|Marines clear a room during military exercises on an urban terrain facility. |
Photo: Pfc. Kasey Peacock/Marines.mil.
Activists: Urban military exercises preparation for Martial law
Plans for domestic drone use, NDAA and unannounced drills represent troubling trend
by Ashahed M. Muhammad
The sight of men in fatigues with high-powered weapons firing what residents thought were live rounds from low flying Black helicopters shook many residents in Miami and Houston recently as joint police/military exercises were conducted in both areas.
While it is no secret that police departments across America have been upgrading their weapons and tactics over the past few years, what happened in Texas and Florida represents the latest development in a continued blurring of the lines between law enforcement and military operations, and human rights activists are outraged.
“I object, and our community should object strenuously to any type of military exercises in our communities,” said Atty. Malik Zulu Shabazz, director of the advocacy group Black Lawyers For Justice. “It’s really offensive that President Obama, who is ultimately over homeland security, would allow this to take place in any urban area, without giving the public knowledge or fair warning that it was going to happen,” he added.
Coming so soon after the Sandy Hook Massacre, and with the threat of mass shootings frequently in the news, many were startled and feared the worst. Minister Louis Farrakhan has warned on numerous occasions that governmental and law enforcement officials are preparing for civil unrest given the tense racial climate, toxic political atmosphere and existing economic conditions.
Atty. Shabazz agreed, saying under the Obama administration, there has been a continuous erosion of constitutional rights, ultimately resulting in the implementation of Martial law.
“This could result in a real scenario where these military exercises could lead to some form of occupation or some form of invasion of our communities,” said Atty. Shabazz. “That’s not paranoia.”
At the same time, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. held a recent press conference at Rainbow/PUSH headquarters actually calling for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help patrol the streets of Chicago.
“Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and Rainbow PUSH Coalition call for immediate Federal Intervention and Homeland Security in Chicago,” read a press release posted on the organization’s website. Rev. Jackson also repeated the plea on numerous local news shows.
Atty. Shabazz called that suggestion “outrageous” and said that he was “saddened” that anyone call for a military response, and not seek alternative solutions, such as cooperating with the Nation of Islam, the New Black Panther Party and many other organizations already on the ground addressing the problem of Black on Black killing. Given the history of human rights violations committed by law enforcement officials, asking the military to come in to enforce what amounts to a police state is a “non-starter,” Shabazz added.
The methodical stripping of civil liberties in the United States also concerns Muhammad Salim Akhtar, National Director of the Washington D.C.-based American Muslim Task Force on Civil Rights. His view is that Pres. Obama with the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act and the extrajudicial targeted killings with the use of drones leads him to believe the American people are being prepared for full implementation of Martial law, but don’t yet realize it.
“America is supposed to be the torchbearer of freedom and liberty,” said Mr. Akhtar. “How can we be a role model? It’s the opposite,” he added.
In an ironic convergence of events, President Obama's nominee to take over the Central Intelligence Agency, John O. Brennan, is considered by some to be the “architect” of the U.S. drone war. His confirmation hearings began Feb. 7 amid swirling controversy regarding the Obama administration’s position on extrajudicial targeted killings. Recently leaked Department of Justice papers provide insight into the Obama administration’s policy involving the use of drones to target American citizens.
Though opposed in some circles, analysts say Mr. Brennan is likely to be confirmed, taking over for acting CIA director Michael Morell, who filled vacancy left following former CIA director David Petraeus’ Nov. 9, 2012 resignation after revelations surfaced regarding an extramarital affair with his biographer, and former U.S. Army intelligence officer, Paula Broadwell.
A statement by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper called Mr. Brennan a “strong leader” and a “superb choice” by Pres. Obama for CIA director.
“He enjoys widespread respect across the community and throughout government. He is a colleague and a friend longstanding,” Mr. Clapper’s statement continued. “Upon confirmation by the Senate, I look forward to continuing to work with John as he assumes the helm at CIA.”
Civil libertarians and human rights activists disagree.
Members of the peace and social justice group CODEPINK and ANSWER Coalition (Act Now To Stop War and End Racism) protested Brennan’s confirmation hearings in Washington D.C. outside and inside the Senate. In fact, CODEPINK protesters successfully disrupted the Feb. 7 confirmation hearings causing Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Intelligence Committee Chairman, to have them banned from the gallery.
One protester unfurled a sign reading: “Brennan: A National Security Risk” while another held aloft a sign reading: “Don’t Drone Me Bro!” Several protesters simultaneously called out the names of individuals killed in U.S. drone strikes.
“It’s not only that drones are just being used overseas, but also being used domestically for different purposes under the guise of intelligence gathering,” Mr. Akhtar noted. “The American public is waking up and in most of the states, there is an outcry. If the American public wants to ban drones in America, what right do we have to use drones outside of the U.S.?” he asked.
Morally, legally and religiously, to kill people without due process is wrong, he added.
“We are not serving America, we are not serving humanity, all we are serving is the war industrial complex, weapons corporations and special interests groups,” said Mr. Akhtar. “We are creating enemies, we are creating no friends.”