Can the President Really Instruct the Military to Deploy to U.S. Cities?

Loosely defined laws and a military infected with systemic racism make this an unfortunate formula for escalation.

By David Icke Turner

We have truly entered Bizzaro World.

Monday night, President Donald Trump made threats to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 law and deploy active duty US military to police American cities. There are indeed narrow yet rapid paths to using the U.S. Armed forces to quell domestic insurrection. There are a few hurdles to enacting the law yet Trump would likely ‘circumnavigate’ these pesky details. Paradoxically, the Insurrection Act was originally written as a limit of executive power to use military forces not a rubber stamp for presidents to wield the armed forces as a personal hit squad. Coupled with Posse Comitatus, the original 1787 barring deployment of federal forces into American cities, any executive would need to bend the laws and exaggerate threats to achieve long term stationing of troops on U.S. soil.

Trump claims the move would be to stop the violence and riots emanating from peaceful protests after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis PD. The loosely affiliated set of activist groups and trust fund kids that make up Antifa are the current boogie-man giving impetus to these moves. 

The use of the Insurrection Act of 1807 is not unprecedented.  It was deployed in the 1950s to enforce desegregation and in the 1960s to quell riots in Detroit. The last time it was invoked was in 1992 during the Rodney King riots. Serendipitously, current Attorney General William Barr was acting attorney general back in 1992 as well — under President George H.W. Bush.

Trump threatened a teleconference of the nation’s governors to quell the riots or he would call in the military. Demanding “dominance”, the president seemed to be setting himself up for what might amount to a war at home.

“If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residence, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them” the President admonished. 

The Insurrection Act is an ambiguously written law which calls on State’s Governors to officially request military help from the federal government yet does not require it.  Approval by State legislatures is not required either. The president has a rather loose set of criteria to deploy soldiers if they feel ‘citizens rights are abridged.’ I am sure we can all see the irony in this. In 1981, the Office of Legal Counsel stated that the act may only be used when states exhaust their own resources.

Stephen Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor told CNN “Historically and practically, such a request is not necessarily a prerequisite to the President using regular federal troops for domestic law enforcement. “ 

The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act prescribes rigid parameters for any president using active duty troops to enforce laws or quell uprisings. However, Congress could waive the law yet a Congressional Democrat acquiescence to this request would be basically impossible. So ultimately, Trump would at the very least need to bend the laws if not break them. Or outright diarrhea on them. rumps declaration brings an endless amount of legal questions to the surface: What legal mechanism is there for State’s to end their occupation by federal forces? What is the legal standing for someone arrested by the military? Are they run through existing court systems or are they subject to military tribunals? What role does local law enforcement play in enforcing the law when the feds arrive? Most importantly, at what point does the president declare martial law if the protests continue?

How this would play with Trump’s far right base is an interesting set of ideas to unpack. Self-styled ‘patriots’ and 2nd amendment advocates have a long standing apprehension with federal troops supplanting local laws. The thought of federal troops coming to take their guns has been a long-standing fear of many on the far right. Posse Comitatus has been a cherished cornerstone of these people and local autonomy is sacred. Visions of Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Operation Jade Helm flicker in the minds of conservative protectionists when mention of federal troops policing their lands is mentioned.  That said, links between far right extremists groups and members of the U.S. military are well documented.

According to the International Center for Counter-Terrosrim in the Hague, “After the 1968 murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr; Ku Klux Klan members paraded on an American base in Vietnam. In 1995, members of the elite 82nd Airborne Division formed a clandestine neo-Nazi cell and in December that year two soldiers involved in that group murdered an African-American couple. In 2010, a Marine Corps sniper team in Afghanistan posed for pictures in front of a Nazi SS flag. In 2012, a member of the Missouri National Guard was arrested for providing weapons for and running a neo-Nazi paramilitary training camp in Florida. In the same year, two soldiers were arrested after murdering a former soldier and his girlfriend in an attempt to cover up their assassination plot against then-President Barack Obama.”

All of this urges many Americans to ask the question as to whether a deployment of U.S military forces to unrest on American soil brings more inherent, systemic-racism with it. Bloodshed between American citizens and its own military would be unprecedented.

Unless you consider our last civil war.


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