On This Day Pre-Y2K

Confused by any of the jargon you see below? Check the Y2K Glossary!

February 22, 1999 Permalink

What is Martial Law? I’m no expert but here is what I understand it to be:

The government -- usually the president, governor or other executive -- declares martial law in a region of the country, a state, county(s) or city. While the police and National Guard are usually called up, the president can declare a breakdown in public order and order the department of defense to “quell the insurrection and restore public order.” Alternately, he can use troops to fight domestic terrorism. Once the Army is involved, all constitutional rights are suspended and civilians must conform to the military law, or code of justice.

Suddenly, you are not innocent until proven guilty. You can be held against your will for an unlimited time. You cannot refuse a direct order form an officer. You do not have free speech. You lose the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. They can confiscate your guns. You can be gunned down, or at least arrested and put in a prison camp, for breaking curfew, or for driving your private vehicle on what was a public highway. Your possessions stay your possession only at the whim of the local commander.

In short, your city, county, state or whatever is invaded by the military and the invading force treats you as a people that must be subjugated. But instead of a foreign military taking over, it is our own army. And they form a joint command that includes the National Guard, local police force etc.

Now depending on where you stand in a Y2K disaster, martial Law might be not be a bad thing. But from a constitutional rights issue, it’s a terrible thing.

I can see that if you are unprepared for Y2K and live in a city and there is rioting, seeing armed troops on the corner will make you feel safe. And I can see that if you were starving, and were down to the last cracker crumbs and had the runs from drinking unsanitary water, you would greet the army with open arms and let them cart you of to a shelter or camp.

And hopefully, this is all Martial Law will do. It will quell the riots, stop the arson and looting and usher in a period of recovery. If the troops come in to purify water and generate electricity and feed the hungry, then I’m all for that. And once the utilities are back up, and the trucks are running again, the boys in green can fade back into their bases and the regular fellows in blue or brown can continue to keep the peace. But if they stay and interfere with the civilian government, then we could have a real problem on our hands.

—Jack, Diary of a Survivalist, 02/22/99

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