Bush with Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff inside U.S. Northern Command at Peterson Air
Force Base. White House photo
There are indications that the Bush Administration is preparing to
enact far-reaching emergency procedures in response to Hurricane Rita, which
could potentially lead the country into a situation of Martial Law.
Following his visit to Texas on September 23, President Bush traveled
together with DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to The Peterson Air Force Base,
at the headquarters of US Northern Command in Colorado Springs.
He spent the night of September 23 at Colorado Springs and was at US NorthCom
headquarters on the morning of the 24th of September, when Hurricane Rita hits
the Texas-Louisiana coastline.
Headed by Navy Admiral Timothy Keating, US NorthCom is slated to play
a central role in emergency operations. A Joint Task Force Rita has been created
under the jurisdiction of NorthCom. Operating out of Austin, Texas, the "standing
joint force heaquarters" in Texas is under the command of Army Lt. Gen.
Robert Clark. ( http://www.dod.mil/news/Sep2005/20050923_2830.html.
Lt. Gen Robert Clark is in permanent liason with Admiral Keating at
Created in 2002, NorthCom oversees the land, sea and air defense not
only the US but of the entire North American continent, including Mexico and
In the wake of 9/11, its mandate directly responds and relates to the
"threat of terrorist attacks": its stated objective is to "defend
The presence of the President and Commander in Chief at US Northern
Command Headquarters is of crucial significance. The federal emergency procedures
are being coordinated out of a military base, rather than from the White House,
in liaison with the various departments and agencies of the (civilian) federal
government in Washington, D.C.
The purpose of the Commander in Chief's visit to US NorthCom was not
revealed. At a Press conference prior to his departure for Colorado
Springs, Bush told reporters that there was no particular reason for his trip
to the Peterson Air Force Base:
"'[ I will be ] staying out of the way of the folks at NORTHCOM. See,
NORTHCOM is the main entity that interfaces, that uses federal assets, federal
troops to interface with local and state government. I just want to sit back
and watch them run the show.'... 'I heard that things get pretty boring at Cheyenne
Mountain [NORTHCOM Command Center] in 'the calm before the storm,'" Bush
said. 'So I'm going to bring my guitar to help the troops pass the time. I just
learned "When the Levee Breaks" and I'm hoping one of the guys or
gals on night shift plays harmonica..'. 'NorthCom is the main entity that interfaces
that, uses federal assets, federal troops to interface with federal and state
government. I want to watch that relationship'"
Media reports, quoting official statements, have failed to address
the implications of President Bush's presence at US NorthCom, where high level
meetings are being held:
"Bush 'will monitor the storm and initial response Friday night and
Saturday morning from the military's Northern Command headquarters in Colorado.
He suggested much of the indecisiveness that impeded the Katrina response at
all levels of government have been addressed.'" (Frontrunner, 23 Sept 2005)
"A spokesman says his Colorado Springs visit will 'give him a better
grasp of federal preparations for the storm'".
"This will give him a first-hand look at the Northern Command and
how the military is assisting in federal government response efforts to Hurricane
The Militarisation of Disaster Relief
The response to the national disaster is not being coordinated by the
civilian government out of Texas, but from a remote location and in accordance
with military criteria. US Northern Command Headquarters will directly control
the movement of military personnel and hardware in the Gulf of Mexico. As in
the case of Katrina, it will override the actions of civilian bodies. Yet in
this case, the entire operation is under the jurisdiction of the military rather
than that of the FEMA.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had ordered NorthCom and "the
myriad forces" under its jurisdiction "to assist the Federal Emergency
Management Agency and homeland security". On the 21st of September,
a major deployment of military personnel and hardware was ordered in anticipation
of the disaster. Troops have been deployed on the eastern Texas coastline:
"Amphibious vessels carrying 1000 Marines and equipment were taking
up position in the Gulf of Mexico, ready to move in the moment the storm has
passed through. More than 5000 Texas National Guardsmen were also on emergency
There is no indication, from official or media sources of Secretary Rumsfeld
role in the emergency planning out of Peterson Air Force base. According
to the DoD Secretary of Defense Rumsfled and Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense
Gordon England "have no public or media events on their schedules"
from the 22nd to the 24th of September.
The emergency procedures will be closely coordinated by US Northern Command
out of the Peterson Air Force Base, together with Homeland Security, which oversees
FEMA. As mnetioned earlier, DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff is also at Northern
Command together with President Bush and other senior officials, whose names
have been disclosed..
What is unfolding is a national rather than a regional emergency scenario,
under the control of Northern Command. Moreover, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina,
a total of 42 states and Washington, D.C. have enacted emergency procedures,
even though they were not directly affected.
Northern Command would, as part of its mandate in the case of a national emergency,
oversee a number of civilian functions:
In addition to defending the nation, U.S. Northern Command provides defense
support of civil authorities in accordance with U.S. laws and as directed by
the President or Secretary of Defense. Military assistance is always in support
of a lead federal agency, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Military civil support includes domestic disaster relief operations that
occur during fires, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. Support also includes
counter-drug operations and consequence management assistance, such as would
occur after a terrorist event employing a weapon of mass destruction.
Generally, an emergency must exceed the management capabilities of local,
state and federal agencies before U.S. Northern Command becomes involved. In
providing civil support, the command operates through subordinate Joint Task
Forces. (See US Northcom website at http://www.northcom.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=s.who_civil
President Bush had stated barely a week ago, that "the Government
and the US military needed broader authority to help handle major domestic crises
such as hurricanes."
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff subsequently classified
Hurricane Rita as an "incident of national significance," which justifies
the activation of a so-called "National Response Plan"(NRP).
The latter is characterized by a comprehensive framework. The period of time
during which the NRP would be in operation would extend far beyond the emergency
period in the disaster area. In all likelihood, the NRP would modify the functions
of civilian government:
The National Response Plan (NRP) is effective upon issuance with a phased
implementation process during the first year. During the first 120 days of this
implementation process, the Initial NRP (INRP), Federal Response Plan (FRP),
U.S. Government Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan (CONPLAN), and
Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan (FRERP) remain in effect. (For
further details, consult the complete document at http://www.dhs.gov/interweb/assetlibrary/NRPbaseplan.pdf
The entire Homeland Security construct is based on the "Global
War on Terrorism" (GWOT). The underlying procedures are not intended
to deal with natural disasters. In this context, the national disaster could
provide a justification for a greater role of the Military in civilian affairs,
exerted through Northern Command. This role would extend beyond the implementation
of relief efforts in the Gulf of Mexico.
The NRP involves concrete provisions which describe the role of the Military
in the case of a national emergency. Under the Defense Support of Civil Authorities
(DSCA), the Military could assist civilian bodies in law enforcement activities,
thereby leading to the derogation of the Posse Comitatus Act.
Although the preliminary reports are incomplete, the civilian response capabilities
seem to exhibit serious shortcomings, as some 2 million people flee Southern
Texas and Louisiana including the Houston Metropolitan area, which has a population
of some 4.7 million people.
We are not, however, dealing with a situation of political inertia, Quite the
opposite. The military has taken control of the emergency procedures.
The scale of military involvement is far greater than that observed in the
case of hurricane Katrina.
"Northcom had six naval ships and twenty-six helicopters on standby
to assist the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with damage assessment,
search and rescue and medical evacuation. Military communications teams were
ready to assist with satellite telephones and radios. Officials predicted that
Hurricane Rita would destroy almost 5,700 homes in Texas and cause $ 8.2 billion
of damage." (London Times, 24 September 2005)
Northern Command, rather than the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
is already slated to play a central role in overseeing the emergency operation,
namely the military will intervene directly in civilian affairs under procedures
which have already been carefully laid out in a number of official documents.
President Bush is the Commander in Chief and what is unfolding at the
Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs is the planning behind closed doors
of a major military operation on US soil.
Moreover, this operation is being launched on the same day as major
antiwar demonstrations across America.