National Defense Authorization Act and the Militarization of the US

National Defense Authorization Act and the Militarization of the US


The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with bipartisan support, will soon be signed into law. It authorizes 662 billion dollars for the defense budget of the US. It finances US imperialist wars abroad. However, it is not just an appropriations bill. The NDAA contains a dangerous set of provisions that dissidents, including Leading Lights, in the US need to be aware of. In the tradition of the Patriot Act, passed after 911, this piece of legislation clears the way for the violent suppression of dissent and further control of society by the capitalist state, the military and police apparatus in particular. These acts increase the power in the hands of the executive branch, military, policing, and intelligence agencies. Supporters of the bill like Republican senator Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are very open about its powers. Graham stated, “The homeland is part of the battlefield and people can be held without trial whether an American citizen or not.” This act clears the way for martial law, especially in a crisis situation. It authorizes deployment of the military for domestic policing. It authorizes indefinite detention without trial, assassination, and torture for both non-citizens and citizens. The current administration continues to move in the direction that Bush began after the 911 attacks. Majorities in both the House and Senate passed the NDAA. Only 13 members of the House voted against it. 283 voted for it. In the Senate, 86 of the 100 senators voted for it.

Civil Libertarians inside the system have been pointing out the dangers of the legislation. The minority who voted against the legislation have been very vocal in their opposition. Republican senator from Texas Ron Paul, who is now leading the Republican Presidential race, stated, “This is a giant step — this should be the biggest news going on right now — literally legalizing martial law.” Mark Udall, a Democratic senator from Colorado stated:

“These provisions raise serious questions as to who we are as a society and what our Constitution seeks to protect… Section 1031 essentially repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 by authorizing the U.S. military to perform law enforcement functions on American soil. That alone should alarm my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, but there are other problems with these provisions that must be resolved.”

Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, described the Kafkaesque world that the NDAA creates:

“If we pass the Defense authorization bill with section 1031, Congress will… for the first time in 60 years, authorize the indefinite detention of US citizens without charge or trial. This would be the first time Congress has deviated from President Nixon’s Non-detention Act. What we are talking about is that Americans could be subjected to life imprisonment–think about that for a moment–life imprisonment without ever being charged, tried, or convicted of a crime, without ever having an opportunity to prove your innocence to a judge or a jury of your peers, and without the government ever having to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. I believe that denigrates the very foundations of this country.”

These critics are pointing to the repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, suspension of habeas corpus, and the concentration of power upward to the executive. The bill grants the President more powers in the supposed war against terror.

After 911, thousands were rounded up, mostly from outside the US and detained as suspected “illegal combatants.” Others were victims of rendition. Many people found themselves in a Kafkaesque world, kidnapped in airports, taken halfway around the world to Eastern Europe or the Middle East, and tortured for alleged offenses. After cases of mistaken identity, some survivors of the nightmare have filed law suits against their state kidnappers. Although the Patriot Act contained some provisions on detention, during the Bush years, the executive branch created the Guantanamo and CIA’s secret prison system by fiat. When the detentions were challenged, the Authorization for Use of Military Force resolution, passed in September 2001, was used to justify the illegal detentions. The AUMF authorizes the president to use “necessary and appropriate force” to deal with those believed to be connected to the 911 attacks. Even so, the legality of the shadowy prison state was continually challenged, even becoming a topic of debate in the last presidential elections. With the passage of the NDAA, the legal questions will be perceived as settled by most.

In the past, the US state has shown itself willing to violently suppress its opponents and perceived opponents when it feels the need. During World War 2, the US rounded up Japanese, including US citizens, in the US. They confiscated their property, imprisoned them, and made them work during the war. S. Floyd Mori, national director of the Japanese American Citizens League, claiming to be the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil and human rights organization, said the legislation, if enacted and put into use, would be reminiscent of the unconstitutional indefinite detention of Japanese Americans during World War 2. The US has waged non-stop wars against oppressed nations since its founding. Even now, the US destroys Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. The US is currently targeting Syria. However, Iran is the main target of the US imperialists. In the 1960s and 1970s, the state violently attacked groups like the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement. Even so, the NDAA, like the Patriot Act before it, normalizes and extends the security state outside and within the US borders.

The NDAA, like the Patriot Act before it, is part of a greater trend. New, sophisticated technologies are being developed and used by the state to gather intelligence. There is an increasing trend toward use of these technologies throughout society, not just within the military. Local police and even private security firms increasingly have access to technologies that increase their ability to control dissent. In addition, local police departments and security firms are becoming more and more militarized. Local police departments and security firms not only regularly train with technologies and weapons once reserved for military use, they have also adopted military approaches and training styles. There are new, dangerous agencies like Homeland Security. And there is an increase in collaboration between local and national agencies. Torture is becoming acceptable in the supposed war on terror. Illegal detention is more and more considered acceptable. Assassination is considered acceptable. Just recently the US assassinated US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki with a drone with little protest in the US. They also reportedly assassinated Osama Bin Laden. In addition, the Stop Online Piracy Act will give the government power to shut down websites or muscle providers to do so themselves. The internet has become a major vehicle for dissent. This gives the state the ability to shut down online dissent legally.

Despite the cries from populist civil libertarians, the main target of the militarization of society will not be US citizens as a whole. Again and again, the US population, on the whole, support the police and military. Similarly, even though the US has the highest per capita incarceration rate of any country, few in the US raise objections to the growing prison state. People in the US support the police, military and prison state not simply because they are “brainwashed,” although false consciousness can come into play. They do so primarily because most people within the US are part of the global bourgeoisie. It is in their class interest to support the state security and military apparatus that protects their wealth. The jackboot of the NDAA will not land on most Americans, it will fall on Third World peoples worldwide, the most oppressed — especially nationally oppressed within US borders and the lower strata, migrants, Islamic communities, criminal organizations, dissidents and those labeled “extremist” on both the “left” (and, possibly even the “right”). There is a common belief that fascism in Germany in the last century was imposed on Germans against their desires and interests. This was not the case. Hitler’s regime in Germany was not an unpopular one. Hitler captured power in large part because of his popularity. The Nazis were able to advance themselves through a legislative, “democratic” process with the support of many Germans. Hitler’s regime was a popular one because it sought to advance the interests of Germans, including German workers, at the expense of other peoples. The Nazis plundered non-German, domestic and foreign populations to the benefit of most Germans. Similarly, just as many Germans supported the Nazi regime, similarly the US population will most likely support or generally not care about the slide toward greater militarization of society.

For some, the sky is always falling. Fascism is always around the corner and the economy is always on the verge of total collapse. Such Chicken Little rhetoric has been a constant from both the populist right and the populist “left” for decades. This kind of rhetoric is often used by populists, like the Occupy Wall Street, along with empty calls for First World social unity against a supposed shadowy cabal of elites. This sort of populist worldview is heard in the “We are the 99% versus the 1%” of the Occupy movement. Even though the populist rhetoric calls for social unity, it mostly falls on deaf ears in mainstream America. Mainstream America benefits from capitalist-imperialist policies that are bound up with the police, military, and prison state. In addition, mainstream America is not the target of the militarization of society nor will they oppose the militarization. Even so, a broken clock can still be right twice a day. The US economy is in crisis, but is far from on the verge of the collapse imagined by the populists. It could get worse, recover slowly, or peter on as it has. We should not be “leftist” Chicken Littles, using the perceived threat of fascism to justify any and every opportunist, populist alliance. We should recognize the potential for militarization of society against dissent, we should also plan for contingencies, while recognizing the real dynamics involved. We need to continue our steady work, increasing discipline and organization. We also need to increase our ideological level. If the jackboot begins to fall, we have the organization, the science, and leadership to defeat it. Discipline. Organization. Science. Leadership.


2.….horization -act

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