A little-noted news story about the transfer of Iraq-hardened combat troops for active duty at home in the immediate prelude to the elections has been seized upon by Amy Goodman‘s Democracy Now! Oct. 2 and—with considerably greater paranoia—Naomi Wolf on AlterNet and YouTube Oct. 8, as evidence of an imminent “coup d’etat” or “October Surprise.” Gina Cavallaro wrote for Army Times, Sept. 30, emphasis added:
Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1
3rd Infantry’s 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission. Helping ‘people at home’ 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.
It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.
But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.
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.
“Right now, the response force requirement will be an enduring mission. How the [Defense Department] chooses to source that and whether or not they continue to assign them to NorthCom, that could change in the future,” said Army Col. Louis Vogler, chief of NorthCom future operations. “Now, the plan is to assign a force every year.”
The command is at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo., but the soldiers with 1st BCT, who returned in April after 15 months in Iraq, will operate out of their home post at Fort Stewart, Ga., where they’ll be able to go to school, spend time with their families and train for their new homeland mission as well as the counterinsurgency mission in the war zones.
Stop-loss will not be in effect, so soldiers will be able to leave the Army or move to new assignments during the mission, and the operational tempo will be variable.
Don’t look for any extra time off, though. The at-home mission does not take the place of scheduled combat-zone deployments and will take place during the so-called dwell time a unit gets to reset and regenerate after a deployment.
The 1st of the 3rd is still scheduled to deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan in early 2010, which means the soldiers will have been home a minimum of 20 months by the time they ship out.
In the meantime, they’ll learn new skills, use some of the ones they acquired in the war zone and more than likely will not be shot at while doing any of it.
They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.
Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the “jaws of life” to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.
The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.
The package is for use only in war-zone operations, not for any domestic purpose.
“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”
The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.
“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body.
“I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds … it put me on my knees in seconds.”
The brigade will not change its name, but the force will be known for the next year as a CBRNE Consequence Management Response Force, or CCMRF (pronounced “sea-smurf”).
“I can’t think of a more noble mission than this,” said Cloutier, who took command in July. “We’ve been all over the world during this time of conflict, but now our mission is to take care of citizens at home … and depending on where an event occurred, you’re going home to take care of your home town, your loved ones.”
While soldiers’ combat training is applicable, he said, some nuances don’t apply.
“If we go in, we’re going in to help American citizens on American soil, to save lives, provide critical life support, help clear debris, restore normalcy and support whatever local agencies need us to do, so it’s kind of a different role,” said Cloutier, who, as the division operations officer on the last rotation, learned of the homeland mission a few months ago while they were still in Iraq.
Some brigade elements will be on call around the clock, during which time they’ll do their regular marksmanship, gunnery and other deployment training. That’s because the unit will continue to train and reset for the next deployment, even as it serves in its CCMRF mission.
Should personnel be needed at an earthquake in California, for example, all or part of the brigade could be scrambled there, depending on the extent of the need and the specialties involved.
Other branches included
The active Army’s new dwell-time mission is part of a NorthCom and DOD response package.
Active-duty soldiers will be part of a force that includes elements from other military branches and dedicated National Guard Weapons of Mass Destruction-Civil Support Teams.
A final mission rehearsal exercise is scheduled for mid-September at Fort Stewart and will be run by Joint Task Force Civil Support, a unit based out of Fort Monroe, Va., that will coordinate and evaluate the interservice event.
In addition to 1st BCT, other Army units will take part in the two-week training exercise, including elements of the 1st Medical Brigade out of Fort Hood, Texas, and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade from Fort Bragg, N.C.
There also will be Air Force engineer and medical units, the Marine Corps Chemical, Biological Initial Reaction Force, a Navy weather team and members of the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
One of the things Vogler said they’ll be looking at is communications capabilities between the services.
“It is a concern, and we’re trying to check that and one of the ways we do that is by having these sorts of exercises. Leading up to this, we are going to rehearse and set up some of the communications systems to make sure we have interoperability,” he said.
“I don’t know what America’s overall plan is — I just know that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there are soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that are standing by to come and help if they’re called,” Cloutier said. “It makes me feel good as an American to know that my country has dedicated a force to come in and help the people at home.”
A non-lethal crowd control package fielded to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, described in the original version of this story, is intended for use on deployments to the war zone, not in the U.S., as previously stated.
Now, this is pretty ominous no matter how you slice it. But it is also disingenuous of Naomi Wolf and Amy Goodman not to mention the correction, or the line disavowing domestic use of the “nonlethal package.” Even if these caveats were added after Wolf and Goodman referenced the story, they should still add an update line.
Wolf also writes on AlterNet, “George Bush struck down Posse Comitatus, thus making it legal for military to patrol the U.S.” This isn’t exactly right. Bush has certainly significantly eroded Posse Comitatus. But “struck down” implies the act has been formally repealed. This is of course not the case. What we are witnessing is more insidious than that.
We have previously noted provisions of the 2007 Defense Authorization Act which granted unprecedented leeway for Pentagon domestic operations. We’ve also noted last year’s National Security Presidential Directive 51, with provisions for emergency powers in the event of a “national catastrophe”—certainly worrisome given the impending econocataclysm. Our recent feature on the military response to Hurricane Katrina by Frank Morales argued that it was a de facto domestic counterinsurgency operation.
See our last posts on the domestic police state and October Surprise paranoia.
Did Bush threaten “martial law”?
From Wolf on AlterNet:
Told by whom, Rep. Sherman?
I hope that the next president – either Obama or McCain – will promptly ‘strike down’ some of the more excessive displays of the dictatorial powers that the ‘unitary executive’ doled himself by an unprecedented imperial use of signing statements during the Bush-Cheney administration. Otherwise, the US will turn from an oligarchy to a tyranny. With this news Bush just created his Praetorian Guard, fitting for an emperor of the “free” world. The only thing we need now is a natural or a man-made disaster, so the troops can train their response. Since it is difficult to predict whether the nature would cooperate by sending an earthquake to California so that they can clear debris, we can expect a man-made disaster, so the troopers can fulfill their destiny. Hey, but we still have our Second Amendment – which was created precisely for this purpose, so that people can protect themselves from the dictatorial government. Jefferson, Franklin, Paine and Madison might have had visions, nightmares of Dick Cheney when they decided on that. What if we see popular riots, due to economic crisis, in near future? Are Praetorians going to be deployed to subdue them? How does this infringe on the State rights? And States have their own muscle – National Guard. They can work together, they can ignore each other, or they can work against each other. Then we have what we had in former Yugoslavia – where Territorial Defense Forces (National Guards) of Republics (States) got into the conflict with Yugoslav Army (federal forces like the 3rd Infantry Division 1st Brigade Combat Team). This works great as a preparation for the Second American Civil War. Federal forces will lose, just as they did in Yugoslavia – because they will have to fight on at least three fronts (West Coast, Northeast, Rust Belt), they will eventually be outnumbered and outsupplied.
good crime fiction
The disaster fiction level of this thread is entertainingly high and not as far fetched as one might hope but an issue not addressed is whether there is any evidence that large portions of the US Military would be complicit in a bold attempt to seize power, suspend Constitution, etc … Are regular US army going to fire on National Guard? Are the Blackwater types leaping from a Tom Clancy novel into some well honed force that can subdue all the nations police forces with their cool sunglasses. Is there a right wing secret weapon involved?
It’s pretty far fetched to imagine the Congress in on the coup (1933 ref redacted for Godwin violation) and the majority of the wing nut right, who have been expecting it all along – admittedly more from the UN (which brings the entertaining vision of Kofi Annan – I know he’s former but it’s funnier – in some secret cabal with Bill, Hillary and Tony Blair) wouldn’t stand for anything of the sort even if it meant defending the Godless black guy who just won the election.
So there are mysterious terrorist strikes in the next few weeks, McCain says it’s ‘irresponsible’ to have an election when the country is in danger, Bush assumes emergency powers. Then what?
Amy Goodman clarifies
Amy Goodman on AlterNet, Oct. 8:
“On site”? On what site?
She then goes on to interview Col. Michael Boatner of Northern Command, who does acknowledge that the force could be armed under some circumstances. He says:
This does not satisfy Goodman’s other guest, Matt Rothschild of The Progressive magazine, who says:
So Goodman gets creds for accuracy (if not for perfect clarity). Now it is Wolf’s turn. We’re waiting, Naomi…
Clarification on Posse Comitatus
Another quote from Democracy Now! of Oct. 2:
Presumably that “later bill” was the 2008 defense authorization act. Here is Bush’s signing statement, dated Jan. 28, 2008:
Coup d’etat in the making?
David Neiwert writes for the Crooks and Liars blog:
Coup d’etat in the making, Pt. II
Life imitates art. In this case, West Virginia imitates The Simpsons. From the Charleston Gazette, Oct. 18:
We can assume similar things are happening across the country, reported only in local newspapers like the Charleston Gazette. Combine this with the polling places being overwhelmed by a record turn-out… and it sounds to us like a recipe for chaos, a contested election, drawn lines and rapid polarization. We sure hope we’re wrong.