Vintage newsreels and wirephotos often depict hordes of soldiers in less-developed nations guarding autocrats during “elections” for fear of violent opposition.
Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20 reflected that “authoritarian climate” with more than 25,000 National Guard troops, observed investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald, known for his reporting on civil liberties.
At least 5,000 troops will remain through mid-March, according to Politico, based on the claim that the impeachment trial of former President Trump requires military reinforcements.
Greenwald cited an Associated Press report, based on an unnamed U.S. official, who said the ongoing troop deployment was needed due to “ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol.”
However, Greenwald argued, the anonymous official acknowledged that “the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility.” And National Guard troops complained that they “have so far been given no official justifications, threat reports or any explanation for the extended mission — nor have they seen any violence thus far.”
Politico reported the fear of “civil disturbance” is prompting the order.
The report said a memo signed by D.C. National Guard chief Maj. Gen. William Walker orders troops to remain on duty “in continued support of District and Federal civil authorities during anticipated First Amendment demonstrations and Civil Disturbance in the District of Columbia.”
Politico previously reported the Senate trial “poses a security concern” and federal law enforcement want as many as 5,000 troops on duty.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., however, insists the troops should be sent home.
“Despite cold weather and uncomfortable conditions, these soldiers did their duty, in the finest traditions of the Guard. Their presence, coupled with tough federal charges against the Capitol rioters, deterred any further violence; the presidential inauguration occurred without incident,” the senator explained in a FoxNews.com commentary. “With the inauguration complete and threats receding, now it’s time, yes, to send home the troops.”
But acting Army Secretary John Whitley said their job may not be finished, according to The Hill.
“They’re concerned that there could be situations where there are lawful protests — First Amendment protected protests — that could either be used by malicious actors or other problems that could emerge,” he said.
Cotton pushed back.
“The lesson of the Capitol riot is not that we should quarter a standing army at the Capitol just in case, but rather that our security measures should be calibrated to the actual threats,” he wrote.
He argued Guard troops should have been deployed over the summer in response to riots across the country in reponse to the death of George Floyd.
If not subdued, Cotton said, they “not only will destroy the livelihoods of law-abiding citizens but will also take more innocent lives.”
“Many poor communities that still bear scars from past upheavals will be set back still further.”
The Military Times reported other Republicans were asking similar questions.
In fact, 11 House Republicans have asked for a briefing from the acting Army secretary on any ongoing threats to the Capitol and the reasoning behind extending the Guard’s mission in Washington.
They wrote: “The Guard has endured unprecedented stress on the force in the last year given COVID-19, social unrest, natural disasters and ongoing overseas requirements. The National Guard should be used as an option of absolute last resort.”
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