The Martial Plan
Ethics, Ethnics Both Under Fire

The Village Voice 07/24/02: James Ridgeway

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Are we headed toward martial law? Last week Peter Kirsanow, a Bush appointee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said in Detroit that he envisions a situation in which the public will demand internment camps for Arab Americans. If terrorists attack the U.S. for a second time and if "they come from the same ethnic group that attacked the World Trade Center, you can forget about civil rights," he said.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration currently is in the midst of a charade over the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which states that the military cannot engage in domestic police functions. In recent years that restriction has proved to be more myth than anything else. As if to underscore that point, Alabama governor Don Siegelman announced last week that he was mobilizing 500 members of the Alabama National Guard to "serve in the homeland defense role within the United States." And at the same time, the U.S. general in charge of the Northern Command, which oversees defense of the continental U.S., suggested that the military may come to have a larger role in policing the country against terrorism. The Bush administration has its attorneys looking to see whether the Posse Comitatus Act, which was adopted to get federal troops out of the South after the Civil War, should be changed. The act has little muscle and was breached repeatedly in the Waco siege. Military personnel and technology were used at Waco to train domestic-security agents, fly choppers, supervise the use of equipment, and go over final plans for the assault. Special Forces were used to train ATF agents before the Waco operations, and they were at Waco during the siege. National Guard troops from Alabama and Texas were used in the initial phases of Waco.