Turning America into a Battlefield: A Blueprint for Locking Down the Nation

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John W. Whitehead, Founder, the Rutherford Institute

John W. White­head, Founder, the Ruther­ford Institute

In the coun­cils of gov­ern­ment, we must guard against the acqui­si­tion of unwar­rant­ed influ­ence, whether sought or unsought, by the mil­i­tary indus­tri­al com­plex. The poten­tial for the dis­as­trous rise of mis­placed pow­er exists and will per­sist. We must nev­er let the weight of this com­bi­na­tion endan­ger our lib­er­ties or demo­c­ra­t­ic process­es. We should take noth­ing for grant­ed. Only an alert and knowl­edge­able cit­i­zen­ry can com­pel the prop­er mesh­ing of the huge indus­tri­al and mil­i­tary machin­ery of defense with our peace­ful meth­ods and goals, so that secu­ri­ty and lib­er­ty may pros­per together.—President Dwight D. Eisen­how­er, 1961

A stand­ing army—something that pro­pelled the ear­ly colonists into revolution—strips the Amer­i­can peo­ple of any ves­tige of free­dom. How can there be any sem­blance of free­dom when there are tanks in the streets, mil­i­tary encamp­ments in cities, Black­hawk heli­copters and armed drones patrolling overhead?

It was for this rea­son that those who estab­lished Amer­i­ca vest­ed con­trol of the mil­i­tary in a civil­ian gov­ern­ment, with a civil­ian com­man­der-in-chief. They did not want a mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment, ruled by force. Rather, they opt­ed for a repub­lic bound by the rule of law: the U.S. Constitution.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, with the Con­sti­tu­tion under con­stant attack, the military’s pow­er, influ­ence and author­i­ty have grown dra­mat­i­cal­ly. Even the Posse Comi­ta­tus Act of 1878, which makes it a crime for the gov­ern­ment to use the mil­i­tary to car­ry out arrests, search­es, seizure of evi­dence and oth­er activ­i­ties nor­mal­ly han­dled by a civil­ian police force, has been weak­ened by both Barack Oba­ma and George W. Bush, who ush­ered in exemp­tions allow­ing troops to deploy domes­ti­cal­ly and arrest civil­ians in the wake of alleged ter­ror­ist acts.

Now we find our­selves strug­gling to retain some sem­blance of free­dom in the face of police and law enforce­ment agen­cies that look and act like the mil­i­tary and have just as lit­tle regard for the Fourth Amend­ment, laws such as the NDAA that allow the mil­i­tary to arrest and indef­i­nite­ly detain Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, and mil­i­tary drills that accli­mate the Amer­i­can peo­ple to the sight of armored tanks in the streets, mil­i­tary encamp­ments in cities, and com­bat air­craft patrolling overhead.

Mak­ing mat­ters worse, we find out that the mil­i­tary plans to use south­west­ern states as stag­ing grounds for gueril­la war­fare drills in which high­ly-trained mil­i­tary troops equipped with all man­ner of weapons turn Amer­i­can towns and cities in qua­si-bat­tle­fields. Why? As they tell us, it’s so that spe­cial oper­a­tions forces can get “real­is­tic mil­i­tary train­ing” in “hos­tile” territory.

They’ve even got a name for the exer­cise: Jade Helm 15.

Whether or not Amer­i­cans have any­thing to fear from Jade Helm 15, a covert, mul­ti-agency, mul­ti-state, eight-week mil­i­tary train­ing exer­cise set to take place this sum­mer from July 15 through Sept. 15, remains to be seen.

Insist­ing that there’s noth­ing to be alarmed about, the Wash­ing­ton Post took great pains to point out that these mil­i­tary exer­cis­es on Amer­i­can soil are noth­ing new. For instance, there was Oper­a­tion Bold Alli­ga­tor, in which in which thou­sands of Marines and sailors car­ried out amphibi­ous exer­cis­es against “insur­gent” forces in Geor­gia and Flori­da. Oper­a­tion Robin Sage had Green Beret sol­diers engag­ing in guer­ril­la war­fare in North Car­oli­na. And Oper­a­tion Der­na Bridge sends Marine spe­cial forces into parts of South Car­oli­na and the Nation­al Forest.

Yet if Amer­i­cans are uneasy about this summer’s planned Jade Helm 15 mil­i­tary exer­cis­es, they have every right to be.

After all, haven’t we been urged time and time again to just “trust” the gov­ern­ment to respect our rights and abide by the rule of law only to find that, in fact, our rights were being plun­dered and the Con­sti­tu­tion dis­re­gard­ed at every turn?

Let’s assume, for the moment, that Jade Helm 15 is not a thin­ly veiled mil­i­tary plot to take over the coun­try lift­ed straight out of direc­tor John Frankenheimer’s 1964 polit­i­cal thriller Sev­en Days in May, as some fear, but is mere­ly a “rou­tine” exer­cise for troops, albeit a bla­tant­ly intim­i­dat­ing flex­ing of the military’s muscles.

The prob­lem aris­es when you start to add Jade Helm onto the list of oth­er trou­bling devel­op­ments that have tak­en place over the past 30 years or more: the expan­sion of the mil­i­tary indus­tri­al com­plex and its influ­ence in Wash­ing­ton DC, the ram­pant sur­veil­lance, the cor­po­rate-fund­ed elec­tions and revolv­ing door between lob­by­ists and elect­ed offi­cials, the mil­i­ta­rized police, the loss of our free­doms, the injus­tice of the courts, the pri­va­tized pris­ons, the school lock­downs, the road­side strip search­es, the mil­i­tary drills on domes­tic soil, the fusion cen­ters and the simul­ta­ne­ous fus­ing of every branch of law enforce­ment (fed­er­al, state and local), the stock­pil­ing of ammu­ni­tion by var­i­ous gov­ern­ment agen­cies, the active shoot­er drills that are indis­tin­guish­able from actu­al crises, the econ­o­my flirt­ing with near col­lapse, etc.

Sud­den­ly, the over­all pic­ture seems that much more sin­is­ter. Clear­ly, as I point out in my new book Bat­tle­field Amer­i­ca: The War on the Amer­i­can Peo­ple, there’s a larg­er agen­da at work here.

Sev­en years ago, the U.S. Army War Col­lege issued a report call­ing on the mil­i­tary to be pre­pared should they need to put down civ­il unrest with­in the coun­try. Sum­ma­riz­ing the report, inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Chris Hedges declared, “The mil­i­tary must be pre­pared, the doc­u­ment warned, for a ‘vio­lent, strate­gic dis­lo­ca­tion inside the Unit­ed States,’ which could be pro­voked by ‘unfore­seen eco­nom­ic col­lapse,’ ‘pur­pose­ful domes­tic resis­tance,’ ‘per­va­sive pub­lic health emer­gen­cies’ or ‘loss of func­tion­ing polit­i­cal and legal order.’ The ‘wide­spread civ­il vio­lence,’ the doc­u­ment said, ‘would force the defense estab­lish­ment to reori­ent pri­or­i­ties in extrem­is to defend basic domes­tic order and human security.’”

At what point will all of the government’s care­ful­ly drawn plans for deal­ing with civ­il unrest, “home­grown” ter­ror­ism and tar­get­ing pre-crime become a uni­fied blue­print for lock­ing down the nation?

For instance, what’s the ratio­nale behind turn­ing gov­ern­ment agen­cies into mil­i­tary out­posts? There has been a notable buildup in recent years of SWAT teams with­in non-secu­ri­ty-relat­ed fed­er­al agen­cies such as Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, the Rail­road Retire­ment Board, the Ten­nessee Val­ley Author­i­ty, the Office of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment, the Con­sumer Prod­uct Safe­ty Com­mis­sion, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice and the Edu­ca­tion Depart­ment. As of 2008, “73 fed­er­al law enforce­ment agen­cies… [employ] approx­i­mate­ly 120,000 armed full-time on-duty offi­cers with arrest author­i­ty.” Four-fifths of those offi­cers are under the com­mand of either the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) or the Depart­ment of Justice.

What’s with all of the gov­ern­ment agen­cies stock­pil­ing hol­low point bul­lets? For exam­ple, why does the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture need .40 cal­iber semi­au­to­mat­ic sub­ma­chine guns and 320,000 rounds of hol­low point bul­lets? For that mat­ter, why do its agents need bal­lis­tic vests and body armor?

Why does the Postal Ser­vice need “assort­ed small arms ammu­ni­tion”? Why did the DHS pur­chase “1.6 bil­lion rounds of hol­low-point ammu­ni­tion, along with 7,000 ful­ly-auto­mat­ic 5.56x45mm NATO ‘per­son­al defense weapons’ plus a huge stash of 30-round high-capac­i­ty mag­a­zines”? That’s in addi­tion to the FBI’s request for 100 mil­lion hol­low-point rounds. The Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion, IRS, the Social Secu­ri­ty Admin­is­tra­tion, and the Nation­al Ocean­ic and Atmos­pher­ic Admin­is­tra­tion, which over­sees the Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice, are also among the fed­er­al agen­cies which have tak­en to pur­chas­ing ammu­ni­tion and weapon­ry in bulk.

Why is the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment dis­trib­ut­ing obscene amounts of mil­i­tary equip­ment, weapons and ammu­ni­tion to police depart­ments around the coun­try? And why is DHS acquir­ing more than 2,500 Mine-Resis­tant Armored Pro­tec­tion (MRAP) vehi­cles, only to pass them around to local police depart­ments across the coun­try? Accord­ing to the New York Times:

[A]s Pres­i­dent Oba­ma ush­ers in the end of what he called America’s “long sea­son of war,” the for­mer tools of com­bat — M‑16 rifles, grenade launch­ers, silencers and more — are end­ing up in local police depart­ments, often with lit­tle pub­lic notice. Dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, accord­ing to Pen­ta­gon data, police depart­ments have received tens of thou­sands of machine guns; near­ly 200,000 ammu­ni­tion mag­a­zines; thou­sands of pieces of cam­ou­flage and night-vision equip­ment; and hun­dreds of silencers, armored cars and air­craft. The equip­ment has been added to the armories of police depart­ments that already look and act like mil­i­tary units.

Why is the mil­i­tary part­ner­ing with local police to con­duct train­ing drills around the coun­try? And what exact­ly are they train­ing for? In Rich­land, South Car­oli­na, for instance, U.S. army spe­cial forces par­tic­i­pat­ed in joint and secre­tive exer­cis­es and train­ing with local deputies. The pub­lic was dis­al­lowed from obtain­ing any infor­ma­tion about the pur­pose of the drills, oth­er than being told that they might be loud and to not be alarmed. The Army and DHS also car­ried out sim­i­lar drills and maneu­vers involv­ing Black Hawk heli­copters in Texas, Flori­da, and oth­er loca­tions through­out the U.S., osten­si­bly in order to pro­vide local police with “real­is­tic” urban training.

What is being done to pro­tect the Amer­i­can pop­u­lace from the threat of mil­i­tary arms and forces, includ­ing unarmed drones, being used against them? Pol­i­cy ana­lysts point to Direc­tive No. 3025.18, “Defense Sup­port of Civ­il Author­i­ties” (issued on Dec. 29, 2010), as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the government’s use of mil­i­tary force to put down civ­il unrest with­in the Unit­ed States.

Why is FEMA stock­pil­ing mas­sive quan­ti­ties of emer­gency sup­plies? On Jan­u­ary 10, 2014, FEMA made a state­ment enlist­ing the ser­vice of con­trac­tors who could “sup­ply med­ical bio­haz­ard dis­pos­al capa­bil­i­ties and 40 yard dump­sters to 1,000 tent hos­pi­tals across the Unit­ed States; all required on 24–48 hour notice.” This coin­cides with oth­er med­ical requests seek­ing mas­sive amounts of sup­plies, such as “31,000,000 flu vac­ci­na­tions,” “100,000 each of win­ter shirts and pants and the same for sum­mer” and oth­er goods and ser­vices requests as well like tarps, man­u­fac­tured hous­ing units, and bev­er­ages. And why does the TSA need $21,000 worth of potas­si­um chlo­rate, a chem­i­cal com­pound often used in explosives?

Why is the Pen­ta­gon con­tin­u­ing to pur­chase mass amounts of ammu­ni­tion while at the same time prepar­ing to destroy more than $1 bil­lion worth of bul­lets and mis­siles that are still viable?

More­over, what is real­ly being done to hold the Pen­ta­gon account­able for its doc­tored ledgers, fraud, waste and mis­man­age­ment, which has cost the tax­pay­er tril­lions of dol­lars? Accord­ing to Reuters, “The Pen­ta­gon is the only fed­er­al agency that has not com­plied with a law that requires annu­al audits of all gov­ern­ment depart­ments. That means that the $8.5 tril­lion in tax­pay­er mon­ey doled out by Con­gress to the Pen­ta­gon since 1996, the first year it was sup­posed to be audit­ed, has nev­er been account­ed for. That sum exceeds the val­ue of Chi­na’s eco­nom­ic output.”

Giv­en the sim­i­lar­i­ties between the government’s Live Active Shoot­er Drill train­ing exer­cis­es, car­ried out at schools, in shop­ping malls, and on pub­lic tran­sit, which can and do fool law enforce­ment offi­cials, stu­dents, teach­ers and bystanders into think­ing it’s a real cri­sis, how much of what is being passed off as real is, in fact, being staged by DHS for the “ben­e­fit” of train­ing law enforce­ment, leav­ing us none the wis­er? These train­ing exer­cis­es come com­plete with their own set of pro­fes­sion­al­ly trained Cri­sis Actors play­ing the parts of shoot­ers, bystanders and vic­tims in order to help schools and first respon­ders cre­ate real­is­tic drills, full-scale exer­cis­es, high-fideli­ty sim­u­la­tions, and inter­ac­tive 3D films.

Giv­en that Amer­i­cans are 110 times more like­ly to die of food­borne ill­ness than in a ter­ror­ist attack, why is the gov­ern­ment spend­ing tril­lions of dol­lars on “nation­al secu­ri­ty”? How exact­ly is the $75 bil­lion giv­en to var­i­ous intel­li­gence agen­cies annu­al­ly to keep us “safe” being spent? And why is the DHS giv­ing away mil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of fed­er­al secu­ri­ty grants to states that fed­er­al intel­li­gence agen­cies ruled have “no spe­cif­ic for­eign or domes­tic ter­ror­ism threat”?

Why is the gov­ern­ment amass­ing names and infor­ma­tion on Amer­i­cans con­sid­ered to be threats to the nation, and what cri­te­ria is the gov­ern­ment using for this data­base? Keep in mind that this per­son­al infor­ma­tion is being acquired and kept with­out war­rant or court order. It’s been sug­gest­ed that in the event of nuclear war, the destruc­tion of the U.S. Gov­ern­ment, and the dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law, this Main Core data­base, which as of 2008 con­tained some 8 mil­lion names of Amer­i­cans, would be used by mil­i­tary offi­cials to locate and round up Amer­i­cans seen as threats to nation­al secu­ri­ty, a pro­gram to be car­ried about by the Army and FEMA.

Tak­en indi­vid­u­al­ly, these ques­tions are alarm­ing enough. But put them togeth­er and they add up to the kind of trou­ble that the Amer­i­can found­ing fathers not only warned against but from which they fought to free themselves.

Indeed, when viewed col­lec­tive­ly, they leave one won­der­ing what exact­ly the U.S. gov­ern­ment is prepar­ing for and whether Amer­i­can cit­i­zens shouldn’t be prepar­ing, as well, for that even­tu­al­i­ty when our so-called “gov­ern­ment of the peo­ple, by the peo­ple, for the peo­ple” is no longer answer­able to “we the people.”