Thursday, September 25, 2008

How's It Going to End?

Be afraid.

Be very afraid.

In the second article, a member of the InfraGard discusses a meeting of business owners that he attended. “Then they said when—not if—martial law is declared, it was our responsibility to protect our portion of the infrastructure, and if we had to use deadly force to protect it, we couldn’t be prosecuted."

I do have to keep reminding myself of this: that no matter how involved or invested or even just interested I am in electoral politics, there is a really good, reasonable chance that there will be no election.

To break it down logically, to not be a conspiracy theorist, I want to break this down again.

First, the Military Commissions Act, passed in 2006 and supported fully by one Mr. McCain (among others, obviously), allows the executive branch full discretion over the treatment of enemy combatants, suspends the right of habeas corpus completely for enemy combatants, and allows the president to decide, without supervision, oversight, or checks, who is and who is not an enemy combatant. In other words, a United States citizen may be declared an enemy combatant at any time, and thus be imprisoned indefinitely, be refused access to an attorney, be unable to notify her family, and be subjected to all the abuses committed at Abu Ghraib. This is not in any way exaggeration or hyperbole, to both of which I recognize I am prone. This is simple legal fact. It could happen right now, to anyone. Nothing in the law calls for the President to justify his actions.

The USA-PATRIOT Act II allows for warrantless federal wiretapping of any citizen. You know, those citizens I mentioned above, who could, at any time, be declared enemy combatants and indefinitely imprisoned. Also not exaggeration.

National Security Presidential Directive 51 provides that in the case of a "catastrophic emergency," defined as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions," which event the executive branch has the power to identify on its own, the executive branch may declare a state of emergency and a "continuity of government," meaning that the current government will remain undisrupted, unchanged, in such a situation. Meaning the current President stays in office. Nowhere in the declassified part of the document does the Directive provide a time limit for this state of emergency ("a period up to 30 days or until normal operations can be resumed"; italics mine); nowhere does it mention who can declare the end of it.

What is clear to me, and I hope is clear to everyone else, is that there exists a substantive faction within the government that seeks to make the United States into what I would call a "military-industrial dictatorship," a nation of great military and industrial power and minimal civil liberties, through which a few groups could gain even greater wealth and power than is already available to them.

What is not clear to me, and I doubt it's clear to much of anyone outside of the government, is exactly how far this has gotten. Yes, the MCA has been in place, but we have no idea if and/or how many people have actually been arrested and detained under it. Yes, there are a lot of very suspicious connections (awfully convenient to have a stateside military force and business leaders trained to kill when the President could, legally, declare martial law at any time, don't you think?), but we have no idea who, in the government, is fighting against these laws, what other lawsuits or committees or provisions have been created to keep this force in check.

It is reasonable to say that there is a chance this election will be legally prevented from happening. It is foolish to think otherwise. Let's have that out there. Mr. McCain's "suspension of his campaign" could well be a precursor to such a move. My next post, after Friday Poetry, will be about concrete ideas for what to do should that occur.

It is also possible that a John McCain administration would keep all the above-listed policies of a Bush administration, and that several of these disasters would occur under him, all the more so should he perish and Ms. Palin take the helm. Given that McCain was an advocate of the Military Commissions Act, we have no reason to think otherwise.

There's at least an equal chance that the election will take place as scheduled, and that these breaches of the system of checks and balances will be simply a one-hit wonder. We do not know. We, as civilians, have know way of knowing. But we ought to be prepared and educated, or as prepared and educated as we can be, for either situation.


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