By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Are we headed toward martial law? Last week, Peter Kirsanow, a Bush appointee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said in Detroit that he envisions a situation in which the public will demand internment camps for Arab-Americans. If terrorists attack the U.S. for a second time and if "they come from the same ethnic group that attacked the World Trade Center, you can forget about civil rights," he said.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration currently is in the midst of a charade over the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which states that the military cannot engage in domestic police functions. In recent years, that restriction has proved to be more myth than anything else.
The U.S. general in charge of the Northern Command, which oversees defense of the continental U.S., has suggested that the military may come to have a larger role in policing the country against terrorism. The Bush administration has its attorneys looking to see whether the Posse Comitatus Act, which was adopted to get federal troops out of the South after the Civil War, should be changed. The act has little muscle and was breached repeatedly in the Waco siege. Military personnel and technology were used at Waco to train domestic-security agents, fly choppers, supervise the use of equipment and go over final plans for the assault. Special Forces were used to train ATF agents before the Waco operations, and they were at Waco during the siege. National Guard troops from Alabama and Texas were used in the initial phases of Waco.RATS IN THE BELFRY
Bush himself, in an April speech in Knoxville, Tennessee, spoke of the need for a Citizen Corps and, as a step in that direction, urged citizens to gather around their religious institutions. "It means organizing a program in your church or your synagogue or your mosque," he said, "to help hear the universal call of loving somebody just like you'd like to be loved yourself."
The Citizens' Preparedness Guide even lists "Places of Worship" in its table of contents and suggests that in addition to schools and other public places, churches could be useful in making "preparedness a part of [people's] daily lives. . . . Places of Worship provide a valuable support network and an opportunity to share information about preparedness." And it adds, "Consider incorporating your place of worship into your Neighborhood Watch Programs." It also adds, "Hold meetings to discuss preparedness and distribute copies of this guide to your congregation."
In the recent past, police and federal agents repeatedly have tried to infiltrate churches, but they have usually not succeeded. Immediately following Sept. 11, FBI agents began visiting mosques, and now mosques and other Muslim organizations of various types have come under close federal scrutiny.
"We're not here to spy on each other," said David W. Dyson, pastor of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. Peter Laarman, senior minister of Judson Memorial, called the idea "a total violation of what the spirit of religious community should be."
But David Harris, executive director of American Jewish Committee, said it wouldn't be wise to overreact negatively to Bush's scheme. "I only have what I see in front of me, and at first glance, it doesn't necessarily have a sinister overtone to it. . . . I think that it could certainly be interpreted very benignly. . . . I mean people need to be alert, and that seems to be logical and sensible under the very unusual times we live in. It seems to be commonsensical."
Joe Loconte, point man at the Heritage Foundation for the conservative political program aimed at having faith-based institutions deliver social-welfare services, contended that there is nothing wrong with using "congregations in a civil society," adding, "Congregations are a natural source. It's just a great collection of people in the urban context." He pointed out that "congregations were the foot soldiers in the civil rights movement."THE GREAT CASH OF 2002