COMMENTARY: IS A MILITARY COUP IN THE OFFING?
By Peter Duveen
NEW YORK, January 30, 2009--A military judge has directly challenged
President Barack Obama's order to suspend trials of alleged
"terrorists" by military tribunals at the U.S. Naval Station at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Associated Press (AP) says in an online article published early this morning.
journalists Mike Melia and Andrew Selky report that Army Col. James
Pohl, chief judge for the tribunals, yesterday challenged President
Obama's executive order of Jan. 21 to bring a halt to "all proceedings
of such military commissions to which charges have been referred but in
which no judgment has been rendered."
insisted in a ruling yesterday that some of the proceedings must
continue, arrogating to himself the power to challenge the president's
order, and claiming that "on its face, the request to delay the
arraignment is not reasonable," according to the AP report.
significance of Pohl's ruling was in no wise lost upon at least some
Pentagon officials. It is a direct challenge to the authority of the
U.S. president, who is the commander-in-chief of the military under the
Department of Defense spokesperson, Geoff Morrell, said the military
would adhere to Obama's executive order, predicting that there would be
no further proceedings.
bottom line is, we all work for the president of the United States in
this chain of command, and he has signed an executive order which has
made abundantly clear that until these reviews are done all of this is
on hiatus," Morrell told reporters.
there can be little doubt that Pohl was acting in an atmosphere
approaching contempt for the executive, judicial and legislative
branches of the U.S. government. His actions are easily interpreted
as having the tacit approval of U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates,
and are evidence of a military takeover which may have
already occurred in effect through the widened scope
of Pentagon power achieved during the Bush administration.
the American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero
noted according to the AP report, Gates "has the power to stop the
military commissions and ought to follow his boss's directives."
failure to block Pohl's ruling may imply complicity. Just as it has been said
that terrorism must be nipped in the bud before it begins to blossom,
so must a possible Pentagon takeover of the U.S. government. Such
remarks by a military judge with the implicit support of the secretary
of defense must be taken seriously.
ruling was applauded by Lirk Lippold, the retired Navy official who was
the commanding officer of the U.S.S. Cole, which in 2000 suffered an
attack that left 17 sailors dead and scores injured. The attack is generally said
to have been carried out by "Al Qaeda terrorists," among them,
allegedly, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, whose particular case Pohl ruled
families involved want to see al-Nashiri held accountable for his
heinous acts," Lippold was quoted by the AP as saying. However, the
very purpose of a trial--the determination of guilt or
innocence--seemed to have been lost on Lippold, who may have been under
the impression that convictions were a foregone conclusion, and trials
merely a rubber stamp on the military's prosecutorial function.
Pohl's statement would seem to demand an immediate response from the Federal government, such as his removal
and prosecution, and a request by the president for Gates's
resignation. If Gates and Pohl were taken into custody by Federal
marshals pending an investigation to be conducted, not by the compromised
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), but by a special prosecutor, it
would send a message of zero tolerance for acts remotely resembling or
contributing to the staging of a military coup.
In response to Pohl's
remarks and actions, the U.S. Congress should immediately conduct a
review of the present state of the military to assess its potential
threat to Americans. Pohl may have ruled the way he did to prevent
public trials of alleged terrorists. It may be feared that such trials would reveal
the innocence of the accused and the true nature of the crimes of 9-11,
which many commentators, including columnists Robert Novak and William Safire, have suggested were operations carried out or assisted by clandestine factions within the American government.
to reign in the power of the military ought to be explored in a
congressional review. Gates is not alone responsible for the current
state of affairs. State and local governments have become a ghostly
semblance of what they were intended to be under the U.S.
Constitution. The military ought by degrees to be decentralized
and placed increasingly under control of the states in order to reduce
its potential to threaten Americans and the world at large. A general
reduction in arms, particularly with regard to nuclear weaponry, in
line with similar moves by other nations, is needed to reduce the
possibility that the military will turn its might in the direction of
the people it is intended to serve.
conduct of Pohl has revealed to the world the mindset of at least one
faction of the defense establishment. With the cooperation of more
level heads within the U.S. military, everyone must play a role
in taming the leviathan we call the nation's armed forces. We must
remember that America's military technology, in cooperation with the
nation's secretive intelligence agencies, is as easily directed at an
American city as toward innocent civilians in Gaza, who were only days
ago tragically mowed down in the thousands by the Israeli army courtesy
of American military hardware and advice.
The nation's armed forces may
pose a threat rivaling anything so-called "Islamic terrorists" are ever likely
to perpetrate. Late last year troops were reassigned from Iraq to
perform domestic duties that may include riot control, according to published reports.
In response to
recent developments, an attempt should be made by the nation's legislative bodies to restructure the defense establishment to prevent the possibility of a military takeover.
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