Blog

US military begins "homeland tours"

Sep 26, 2008 • Karen

Story here. I know, rather biased source, right? But the facts are confirmed by this Army Times story.

Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.

[T]his new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.

...

They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack...The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said.

According to the first article, this violates the Posse Comitatus Act and the Insurrection Act, which govern the circumstances under which the military can be used on American soil. Can anyone confirm this? It seems to me that these sorts of duties are the purpose of the National Guard (which is controlled by the states); why don't we just call the Guardsmen home from Iraq instead of bringing in some random brigade?

Having the US military take on this role creeps me out. Nelson called it "proto-fascism." Even if the intent of the program is to "help Americans" (as the Army Times effuses) there's a reason why uses of the military are limited at home. There's a reason we don't use those powers here. It's a frightening precedent.

We've already tried militarized the police force in this country, and in aggregate they regularly abuse their tasers and other crowd-control weaponry *because* they're "only" nonlethal (even though tasers are only supposed to be used in cases where you would otherwise use a gun). Now we're going the other way around, with a bunch of soldiers back from the Iraq war zone. Do you think they'd have *more* restraint than a cop?

And it's only one slight policy change from here until the guns come out.