iraq, leading the assault on Baghdad in 2003 and carrying out house-to-house combat in the suppression of resistance in the city of Ramadi. It was the first brigade combat team to be sent to Iraq three times.

While active-duty units previously have been used in temporary assignments, such as the combat-equipped troops deployed in New Orleans, which was effectively placed under martial law in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, this marks the first time that an Army combat unit has been given a dedicated assignment in which US soil constitutes its “battle zone.”

The Pentagon’s official pronouncements have stressed the role of specialized units in a potential response to terrorist attack within the US. Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, attended a training exercise last week for about 250 members of the unit at Fort Stewart, Georgia. The focus of the exercise, according to the Army’s public affairs office, was how troops “might fly search and rescue missions, extract casualties and decontaminate people following a catastrophic nuclear attack in the nation’s heartland.”

“We are at war with a global extremist network that is not going away,” Casey told the soldiers. “I hope we don’t have to use it, but we need the capability.”

However, the mission assigned to the nearly 4,000 troops of the First Brigade Combat Team does not consist merely of rescuing victims of terrorist attacks. An article that appeared earlier this month in the Army Times (“Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1”), a publication that is widely read within the military, paints a different and far more ominous picture.

“They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control,” the paper reports. It quotes the unit’s commander, Col. Robert Cloutier, as saying that the 1st BCT’s soldiers are being trained in the use of “the first ever nonlethal package the Army has fielded.” The weapons, the paper reported, are “designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.” The equipment includes beanbag bullets, shields and batons and equipment for erecting roadblocks.

It appears that as part of the training for deployment within the US, the soldiers have been ordered to test some of this non-lethal equipment on each other.

“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” Cloutier told the Army Times. He described the effects of the electroshock weapon as “your worst muscle cramp ever—times 10 throughout your whole body.”

The colonel’s remark suggests that, in preparation for their “homefront” duties, rank-and-file troops are also being routinely Tasered. The brutalizing effect and intent of such a macabre training exercise is to inure troops against sympathy for the pain and suffering they may be called upon to inflict on the civilian population using these same “non-lethal” weapons.

According to military officials quoted by the Army Times, the deployment of regular Army troops in the US begun with the First Brigade Combat Team is to become permanent, with different units rotated into the assignment on an annual basis.

In an online interview with reporters earlier this month, NorthCom officers were asked about the implications of the new deployment for the Posse Comitatus Act, the 230-year-old legal statute that bars the use of US military forces for law enforcement purposes within the US itself.

Col. Lou Volger, NorthCom’s chief of future operations, tried to downplay any enforcement role, but added, “We will integrate with law enforcement to understand the situation and make sure we’re aware of any threats.”

Volger acknowledged the obvious, that the Brigade Combat Team is a military force, while attempting to dismiss the likelihood that it would play any military role. It “has forces for security,” he said, “but that’s really—they call them security forces, but that’s really just to establish our own footprint and make sure that we can operate and run our own bases.”

Lt. Col. James Shores, another NorthCom officer, chimed in, “Let’s say even if there was a scenario that developed into a branch of a civil disturbance—even at that point it would take a presidential directive to even get it close to anything that you’re suggesting.”

Whatever is required to trigger such an intervention, clearly Col. Cloutier and his troops are preparing for it with their hands-on training in the use of “non-lethal” means of repression.

The extreme sensitivity of the military brass on this issue notwithstanding, the reality is that the intervention of the military in domestic affairs has grown sharply over the last period under conditions in which its involvement in two colonial-style wars abroad has given it a far more prominent role in American political life.

The Bush administration has worked to tear down any barriers to the use of the military in domestic repression. Thus, in the 2007 Pentagon spending bill it inserted a measure to amend the Posse Comitatus Act to clear the way for the domestic deployment of the military in the event of natural disaster, terrorist attack or “other conditions in which the president determines that domestic violence has occurred to the extent that state officials cannot maintain public order.”

The provision granted the president sweeping new powers to impose martial law by declaring a “public emergency” for virtually any reason, allowing him to deploy troops anywhere in the US and to take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of state governors in order to “suppress public disorder.”

The provision was subsequently repealed by Congress as part of the 2008 military appropriations legislation, but the intent remains. Given the sweeping powers claimed by the White House in the name of the “commander in chief” in a global war on terror—powers to suspend habeas corpus, carry out wholesale domestic spying and conduct torture—there is no reason to believe it would respect legal restrictions against the use of military force at home.

It is noteworthy that the deployment of US combat troops “as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters”—in the words of the Army Times—coincides with the eruption of the greatest economic emergency and financial disaster since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Justified as a response to terrorist threats, the real source of the growing preparations for the use of US military force within America’s borders lies not in the events of September 11, 2001 or the danger that they will be repeated. Rather, the domestic mobilization of the armed forces is a response by the US ruling establishment to the growing threat to political stability.

Under conditions of deepening economic crisis, the unprecedented social chasm separating the country’s working people from the obscenely wealthy financial elite becomes unsustainable within the existing political framework.

See Also:
Political dissent as terrorism: "Minnesota Patriot Act" charges filed against RNC Eight
[11 September 2008]
Amid mass arrests and suppression of media
RNC in Twin Cities: Eight protesters charged with terrorism under Patriot Act

[6 September 2008]
Mass arrests of protesters at Republican National Convention
[4 September 2008]
Repression in Denver highlights assault on democratic rights in US
[29 August 2008]

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