It’s the topper to an already insane year full of multiple ‘apocalyptic scenarios’ and we’re merely halfway through.
It wasn’t just Army blackhawks swooping down on protests in D.C. last night, but in an unprecedented moment both the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense appeared on city streets to “check on the troops”.
An estimated 1,200 to 1,700 DC National Guard were called up over the weekend and deployed to D.C. streets, more easily done in the federal district given it’s not a state and they are already directly under the federal chain of command. Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Mark Milley was in a sense on “the battlefield” inspecting the “battle lines” after Trump designated him “in charge” of the protest response.
Kelley Vlahos at The American Conservative described that Congressional hawks have turned their penchant for military intervention abroad right back onto American streets, a frighteningly easy and natural transition for them:
Earlier, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called it “dominating the battlespace.” Senator Tom Cotton, a combat veteran and hawk of first order, said in a Tweet, that “if necessary, the 10th Mountain, 82nd Airborne, 1st Cav, 3rd Infantry—whatever it takes to restore order. No quarter for insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters.”
Later Esper and General Milley were seen walking the streets, giving interviews, shaking hands with police.
Milley, donned in his fatigues, told reporters he was “checking” to see how well the deployed D.C. National Guard were doing and said “everyone has the right to protest …. But protest peacefully.”
— Tim Barber (@ABC7TimBarber) June 2, 2020
Indeed signs were everywhere that the federal government is now treating civilian streets as actually a battlespace.
Army blackhawks are conducting “show of force” passes on protestors. One flyover snapped a tree that nearly hit several people. pic.twitter.com/Z8UnQOypYy
— Thomas Gibbons-Neff (@Tmgneff) June 2, 2020
It was a ‘photo op’ moment akin to generals and the occasional Congressman visiting the streets of Baghdad or Kabul in prior years to show “all is fine”.
Of course, it’s not the first time federal troops are policing inside domestic cities. Here’s a timeline of the 12 instances presidents used federal troops on domestic soil.
Things are getting worse across the city. An Army Blackhawk helicopter used a "show of force" maneuver in Chinatown. It's a practice used in war zones to scare away insurgents pic.twitter.com/lsxySbQpwe
— Arjun Sethi (@arjunsethi81) June 2, 2020
But no less than the nation’s top general and the Secretary of Defense making the rounds on city streets is a rare one, unmatched in recent US history.
It’s a Hollywood script come to real life, if one recalls especially the 1998 movie The Siege:
Vlahos at The American Conservative continues on the deeper, long-term implications:
It also sends a message, I’m afraid, that we suddenly have an occupying army. This tends to rub some Americans the wrong way. It’s kind of in our DNA. We have accepted, for good or bad, that the laws allow this incursion from time to time but also, that it has often, like President Hoover calling on Gen. MacArthur to bulldoze the World War I Bonus Army marchers, pitted the Army against its own citizens.
Only halfway through 2020, and the Pentagon is deployed to city streets.
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