In July 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama vowed to create a “civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the U.S. military.
Apparently no one else in the national press found that promise newsworthy, because I was the first to call it to the attention of the public days later. Interestingly, the pledge had been stricken from transcripts of the speech handed out to media.
Whatever happened to the “civilian national security force” initiative? No one in the press has dared to ask that question.
But two recent developments suggest Obama may have found an innovative way to achieve his objectives to militarize the homefront without creating a new national security force:
- In December, both houses of Congress passed the defense reauthorization bill that killed the concept of habeas corpus – legislation that authorized the president to use the U.S. military to arrest and indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or trial.
- This week, over the objections of Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Guard’s top officer became the fifth member of that body that advises the president on national security matters.
“There is no compelling military need for this change,” said Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, during his congressional testimony on the bill. Nevertheless, Congress knew better. Obama knew better. In fact, all six four-star generals testified in a Nov. 10 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that the idea of including the National Guard honcho as a member of the Joint Chiefs would create needless confusion and reduce the authority of the other military representatives.
But it gets even worse.
Even Obama’s own defense secretary, Leon Panetta, opposed the measure. He told reporters that membership on the Joint Chiefs should “be reserved for those who have direct command and direct budgets that deal with the military.”
It seems to me, Obama has, with the approval of Republicans in Congress, achieved his major goal of militarizing domestic civilian life in the U.S. The U.S. military has been authorized by Congress and Obama to arrest and detain indefinitely without charge or trial any U.S. citizen on suspicion of being a terrorist. The only one who can override the order is Obama himself. And now the National Guard has been deputized as a posse for Obama’s “non-civilian national security force.”
Just try to imagine the outrage if George W. Bush had made such moves and proclaimed such ideas. It’s frankly unthinkable. There’s no way he could have accomplished it. But the most ideologically left-wing occupant of the White House in American history did. Go figure.
This is not good news for those of us who recognize how Obama views his political adversaries and critics. In short, he probably thinks people like me, who stand firmly behind the Constitution, represent more of a threat to national security than did Osama bin Laden.
So, for all intents and purposes, the “national security force” Obama mused about in 2008 is in place. It’s just not civilian. It’s military.
It’s no longer a question of whether political dissidents are going to hear that dreaded knock on the door in America. It’s only a question of who is going to have their door knocked down by U.S. military forces and be dragged kicking and screaming to Guantanamo Bay without even the right to talk to an attorney.
And yet, just as the media compliantly declined to pursue an explanation of Obama’s call for the creation of a “civilian national security force,” they also refuse to ask questions about this fundamental break from the Constitution’s protection of individual rights to a fair and speedy trial and the long-held tradition of the U.S. military being kept out of domestic, civilian life.