The Truth About Obama’s Defense Executive Order: Marshall Law or Paranoia
There are millions of Americans that do not trust President Obama., and for good reason, but is the National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order (issued on March 16, 2012) one of those reasons? Are people being paranoid or are there real issues in the executive order that people should be concerned about?
The mistrust is complicated by the fact that once again the Obama Administration chose a Friday to release critical information. The Obama Administration has a history of dumping critical information (usually information that is not flattering to the president and his team) late on a Friday, hoping to reduce criticizing chatter. But the other problem is that too many of the President’s critics immediately suspect everything this President does.
The Internet is ablaze with talk of Marshall Law and mandates that permit Obama to completely take over all aspects of the United States, even in peacetime, while the president’s spokes-person, Jay Carney, dismissed any concerns.
This is more fuel for both sides, and I would caution all to do your homework before you make a final decision. To help you, I found two articles (representing both sides of the story) for your reading pleasure.
Obama Executive Order Nothing to Storm the Castle Over
On March 16, 2012, President Obama signed an executive order titled “National Defense Resources Preparedness,” and by Saturday the conservative Twitterverse had erupted into righteous indignation, organized under the hashtag #ExecOrder. But the 140-character expressions of outrage and the anti-Obama tea party angst masked the fact that very little in the presidential proclamation is new.
While Obama’s executive order is written in sophisticated legislative verbiage, its aim should be clear to anyone who reads it from front to back as I did. (You’re welcome.)
And Microsoft Word has a nifty “compare” feature that combines two documents into a single version with every single difference, no matter how small, spelled out in red. It’s a huge time-saver.
So what’s new since 1994?
When Bill Clinton issued his version of the plan to prepare the country for some unstated national military emergency, most disaster response functions were assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Today, those functions belong to the Department of Homeland Security, whose sub-agencies include FEMA. Most of the significant changes from Clinton’s order to Obama’s involve reassigning FEMA’s old duties to DHS — which didn’t exist when Clinton was president. Obama did this in 10 separate places.
But in large part, the function of this executive order — in all its historical incarnations — is to clearly delineate what each cabinet secretary is responsible for if the country should go kablooey.
Obama also axed the FEMA director’s prior role as a tie-breaking vote whenever two cabinet secretaries might disagree about allocating resources in a time of emergency. From now on that decision will land on the president’s desk.
After the black eye FEMA got — deserved or not — following Hurricane Katrina, this is at minimum a smart PR move.
Obama also red-lined the Export-Import Bank of the United States from Clinton’s order completely. But even that is probably meaningless: The Ex-Im Bank’s charter is set to expire this year, but Obama is strongly in favor of its renewal.
Another curious change involves the Department of Agriculture’s mandate. New language from Obama includes, for the first time, “livestock resources, veterinary resources, [and] plant health resources.”
It also expands the definition of ”food resources” to include “potable water packaged in commercially marketable containers.” On the other hand, Obama has curiously eliminated tobacco form the list of things the government can — and has been able to since before any of us were born — control if an unfriendly power should ever drop the big one on New York City.
All of this seems completely sensible.
Still, breathless statements flooded Twitter over the weekend, by Sunday reaching a pace of about 20 per minute.
“To Obamabots and other asleep #Americans: Wake the hell up! New Executive Order dated March 16th. Prepare yourselves!” read one.
“Obama’s ‘Dictator’ executive order. Read it & tell me if you REALLY believe Hitler comparisons are legit,” said another.
Other tweets warned that Obama aims to “make it easier to push America N2 totalitarianism like China” and had seized “the power to STOP ALL ELECTIONS.” One Twitter user said that in the wake of the executive order, “I’ve decided to buy stock in Guillotine companies.”
The most common tweeted phrase about the executive order, by far, was “peacetime martial law.”
The narrow span of initial reactions from conservative websites ranged from “stunning” and “harassing” to “totalitarian” and “the blueprint for Peacetime Martial Law.” One typical thread simply declared that the president had “gone too far.”
What’s maddening about this, aside from the fact that so few commentators, clearly, had actually read the order, is the knee-jerk assumption that Barack Obama is somehow less trustworthy — at the molecular level — with his constitutional powers than was Bill Clinton.
Yes, the Internet has turned political events into tinder with a ferocity Clinton never faced. And yes, the political right harbors an intense distrust of the Oval Office’s current occupant.
But the idea that he would, in an election year, suddenly declare himself the singular steward and controller of all private property, or put himself in solitary control of the water supply or reinstitute the draft — all accusations I’ve read online in the past day — is ludicrous.
If you want to see what any legislative or regulatory language really means, skip over all the nouns (like food, water, fertilizer and fuel) and look at the verbs.
Columnist Ed Morrissey spotted a few in Obama’s executive order: “identify,” “assess,” “prepare,” “improve,” “foster [cooperation],” “provide.” These aren’t exactly words that suggest lots of action. I don’t see “usurp,” “hijack” or “shanghai.”
I also don’t see anything in the executive order that establishes a new legal authority of any kind. Not only is the language old hat, but it spells out which laws the White House is relying on for its authority.
So this is all pretty thin soup.
If we can’t trust the president — any president — to look at what’s going on and make his cabinet secretaries play nice, we have bigger problems than who’s going to control the next corn crop if Putin starts punching in launch codes instead of his ATM password.
So everyone just chill, okay? It’s time to crumple up those tinfoil hats. At least for a week or so.
Obama Executive Order: Peacetime Martial Law!
This Executive Order was posted on the WhiteHouse.gov web site on Friday, March 16, 2012, under the name National Defense Resources Preparedness. In a nutshell, it’s the blueprint for Peacetime Martial Law and it gives the president the power to take just about anything deemed necessary for “National Defense”, whatever they decide that is. It’s peacetime, because as the title of the order says, it’s for “Preparedness”. A copy of the entire order follows the end of this story.
Under this order the heads of these cabinet level positions; Agriculture, Energy, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Defense and Commerce can take food, livestock, fertilizer, farm equipment, all forms of energy, water resources, all forms of civil transporation (meaning any vehicles, boats, planes), and any other materials, including construction materials from wherever they are available. This is probably why the government has been visiting farms with GPS devices, so they know exactly where to go when they turn this one on.
Specifically, the government is allowed to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate. They decide what necessary or appropriate means.
UPDATE: BIN reader Kent Welton writes: This allows for the giving away of USA assets and subsidies to private companies: “(b) provide for the modification or expansion of privately owned facilities, including the modification or improvement of production processes, when taking actions under sections 301, 302, or 303 of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2091, 2092, 2093; and (c) sell or otherwise transfer equipment owned by the Federal Government and installed under section 303(e) of the Act, 50 U.S.C. App. 2093(e), to the owners of such plants, factories, or other industrial facilities.”
What happens if the government decides it needs all these things to be prepared, even if there is no war? You likely won’t be able to walk into a store to purchase virtually anything because it will all be requisitioned, “rationed” and controlled by the government. Construction materials, food like meat, butter and sugar, anything imported, parts, tires and fuel for vehicles, clothing, etc. will likely become unobtainable, or at least very scarce. How many things are even made here in the USA any more?
A bit of history… During WWII, price stabilization didn’t begin until May of 1942, which froze prices on nearly all every day goods and rationing started in 1943. Why would the government want to control everything before a war?
Here’s what some gas ration cards looked like during WWII. Will there be rationing under this kind of system? What better way to control the movement and actions of the populace…
WWII era gas ration cards via Old Chester PA. You couldn’t go on vacation without a “vacation pass”.
Under this new Executive Order, cabinet heads are authorized to loan money, offer loan guarantees and even subsidize payments at above market rates (no bid contracts?) for whatever they need. This could make Solyndra or Halliburton look like Junior Achievement. Nothing like a war will generate these kinds of huge profits for the corporate “partners” and you can bet the bankers and contractors are already lining up for this one—because under this order no war is even required!
In a crisis situation, the government will be able to take whatever they need, print money to get whatever they want and distribute it as they see fit….for the benefit of a “war effort” or the politically connected corporations and individuals. All other contracts except those for employment are superseded by this executive order, it’s all here in black and white.
Specifically, it orders:
“to require acceptance and priority performance of contracts or orders (other than contracts of employment) to promote the national defense over performance of any other contracts or orders, and to allocate materials, services, and facilities as deemed necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense, is delegated to the following agency heads:
- the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to food resources, food resource facilities, livestock resources, veterinary resources, plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment and commercial fertilizer;
- the Secretary of Energy with respect to all forms of energy;
- the Secretary of Health and Human Services with respect to health resources;
- the Secretary of Transportation with respect to all forms of civil transportation;
- the Secretary of Defense with respect to water resources; and
- the Secretary of Commerce with respect to all other materials, services, and facilities, including construction materials.
About all I can say is “Have a nice day!”