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Wednesday, March 7, 2007 12:48 pm

Bush’s sneak attack

He now has a free hand to declare martial law

Untitled Document In 2004, President George W. Bush spoke an unintentional truth: “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we.  They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”
In October, Bush quietly signed a provision into law that does real damage to our people by giving himself a free hand to declare martial law. This little nasty was slipped into the massive Pentagon budget bill with no hearings, no debate, and no public notice.  Only the White House heavies and GOP congressional leaders knew that the provision was even in there. The key section reads: “The president may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in a state or possession of the United States, the president determines that domestic violence has occurred. . . . ”
Whew — so much usurpation of power in so few words! This stealth provision undermines an essential bulwark of our liberty, which is that the military is barred from being used by the executive as a domestic police force except in cases of outright insurrection or of states’ violating people’s constitutional rights.  Now, with the secret manipulation of a bill and the stroke of his signing pen, Bush has eliminated these restraints and given himself sweeping autocratic authority to sic the military on our people whenever he “determines” that there is an undefined “incident” or “condition” that warrants it. Also, the provision lets him seize control of the state-based National Guard forces and deploy them for his martial-law purposes. A bipartisan bill, S.513, would repeal this provision. Call the office of U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., at 202-224-4242 to learn more.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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