Classical Greece and Rome had a tradition of appointing a dictator during times of national emergency. After the crisis finished, the dictator would step down so that government could return to normal, usually to some form republic or oligarchy. Following this tradition, modern leaders frequently appeal to times of real or alleged 'crisis' to persuade the populace to entrust them with powers that would normally be distributed.
Just consider the following list of executive orders that Presidents have issued to cope with “emergency” situations:
- Executive Order #10995: Seizure of all communications media in the United States.
- Executive Order #10997: Seizure of all electric power fuels and minerals, public and private.
- Executive Order #10999: Seizure of all means of transportation, including personal cars, trucks or vehicles of any kind and total control of highways, seaports and waterways.
- Executive Order #11000: Seizure of all American people for work forces under federal supervision including the splitting of families if the government finds it necessary.
- Executive Order #11001: Seizure of all health, education and welfare facilities, public and private
- Executive Order #11002: Empowered the postmaster general to register all men, women and children in the U.S.
- Executive Order #11003: Seizure of all airports and aircraft.
- Executive Order #11004: Seizure of all housing and finance authorities to establish Forced Relocation Designated areas to be abandoned as "unsafe."
- Executive Order #11005: Seizure of all railroads, inland waterways and storage facilities, public and private.
- Executive Order #12919: Signs June 3, 1994, by President Clinton. Encompasses all the above executive orders.
Totalitarian creep should concern us all, but first we must stop thinking of totalitarianism solely in terms of things like steel fences and ID checkpoints. That is where totalitarianism end but it is not where it starts. Totalitarianism, at least in the modern west, has traditionally begun with leaders who are human enough to empathize with our needs and shrewd enough to fulfill those needs as soon as sufficient power is entrusted to them.
When totalitarianism does arrive, it arrives as the concomitant of a population that has been oriented to view the state as benefactor and protector, even as the great mother. (See my article Maternal Statecraft). Significantly, when Mussolini first coined the term “totalitarianism” it was not a pejorative slur, nor was it something connoting tyranny. Rather, he used the word to refer to a humane society in which everyone was taken care of and looked after by a state which encompassed all of life within its grasp. Totalitarians tap into a basic impulse of human psychology: the desire to be cared for, the desire to be looked after, and the willingness to surrender substantial liberties for the sake of percieved security.
Having issued those warnings about Obama, it is appropriate now that he is being inaugurated for a second term, to time to take stock and see how things stand. Has America experience the type of totalitarian creep that I warned about? Well, consider a few facts.
- By expanding George Bush’s “war on terror” to mainland United States (not to mention expanding it abroad), President Obama has introduced war-time conditions into America. But the “war on terror” is ubiquitous and can never be won since it is against an abstract foe, which by definition can never satisfy the conditions for surrender. The intrusion of this abstract fight into America herself means that all citizens become potential enemies, and no longer can they depend on their historic rights for protection. This is to invest the Executive Branch with a power undreamed of by the architects of the American nation.
- Obama’s proposed Cybersecurity executive order would re-route all Internet traffic through federal agencies, ostensibly to be on the look-out for terrorist groups. But let’s not forget that under Obama the Department of Homeland Security issued a report associating states’ rights activists and “those “dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion” with domestic terrorists. Is this really the type of administration we want spying on our internet activity?
- The Obama administration put mechanisms in place earlier this year which have been designed to create an infrastructure inimical to any criticism of Islam.
- Obama has attempted to bypass the supreme court, showing that he does not understand the division of powers that lies at the heart of the American system.
- On 16 march, 2012, President Obama signed into law Executive Order 13603, which makes provisions for establishing martial law in America during times of peace. Brandon Turbeville explains how this will allow “the President and his Secretaries have the authority to seize all transportation, energy, and infrastructure inside the United States as well as forcibly induct/draft American citizens into the military” and possible forced labor. (Click here to listen to a revealing radio show about the order, and visit William Anderson’s article ‘Executive Orders and the Decline of Law‘ for a good background about executive orders in general.)
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