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October 01, 2005

Against the Posse Comitatus Act

In the wake of the Katrina debacle, Bush has called for revising the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act to allow the US military more latitude to take action within the United States. Many progressives are horrified at the idea, but my basic reaction is good riddance to one of the most racist laws in American history.

Posse Comitatus was passed in the wake of the collapse of Reconstruction in order to prevent the federal government from challenging southern states oppression of their black population. It was a license to the Klu Klux Klan and related organizations to murder and lynch at will, knowing that the federal government would be hamstrung in its ability to stop them.

In fact, when President Eisenhower sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas to protect the children being integrated into the schools from white rioters, racist politicians condemned his actions as violating the Posse Comitatus law: The Georgia State Assembly actually passed this resolution invoking the Posse Comitatus Act in censuring the President.

No one wants the miltiary used in casual police work, but without military involvement, we have 2 million people in jail across the United States. It is ridiculous to think that all that stands between our country and the police state is the Posse Comitatus Act.

Of course there are functional limits of any use of the military within the United States. But prohibiting use of the US military as a principle, when state-controlled militias can be deployed at will, is just part of the residual racist "states rights" ideology that we should happily seen thrown to the curb.

Posted by Nathan at October 1, 2005 12:51 PM