Can They, Will They and Why Would They?

December 17, 2011

Keystone XL demonstration, White House,8-23-20...

Image via Wikipedia

Much ado has been made, the last couple of weeks, about the so-called Indefinite Detention clauses in the National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress this week, of President Obama’s reversal of his promise to veto it, and whether it authorizes indefinite detention, without charges or trial, of citizens both here and abroad by the US Military.

So, can they now do this?

Unless the President vetoes the bill, which he now says he won’t, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Glenn Greenwald (for his excellent dissection of the relevant parts of the bill, see and even the usually staid New York Times say, Yes.

But, the law only applies to citizens that are terrorists, right?

Well, according to Greenwald, “Section (1) is basically a re-statement of the 2001 AUMF. But Section (2) is a brand new addition. It allows the President to target not only those who helped perpetrate the 9/11 attacks or those who harbored them, but also: anyone who “substantially supports” such groups and/or “associated forces.” Those are extremely vague terms subject to wild and obvious levels of abuse (see what Law Professor Jonathan Hafetz told me in an interview last week about the dangers of those terms).”

Take a look at the official Government definition of terrorism:

“[An] act of terrorism, means any activity that (A) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life that is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State; and (B) appears to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping.”

Now think of the various Occupy groups and why city governments said they were breaking up their encampments or arresting them (mostly health and safety code violations or other local laws) and whether or not an expansive interpretation of any of these terms might be applied to them or other protest groups the government would want to be rid of.

What makes us think a US President or our Congress would ever use such power against ordinary citizens?

Unfortunately, power expands to fill the spaces given it.  The original Authorization to Use Military Force, at the beginning of the war on terror did not give permission for indefinite detention, torture or assassination.  Yet, both President Bush and President Obama have interpreted the authorization to include all three over the last decade.

But, why would they do that?

The short version?  Because as oil and other resources peak and dwindle, the Empire will do whatever it deems necessary to save itself and excuse it as “saving the nation”.

For a fuller, more sweeping explanation, I recommend John Michael Greer’s article, The Future Can’t Pay Its Bills.

“Over the last decade, for example, crude oil prices have more than tripled; over the last decade, behind a froth of speculative booms and busts, the world’s industrial economies have lurched deeper into depression. Peak oil researchers have pointed out for years that the former trend would bring about the latter, but long after events proved them right, the connection still remains unnoticed by most people.

To be fair, the way most people and nearly all economists think about economics makes this sort of blindness to the obvious hard to avoid. It’s standard these days to treat the circulation of money—the tertiary economy, to use a term from my book The Wealth of Nature—as though it’s all that matters, and to insist that the cycles of nature and the production of goods and services (the primary and secondary economies) will inevitably do whatever we want them to do, so long as there’s enough money. This is why, for instance, you’ll hear economists insisting that the soaring price of oil is good for the economy; after all, all the money being spent to buy oil is getting spent in turn on other things, right?

What this ignores, of course, is the fact that the price of oil is going up, in large part, because petroleum is getting steadily more difficult to extract as we exhaust the easily accessible sources, and so the cost of oil production is going up while the amount of oil being produced is not. As a growing fraction of industrial civilization’s capacity to produce goods and services has to be diverted into oil extraction in order to keep the oil flowing, the amount of that capacity that can be used for anything else decreases accordingly. Notice, though, that this diversion isn’t an obvious thing; it happens one transaction at a time, throughout the economy, as laborers, raw materials, capital, and a thousand other things go into oil production instead of some other economic sector …”

This is precisely what has happened to our and the global economy over the last three or four years.  Today, the Senate is supposed to vote on a two-month extension of unemployment benefits and social security tax cuts tied to faster approval of the Keystone pipeline that President Obama postponed until 2013.

Although Republicans insist the pipeline would create 100,000 new jobs, the pipeline would cost around $9,000,000,000 to build and produce an estimated 5-10,000 jobs (which includes jobs along the 1/3 of the pipeline that runs through Canada and only a few hundred of which, according to TransCanada, would be permanent).  The pipeline would carry about 700,000 barrels per day of the nearly 20 million bpd of oil that Americans use.

This is just one measure of the desperation of the Empire as peak oil consequences set in and the race to find energy enough to maintain global growth sucks the economy dry for the rest of us.  As the reality of our quagmire sinks in, the 99% of us bearing the brunt will become more vocal and angry.  It’s not surprising, then, that the Empire is putting in place laws that will allow them to tighten the screws on such protests by American citizens using the existing laws on “terrorism”.

So, can they?  Yes.  Will they?  Undoubtedly  And probably sooner, rather than later.  Why would they?  It’s the nature of empires bent on saving themselves from collapse at any cost.  Take them at their word.

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5 Responses to Can They, Will They and Why Would They?

  1. Bill Hicks says:

    My biggest fear is another major terrorist attack or a successful assassination of a major political figure (especially a Republican). At that point I expect the gloves to come off and the real repression to begin. Sadly, it’s probably just a matter of time.

  2. theozarker says:

    Wish I could find some reason to disagree with you, Bill.

  3. graveday says:

    Grover Norquist, who is on record calling for crashing the government in order to kill Social Security and Medicare, should qualify under these and previous definitions as committing treason. I doubt he will go to jail any time soon.
    That does not mean thousands of others will not.
    ‘If I had a lobbyist, I wouldn’t need this sigh.’
    ‘I’ll believe corporations are people when one of them is executed by Texas.’
    Nuff said. Nuff said other things too, heh. Graveday

    • theozarker says:

      The military has equated protests/riots (without real distinction between the two) as low level terrorism since the mid eighties. They did make some changes to their training manuals, but they have not changed the attitude. One of the reasons, I think, for the militarization of police forces around the country by DHS.

  4. graveday says:

    Wish I could find some treason to disagree with you, Bill. Heh.

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