I am a firm believer that the best defense is a good offense. With that is my regular and continuing support for our armed forces–particularly those in current hot areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is therefore with some concern that I read the following in the Army Times:
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.
It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.
But this 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.
All of those other federal agencies which are to take care of disasters–not to mention all of the state agencies including the National Guards and we need a group of combat-trained soldiers (whose group has spend half of the last 5 years in and out of battles in Iraq) to deploy on American soil?
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.
Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the “jaws of life” to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.
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, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.
The package is for use only in war-zone operations, not for any domestic purpose.
Glad to have the clarification of that last sentence, but still . . . “help with civil unrest”? Why would soldiers be trained in something offensive which they will not use? Does the army not know that as citizens we are glad we do not live in a state where members of the military are simply an extension of law enforcement?
In an article titled “The Myth of Posse Comitatus” written almost 10 years ago, a member of JAG says the following:
The erosion of the Posse Comitatus Act through Congressional legislation and executive policy has left a hollow shell in place of a law that formerly was a real limitation on the military’s role in civilian law enforcement and security issues. The plethora of constitutional and statutory exceptions to the act provides the executive branch with a menu of options under which it can justify the use of military forces to combat domestic terrorism. Whether an act of terrorism is classified as a civil disturbance under 10 U.S.C., 331–334, or whether the president relies upon constitutional power to preserve federal functions, it is difficult to think of a domestic terrorism scenario of sizable scale under which the use of the military could not be lawfully justified in view of the act’s erosion. The act is no longer a realistic bar to direct military involvement in counterterrorism planning and operations. It is a low legal hurdle that can be easily cleared through invocation of the appropriate legal justification, either before or after the fact.
In other words, the Federal government may use whatever justification it chooses to deploy troops on American soil without becoming concerned with legal matters. It would appear that this law has been ignored or circumvented to the place where it (like several portions of the US Constitution) is little more than history–and a bothersome history at that.