12 September 2007

Steps to Preventing the American Paramilitary

Last night, I wrote about Naomi Wolf's The End of America and the possible faces of an American paramilitary. As we saw, a number of resources are already in place. Given the proper trigger, the President could use the pretext of national security to instate martial law, with the role of paramilitary police force being filled by Blackwater mercenaries, the National Guard, citizen militias organized by the Religious Right, or any combination thereof.

It's imperative that we act to prevent an American paramilitary from taking root, rather than trying to undo the damage once it's done. Tonight, I'd like to take a look at some ideas for what we can do to that end.

Expose their Channels of Action
If I have one criticism of The End of America, it's that although Wolf does a smashing job describing the ways America is sliding toward fascism, she doesn't give a whole lot of suggestions as to how to fix things. However, her book itself fits one major strategy for staving off fascism: expose how those in power are operating. Hitler was able to control Germany so effectively because the Germans thought they were free. It seems like a simple enough thing, but the more people see through the administration's tactics, the harder it will be for those tactics to work. People are already naturally suspicious of the justifications Bush gives for his actions; we need to start vocalizing what's really going on.

Close the Legal Channels
As I mentioned in my last post, the paramilitary is powerful because it is legal. The Bush administration has been breaking down the legal restrictions in the way of an authoritarian executive, but there's still time to put those restrictions back in place before a paramilitary is unleashed. In the case of the National Guard, that means repealing the damage done by the 2007 Defense Authroization Act. I've been working on a letter to my representatives in Congress (still very rough, please feel free to use and/or make suggestions in the comments):
Dear (Senator/Congressman/Congresswoman),

The Founding Fathers knew all too well the danger of tyrrany inherent in one man's having unchecked control of an army. That is why they made sure state militias were accountable only to the people, and that the executive would never have unitary control of a miltary force.

The John Warner Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 has flown in the face of that safeguard, via amendment to the Insurrection Act of 1807 (Section 1076 of the former, amending Section 333 of the latter). The amendment gives the president the power to, at his or her sole discretion, use the armed forces, including the National Guard, as a police force on United States soil, whenever he or she deems appropriate and necessary. This kind of power is inappropriate in the hands of any current or future president.

I urge you to act immediately to repeal this affront to the separation of powers upon whoich our Constitution relies. Authority over the National Guard belongs to the people and their representatives, not to any one executive.

Sincerely,

(Your name)
In the case of the Religious Right, we must reinforce separation of church and state. Through organizations such as the ACLU and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, we can prevent Christian militia groups from gaining any kind of legal recognition from the executive. We can't let the next faith-based initiative be support of a volunteer evangelical security force. We also need to continue taking legal action against current offenses to the Establishment clause, such as evangelical influence in the military, and the Homeland Security program to employ clergy in maintaining order in the event of martial law.

Protest and Raise Public Outcry...
Despite the events of the past seven years, America is still a fairly open society. It will be difficult to install a paramilitary force. Let's make it even more difficult. Let the President and his potential soldiers know that we won't just roll over and accept martial law. Be proud of our democracy.

... but Keep it Peaceful
Even more important than making it harder to justify martial law, is making sure we don't make it easier to justify. We aren't guerillas fighting an occupying force yet. Militancy on our part would only give the President the security issue he's looking for. We must be the embodiment of the ideals of peaceful democracy we seek to defend. That also means holding each other accountable, being on guard for agents provocateurs, and immediately denouncing unncecessary violence (no matter how cathartic it may be).

But what do I know? I've certainly never had to fight a rising paramilitary before. :-P I urge you to share any ideas you might have in the comments.

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