Par for the course in Pax Americana holds that if a law is not in keeping with the current junta’s notion of what is legal they simply go around it as if it didn’t even exist. Or change the law so that it means what they need it to mean. So it has been with the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act since the beginning. Democratic representatives originally introduced it as a way of keeping federal troops out of southern states enforcing the rights of freed slaves, but the law came to represent the last stand between state autonomy and a growing federal government.
By the dawn of the 20th century, the act had become more of a dogmatic distinction than an actual one.
National guard units deployed on a regular basis for both natural and man-made interruptions to the scheduled programming for most of the last century. More recently, the US military deployed to Miami in the wake of Hurricane Andrew as well as to New Orleans after Katrina. One of these operations was largely a success while the other was a complete failure, both mostly for the same reasons since neither time were the troops in question trained to accomplish that sort of mission.
A less obvious perversion of the Posse Comitatus Act began as a response to the War on Drugs.
Local police forces have received training and weapons over the last 25 years that make them more paramilitary than public service, and in the wake of 9-11, the trend picked up exponentially with the active encouragement from our brand new Department of Homeland Security. The new paradigm is so well entrenched that these tools and tactics are now being used for routine police work. SWAT teams are commonly used to serve narcotics warrants, usually with forced, unannounced entry into the home and a track-record that is far from stellar.
At this point, given the general tone and tenor of the nation’s perennially frightened “middle class” who drive these sorts of policies, I am not entirely sure what can be done to roll this trend back and reclaim a much more community-centric policing paradigm. What frightens me the most, however, isn’t that these sorts of tactics exist at the local law enforcement level and are used with zeal on a regular basis. What is worse is the general level of acceptance that has accompanied these changes among the public at large.
Most Americans don’t even think twice about this and a great many other erosions in our country’s founding principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This makes a paradigm shift unlikely unless it is toward an even more draconian system in response to yet another manufactured crisis.