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Posse Comitatus is changing to Posse Come-and-Get-Us?

Monday, September 26, 2005

When hurricane Katrina was done blowing over the last house in Louisiana, I began to wonder why the state/federal response was slow in coming. It seemed like the only thing getting done was blaming the other guy for why nothing was getting done. People were begging for help while government officials sat on their hands. Even when the private citizenry tried to set up improvised rescue missions, they were thwarted by government officials. Nobody was allowed to do anything unless government gave the official 'OK' to do it. It all seemed rather odd... and deliberate.

I watched and speculated at their motives. It became obvious that the fed seemed to be positioning themselves to argue that they needed more power and control when dealing with natural disasters. The fed wanted to use the military to "aid" in the clean up. They wanted complete control over the military; and they wanted to be able to utilize the military in events like this where before the states directed the national guard and coast guard in disaster responses.

Then, even before all the water had been drained away from the latest hurricane, Bush is pushing for the use of the military, to be controlled by the Pentagon (from the AP):
Bush, anticipating future disasters, began pushing a politically sensitive proposal to give the military a larger role in search-and-rescue missions.

"Clearly, in the case of a terrorist attack, that would be the case," he said. But if there is "a natural disaster — of a certain size — that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort," Bush said.

The president said he would ask Congress to consider putting the Pentagon in charge of disaster rescues after senior officers indicated the need for such a national plan.

His proposal divided lawmakers trying to balance an adequate federal response against trampling on states' rights.

Currently, the Homeland Security Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency lead response missions in large-scale disasters. If federal troops are brought in to help, they do so in support of FEMA, through the U.S. Northern Command. The command was set up as part of a military reorganization after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Remember these important facts as events unfold concerning the use of the military with regards to natural disasters:
  1. The government (federal/state) had just as much warning before hurricane Rita as they did before hurricane Katrina. Look at how much more smoothly things have been handled with hurricane Rita.
  2. Look at how little bickering has occurred between the state government and federal government when it comes to coordinating clean up efforts with hurricane Rita. The task of clean up and reconstruction is getting done. There is no bickering, no fighting, and no "finger pointing" or "blame laying".
  3. Looking to past hurricanes, compare the government's response put forward in those past hurricanes to government's response to hurricane Katrina ...and to hurricane Rita. Why the sudden incompetence dealing with hurricane Katrina, but not with hurricane Rita? Again, very suspicious! Government cannot "mend it's ways" that quickly.
In closing, I may be trying to make a mountain out of a mole hill, but when it comes to even more federal control over individual states, everyone should be alarmed.
For more information on the Posse Comitatus Act and an interesting viewpoint on why it was enacted ("They understood the heel of a jackboot"), visit the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.
UPDATE: C.T. Rossi has an excellent article at titled 'The Danger of Standing Armies' that's well worth the read. His article shows that the current administration has pushed for the scrapping of the PCA for awhile.


Anonymous Mark said...


The Cato Institute has an article on just this question here.

Their point is that there is no need to militarize disaster aid. The Army could lend logistical support to civilian aid agencies without assuming control and without becoming a domestic police force.

Having been in the Army Medical Corps, I know the kinds of rapid response medical facilities the military has (e.g., they can parachute down an entire surgical hospital virtually anywhere and have it up and running in a matter of hours). This kind of aid could be made available to civilian authorities.

On the other hand, if FEMA were a real emergency agency, it could be supplied with the same technology that the military has for disasters. That way, the military could be kept out entirely. I don't know whether state National Guard units are equipped with this kind of technology.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Steve Rankin said...


I just discovered that you've added a link to my blog, Free Citizen.

Thanks so much.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Don Bangert said...

Mark: Thanks for the link.
Steve: Your welcome. I may have to put on my artist hat and make you your very own "link-banner".

6:55 PM  

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