Monday, August 13, 2012

Posse Comitatus

I was a military officer for over 20 years, both on active duty and in the various reserve formations of our country.  I took off the uniform and reverted to civilian clothing  in 1999, two years before the current unpleasantness that occurred in 2001.  We have for eleven years been embroiled in a great conflict that has changed America in ways that I couldn't have imagined as I turned in my field gear and walked away from the armory for the last time.  However, during my service I couldn't envision, could not even imagine, planning for operations against American citizens.  That was simply unheard of, a career-ender, nothing that you'd want to contemplate or consider.  It was blasphemy.  It was also illegal.

Even as a military policeman, and a supervisor of military police, we were extremely careful in our accidental dealings with non-service personnel.  We'd occasionally stop a civilian for a traffic violation on post, and we could detain a civilian that we might be breaking the laws on post, but the thought of enforcing anything against civilians was anathema to the military code of conduct as we understood it at the time.  We served the civil population and were happy with that distinction.

Evidently, there are officers who have forgotten about Posse Comitatus, the law which restrains the military in its operations on American soil.  While the law specifically constrains only the Army and the Air Force, we understand that the use of the military against American citizens is a grave concern, and carries massive political risks.  Military officers plan for all sorts of contingencies, that is their job and their profession, but even in planning it is wise to consider the political ramifications of our work.

There is a flap currently going on about an officer who wrote a paper for the Small Wars Journal, describing operations in a small American town where Tea Party extremists seize control of the town and the governor is unwilling to ask for help.  This paper describes "preparing the battlefield" for military operations.  I recoil from the thought.  This cannot be a serious contemplation, nor even a rational consideration.  The scenario is set forth here.
In May 2016 an extremist militia motivated by the goals of the “tea party” movement takes over the government of Darlington, South Carolina, occupying City Hall, disbanding the city council, and placing the mayor under house arrest. Activists remove the chief of police and either disarm local police and county sheriff departments or discourage them from interfering. In truth, this is hardly necessary. Many law enforcement officials already are sympathetic to the tea party’s agenda, know many of the people involved, and have made clear they will not challenge the takeover. The militia members are organized and have a relatively well thought-out plan of action.
I quail at the scenario, especially since the author lists by name a political movement that many people find popular.  Before going into apoplexy, I linked over to the comments and find that many of the professional officers share my concerns.  This one comment is particularly reassuring:  
The underlying premise is treasonous and counter to the constitution. If I were the commander of the authors I'd ask they resign their commissions.
I concur. It appears that in professional military circles, this article is getting the derision it so richly deserves.


Hobie said...

Officers with views similar to the scenario's author are increasingly common. In fact, with the increase in interstate mobility of officers in the National Guard, which seems to have resulted from deployments post 9-11, we see an increase in a derisive attitude for the communities in which the guard is based. These units cannot provide the traditional hosting of community events due to security concerns as well. These two factors have resulted in a level of estrangement of the National Guard from the community such as I have never seen in my lifetime.

Gerry N. said...

That this even comes up is very disturbing. Shouldn't officers who make these statements be tried for treason? We have a civilian controlled military for a damned good reason.

Gerry N.