What Is Martial Law?
Martial law is a law administered by the military rather than a civilian government. Martial law may be declared in an emergency or response to a crisis, or to control occupied territory.
Breaking Down Martial Law
The declaration of martial law is a rare and momentous decision for a civilian government to make and for a good reason. When martial law is declared, civilian control of some or all aspects of government operations is ceded to the military. This means that, in the case of elected governments, the representatives chosen by the voting population are no longer in power. Civilians have thus ceded control of the country in exchange for the potential restoration of order, with the possibility that control may not be given back in the future.
When martial law is declared, civil liberties, such as the right to free movement, to free speech or protection from unreasonable searches, can be suspended. The justice system that typically handles issues of criminal and civil law may be replaced with a military justice system, such as a military tribunal. Civilians may be arrested for violating curfews or for offenses that, in normal times, would not be considered serious enough to warrant detention. Laws relating to habeas corpus, designed to prevent unlawful detention, may also be suspended, allowing the military to keep individuals detained indefinitely without the possibility of recourse.
When to Declare Martial Law
Considering the negative ramifications, martial law can have on a country and its citizens, declaring martial law is reserved for situations in which law and order is rapidly deteriorating. It may be declared at home to reign in protests, civil unrest, coup d’états or insurrections. It may also be declared when a country’s military occupies foreign territory, such as at the end of a war. For example, in 1892, the governor of Idaho instituted martial law after a group of rebellious mine workers blew up a mill which leveled a four-story building and killed one person. The National Guard is sent to Coeur d’Alene to restore the peace, which resulted in over 600 people being arrested and two dozen tried in civil court.
Typically, the power to declare martial law rests with the president. The circumstances in which it may be declared and other limiting factors, such as the amount of time it may be left in effect, are enshrined in legislation or a country’s constitution. For example, a president may be authorized to declare martial law during a time of violent civil unrest, but only for 60 days. International laws may also limit the scope and duration of martial law if a country has signed onto a multilateral treaty.
The use of martial law in the wake of natural disasters is less common. Rather than declare martial law and hand over power to the military in the case of a hurricane or earthquake, governments are much more likely to declare a state of emergency. When a state of emergency is declared, the government may expand its powers or limit the rights of its citizens. The government does not, however, have to hand power over to its military. In some cases, a government may invoke a state of emergency specifically to suppress dissent or opposition groups.
The declaration of martial law is a “tool” to save the country’s democracy and should only be used when the Constitution .
“Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? The constitutional theory is that we the people are the sovereigns, the state and federal officials only our agents. We who have the final word can speak softly or angrily. We can seek to challenge and annoy, as we need not stay docile and quiet.”—Justice William O. Douglas, dissenting, Colten v. Kentucky, 407 U.S. 104 (1972)
What does it mean when a country with a quickly faltering currency, where the use of military force against civilians is strictly forbidden, starts a massive increase in the amount of troops deployed to its own territory? It can only mean one thing: martial law.
And it is happening, no doubt about that. In the “land of the free and home of the brave” — the U.S.A. Directly in the Defense Authorization Bill for 2008 (HR 1585), TruthNews has found some very troublesome words:
Section 1621 of the bill describes how they intend to increase the number of people in USNORTHCOM. Below is the appropriate subsection in which the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will submit a review of civilian and military positions within USNORTHCOM with the goal of increasing the number of reservists and civilians employed by USNORTHCOM. Clearly, they are anticipating massive civil unrest in this country if they intend on increasing the manpower available to USNORTHCOM.
USNORTHCOM is the U.S. Northern Command. Of the several U.S. commands around the globe, USNORTHCOM’s area of responsibility is none other than American turf. Why aren’t those soldiers placed under CENTCOM’s command where the “action” is? Because they need the soldiers to shoot U.S. citizens dead for what’s coming. In total disregard of the ancient Posse Comitatus Act (Google it up — I don’t feel like linking to the Wikipedia page today).
All the political tools for martial law are already in place; it’s all there: massive, newly built (by Halliburton) prisons to hold tens of thousands of dissidents, a plan to dismantle Congress and the courts (in another Executive order) under the pretense of “continuation of Government”, the secret No-Fly List with tens of thousands of enemies of the regime already on it. It’s just a matter of flicking the switch, and that switch is under the finger of the itinerary U.S President. The most convenient time to trigger it would be right before elections.
And this is all happening at the most unpleasant juncture of all: the collapse of the U.S. dollar. It’s been falling steadily in the last months, but it’s getting worse by the day.
Whether you want to accept it or not, U.S. citizens will stage massive, violent upheavals once (note: I didn’t say “if”) the currency collapses. Still don’t think The People will explode in seething anger once they lose their homes, jobs, cars and good health? Imagine L.A.’s unrest during the last civil riots, multiplied throughout the whole country, and you might get an idea of how bad things will get.
If I were a bookie, I would start collecting bets and using that money right now to place my own, lump-sum bet on the possibility that the U.S. is months away from martial law and generalized military control. Of course… not in my wildest dreams would I accept dollars — instead, I would most likely collect bets from all incumbents in either Euros or solid gold.
I seriously hope this won’t happen. Because, if it does, it’ll basically be poor people shooting and smashing one another’s heads with baseball bats, and citizens that once were once fully free (they no longer are, by the way) will be completely powerless to stop the madness. And, of course, robber barons — those who have already wrecked the U.S. economy — will be safe and protected, secluded in their McMansions and guarded by private mercenaries, or in foreign land, happily enjoying the proceeds of their misdeeds.
My world fell apart during the 2008 financial crash when the bank I worked for bit the dust. My 30-year career in financial services went down the drain and hubris turned to humility. I was back on the street and looking for a new job. Some say I should have seen it coming. I did, but it made little difference.
A decade after Lehman Brothers’ collapse, could it happen again? Yes, it could and the world seems no better prepared. There is a storm coming and we are all standing in harm’s way. China will not be spared from another chaotic bloodbath in global capitalism.
Before the 2008 crash hit, I railed at clients, colleagues and management about the impending risks. The global financial system was a powder keg waiting to explode. The world was awash with debt, spreads and volatility were way too low and there was a disturbing mismatch between risk and return.
Risk-taking and leverage were off the scale and global regulators were asleep at the wheel. The United States ’ subprime mortgage crisis might have lit the fuse but it was more deep-rooted disorder in the global financial system which fuelled the subsequent inferno.
If the world needed proof that greed was indeed bad and excessive exuberance was the greatest threat to global stability, then we should have learned our lessons the hard way after 2008.
Sure, global regulators have papered over some of the cracks in the banking system, forcing banks to bolster capital reserve ratios and toughen rules and regulations on risk-taking. But it seems more akin to re-arranging deckchairs on a sinking ship. The underlying dangers have not been tackled and, if anything, the risks have proliferated.
How trade war and corporate debt could trigger a perfect storm
Right now, the world is probably less well equipped to tackle a new market pandemic. In 2008, global interest rates were much higher, quantitative easing and mass monetisation were merely textbook theories, while fiscal pump-priming was anathema to most budget-conscious governments.
What made the difference was that there were enough multilateral-thinking policymakers willing to turn the tide. Preserving international order was the prime directive over national self-interest at the time. They could afford to turn on the super-stimulus and they did so in a very determined way.
A decade on and the world seems to be running out of options. Global interest rates are close to rock bottom, quantitative easing has run out of steam and government priorities have returned to budget-cutting and austerity.
The Intensive Quiet Preparations for Martial Law
Let us deal first with the preparations for martial law. In late September 2008, at the height of the financial meltdown, The Army Times announced the redeployment of an active Brigade Army Team from Iraq to America, in a new mission that “may become a permanent part of the active Army”:
The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.
Now they’re training for the same mission – with a twist – at home.
Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks… After 1st BCT finishes its dwell-time mission, expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one… They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control.
This announcement followed by two weeks the talk of civil unrest and martial law that was used to panic the Congress into passing Paulson’s bailout legislation. Not only that, the two unprecedented events mirror each other: the bailout debate anticipated civil unrest and martial law, while the announced positioning of an active Brigade Combat Team on U.S. soil anticipated civil unrest (such as might result from the bailout legislation).
Then on December 17, 2008, U.S. Northern Command chief General Renuart announced that “the US military plans to mobilize thousands of troops to protect Washington against potential terrorist attack during the inauguration of president-elect Barack Obama.”
The U.S. Army War College also raised the possibility of the U.S. Army being used to control civil unrest, according to the Phoenix Business Journal:
A new report by the U.S. Army War College talks about the possibility of Pentagon resources and troops being used should the economic crisis lead to civil unrest, such as protests against businesses and government or runs on beleaguered banks.
“Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security,” said the War College report.
The study says economic collapse, terrorism and loss of legal order are among possible domestic shocks that might require military action within the U.S.
It is clear that there has been a sustained move in the direction of martial law preparations, a trend that has been as continuous as it has been unheralded. Senator Leahy was thus right to draw our attention to it on September 29, 2006, in his objections to the final form of the Fiscal Year 2007 National Defense Authorization Act, which gave the president increased power to call up the National Guard for law enforcement:
It… should concern us all that the Conference agreement includes language that subverts solid, longstanding Posse Comitatus statutes that limit the military’s involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law. There is good reason for the constructive friction in existing law when it comes to martial law declarations.
This quiet agglomeration of military power has not “just growed”, like Topsy, through inadvertence. It shows sustained intention, even if no one has made a public case for it.
The good news is that global liquidity has been given a mighty push in the past 10 years, providing a decent impetus to global growth, but the big question is how long it will last.
The risks to world recovery are legion, but if there is one glaring danger that stands out from the crowd, it is the capricious leadership of US President Donald Trump.
On the one hand, he might have delivered a big boost to US growth prospects with tax cuts but, on the other, Trump has set America on a very dangerous collision course with China, Europe and many others over trade. The trade war is the greatest single threat to global peace, stability and prosperity at the present time.
Two simple ways to reform the global order before it breaks
The trouble is that there is very little we can do about it. The rise of political populism and the switch away from benevolent internationalism to narrow, national self-interest is growing by the day.
The influence of multinational organisations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the OECD, Nato and the United Nations are on the wane, thanks to the steady withdrawal of political support from America.
The next time the crisis hits, the supranational agencies will lack the punch to make a difference. And whether it is a trade war, debt crisis, global recession or financial market meltdown, the former stalwarts of concerted multilateral intervention are no longer on the scene.
The architects of the 2008 bailout are long gone. The worry is the new generation of global policymakers lack the wherewithal, remedies and the conviction next time around.
In 2008, the impact of countries working together was greater than the sum of the parts. Only full-scale, concerted global intervention can deal with the next crisis. I doubt whether it can be salvaged.
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