“Tyranny in form is the first step towards tyranny in substance,” Senator John Taylor warned two hundred years ago in his forgotten classic, Tyranny unmasked.
As the massive deployment of National Guard troops to Washington enters its second month, much of the media and many members of Congress are delighted that it will continue until at least mid-March.
But Americans would do well to recognize the growing dangers of the militarization of American political conflicts.
The military occupation of Washington was sparked by the Jan.6 clashes on Capitol Hill between Trump supporters and law enforcement, in which three people (including a Capitol Hill cop) died as a result of the violence. About eight hundred protesters and others entered the Capitol illegally, although many entered nonviolently through open doors and most left without incident within hours.
The federal government responded by deploying twenty-five thousand National Guard troops to avoid problems during President Joe Biden’s swearing-in – the first inauguration since 1865 with the capital filled with armed soldiers. Protests were almost completely banned in Washington for the inauguration.
Instead of ending after the muted inauguration celebration, the deployment of troops was extended for the Senate impeachment trial. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) said: “As long as Donald Trump is empowered by Republicans in the Senate, there is still a chance he will incite another attempt on Capitol Hill.” But the Senate vote on Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) ‘s motion calling the trial unconstitutional indicated the trial would be anti-climatic as Trump is unlikely to be convicted. The actual trial may be little more than a series of falls, alternating between histrionic members of the Democratic House and Trump lawyers at the table. An unnecessary deluge of political vitriol will mock Biden’s calls for national unity.
Then the deployment of troops was extended at least until mid-March due to unidentified threats made to members of Congress. Acting Secretary of the Army John Whitley announced last week: “There are several events to come – we don’t know what they are – over the next few weeks, and they fear it may there could be situations where there would be legal protests, first amendment – protected protests, which could be used by malicious actors or other issues that could arise. “
“We don’t know what they are” but someone heard something somewhere, so the military deployment will continue. Threats have occurred in waves against members of Congress at least since the agricultural crisis of the 1980s, but previous threats have not resulted in the occupation of the capital.
The perpetuation of the deployment of troops is also justified by melodramatic revisionism. In testimony to Congress last week, Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman described the Jan. 6 clash on Capitol Hill as “a terrorist attack by tens of thousands of insurgents.” Apparently, anyone who stepped out of the scene in Trump’s ridiculous “I won by a landslide” spiel on Capitol Hill was a terrorist, or at least an “insurgent” (which is simply “terrorist” spelled with more letters) . Is “walking the mall with bad thoughts” enough to be classified as a terrorist in the Biden era?
Placing thousands of soldiers on the streets of the nation’s capital could be a time bomb. The longer the National Guard is deployed in Washington, the greater the danger of a Kent State-type disaster. The Ohio National Guard volley of fire in 1970 that killed four students and injured nine others was a defining moment in the Vietnam era.
Forty years later, the Cleveland Plain Dealer released a survey of the Kent State set based on new analysis of audio recordings from the scene. The Ordinary dealer found that an FBI informant who photographed student protesters fired four shots from his .38 caliber revolver after students started threatening him. This gunfire began barely a minute before the Ohio National Guard opened fire. The shots by the FBI informant apparently frightened the guard commanders into believing they were shooting snipers, prompting the order to shoot students. The informant denied firing, but witnesses testified differently. (The FBI chased the informant from the scene and he went on to become an undercover narcotics cop in Washington, DC.) Although there is no evidence that the FBI sought to cause carnage in the state de Kent, FBI agents involved in COINTELPRO (the counterintelligence program) in the 1960s and 1970s bragged about “false flag” operations that resulted in killings.
If a malicious group wanted to plunge this nation into chaos and fear, National Guard troops at a checkpoint would be an easy target – at least for the first few moments after being shot at (most troops didn’t no ammo magazines in their rifles.). The radical reaction to January 6 could be far outmoded if the troops were brought down, whether the culprits were right-wing extremists, Antifa or foreign infiltrators. An attack on the troops would likely perpetuate the military occupation and potentially prompt Biden to declare martial law.
Last spring, when riots broke out following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, President Trump warned that The federal government will intervene and do what needs to be done, and that includes the use of the unlimited power of our military and many arrests. Many activists have been rightly dismayed at the specter of Trump’s dictatorial seizure of power over areas ravaged by violent protests. But the danger remains whoever the president is.
Martial law is the ultimate revocation of constitutional rights: anyone who disobeys the orders of the soldiers can be shot. There are plenty of malicious actors here and abroad who would love to see martial law declared in Washington, the ultimate disgrace for the world’s proudest democracy.
Unfortunately, Biden would initially have a lot of support if he claimed that the violence in Washington forced him to declare martial law. As the Washington post Noted in 2018, a public opinion poll showed that 25% of Americans believed a “military takeover was justified in cases of corruption or widespread criminality.” The Journal of Democracy reported that polls showed that only 19% of Millennials in the United States believed it would be illegitimate “in a democracy for the military to take over when the government is incompetent or not doing its job.” But trusting the military regime for the fulfillment of the millennial wishes would be the greatest folly of all. Support for martial law is the ultimate proof of the decline in political literacy in this country.
Regardless of the risks, some politicians cling to the troop presence in Washington like Linus hugging his “security blanket” in a Peanuts cartoon. Will we now see regular alarms from a long line of politicians and policymakers working to “fuel the fear”?
History is littered with stories of nations struck by “temporary” martial law that has continued. Anyone who believes America is immune should remember Senator Taylor’s 1821 warning against the presumption that “our good theoretical system of government is sufficient security against real tyranny.”
#Washington #troop #deployments #disaster #waiting #happen #Dateway