This past month has seen a lot of tragedy: the terror attacks in Paris, the terror attack on Planned Parenthood in Colorado, and now, the horrible, senseless tragedy at a center for the developmentally disabled in California. But, the victims of the terror attacks in California were barely dead before right-wing conspiracy theorists reprehensibly used the tragedy to attack President Obama using social media.
According to these, the horrific shootings in California were ordered by Obama so he could impose martial law and seize everyone's guns. It would actually be funny if it not so sad. Of course, this was not the first time the president has been accused of trying to impose martial law or seize people's guns.
Obama has been in office for seven years. From his earliest days in office, the rumor floated and was believed — that he would confiscate firearms. Seven years later, he still has not done it. One would think that if there were such a plot it would have been carried out by now. Of course, it was all a lie but it certainly served the gun business well by drastically increasing sales! P.T. Barnum was right: there are suckers born every minute.
This latest accusation comes on top of numerous malicious accusations toward the president since he first ran: favorites include: that he is not a native-born citizen, that he is a radical Muslim, or that "death panels" for grandpa are in Obamacare. Then, there is the lie that Obama is building concentration camps for those who criticize him. Or, that Obama is going to suspend the Constitution and cancel elections next year! What? We have been in times of crisis greater than what we have presently and no president has cancelled elections!
Of course, there is a tiny bit of truth in every piece of propaganda. During WII, FDR did intern Japanese-Americans and even imposed martial law in Hawaii, but for the most part, the Constitution stayed in effect in the U.S.A. for civilians
This "Big Lie" propaganda would have made Dr. Josef Goebbels, Hitler's minister for information, very proud! In spite of all evidence to the contrary, some choose to believe these lies.
Many misunderstand what "martial law" means. They also misunderstand our Constitution and its history. There is a difference between martial law and a "state of emergency." Martial law means that civilians are tried and punished under military jurisdiction and that is very rare in our history. When it has happened, the courts have often ruled it unconstitutional.
During a state of emergency, such as a hurricane, a flood, an earthquake or civil unrest, the National Guard and even active-duty military may aid local law enforcement as well as emergency and rescue services. The military, however, cannot take over law enforcement and judicial functions when the civilian system is still working. On U.S. soil, it is rare that civilians can be tried under military law. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, for instance, arrested looters were tried under state law. Even in the wake of 9-11, Bush did not impose "martial law."
Of course, martial law is real. It was imposed on the conquered Southern states after the American civil war but only until they rejoined the Union. It was also imposed on Germany and Japan during the U.S. occupation of those countries but only until they got their civilian governments back.
In the U.S.A., it has been become less common to even try service members by court martial for "civilian crimes" such as murder or robbery unless those crimes occur on base or have a "military connection." The days are past when first sergeants went to county jails in the middle of the night to spring drunken soldiers with the promise that "the Army will take care of it." More and more often, soldiers who commit non-service connect crimes are tried in the local civilian courts. This even occurs more overseas unless the offense was committed in a combat zone.
On U.S. soil, to legally declare martial law would require a MAJOR emergency such as a nuclear war or perhaps a massive invasion of the U.S.A. Civilian law enforcement and the judiciary would have to be so broken that there was no other alternative available.
(Scott is a citizen, a taxpayer, a veteran, and a resident of Gilford.)
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