PORTLAND, OR - JULY 23: Federal officers arrest a protester after she crossed a fence line set up around the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 23, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. State and city elected officials have called for the federal officers to leave Portland as clashes between protesters and federal police continue to escalate. (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

Do Americans Get That Trump is Instituting Martial Law?

July 25, 2020

Trump Wants to Use Martial Law to Terrorize Americans — and Steal the Next Election

by Umair Haque


Yesterday, the Mayor of Portland was gassed by the secret police of storm troopers that Donald Trump has sent to occupy the city.

Wait. What? Let’s read that sentence again.

Yesterday, the Mayor of Portland was gassed by the secret police of storm troopers that Donald Trump has sent to occupy the city.

If I wrote that sentence five years ago, you would have laughed at me. It would have seemed impossible. Inconceivable. Outlandish. And yet here we are.

Shortly before that, Trump announced that he was sending his new secret police’s shock troops…men in camouflage body armor, carrying machine guns, abducting people off the streets, and now gassing mayors…nationwide.

If I wrote that sentence five years ago, you never would have read another word I wrote. And yet here we are.

Where is this, though, this strange new territory America finds itself in? What’s really happening here?

Something that those of us who’ve lived through — and survived — authoritarian-fascist collapses know all too well. We’ve seen it before, maybe, like me, several times over. We know how it begins, and how it ends — usually — too. None of that’s to be a know-it-all blowhard. It’s to warn, as seriously as I can. You probably have an inkling of what I’m about to say, but your rational side denies it. Your gut is right, and your brain — which has never lived through this kind of collapse before — is wrong.

Trump is instituting martial law. Yes, really. That is what sending a secret police of shock troops across America is. No, not suddenly, all at once, in a kind of sweeping and obvious way. But rather, in the time-honored way that authoritarian-fascists do. One step at a time. A process. A creeping martial law. One which is all too easy to normalize and accept, because it proceeds in slow steps. Martial law isn’t declared like in the movies, usually. More often, it happens like this.

Step by step. Town by town. City by city. This shock troop added to that one. Their powers expanded, to take away your freedoms, one by one. An occupying force whose power is always growing, and never really goes away. And before anyone really knows it — they’re living in a police state, an authoritarian society. Nobody can really remember how it ended up this way. It seems to have happened in a kind of slow-motion suicide of a democracy.

It happens that way because every good authoritarian knows that’s how you normalize it, how you minimize resistance, how you create that strange mix of apathy, bewilderment, and fear all at once, by getting people to ignore what their gut is shouting at them. A mind always says: “Come on! It’s not that bad. Those troops aren’t on my streets yet, and even if they are, they’re still pretty friendly, aren’t they? Stop imagining the worst! Everything will be fine!” The unthinkable isn’t thought fast enough, widely enough. And so one small step at a time, martial law spreads like a black veil across a society, replacing civil society, democracy, decency, and a modern society.

It’s hidden in plain sight. Predictably, funnily, sadly — nobody much is seeing it, because the demagogue’s magic is blinding. Trump is instituting martial law now.

So let me put it another way — which is more accurate still.

Just before a crucial election — one which will decide if democracy lives or dies — a President who would be dictator, like America’s Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein, feels he’s on the ropes. So he’s beginning to institute martial law: the rule of an occupying paramilitary force over and above civil law and everyday democratic norms.

If you doubt that — as your rational side still might — let’s think about it for a moment.

What is “martial law”? Here’s a definition which will do just fine: “Martial law is the imposition of direct military control of normal civil functions or suspension of civil law by a government, especially in response to a temporary emergency where civil forces are overwhelmed, or in an occupied territory.”

Let’s take that step by step. The imposition of direct military control. The “federal agents” that Trump is sending to occupy America’s cities and towns aren’t part of the Army or Navy or Air Force — but they are a part of the ominously named “Homeland Security.”

If you doubt they’re a “military”, what else do you call men wearing camouflage body armour, festooned with heavy weaponry, carrying machine guns? If that’s not a military — or in this case, a paramilitary — surely the word holds no meaning whatsoever.

What are they there for? “The suspension of civil law.” Trump’s shock troops are shredding the Constitution. Not in some abstract, theoretical, Ivy-League-Debate-Club kind of way — but with violence and brutality on the ground. They wear no badges, are unaccountable to anyone, have the power to abduct people off the streets for no rhyme or reason, and take them to God only knows where. The right to free speech? Assembly? Association? Privacy? Peaceful protest? To just walk down a street with your friends, carrying a banner? Bang — gone. They gassed the Mayor of a major American city.

Civil law doesn’t matter to Trump’s army of shock troops. If it did, they wouldn’t be gassing mayors, who are elected public officials. What does matter to Trump and his shock troops? Why are they there?

Because there’s a “temporary emergency.” Which one? Could it be the lethal pandemic — which Trump’s stunning negligence allowed to explode, and become the worst outbreak in the world? How about the 18th straight week of more than a million people filing for unemployment? Or the death rate of that pandemic beginning to skyrocket back up? Maybe the millions of Americans who now find themselves falling into disease, poverty, and despair? Those emergencies?

Nope, the emergency that Trump calls “law and order.” Only there is no breakdown of law and order in America — at least not at the level of people peacefully protesting in the streets for the causes of equality and justice. The breakdown of law and order in America is a demagogue President who’s instituting martial law.

What those of us who’ve survived authoritarianism and studied it know — and need to share with you — is this. If you want to kill a democracy dead, first you chop off its limbs. Then you slowly, slowly suffocate it. You deprive it of the air it breathes.

First you chop off the limbs — you appoint “acting directors” who are your cronies in the extremist projects of ethnic supremacy and racial cleansing to head most of the major offices of government. You purge government of every last decent civil servant you can, so nobody much is left to stand in the way. You stack the courts with unqualified extremists, too, so that you’re protected from legal challenges. Check, check, check.

At this point, the stage is set. For what? For you, the authoritarian, to begin suffocating a democracy to death. That means: one by one, taking away people’s basic rights. You don’t send a hundred thousand shock troops to every small town. You just send a few hundred to the cities — especially where people resist your brutality and violence and supremacism.

You use those shock troops to make an exampleThis mayor resisted me. He got gassed. These people thought they could resist me. They got beaten. These people thought they could express their voices in opposition to me. They got abducted. This group of mothers thought they could link arms and oppose me. They got disappeared. You make an example, as loudly and publicly and visibly — and violently — as possible.

This is what happens when you cross me. You pay the price. The price is a heavy one. It’s not one that anyone in a decent society is used to paying — beatings, abductions, disappearances, gas attacks, and so forth. This is the price you pay for crossing me.

A society descends into an atmosphere of fear and panic, usually. People do what they tend to do when they’re threatened by overwhelming force: they get frightened. The intimidation and brutality serve their purpose. The point of a secret police is now made real — to keep people in check with the authoritarian’s wishes, to stifle dissent, to silence and frighten.

You suffocate a democracy by denying it of the air it breathes. The sweet and pure air of freedom. Where people express can themselves, especially if they’re critics and opponents and dissidents. Instead, the poisonous miasma of terror becomes a grim daily reality.

“Are you going to that protest?,” says one friend. “Of course!,” replies the other. Neither shows up — because who will look after their families if they’re abducted, disappeared, gassed, wounded?

A society has been terrorized into submission. The authoritarian is now free to obtain what they’ve always really wanted. Power. The next election? People stay home. Not enough votes are cast. That atmosphere of fear has never gone away. The authoritarian wins it. And that’s it — game over. The last election that country is to have — at least for a generation.

Those of who’s studied and lived through authoritarianism have seen this before — and it’s our basic duty as decent and sane human beings to warn you. But it’s your duty to heed the warning, this time. Not to ignore it, like the last four years. That’s how we got here, to a place where a lunatic demagogue is destroying America before the eyes of a baffled, shocked, horrified world.

Heed the warning this time, because this is the last time. The last chance.

Trump is declaring martial law. The way authoritarians do. Stepwise. One small step at a time. Just like you’d choke the life out of someone you really hated if you were a sociopath — slowly, to make sure, to watch the light go out of their eyes, and revel in it.

How do authoritarians win? By making the abnormal seem normal, by transgressing so often and so frequently, it all comes to seem plain, by making each transgression worse than the last, so yesterday’s seems like old, small news. But it isn’t. All those transgressions — camps, bans, raids, purges — are a patternLeading up to this.

The imposition of a creeping kind martial law, just before a crucial election. One city at a time. A group of shock troops added to the last, one at a time. One set of new powers for them to abuse people with at a time. Until anyone barely remembers a time when people weren’t being disappeared off the streets, beaten, gassed, thrown into the camps.

It’s not me telling you. It’s history. It’s the ghosts of Orwell, Camus, Arendt, Frankl, Malala, all the people in all the nations who’ve been through this before, and know. How it ends. They are the ones trying to tell you, in a desperate whisper, that barely pierces the veil of time.

Heed the warning.

This is your last chance.

July 2020

SOURCE: Medium

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