Pentagon devising scenarios for
martial law in US
By Patrick Martin
9 August 2005
According to a report published Monday by the Washington
Post, the Pentagon has developed its first ever war plans
for operations within the continental United States, in
which terrorist attacks would be used as the
justification for imposing martial law on cities, regions
or the entire country.
The front-page article cites sources working at the
headquarters of the military s Northern Command
(Northcom), located in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The
plans themselves are classified, but officers who
drafted the plans gave details to Post reporter Bradley
Graham, who was recently given a tour of Northcom
headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base. The article thus
appears to be a deliberate leak conducted for the purpose
of accustoming the American population to the prospect of
According to Graham, the new plans provide for what
several senior officers acknowledged is the likelihood
that the military will have to take charge in some
situations, especially when dealing with mass-casualty
attacks that could quickly overwhelm civilian
The Post account declares, The war plans represent a
historic shift for the Pentagon, which has been reluctant
to become involved in domestic operations and is legally
constrained from engaging in law enforcement.
A total of 15 potential crisis scenarios are outlined,
ranging from low-end, which Graham describes as
relatively modest crowd-control missions, to
high-end, after as many as three simultaneous
catastrophic mass-casualty events, such as a nuclear,
biological or chemical weapons attack.
In each case, the military would deploy a quick-reaction
force of as many as 3,000 troops per attack i. e., 9,000
total in the worst-case scenario. More troops could be
made available as needed.
The Post quotes a statement by Admiral Timothy J.
Keating, head of Northcom: In my estimation, [in the
event of] a biological, a chemical or nuclear attack in
any of the 50 states, the Department of Defense is best
positioned of the various eight federal agencies that
would be involved to take the lead.
The newspaper describes an unresolved debate among the
military planners on how to integrate the new domestic
mission with ongoing US deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan
and other foreign conflicts. One major document of over
1,000 pages, designated CONPLAN 2002, provides a general
overview of air, sea and land operations in both a
post-attack situation and for prevention and deterrence
actions aimed at intercepting threats before they reach
the United States. A second document, CONPLAN 0500,
details the 15 scenarios and the actions associated with
The Post reports: CONPLAN 2002 has passed a review by
the Pentagon s Joint Staff and is due to go soon to
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and top aides for
further study and approval, the officers said.
0500 is still undergoing final drafting at Northcom
While Northcom was established only in October 2002, its
headquarters staff of 640 is already larger than that of
the Southern Command, which overseas US military
operations throughout Latin America and the
About 1,400 National Guard troops have been formed into a
dozen regional response units, while smaller
quick-reaction forces have been set up in each of the 50
states. Northcom also has the power to mobilize four
active-duty Army battalions, as well as Navy and Coast
Guard ships and air defense fighter jets.
The Pentagon is acutely conscious of the potential
political backlash as its role in future security
operations becomes known. Graham writes: Military
exercises code-named Vital Archer, which involve troops
in lead roles, are shrouded in secrecy. By contrast,
other homeland exercises featuring troops in supporting
roles are widely publicized.
Military lawyers have studied the legal implications of
such deployments, which risk coming into conflict with a
longstanding congressional prohibition on the use of the
military for domestic policing, known as posse comitatus.
Involving the National Guard, which is exempt from posse
comitatus, could be one solution, Admiral Keating told
the Post. He cited a potential situation in which Guard
units might begin rounding up people while regular forces
could not, Graham wrote.
Graham adds: when it comes to ground forces possibly
taking a lead role in homeland operations, senior
Northcom officers remain reluctant to discuss specifics.
Keating said such situations, if they arise, probably
would be temporary, with lead responsibility passing back
to civilian authorities.
A remarkable phrase: probably would be temporary. In
other words, the military takeover might not be
temporary, and could become permanent!
In his article, Graham describes the Northern Command s
Combined Intelligence and Fusion Center, which joins
military analysts with law enforcement and
counterintelligence specialists from such civilian
agencies as the FBI, the CIA and the Secret Service. The
article continues: A senior supervisor at the facility
said the staff there does no intelligence collection,
only analysis. He also said the military operates under
long-standing rules intended to protect civilian
liberties. The rules, for instance, block military access
to intelligence information on political dissent or
purely criminal activity.
Again, despite the soothing reassurances about respecting
civil liberties, another phrase leaps out: intelligence
information on political dissent. What right do US
intelligence agencies have to collect information on
political dissent? Political dissent is not only
perfectly legal, but essential to the functioning of a
The reality is that the military brass is intensely
interested in monitoring political dissent because its
domestic operations will be directed not against a
relative handful of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists who
have not carried out a single operation inside the United
States since September 11, 2001 but against the
democratic rights of the American people.
The plans of Northcom have their origins not in the
terrible events of 9/11, but in longstanding concerns in
corporate America about the political stability of the
United States. This is a society increasingly polarized
between the fabulously wealthy elite at the top, and the
vast majority of working people who face an increasingly
difficult struggle to survive. The nightmare of the
American ruling class is the emergence of a mass movement
from below that challenges its political and economic
As long ago as 1984 when Osama bin Laden was still
working hand-in-hand with the CIA in the anti-Soviet
guerrilla war in Afghanistan the Reagan administration
was drawing up similar contingency plans for military
rule. A Marine Corps officer detailed to the National
Security Council drafted plans for Operation Rex 84, a
headquarters exercise that simulated rounding up 300,000
Central American immigrants and likely political
opponents of a US invasion of Nicaragua or El Salvador
and jailing them at mothballed military bases. This
officer later became well known to the public: Lt.
Colonel Oliver North, the organizer of the illegal
network to arm the contra terrorists in Nicaragua and a
principal figure in the Iran-Contra scandal.
As for the claims that these military plans are driven by
genuine concern over the threat of terrorist attacks,
these are belied by the actual conduct of the American
ruling elite since 9/11. The Bush administration has done
everything possible to suppress any investigation into
the circumstances of the attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon most likely because its own
negligence, possibly deliberate, would be exposed.
While the Pentagon claims that its plans are a response
to the danger of nuclear, biological or chemical attacks,
no serious practical measures have been taken to
forestall such attacks or minimize their impact. The Bush
administration and Congress have refused even to restrict
the movement of rail tank cars loaded with toxic
chemicals through the US capital, though even an
accidental leak, let alone a terrorist attack, would
cause mass casualties.
In relation to bioterrorism, the Defense Science Board
determined in a 2000 study that the federal government
had only 1 of the 57 drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tools
required to deal with such an attack. According to a
report in the Washington Post August 7, in the five years
since the Pentagon report, only one additional resource
has been developed, bringing the total to 2 out of 57.
Drug companies have simply refused to conduct the
research required to find antidotes to anthrax and other
potential toxins, and the Bush administration has done
nothing to compel them.
As for the danger of nuclear or dirty-bomb attacks, the
Bush administration and the congressional Republican
leadership recently rammed through a measure loosening
restrictions on exports of radioactive substances, at the
behest of a Canadian-based manufacturer of medical
supplies which conducted a well-financed lobbying
Evidently, the administration and the corporate elite
which it represents do not take seriously their own
warnings about the imminent threat of terrorist attacks
using nuclear, chemical or biological weapons at least
not when it comes to security measures that would impact
The anti-terrorism scare has a propaganda purpose: to
manipulate the American people and induce the public to
accept drastic inroads against democratic rights. As the
Pentagon planning suggests, the American working class
faces the danger of some form of military-police
dictatorship in the United States.