Franks broaches Military Dictatorship
Friends, the Republic is in real danger. It is not the UN black helicopters that threaten it, but elements of the United States officer corps. That is, if their thinking is in any way exemplified by Tommy Franks. Franks has speculated that in the wake of a major WMD attack, the US will scrap its constitution and adopt a military government. I can’t imagine a more fascist, irresponsible thing for him to say. (I am not saying he advocates such a step. I am saying that for such a high-ranking former officer to even speak of this matter is the most irresponsible thing I have ever seen. The responsible thing for him to have done was to urge planning for civilian government under such emergency conditions.)
George Washington, who faced much proportionally much more devastating attacks and loss of life after 1775 (the population was only 4 million then) never threw in the towel on democracy like that. Let’s think about the statistics. At 280 million, the US population is now 70 times larger than it was during the Revolutionary War. The US lost 4,435 ordinary soldiers in 1775-1783 in the war against King George III, and the number rises to 25,324 if you include Native American scouts, mercenaries, and civilians who took up arms. Proportionally, that would be like losing between 310,450 and 1.7 million US troops in 2001-2009. And it doesn’t count innocent civilians killed in the Revolutionary War. It is highly unlikely that a terrorist WMD attack would inflict as much damage on the contemporary US as the British did in that period, and yet, amazingly enough, Madison, Jefferson, Washington and others were not stampeded by the Redcoats’ attacks into resigning themselves to a military government in 1783. Obviously, Tommy Franks is not cut from the same cloth.
What is really alarming is that the British, who lack a Bill of Rights and have all along suffered from Government withdrawal of civil liberties at will (Thatcher sent SWAT teams into the offices of The Guardian once), are already moving in a fascist direction. The only hope of the British public for the retention of what civil liberties it has is that the human rights laws of the European Union might impede the march toward donning jackboots. The Independent even explicitly mentions Franks’s scenario as context for this story!
The officer corps used to be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Now, only 10% of officers vote Democrat. Yet all Americans pay for this officer corps every day. Franks not only has fevered dreams of goose-stepping Amerika, but has smeared Gen. Wesley Clark while offering no evidence (I take it Franks is not one of the 10%, surprise). In their spare time, active-duty officers like Gen. “Jerry” Boykin campaign to gut the First Amendment and make the US into a “Christian” nation (as though Calvinism ever had anything to do with Jesus of Nazareth anyway).
The Republic and the Constitution are what America is about. Without them, we lose our historic mission and identity. They are not in danger from terrorism. They survived the Civil War, which proportionally was massive compared to the small events of our era. (I know Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and arrested thousands, but we did not go to a military dictatorship, and the arrests were almost certainly not necessary anyway). Hell, we lose 30,000 citizens a year to automobile accidents, and we’re going to scrap the Constitution over a little dirty bomb? The Constitution can function in emergencies, and we should be educating Americans to think creatively about that. Bin Laden said he was going to “deprive them of their liberties.” Seems like he has willing allies in the imaginary of the American Right. And imagine, he got this going with 19 young men and a few hijackings.
The Patriot Act, which is being renewed, is the first chink in the armor of American liberty. And all of these security concerns are fueling a new aggressiveness by the FBI, which has been surveilling anti-war demonstrators. As Billmon points out, this step is eerily reminiscent of COINTELPRO. Some nonviolent anti-war activists ended up on a ‘no-fly’ list that impeded their travel last spring. (I guess when the military coup comes, it will be handy to have a list of those most likely to mobilize against it. Note: For my more literal-minded readers, this comment is a dark joke, not a sign of terminal paranoia.)
Franks’s scenario would make more sense if there were any evidence that military governments are better at stopping terrorism than civilian ones. Judging by CENTCOM’s performance in Iraq, the Israeli army’s performance in Palestine, and numerous other examples, this allegation would be difficult to substantiate. It is the agility and litheness of elected, democratic government that will permit a timely and effective response to non-hierarchical threats like al-Qaeda.
I was talking to a former high government official recently, who told me that for the first time in his life he was alarmed about the survival of American democracy. I think we all should be.