In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one of Dubya's few specific suggestions for how to ensure that future disaster relief efforts aren't bungled was to change the laws to make it easier for the military to take charge. Given that the military already has too high a domestic profile, in this magpie's opinion, that suggestion set off alarms — especially given that there currently isn't any legal impediment to using the military to support relief and rescue efforts.
Those alarms we heard earlier got even louder this morning when Dubya said the following during his press conference, in response to a question about how the feds are preparing for a possible avian flu epidemic:
The policy decisions for a President in dealing with an avian flu outbreak are difficult. One example: If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country, and how do you then enforce a quarantine? When -- it's one thing to shut down airplanes; it's another thing to prevent people from coming in to get exposed to the avian flu. And who best to be able to effect a quarantine? One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move.
Outside of the fact this kind of thinking is pretty scary stuff, most public health experts know it won't work. Movement is too free and easily accomplished and the American people cannot be forced to do something they think will hurt them or their families. They'll find a way around it with ease. Remember that a quarantine would have to be essentially complete and airtight, because this is a self-reproducing organism. Only one or a few people getting through or for that matter entering the US from elsewhere where the disease is active would negate such a Draconian measure. Bush's public health experts certainly have told him this, so one can assume its object is not to stop disease spread but to control the population.
Indeed, given our total lack of preparation and the lack of leadership of the Administration, the biggest effect of a pandemic might be a breakdown in social order. So Bush is preparing the ground ahead of time.
Given how Dubya's administration responded to 9/11, we suppose it's not surprising that the prez's solution for emergencies and disasters is 'Call in the troops.' Hoever, the erosion of civil liberties that's taken place over the past four years in the name of fighting terrorism should give any reasonable person pause when the prez starts talking about turning what have been civil responsibilities over to military authorities.
Now let's put on our tinfoil hats for a moment. Let's suppose that the Congress decides to change federal laws so that the president can unilaterally decide to use the armed forces to enforce a quarantine of areas affected by avian flu. Is it unreasonable to be worried about how much Dubya's support for the use of preventive detention in terror cases would figure into any military response to an epidemic? Or, for that matter, would Dubya's [at least tacit] approval of torture by the US military show up in the way quarantined areas are controlled? Can we expect to see domestic Abu Ghraibs if the prez thinks he needs to prevent a breakdown of social order?
We want to think that even Dubya wouldn't go so far as to make those paranoid speculations a reality. But given his total lack of concern for any rights except property rights, and his 'flexible' approach to the US Constitution, we don't know how much restraint the prez is capable of exercising.Posted by Magpie at October 4, 2005 01:11 PM | US Politics | Technorati links |