Tag Archives: military

The Federal Invasion of Portland, Oregon

Pearl River     Portland, Oregon is a long way from the rest of the country, squeezed between Seattle and California, the lower Cascades and the Pacific Ocean.  Every once in a great while it sneaks into the nation’s consciousness as the home of “Portlandia” hipsters, coffee houses, and microbreweries and as a landing pad for the young and restless looking for a place to root.  To many in the rest of America, Portland is as much caricature as city, but suddenly, surprisingly Portland must have become the kind of obsession for President Trump that Hillary Clinton once was.  How else can we understand what now seems an unprecedented, unwarranted federally militarized invasion of the city?

The excuse for putting what has been confirmed to be literally thousands of militarized forces from the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Protective Service into the city is the fact that some folks in Portland have had the temerity to protest for fifty consecutive days in Portland over the death of George Floyd and a host of issues with the local police and city.  Somehow this had escaped me until I was driving yesterday and out of range of WAMF, our New Orleans noncommercial station, and stumbled on the dial to an NPR interview with Ken Cuccinelli, which was one of the most frightening things I have ever heard anywhere from anybody.  To hear him tell it, Portland had descended into hellish anarchy, and the mass mobilization of forces was ostensibly justified to protect federal property like the court house.

The New York Times reports that the continued protests involve a hardcore of 250 or so people who are now being met by supposedly non-lethal tactics, severe enough to fracture the skull of one semi-protestor bystander.  Unmarked vans driven by camouflaged feds without identification are picking up protestors off the street and taking them to random locations, supposedly for questioning.  Cuccinelli complains that the local police and authorities have refused to use some of these tactics, just as he claims that this more than 10-1 ratio of federal police, or whatever we call them, is necessary.  No ID, he claims is to prevent doxing.  For the life of me this sounds like the gestapo of a new fascism has hit the streets of Portland.

The Oregon Attorney General has sued and asked the DHS inspector general to investigate unauthorized arrests on city streets.  The Mayor says this is “an attack on democracy.”  The two US Senators have demanded an investigation.  This is the federal government imposing itself over the will of local and state authorities.  Reporters and others are arguing that this is nothing but a photo-op for the president on his phony-baloney antifa crusade.

Why the heck is this Cuccinelli stirring this pot?  Turns out he has a fake title as senior deputy director of DHS and the Immigration Service, because he couldn’t get confirmed by the U. S. Senate.  A federal judge ruled that he was appointed illegally.  He’s a former AG in Virginia who lost in a race for governor.  While there he led the fights against immigration, abortion, and homosexuality.  This is no freedom fighter or protector of any American rights.  This is a zealot with access to a type of police in a time when funding for the police and their military tactics is part of the issue.  This is a human gasoline bomb thrown on a raging fire of anger.

We’ve crossed a line in Portland.  It needs to be redrawn or our country is gone.


Autocrats Fall When Military Support Disappears

New Orleans     All around the world this is a familiar story, often marking the beginning of the end for dictators, autocrats, and even elected leaders that have outstayed their peoples’ welcome.  There’s a direct correlation, approaching an iron law, in so many countries that when popular support disappears, such leaders depend on the support of the military to maintain power.  When it disappears, then time’s up.

President Bolsanaro of Brazil whose support has imploded over his handling of fires in the Amazon, the coronavirus, and many other issues, is now raising the specter of a coup by the military to fan the flames.

Evo Morales, the elected president of Bolivia, was re-elected in a controversial election marked by accusations, for a fourth term, but left within weeks when the military indicated that their support was gone.

Repeat this story in Libya, Pakistan, absolutely North Korea, the Philippines, not infrequently in African countries in the past.  We may not know the full story in China, Iran, and Russia, but there are few doubts that control of the military is central in the current status quo within these regimes.

Now, we see this unfolding in another failed state, the United States.

The scandalous military action to clear Lafayette Park across from the White House so that President Trump could have a ridiculous photo-op in front of the nearby church with a bible in his hands has divided his evangelical base, but it has shaken the military from top to bottom.  Add that to his hiding in a bunker, fearful of protests in front of the White House, his new fence around the White House perimeter, and, especially his attempt to mobilize troops around the country to stop the protests, and there is no way to not conclude that this is one wannabe autocrat scared to his toes and running for cover with only Twitter to protect him.

The Secretary of Defense publicly opposed mobilizing troops against civilians with the right to protest.  Former generals and defense officials have publicly condemned Trump’s actions this time.  The military is conducting an assessment of the DC National Guard’s activities in an exercise common in after-battle assessments in our wars.  The helicopter pilots who buzzed the crowd are likely facing discipline.  The New York Times reports that everyone was scrambling behind the scenes to shore up the DC National Guard, normally used in disaster recovery and relief operations, and 60% black, with recruits from other cities, often unhelpfully gung-ho Republican governors looking for a fight as well.  The reports include demoralized soldiers having to face friends, neighbors, and relatives protesting.  The National Guard lieutenant reportedly countermanded the top dogs by insisting that his charges not “dominate” the area as others were ordering.

President Trump needs to learn what other autocrats know by heart.  When you lose the military, it’s time to pack your “go” bag.  The writing is on the wall, and just keeping the names of Confederate generals on ten Army bases will not be enough to win the military back after you have tried to use our soldiers against civilians.

Even the military is drawing a line that the president cannot cross.