Veterans for Peace (VFP) Opposes Combat Brigade’s Permanent U.S. Assignment

A national veterans organization sent a letter to the House and Senate leadership Monday, October 6 expressing “grave concern” that an active duty combat brigade has been permanently assigned to a post on U.S. soil.

Citing a little-noticed article posted September 30 on the Army Times website, Veterans For Peace said the Pentagon’s unprecedented move assigned the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002, for a 12-month assignment.

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The Army Times article stated the brigade may be called upon to help with “civil unrest and crowd control.”

Michael McPhearson

“Just who are these unruly crowds and dangerous individuals this unit will be using its ‘nonlethal’ weapons on…American citizens?” asked Michael McPhearson, VFP Executive Director.  “After the overwhelming display of police force I witnessed at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, this news is extremely disturbing.  It is a sad day for America when our government is preparing to protect itself by using the military on its own citizens.”

McPhearson added, “Make no doubt about it, these so-called ‘non-lethal’ weapons will kill and injure people when used on crowds.”

Download press release

This is the letter

October 6, 2008

Dear Representative:

On September 30th, an Army Times article reported that the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has been given a 12 month assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002, beginning October 1, 2008. The unit is an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks. According to the article, “They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.”

The article goes on to quote 1st BCT’s commander COL Roger Cloutier, “soldiers also will learn how to use ‘the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded… It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it,’ referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.”

This is of great concern to my organization. After participating for several days in Saint Paul, MN during the Republican National Convention and witnessing the overwhelming show of police force, this news is disturbing. Who are these unruly crowds and dangerous individuals? It is a sad day for America when our government is preparing to protect itself by using the military on its own citizens.

Soldiers should not be used as police. Infantry units train to engage with other armies, not with civilian populations. The police are trained to use adequate force to meet the needs of a situation. The military is trained to use overwhelming force. These are fundamentally different philosophies on the use of force.

You will find military leaders who believe our Armed Services can fulfill both missions. Such an answer is to be expected from “can do” commanders and is greatly appreciated, as the military will try its best to accomplish any mission it is given. However, we must be clear that no one can turn on and off the training and mentality needed to survive and dominate in combat so that they can then protect and serve in a civilian environment. This is one of the reason Iraqis want U.S. troops off their streets due to the high number of civilian casualties inflicted by U.S. soldiers.

In addition, the Bush Administration is planning to place soldiers on the street with weapons that have just fought in combat. This is unwise. There are a number of them who have post traumatic stress and possibly undiagnosed brain injury. There recent experiences have heightened their senses for combat not police work.

We also question the legal status of this mission. If the preparation is followed to its logical conclusion it seems the Executive Branch is prepared to ignore the Posse Comitatus and Insurrection Acts. It also appears that the Administration believes it has legal grounds to do so. President Bush signed into law H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. As you know he also stated that, “Provisions of the Act, including sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222, purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as Commander in Chief. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President.”

We believe it is imperative Congress act to keep the President in check. This is a slippery slope that contains more disregards for the ideals of our nation than any other grab for unitary executive authority the President has attempted to date.

Veterans For Peace is monitoring this matter and will join with others to ensure the Executive Branch’s power is controlled. Please let us know what steps Congress is taking to guarantee the President is held in check.

Sincerely, Michael T. McPhearson
Veterans For Peace
Executive Director


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