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He called for martial law


A guest opinion from Everett Wohlers, an Idahoan and long-time deputy in the state's secretary of state's office. It previously appeared in the blog Informed Comment.

On Tuesday, December 1, Michael Flynn, the beneficiary of President Trump’s recent pardon, published a manifesto calling on President Trump to suspend the Constitution and declare martial law so that the military could organize and run a new election for President to void the recent election which was lost by the President. The core of the manifesto called for the President to “immediately declare a limited form of martial law, and temporarily suspend the Constitution and civilian control of these federal elections, for the sole purpose of having the military oversee a national re-vote.” Flynn’s position was immediately amplified in print and electronic media by far-right groups such as We The People Coalition (WTPC).

It appears that the President was listening because on the day after Flynn’s manifesto and the related WTPC ad were released, his 46 minute Facebook rant included a call for a re-vote. While Flynn’s manifesto is ludicrous on its face because it amounts to incitement of a coup against the Constitution, the President has demonstrated in the weeks since he lost the election that he is becoming increasingly unhinged such that it is not inconceivable that he could take Flynn’s call-out seriously.

That begs the question of what would happen if President Trump were to actually adopt Flynn’s position and declare a suspension of the Constitution and attempt to impose martial law. Because of the President’s fragile mental state and desperation to overturn his loss of the election, this question needs to be considered so that we know what the range of outcomes would be and what to expect.

If the President were to decide to act on Flynn’s proposal, he would first issue an order to declare martial law, to suspend the Constitution, to declare the recent election void as to the office of President, and to order a new election. He would then have to give orders to the military leadership to implement martial law and to undertake organization and administration of the election. By decapitating the civilian leadership of the Pentagon in early November, including Secretary of Defense Esper and the leadership layer immediately below him, and replacing them with totally incompetent, but personally loyal, operatives, Trump has assured that he will get no pushback against such orders from the civilian level.

The same cannot be said of the military leadership, both at the Joint Chiefs level and at the level of operational commands. Military leaders and the Judge Advocate officers who support them tend to take their oath of appointment to “support and defend the Constitution” very seriously. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, is the leading case in point. In August of this year, in responding to questions from members of the House Armed Services Committee about how he would respond to an order from the President to use the military for political gain, he said forcefully, “I will not follow an unlawful order.”

More specifically with respect to the possibility of an order to have the military intervene in the electoral process, he said, “I foresee no role for the U.S. armed forces in this process.” At the levels of command below the Joint Chiefs, a commander who receives an order that is of questionable legality will automatically consult with his or her Judge Advocates, who will assess the legality of the order. If it is determined that the order is unlawful, the commander is obligated not to obey it. The question of whether President Trump’s order to implement martial law will be implemented by the military, then, comes down to whether it is determined by the military leadership, with the support of their Judge Advocates, to be lawful.

There are two possible ways in which the President could order the military to implement martial law. One might be called “martial law lite” because it is not true martial law, but rather the use of the armed forces as a “posse comitatus,” i.e. as a law enforcement body to carry out the President’s directives. The other is actual martial law, whereby civil authority is suspended and military authority is imposed in its place, i.e. the military takes control of all law enforcement and judiciary functions pursuant to a suspension of the Constitution and existing laws. The military leadership and their Judge Advocates would have to determine the lawfulness of whichever of these two forms they were ordered to implement, as follows:

– Posse comitatus – Federal law, specifically the Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U.S. Code Sec. 1385, prohibits the use of the armed forces as a posse comitatus, i.e. in civilian law enforcement, except as “expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress. . . .” There is nothing in the Constitution that authorizes use of the armed forces as a posse comitatus. The only statutory provision to which the President could potentially point for such authority is the Insurrection Act, 10 U.S. Code Sec. 252, which is supplemented by the provisions in 10 U.S. Code Sections 332 through 334. Sections 252 and 332 both provide that if the President finds “that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings,” he may call the National Guard of the state to active duty or use the active duty armed forces “to enforce those laws or to suppress the rebellion.” [Emphasis added.] The scope of the Insurrection Act is, then, limited to specific cases of unlawful actions or rebellion against federal authority. Further, it may be invoked only against actions within a state, not across the entirety of the United States. It is clear, then, that a Presidential order to suspend the Constitution for the purpose of holding a new election under military control, purportedly under the authority of the Insurrection Act, would not be lawful. First, there are no ongoing actions that could reasonably be deemed to be an “unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion. . . .” Second, there is no way that conducting a new election could be framed as a response to such actions, even if they existed. And third, such an order would apply to the entire country, not a state. Therefore, an order to the military based on the Insurrection Act would on its face be unlawful, and therefore would not be obeyed by the military.

– Martial law – The imposition of full-blown martial law whereby all of the existing law enforcement and judicial functions are displaced by military law and structures pursuant to suspension of the Constitution is nowhere permitted by the Constitution, so would be unlawful on its face. The only provision for suspension of any legal protection in the Constitution is the provision in Article I, Section 9, paragraph 2, which provides that, “. . . Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Note that this limited provision is in Article I, which governs the Legislative branch, so it is not available to the Executive branch. Flynn’s manifesto and the related WTPC ad cite President Lincoln’s invocation of martial law, which required the suspension of Habaus Corpus, as precedent supporting a President’s power to suspend the Constitution in its entirety and to impose martial law. Aside from the fact that Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus would in no way serve as precedent for wholesale suspension of the entire Constitution, as Flynn and WTPC suggest, Flynn and WTPC totally overlook the fact that the Supreme Court held Lincoln’s action to be unconstitutional in the case of ex parte Milligan (71 US 2 [1866]). The Court in Milligan closely limited the circumstances in which martial law is permissible in saying, “If, in foreign invasion or civil war, the courts are actually closed, and it is impossible to administer criminal justice according to law, then, on the theatre of active military operations, where war really prevails, there is a necessity to furnish a substitute for the civil authority. . . .” The Court went on to say, “Martial rule can never exist where the courts are open, and in the proper and unobstructed exercise of their jurisdiction. It is also confined to the locality of actual war.” There is no “actual war” going on inside the United States, nor are the civilian courts “actually closed.” It could not be clearer that imposition of martial law under a suspension of the Constitution is absolutely impermissible, and any order given by the President in such case is on its face unlawful. Such an order would not, therefore, be obeyed by the military.

The conclusion is that the military, from GEN Milley down through the operational commands, would not obey an order to enforce martial law and to administer a new election. The question remains as to what would follow the military’s refusal. The simplest answer is that nothing would have to happen – civil authority would go on until the problem is resolved on January 20 when Donald Trump leaves the White House, either voluntarily or kicking and screaming at the hands of the Secret Service under the direction of President Biden. But it is likely that there would also be litigation that could reach the Supreme Court on an expedited basis, which should change nothing – not even the Republican-packed Court could find a way to make President Trump’s action lawful.

There is a question whether such an action by the President, as well as the contributing actions of Flynn, WTPC and others who advocated for the action, could be charged under 18 U.S. Code Sec. 2385, which makes it a crime to advocate overthrow of the government. But that can be addressed at a later time, if it becomes ripe.

In closing, I will add a comment that is personal to me as a retired military officer. Michael Flynn is a retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General. When he was commissioned many years ago, he swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; [and to] bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” That oath does not lapse. His call to suspend that Constitution, to forcibly implement martial law, and to conduct an election in violation of the Constitution, stains the uniform which all of us who are or were members of the armed forces wore. Even if he never faces legal consequences for his blatant violation of his sacred oath, he will forever bear the shame of it.

Moo … moo … that strange noise …


This is a guest opinion from Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He is the author of two new books on Southern Idaho, "Tradition & Progress: Southern Idaho’s Growth Since 1990.” and “Spirit of Place: Southern Idaho Values Across Generations.” He can be reached at

Don’t have a fit, Idahoans. Oregon counties aren’t going to join Idaho any time soon. And keep in mind, we don’t have to take ‘em. So don’t worry about being overrun with ANTIFAs or BLM rioters from Portland, or tree-huggers from Eugene or identity-correct politicos from Salem.

Still, the voters in two Oregon counties last week said they are at least open to a discussion about joining Idaho.

One is Union County, of which La Grande is the county seat. It’s just one county West of the Oregon-Idaho border. Jefferson County, north of Bend, is further away from Idaho. Two other counties, Wallowa and Douglas, turned down similar proposals, but the margins weren’t great. (Oregonian, 11/4). Wallowa County’s vote was just under 50 percent.

Both counties approving the “Join Idaho” debate are rural. Union County has about 27,000 population, half of which is in La Grande, where Eastern Oregon University is located. Jefferson County, (pop. 25,000 est.) is in the central part of the state, with Madras the county seat. As with the others, its economy is heavily reliant on agricultural, although its proximity to nearby Bend has brought in more recreation and tourism.

Both counties are heavily Republican. On Nov. 3, Donald Trump won 60 percent in Jefferson County, and 69 percent in Union County. (Oregon Sec. of State, 2020.) Both counties are also on the “Eastern” side of the state, which leaves them disadvantaged on many points of Oregon liberal/Democratic politics, but more in tune with Idaho’s. That appears to be at least one consideration in the “Join Idaho” vote.

But before we welcome them, it’s still a long shot, with lots of considerations ahead. The Oregon “Join Idaho” group is planning its petition drive in 11 additional counties for 2021. These pulse-takings advisory votes are good as they’ll show whether the idea has any legs politically.

Were they to pass at the county level, subsequent formal efforts in both states’ legislatures would be needed, as well as in the US Congress. Republicans seem most likely in favor, in this era of contested presidential elections. Democrats, not so much.

The last time a state separated was in1863 during the Civil War when North-leaning West Virginia left tidewater, pro-South Virginia, which had already joined the Confederacy.

Then there’s the question as to what a newly-configured “Greater Idaho” would look like. The “Join Idaho” group envisions a large swath of Eastern and Southern Oregon to join Idaho, which would add some ocean-front counties and communities like Coos Bay, but avoids the Portland area, Eugene and Salem. The proposed maps show 22 Oregon Counties which constitute a good deal of the state’s agricultural and forest lands. The total population would be at least several hundred thousand new “Idaho” residents.

That, in turn, would affect Idaho’s current governmental structure, plus a wide range of Idaho state services, including funding, educational institutions. on and on. For example, would Eastern Oregon University become Idaho’s fifth four-year public university, and what’s the impact on Idaho universities, such as Idaho State University in Pocatello? Idaho isn’t exactly flush with cash for higher education; adding more institutions won’t likely be met with universal approval.

The same question could be asked of the Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario, which already has an outreach center in Caldwell. How would TVCC be integrated into Idaho’s community college system, which includes the College of Southern Idaho?

And those are the easy questions. What about state public lands, federally-managed BLM land and national forests? Or taxes? Idaho is generally more conservative, more prudent on spending and generally more so on social issues.

At least the good folks in Union and Jefferson Counties have seen cows before.

A recent survey found a third of young people across America (33%) had never seen a cow. Think about that. Never seen a cow? One-third of young people in the country have never seen one. They must be talking about Portlandians. (Fox, 11/7).

An appreciation of rural America is a prevalent feature in the two counties. That’s surely a plus. and that’s what behind the “Join Idaho” movement. That’s led to public discussion of an idea that isn’t as bizarre as it may have once sounded.

America is changing in many ways and polarization across the nation is evident in many aspects of life. Urban folks often don’t know much about life in rural America. But at least Idaho young people can identify creatures which go Mooo…mooo.

Crimes against humanity


A guest opinion from Everett Wohlers, an Idahoan and long-time deputy in the state's secretary of state's office.

As a retired military lawyer, I have a decent familiarity with international humanitarian law. When I saw the reports beginning in 2017, first of the forced separation of children from parents on our southern border, with no prospect of near-term reunification, and more recently of the forcible sterilization and unnecessary forcible internal examinations of detained immigrant women, my reaction to both was to think that these actions constituted “crimes against humanity” as defined in international law. I have recently reviewed the relevant international law, of which the most concise and current version is compiled in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. While the US is not a state party to the treaty under which the Rome Statute was adopted, the Statute’s standards reflect consensus international law created over the past century, so they are at least informative as to what all countries should observe.

Even though the United States is not a state party to the treaty, there is a unique connection of the Rome Statute’s standards to American conduct. The Rome Statute’s Article 7, which is the provision that addresses crimes against humanity, is directly descended from Article 6 of the Nuremberg Charter, which was the framework that governed the Nuremberg Tribunal. The principal architect of the Charter was Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, who was at the time acting in his role as the lead American prosecutor for the Tribunal. In essence, then, the law governing crimes against humanity comes from an American source of highest repute.

The Rome Statute’s Article 7, paragraph 1, says that “’crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population. . . ,” which paragraph 1 elaborates as meaning “a course of conduct involving the multiple commission of acts referred to in paragraph 1 against any civilian population, pursuant to or in furtherance of a State or organizational policy. . . .” The relevant listed acts under paragraph 1 include items:

    (e) Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law;
    (f) Torture (which paragraph 2 elaborates as “the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, upon a person in the custody or under the control of the accused”);
    (h) Persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender as defined in paragraph 3, or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law (which paragraph 2 elaborates as “the intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group or collectivity”); and
    (k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.

The children who were forcibly separated from their parents were held in literal cages, forced to sleep on concrete floors with only foil blankets for comfort. They had no social or emotional support, inflicting grave mental trauma on them. Hundreds of them have now been held in such conditions for over three years, with no prospect of being reunited with their families. Such conditions appear to fall within the provisions of all four of the items listed above. That is, the children were deprived of their physical liberty without due process per item (e), suffered intentional mental (and perhaps physical) suffering per item (f), were intentionally deprived of their fundamental rights (i.e. to be cared for by their parents) by reason of their group identity (i.e. Latin immigrants), and endured great suffering and serious injury to their mental health per item (k).

The women who were forcibly sterilized or forced to undergo invasive and unnecessary internal exams clearly were subject to torture per item (f), persecution per item (h) and inhumane acts that caused them great suffering due to both serious physical injury to their bodies and damage to their mental and physical health per item (k). Depending on the length and conditions of their detention, they may also have been deprived of their physical liberty per item (f).

While the refusal of the United States to become a state party to the treaty adopting the Rome Statute may give President Trump and his minions impunity for these crimes against humanity, they are no less guilty. That these crimes were committed in the name of the United States government taints us Americans with collective shame and dishonors the legacy of Justice Jackson, who was America’s greatest moral authority on international humanitarian law. Our country should be much better than that, and we must ensure that the perpetrators of these crimes are removed from power.

Trump’s mendacity


A guest opinion by Gregory A. Raymond, Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Emeritus at Boise State University, where he held the Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs.

Dishonesty is one of the distinguishing features of the Trump presidency. The Washington Post has recorded over 20 thousand false and misleading claims that President Donald J. Trump has made during his first three-and one-half years in office, meticulously recording the frequency, range, and scale of his fabrications and half-truths. Some of Trump’s claims have been petty; others have been egregious; and still others, cruel. But regardless of how provocative they were, he rarely supported them with evidence. His defense was simply to spew out more bombast.

What explains this shameless behavior? Trump’s mendacity is bewildering to many Americans, particularly since the nation’s civic culture celebrates a Founder who purportedly refused to lie.

Pundits generally attribute Trump’s dishonesty to a rhetorical strategy based on deception. It’s a strategy so deeply rooted in the human experience that it defines some of literature’s most memorable characters. In Sophocles’ Philoctetes, for example, Odysseus, the legendary warrior-king of ancient Ithaca, proclaims that “words, not deeds, rule over men in everything.” Artful words, he explains, facilitate deception. They enable the cunning to shape themselves to suit the moment’s needs and dupe others whenever it is beneficial. “When one stands to gain,” he insists, “scruples are out of place.”

On the face of it, winning over listeners through any means—fair or foul—seems to account for Trump’s rhetoric. He regularly uses intentionally false and misleading statements to shift attention away from sensitive topics, duck responsibility for policy failures, and burnish his public image. What is more, he stonewalls and equivocates to mask these lies, as shown by his paltering about journalist Bob Woodward’s audio recording of him admitting that he deliberately downplayed the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) when he knew of its dangers.

Not only has Trump been able to dissemble with impunity, but his lying frequently works. According to a large body of psychological research, most people expect others to be truthful and are bad at detecting lies. Moreover, even after falsehoods are discredited, people tend to dismiss corrective information if the falsehoods are consistent with other things that they believe, and if they think that members of a salient reference group believe in them as well. Rather than reject erroneous beliefs, people often go so far as to imagine circumstances where a trumped-up story could have been true. Owing to these behavior patterns, dishonesty gives liars a significant advantage over principled individuals whenever they interact, which enables them to manipulate those individuals and gain benefits that might not be obtainable if both parties were sincere and transparent.

Because the liar’s advantage is a central element in the president’s rhetorical strategy, he bristles if someone calls attention to his prevarications. When fact-checked during press briefings by reporters Weijia Jiang (May 11, 2020), Kaitlan Collins (July 28), and Paula Reid (August 8), Trump abruptly terminated the meetings rather than defend his assertions. Likewise, when asked by S.V. Dáte (August 13) if he had any regrets for all of the brazen lying that he had done, he refused to respond. With numerous books and news reports exposing his duplicity, it is understandable that in an August 28-September 1, 2020 CNN poll only 36 percent of the respondents believed that Trump was honest and trustworthy.

Even his sister, retired federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry, has asserted that “you cannot trust him,” an opinion echoed by such diverse observers as Michael Cohen, his former personal attorney, and by Miles Taylor, a former chief of staff for the Department of Homeland Security.

Trump’s anger at mainstream print, broadcast, and online media is not surprising. Reporters who bring his disingenuousness to light undermine his ability to deceive. Still, a puzzle remains: Why does Trump continue to lie when he knows that the majority of his audience knows that he is lying?

One plausible answer is that his rhetorical strategy entails more than persuasion. In addition to making false and misleading statements to distract, deflect, and delude, there is another, less appreciated facet of Trump’s strategy—domination. Whereas he lies to bolster his support among ardent followers, his aim is different when speaking to those he cannot convert. Here he lies not to convince, but to control; not to entice, but to taunt. Implicit in his con is a boast: “I realize you know that I am lying, but I am powerful enough to do it anyway, despite your objections.” It is a form of bullying, writer-activist Masha Gessen notes, that characterizes many authoritarian leaders.

Flooding the civic arena with wild, sensational claims is a way that Trump flaunts his power. His relentless barrage of fictions, spurious accusations, and fallacious conspiracy theories attracts attention, which allows him to insert himself into people’s everyday lives, regardless of whether or not they believe his allegations. Debunking the confusing jumble of distortions that he propagates is mentally exhausting, like trying to unscramble the contorted images in a house of mirrors. Trump’s swarm of fraudulent claims can overwhelm the most indefatigable fact checkers, bogging down their efforts to hold him accountable for his wayward behavior. As his verbal onslaught obscures the boundary between reality and illusion, desensitizing people to the line between truth and fantasy, it is easy to grow cynical about politics and become resigned to living public life as a passive subject rather than as an active participant.

In short, jackboots and brownshirts are not the only tools for enervating civic engagement. Unremitting mendacity can also beget political acquiescence. By wearing citizens down, it offers a cheap, surreptitious way to demoralize opponents and discourage their involvement in public affairs. Over time, the torrent of lies erodes trust in democratic institutions and practices, which can lead all but the most fervent partisans to withdraw from civil society and seek solace in the quiet joys of private life.

Lying is pervasive among human beings, though most people do it for relatively harmless reasons, such as being polite in uncomfortable social situations. Donald Trump’s mendacity is more egregious and consequential.

While it may be tempting to believe that his outlandish claims are merely intended to shock and should not be should not be taken literally, the sheer volume of false and misleading statements suggests otherwise. Trump’s interminable lies represent more than simple waggishness. They are the leading edge of autocracy.

Militarization in policing


A guest opinion fronm M. Reza Behnam.

Racial injustice, inequality and violence are as American as apple pie. The country is beginning to reckon with its history of anti-Black violence and the role law enforcement has played in maintaining the current social, political and economic system.

Racism and police violence at home are inseparably linked to the violence the United States has waged abroad in service of its self-declared role as policeman of the world. And like the nation, American policing has grown ever more militaristic.

American law enforcement emerged out of 18th century slave patrols in the South. White volunteers, empowered to protect the interests of slave owners, used vigilante tactics to control the enslaved population.

Police departments multiplied in southern states after the Civil War (1861-65) to reinforce white supremacy. Many of the terror tactics used by the Ku Klux Klan and other vigilante groups during Reconstruction (1865-1877) paralleled those used by slave patrols.

Jim Crow laws, enacted between 1877 and the 1960s, were enforced by the police. These laws, legalizing racial segregation, firmly embedded America’s racial caste system.

During the 1950s, to raise awareness of police violence, a civil rights organization presented a petition to the United Nations in 1951 entitled, “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People.” The petition averred: “Once the classic method of lynching was the rope. Now it is the policeman’s bullet….We submit that the evidence suggests that the killing of Negroes has become police policy in the United States and that police policy is the most practical expression of government policy.”

Police culture became increasingly militarized as urban uprisings and anti-Vietnam war protests surged in the 1960s. It accelerated during the Nixon administration, as did the law-and-order rhetoric used routinely by President Trump.

President Ronald Reagan (1981-89) employed tough-on-crime rhetoric to gain support for his war on drugs and war on the welfare state. Local police departments began receiving training from the military and SWAT teams increased dramatically.

The “tough on crime” era of the 1980s and 1990s, with its war on drugs, draconian sentencing laws and harsh law enforcement tactics led subsequently to the United States becoming the world’s leader in incarceration.

A compelling example of police violence carried out in Black communities took place in Chicago between 1972 and 1991. During those years, police officers, at a Chicago station, systematically tortured over 100 Black men. Although the brutality was an open secret among Chicago police, prosecutors and elected officials, nothing was done until the atrocities were finally exposed by local newspapers beginning in 1990.

Today, in most poor and minority neighborhoods, police officers act more like an occupying army, patrolling with an “us against them” warrior mentality. Police using “no knock” warrants, kicking in doors during suspected drug raids, are all too reminiscent of U.S. soldiers barging into the homes of frightened Afghans and Iraqis.

Once referred to as peace officers with uniforms to match, police are now suited up like battle-ready soldiers. The use of military equipment has created a condition in which officers see residents as dangerous enemy combatants to be subdued.

Since 1997, the Department of Defense has dispersed over $6 billion of surplus equipment, weapons and armored vehicles, at no cost and without training, to 8,000 law enforcement agencies under the 1033 provision of the National Defense Authorization Act.

Since 9/11, police departments can now purchase new military equipment, using anti-terrorism grants provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The militarization of policing is reflected in their training. Federal, state and local officers, including ICE agents, have traveled to such controversial places as Israel to be instructed by the Israeli army and police. Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department have condemned Israeli forces for their human rights violations against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and for their use of excessive force against peaceful protestors.

Weapons used by the U.S. military against people in the Middle East and elsewhere are now the “less lethal” arsenal being employed against Americans.

Federal officers have used tear gas against protestors in 100 different U.S. cities since the public murder in May of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

Demonstrators are seeing firsthand what happens when militarization is brought home. In June, the Trump administration turned the area around the White House into a war zone to disperse peaceful protestors.

To dramatize his law and order offensive, Trump issued an executive order marshaling federal forces to protect Confederate monuments and statues.
Subsequently, the DHS sent Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers and other federal agents to Portland, Oregon.

With 20,000 agents, the CBP—which views itself as a militarized force—boasts of being “one of the world’s largest law enforcement organizations.”

Among the CBP agents sent to Portland was an elite special operations tactical unit—equivalent to the Navy Seals—known as Bortac, that has served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bortac agents are trained for SWAT-style raids and have faced criticism for their culture of cruelty toward migrants.

Trump threatened to send troops to other cities, all with large Black populations.

When repressive regimes are toppled, the first statues to be felled are those erected by and for those regime’s dictators. Across America and the world, monuments to racists and imperialists have been defaced or razed, while the culture of violence and militarism endures.

America is reckoning today with what abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, understood in 1852: “The feelings of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy must be exposed….”

There is growing awareness that the institutions and belief systems designed to support and sustain racism, violence and militarism will not be felled as easily as the statues.

M. Reza Behnam, Ph.D., is a cultural political scientist whose specialties include American foreign policy and the history, politics and governments of the Middle East.



From a letter sent on July 17 by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security:

The Honorable William Barr, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice
The Honorable Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

Attorney General Barr and Acting Secretary Wolf:

We write today to express our alarm about the authoritarian tactics employed in the streets of Portland by the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security.

These tactics include deploying federal agents without identifying insignia in an apparent effort to evade transparency and accountability, snatching people off the street with no apparent reason for apprehension, and using potentially deadly munitions to harm peaceful protesters. These actions are out of control. They are more reflective of tactics of a government led by a dictator, not from the government of our constitutional democratic republic.

Not only must these egregious tactics end immediately, we demand that you remove these federal paramilitary forces from our state. The country has watched recent videos of agents wearing camouflage and body armor, without insignia or other identification, apparently from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Tactical Unit (BORTAC), apprehending civilians by putting them into unmarked cars. Furthermore, the fact that neither the public, nor local leaders, nor federal representatives for the people of Oregon know who these agents are despite direct inquiries from us and others speaks to the intentional obfuscation of their roles. Federal agents deployed in American cities must wear identifying insignia for public accountability of these grievous acts.

These actions are chillingly reminiscent of autocratic governments that “disappear” critics and opponents. Federal agents only have the authority to make arrests if they have probable cause that a person has violated a federal law. In at least some of these instances, these anonymous law enforcement officers appear to be indiscriminately arresting anyone in downtown Portland who they perceive to be associated with protests, searching them, and then releasing or charging them depending on what they find. Proximity and dress do not constitute probable cause.

We appreciate the responsibility to protect federal personnel and property, but these tactics, coupled with the violent nature of the federal agents’ crowd control tactics resulting in a peaceful demonstrator being shot in the face on July 11, 2020 by a member of the U.S Marshals Service Special Operating Group (SOG), seem calculated to provoke further conflict, a conclusion reinforced by the President’s efforts to make a political issue out of developments in Portland. The message crafted by the Trump administration to justify this escalation of force and intimidation in Portland borders on propaganda, apparently to serve the President’s perceived political interests. This is unacceptable under our Constitution. There are undoubtedly dangerous acts being committed by a small number of individuals. Yet a Department of Homeland Security press release refers to “violent anarchists” 72 times while describing graffiti. Meanwhile, the President’s re-election campaign is running ads warning of “lawlessness” and “radical left-wing mobs.”

The American people deserve to know who is giving orders for the disappearance-style arrests or detentions, as well as who has operational command and what the rules of engagement are for federal officers operating in Portland. We live in a democratic republic, not an authoritarian police state and we cannot allow our cities to become occupied zones. The President is working hard to portray himself as a “law and order” figure, but only seems interested in the “order” part of that phrase. You and your agencies work for the people of Oregon and other Americans and you are answerable to them.

These actions represent a complete abuse of power, and we demand that you remove any SOG, BORTAC, Homeland Security Investigations Special Response Team (HSI SRT) agents or other federal agents recently deployed to Oregon immediately. Some of us have already written to you requesting information about your training, tactics, and chain of command, and we reiterate our requests for you to provide that information immediately. We will not tolerate the use of Oregonians as props in President Trump’s campaign-motivated abuse of power.

The meaning of ‘treason’


A guest opinion from Everett Wohlers from Idaho.

We have heard about the story first reported in the New York Times that the Russian GRU offered bounties to the Afghan Taliban for the killing of US servicemen, and that the US intelligence services briefed President Trump in March of this year. The NYT reports that information on the bounty offer was briefed “to the highest levels of the White House” in January.

The matter was discussed by the National Security Council at a White House meeting in March, and a matter of such importance would have been reported to the President. The NYT had personal knowledge that information about the GRU operation was included in at least one President’s Daily Brief (PDB). We have since learned that the intelligence services first alerted the White House to the bounty scheme in early 2019 and that it was included in a PDB at that time. Further, intelligence professionals around John Bolton at that time have reported that Bolton verbally informed Trump of the report.

Since the NYT story broke, Trump has repeatedly denied that he knew anything about the Russian scheme. But, based on the number of times that the matter came to the White House’s attention, Trump’s denial that he knew of reports of the Russian bounty offers is just not plausible. To bolster Trump’s denial, Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Daniel Ratcliffe issued a statement saying that Trump had not been briefed. However, Ratcliffe did not take the DNI job until May 26, so he had no personal knowledge of facts that occurred in March and therefore had no basis for his statement.

The bottom line is that Trump knew of the GRU program to pay bounties for American deaths. Not only did he not take action against Russia, Trump engaged in a series of pro-Russian actions. In April, Trump joined Russian President Putin in a joint statement about trust between the US and Russia. Trump phoned Putin five or six times between March and June of this year.

Following a call on June 1 that was described in favorable terms by Trump, he publicly advocated for the re-admission of Russia to the G-7 and having Putin attend the G-7 meeting Trump was planning to host at Camp David in June.

More importantly, just a few days after the June 1 call, and with no notice to NATO allies nor even to Defense Department leadership, Trump announced that the US would withdraw a third of its forces from Germany, something about which Putin has dreamt for years. One day later, Putin announced that Russia would be deploying more troops to Russia’s western region, facing NATO. The combined effect of those actions will be a shift in the balance of power in Russia’s favor. Needless to say, Germany and the other NATO powers were furious at the perceived betrayal by the US.

As an American, and particularly as a war veteran, I am beyond outrage at a Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces who knew of a campaign by a hostile foreign power to pay for the assassination of American service members, and not only failed to take action against that foreign power, but actively befriended its leader and gave that hostile power two huge strategic gifts – the unilateral withdrawal of a third of US forces in Germany that serve as a deterrent against Russian aggression, and advocating for Russia’s readmission to the G-7. Trump’s betrayal of the troops of which he is the supreme commander and his betrayal of our NATO allies are beyond shameful.

The term “treason” is often misused, frequently by Trump himself, but it seems in this case to be appropriate. Article III, section 3.1 of the Constitution says, “Treason against the United States, shall consist . . . in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” I contend (1) that the GRU’s offer of bounties established Russia as an “enemy,” insofar as it was intended to kill American troops, and (2) that Trump’s failure to respond appropriately, his subsequent public embrace of Russia’s leader, his withdrawal of US forces from Germany immediately after the call with Putin, and his advocacy for Russia’s re-admission to the G-7 would constitute “Aid and Comfort.” The Constitution’s remedy for treason, in Article II, Section 4, is removal from office.

Everett Wohlers is a lawyer who served as a Republican appointee in Idaho state government for over 21 years. He is a Vietnam war vet, and later served in the National Guard for over 20 years. He is now a consultant to the World Bank Group, and has spent substantial time in both Russia and Afghanistan.

At risk

This is an essay from Everett Wohlers, who was a staffer in the Idaho Secretary of State’s office from 1976 to 1998.

Over the past two weeks, following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, we have seen mass protests arise all over the country, and indeed even in other countries. While there have been notable cases in which opportunists have used the protests as cover to engage in violent rioting and looting, the vast majority of the protests have been principled and peaceful.

The responses of the Trump administration and some municipal police forces have been far from what should be expected in a country whose Constitution guarantees its citizens the rights of freedom of expression and peaceable assembly. The most egregious case, of course, was the use of military forces, at the order of Attorney General William Barr, to attack the peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square with tear gas, concussion grenades and direct physical assault.

In the days since, we have seen graphic displays of physical violence by a number of municipal police forces against peaceful gatherings of protesters, including violent tackling, beating with batons, forceful and injurious knocking of people to the ground, tasing, pepper spraying and shooting with “less than lethal” munitions, in some cases causing serious and permanent injury.

As I contemplated those horrible cases of abuse and violation of the Constitutional rights of Americans, I thought of my last personal experience with a peaceful protest against a government.

I was working on a World Bank Group project with the government of Jordan in Amman. One day, when I arrived at the building of the government agency with which I was working, I found that it was the target of a mass protest by Jordanian citizens. The crowd was chanting and yelling, with signs waving, but all without violence. The Jordanian police were there, but they stood off to the side, chatting among themselves, making no moves or threats toward the protesters. In retrospect, the behavior of the protesters was very much the same as that of the protesters in Lafayette Square and in the cities around the US in recent days, and the conduct of the police was respectful of the protesters’ right to protest.

Reflecting on my experience in Amman, and comparing it with the actions of the troops in Lafayette Square and the municipal police departments, I wondered how it could be that the country that we like to characterize as the world’s greatest democracy has a violent, repressive reaction to peaceful protest, whereas a small Arab monarchy behaves as we should expect of our government with regard to our First Amendment rights of free expression and peaceable assembly. My conclusion is that our rights and our system of government are at serious risk, and we must act to preserve them.