Martial Law Proponent Dies

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The Progressive

Martial Law Proponent Dies

Matthew Rothschild

On July 18, General Wayne A. Downing died. The New York Times noted that he had "fought in jungles and deserts and commanded American Special Operations forces before becoming a senior adviser to President Bush for counterterrorism."

What the Times didn't note is that Downing was a proponent of martial law in the event of another, even more deadly, terrorist attack.

He said as much in The Washington Post back on December 24, 2002.

"The United States may have to declare martial law someday in the case of a devastating attack with weapons of mass destruction causing tens of thousands of casualties," he told the Post several months after he retired. "This could mean that the military could be given the authority to impose curfews, protect businesses and communities, even make arrests."

This startling quote appeared in paragraph 41 of a massive article by Barton Gellman of the Post.

It has never received the attention it deserves.

Even after Bush revised the Posse Comitatus Act last fall to allow the military to be used in the streets of the United States in a whole variety of circumstances.

And even after Bush issued an Executive Order on May 9, 2007, granting himself extraordinary powers in the event of a "catastrophic emergency."

I'm grateful for General Downing's bluntness.

But I'm appalled by the lack of follow up by almost everyone in the mainstream media with the exception of Ted Koppel. (On April 7, 2004, Koppel did a "Nightline" show on the possibility of martial law, and he alluded to the risks again in a graduation speech he gave a month later at Berkeley.)

When General Downing let slip the idea that martial law might be coming, barely anyone reacted.

But if it comes, you can't say we weren't warned.

© 2007 The Progressive Magazine


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