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Asleep at the Wheel: Press ignores congressional OK for martial law

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Written by Robert Kubey, EXTRA!
Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Editor’s Note:
In this media analysis from the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, EXTRA!, an article published by TowardFreedom.com is cited as “The most substantive online coverage” of President Bush’s move toward martial law.

In addition, another excellent article is posted there right now, entitled “The Media’s Mayor: Mythologizing Guiliani and 9/11″ by Steve Rendall.

 

Read the full article (below): Bush Moves Toward Martial Law by Frank Morales, published in TowardFreedom.com on October 26, 2006.

The article below is reprinted from EXTRA! Magazine

Police at G-8 Protest
Police at G8 Protest in Georgia. Photo by Ben Dangl

On October 17, 2006, when George W. Bush signed the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2007–a $538 billion military spending bill–he enacted into law a section called “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies.” In the view of many, this Act substantially changed fundamental laws of the United States, giving Bush–and all future U.S. presidents–new and sweeping powers to use the U.S. military anywhere in the United States, virtually as he sees fit–for disaster relief, crowd control, suppression of public disorder, or any “other condition” that might arise.

News coverage of these significant changes in the law has been virtually nonexistent. At nearly every stage when it might have received coverage, the news media have completely ignored the story: When the NDAA was debated, when it was passed in the House on September 29 and in the Senate on Sept. 30, 2006, when it was signed into law on October 17, and even when Senate Judiciary chair Patrick Leahy (D.-Vt.) introduced his own bill on February 7, 2007 to overturn the Oct. 17 measures, mainstream media have provided no news coverage. Only on April 24, 2007, when the first hearings were held on Leahy’s bill, did a handful of mainstream media reports appear.

What could happen under the new law? As just one example, let’s say hundreds of demonstrators in Boston engaged in civil disobedience, sitting-in on the Boston Common to protest the country’s policies in Iraq, and traffic ground to a halt. Under the new law, the president could order in the Massachusetts National Guard to clear out the protesters even if the Massachusetts governor opposed this.

Indeed, the president could order the Guard of any state into any other state–even if the governors of both states objected. Or the president could choose to use any element of the U.S. military–the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines–to suppress a protest or carry out practically any kind of domestic action the president desired. And all of this with essentially no oversight–or checks and balances–on how the commander-in-chief uses these powers. Basically, after sending the National Guard somewhere, he or she merely needs to report to Congress every couple of weeks to let them know what the Guard is doing.

The law is so vague and far-reaching that numerous, normally conservative military and law enforcement groups, including the National Guard Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Adjutants General Association, have publicly come out against it, pledging their support for a new, bipartisan Senate bill, S. 513, from senators Leahy and Christopher Bond (R.-Mo.) that would overturn all the changes in law that occurred this past October. (There’s an identical, bipartisan companion bill in the House as well.)

It’s striking that even with the National Guard Association itself opposing Bush in this matter, there’s been next to no news coverage. Indeed, the Association (2/7/07) called the Act a “dangerous precedent,” with “the exploitation of the language of the Insurrection Act as a surreptitious method to gain special presidential authority where clearly the Congress has never intended the federal executive to hold sway.” (Rather than spelling out the sweeping changes it effected, the act made minor changes in the 1807 Insurrection Act that had major consequences.)

The National Governors Association is displeased as well. In rare unanimity, the association called, on February 2, 2007, for the new law to be overturned, saying that it “unnecessarily expanded the president’s authority to federalize the National Guard,” a change “drafted without consultation with the governors and without full discussion or debate.” All 50 U.S. governors have signed on to the association’s letter of opposition–including all 22 Republican governors.

The Adjutants General Association, which represents officers responsible for National Guard training and readiness, also stands in opposition to the Act, saying (2/7/07) that the language of the NDAA “significantly broadens the president’s ability to declare martial law and mobilize the National Guard under national command without consulting with the governors.” It adds that this broadening was “completely unnecessary” and done without any “committee or floor debate in either legislative chamber and with explicit opposition from the governors.”

The National Sheriffs’ Association declared itself (2/20/07) gravely concerned that such empowering language, as well as ambiguity of the new language, particularly its reference to the “other conditions” under which the president can invoke the Act, creates the likelihood that the Act will be invoked more frequently and hastily during such emergencies.

One might think that major military and law enforcement organizations and the united governors registering their displeasure would spark some news coverage, investigation and public debate. Yet the first news coverage did not appear until the first hearings on the Leahy/Bond bill, over six months after the bill was first signed. Even then, there was just a handful of stories–among them wire stories by Cox (4/24/07), McClatchy (4/25/07) and AP (4/25/07), and editorials in the Winston-Salem Journal (4/27/07) and Newsday (4/27/07).

Until the hearings, none of the many twists and turns of this story since the summer of 2006 has resulted in a single news story in any mainstream outlet we could identify–including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report.

Searches of transcripts for ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, PBS and NPR likewise revealed no coverage. Even journals of opinion like the Nation, New Republic, National Review and Weekly Standard have managed to avoid the topic.

While there was no news coverage, four months and two days after the bill was signed into law, the New York Times (2/19/07) did take notice with an editorial headlined “Making Martial Law Easier.” Though the nation’s paper of record has yet to treat the changes in the law as a news story, the Times did make several noteworthy points:

A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night. So it was with a provision quietly tucked into the enormous defense budget bill at the Bush administration’s behest that makes it easier for a president to override local control of law enforcement and declare martial law. . . . The president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or to any “other condition.”

The most substantive online coverage of the legal change was in the progressive online journal Toward Freedom (10/26/06), posted by Frank Morales shortly after Bush signed the bill. Morales wrote that

the de-facto repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA) is an ominous assault on American democratic tradition and jurisprudence. The 1878 Act . . . is the only U.S. criminal statute that outlaws military operations directed against the American people under the cover of “law enforcement.” As such, it has been the best protection we’ve had against the power-hungry intentions of an unscrupulous and reckless executive, an executive intent on using force to enforce its will.

Toward Freedom’s article was reposted on a number of blogs, and letters to the editor based on its reporting appeared in a handful of papers that otherwise failed to mention the issue. A letter by Eve Nielsen in the Centralia, Wash., Chronicle (11/15/06) was typical, warning that the bill

enables Bush to declare a “national emergency,” to usurp control over the National Guard and to use the military against American citizens in this country–in other words, martial law. Serious investigation into Bush’s crimes or impeachment could constitute such an emergency.

What does it say about the fourth estate that such significant changes occur in our laws without news media coverage and without the intelligent and vigorous public debate one would hope for in the world’s oldest democracy? The Jeffersonian ideal is of a well-informed citizenry capable of intelligent self-determination. All too often, thanks to a media asleep at the wheel, precious few even know that something has happened.

Robert Kubey is director of the Center for Media Studies and professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University. Research for this article was conducted by Rutgers undergraduates Sean Karpowicz, Kyle Pucciarello and Annie Sgrignoli. Doctoral student Mary Nucci provided consultation in the use of Lexis-Nexis.

“Asleep at the Wheel: Press ignores congressional OK for martial law” by Robert Kubey, was first published in the May/June 2007 of EXTRA!

Source URL: http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1067/1/

Bush Moves Toward Martial Law
Friday, October 27th, 2006

by Frank Morales

In a stealth maneuver, President Bush has signed into law a provision which, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will actually encourage the President to declare federal martial law (1). It does so by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President’s ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.

Public Law 109-364, or the “John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007? (H.R.5122) (2), which was signed by the commander in chief on October 17th, 2006, in a private Oval Office ceremony, allows the President to declare a “public emergency” and station troops anywhere in America and take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of the governor or local authorities, in order to “suppress public disorder.”

President Bush seized this unprecedented power on the very same day that he signed the equally odious Military Commissions Act of 2006. In a sense, the two laws complement one another. One allows for torture and detention abroad, while the other seeks to enforce acquiescence at home, preparing to order the military onto the streets of America. Remember, the term for putting an area under military law enforcement control is precise; the term is “martial law.”

Section 1076 of the massive Authorization Act, which grants the Pentagon another $500-plus-billion for its ill-advised adventures, is entitled, “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies.” Section 333, “Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law” states that “the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (”refuse” or “fail” in) maintaining public order, “in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.”

For the current President, “enforcement of the laws to restore public order” means to commandeer guardsmen from any state, over the objections of local governmental, military and local police entities; ship them off to another state; conscript them in a law enforcement mode; and set them loose against “disorderly” citizenry – protesters, possibly, or those who object to forced vaccinations and quarantines in the event of a bio-terror event.

The law also facilitates militarized police round-ups and detention of protesters, so called “illegal aliens,” “potential terrorists” and other “undesirables” for detention in facilities already contracted for and under construction by Halliburton. That’s right. Under the cover of a trumped-up “immigration emergency” and the frenzied militarization of the southern border, detention camps are being constructed right under our noses, camps designed for anyone who resists the foreign and domestic agenda of the Bush administration.

An article on “recent contract awards” in a recent issue of the slick, insider “Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International” reported that “global engineering and technical services powerhouse KBR [Kellog, Brown & Root] announced in January 2006 that its Government and Infrastructure division was awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract to support U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities in the event of an emergency.” “With a maximum total value of $385 million over a five year term,” the report notes, “the contract is to be executed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” “for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) – in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs.” The report points out that “KBR is the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton.” (3) So, in addition to authorizing another $532.8 billion for the Pentagon, including a $70-billion “supplemental provision” which covers the cost of the ongoing, mad military maneuvers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places, the new law, signed by the president in a private White House ceremony, further collapses the historic divide between the police and the military: a tell-tale sign of a rapidly consolidating police state in America, all accomplished amidst ongoing U.S. imperial pretensions of global domination, sold to an “emergency managed” and seemingly willfully gullible public as a “global war on terrorism.”

Make no mistake about it: the de-facto repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act (PCA) is an ominous assault on American democratic tradition and jurisprudence. The 1878 Act, which reads, “Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both,” is the only U.S. criminal statute that outlaws military operations directed against the American people under the cover of ‘law enforcement.’ As such, it has been the best protection we’ve had against the power-hungry intentions of an unscrupulous and reckless executive, an executive intent on using force to enforce its will.

Unfortunately, this past week, the president dealt posse comitatus, along with American democracy, a near fatal blow. Consequently, it will take an aroused citizenry to undo the damage wrought by this horrendous act, part and parcel, as we have seen, of a long train of abuses and outrages perpetrated by this authoritarian administration.

Despite the unprecedented and shocking nature of this act, there has been no outcry in the American media, and little reaction from our elected officials in Congress. On September 19th, a lone Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) noted that 2007’s Defense Authorization Act contained a “widely opposed provision to allow the President more control over the National Guard [adopting] changes to the Insurrection Act, which will make it easier for this or any future President to use the military to restore domestic order WITHOUT the consent of the nation’s governors.”

Senator Leahy went on to stress that, “we certainly do not need to make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law. Invoking the Insurrection Act and using the military for law enforcement activities goes against some of the central tenets of our democracy. One can easily envision governors and mayors in charge of an emergency having to constantly look over their shoulders while someone who has never visited their communities gives the orders.”

A few weeks later, on the 29th of September, Leahy entered into the Congressional Record that he had “grave reservations about certain provisions of the fiscal Year 2007 Defense Authorization Bill Conference Report,” the language of which, he said, “subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military’s involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law.” This had been “slipped in,” Leahy said, “as a rider with little study,” while “other congressional committees with jurisdiction over these matters had no chance to comment, let alone hold hearings on, these proposals.”

In a telling bit of understatement, the Senator from Vermont noted that “the implications of changing the (Posse Comitatus) Act are enormous”. “There is good reason,” he said, “for the constructive friction in existing law when it comes to martial law declarations. Using the military for law enforcement goes against one of the founding tenets of our democracy. We fail our Constitution, neglecting the rights of the States, when we make it easier for the President to declare martial law and trample on local and state sovereignty.”

Senator Leahy’s final ruminations: “Since hearing word a couple of weeks ago that this outcome was likely, I have wondered how Congress could have gotten to this point. It seems the changes to the Insurrection Act have survived the Conference because the Pentagon and the White House want it.”

The historic and ominous re-writing of the Insurrection Act, accomplished in the dead of night, which gives Bush the legal authority to declare martial law, is now an accomplished fact.

The Pentagon, as one might expect, plays an even more direct role in martial law operations. Title XIV of the new law, entitled, “Homeland Defense Technology Transfer Legislative Provisions,” authorizes “the Secretary of Defense to create a Homeland Defense Technology Transfer Consortium to improve the effectiveness of the Department of Defense (DOD) processes for identifying and deploying relevant DOD technology to federal, State, and local first responders.”

In other words, the law facilitates the “transfer” of the newest in so-called “crowd control” technology and other weaponry designed to suppress dissent from the Pentagon to local militarized police units. The new law builds on and further codifies earlier “technology transfer” agreements, specifically the 1995 DOD-Justice Department memorandum of agreement achieved back during the Clinton-Reno regime.(4)

It has become clear in recent months that a critical mass of the American people have seen through the lies of the Bush administration; with the president’s polls at an historic low, growing resistance to the war Iraq, and the Democrats likely to take back the Congress in mid-term elections, the Bush administration is on the ropes. And so it is particularly worrying that President Bush has seen fit, at this juncture to, in effect, declare himself dictator.

Source:
(1) http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200609/091906a.html and http://leahy.senate.gov/press/200609/092906b.html See also, Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, “The Use of Federal Troops for Disaster Assistance: Legal Issues,” by Jennifer K. Elsea, Legislative Attorney, August 14, 2006

(2) http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill+h109-5122

(3) Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International, “Recent Contract Awards”, Summer 2006, Vol.12, No.2, pg.8; See also, Peter Dale Scott, “Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps,” New American Media, January 31, 2006.

(4) “Technology Transfer from defense: Concealed Weapons Detection”, National Institute of Justice Journal, No 229, August, 1995, pp.42-43.

Source URL: http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/911/

Bush’s Martial Law Act of 2007
Saturday October 28th 2006, 9:44 am
Kurt Nimmo’s weblog: ‘Another Day in Empire’ www.kurtnimmo.com

On October 17, with little fanfare, the unitary decider signed H.R.5122, or the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007. “The act provides $462.8 billion in budget authority for the department. Senate and House conferees added the $70 billion defense supplemental budget request to the act, so overall, the act authorizes $532.8 billion for fiscal 2007,” explains Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service.

According to a press release from the office of Senator Patrick Leahy, however, the bill takes a “sizable step toward weakening states’ authority over their [National] Guard units, according to the congressional leaders who are leading the fight for Guard empowerment.” Leahey and senator Kit Bond, a Montana Republican, “said the conference agreement is expected to include a provision making it easier for the President to declare martial law, stripping state governors of part of their authority over state National Guard units in domestic emergencies. The provision is opposed by the National Governors Association and by key leaders in both the House and Senate.”

Frank Morales, an Episcopal priest and activist in New York City, writes (Ed. article below, in full) that the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 actually encourages the establishment of martial law “by revising the Insurrection Act, a set of laws that limits the President’s ability to deploy troops within the United States. The Insurrection Act (10 U.S.C.331 -335) has historically, along with the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C.1385), helped to enforce strict prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law enforcement. With one cloaked swipe of his pen, Bush is seeking to undo those prohibitions.”

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Bush demanded Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco yield to him the command over any National Guard troops sent to the area. “Bush wanted to invoke the Insurrection Act, which would have allowed him to take control over all armed forces deployed, including Louisiana’s National Guard troops. But under the terms of the act, he had to get the assent of the legislature or the governor of the state. The legislature was not in session and Blanco refused,” writes Deirdre Griswold. As of September 11, 2005, Griswold notes, citing the Los Angeles Times, “Bush has not yet invoked the Insurrection Act, but his administration is still discussing how to make it easier for the federal government to override local authorities in the future.”

Leaning on Blanco was considered politically sensitive. “Can you imagine how it would have been perceived if a president of the United States of one party had pre-emptively taken from the female governor of another party the command and control of her forces, unless the security situation made it completely clear that she was unable to effectively execute her command authority and that lawlessness was the inevitable result?” an anonymous senior administration official told the New York Times on September 8, 2005. Blanco “rejected a more modest proposal for a hybrid command structure in which both the Guard and active-duty troops would be under the command of an active-duty, three-star general–but only after he had been sworn into the Louisiana National Guard,” the New York Times adds.

Bush’s Martial Law Act of 2007 modifies the Insurrection Act and deals yet another blow to the Posse Comitatus Act. “Section 1076 of the massive Authorization Act, which grants the Pentagon another $500-plus-billion for its ill-advised adventures, is entitled, ‘Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies,’” explains Morales. “Section 333, ‘Major public emergencies; interference with State and Federal law’ states that ‘the President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of (‘refuse’ or ‘fail’ in) maintaining public order, ‘in order to suppress, in any State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.’”

For the current President, “enforcement of the laws to restore public order” means to commandeer guardsmen from any state, over the objections of local governmental, military and local police entities; ship them off to another state; conscript them in a law enforcement mode; and set them loose against “disorderly” citizenry–protesters, possibly, or those who object to forced vaccinations and quarantines in the event of a bio-terror event.

The law also facilitates militarized police round-ups and detention of protesters, so called “illegal aliens,” “potential terrorists” and other “undesirables” for detention in facilities already contracted for and under construction by Halliburton. That’s right. Under the cover of a trumped-up “immigration emergency” and the frenzied militarization of the southern border, detention camps are being constructed right under our noses, camps designed for anyone who resists the foreign and domestic agenda of the Bush administration.

Back in January, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root a $385 million contract to construct detention centers at undisclosed locations in the United States. As usual, the New York Times either missed over glossed over the significance of this development, characterizing it instead as a waste of taxpayer money. Peter Dale Scott, however, hit the nail right on the head. “For those who follow covert government operations abroad and at home, the contract evoked ominous memories of Oliver North’s controversial Rex-84 ‘readiness exercise’ in 1984. This called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to round up and detain 400,000 imaginary ‘refugees,’ in the context of ‘uncontrolled population movements’ over the Mexican border into the United States. North’s activities raised civil liberties concerns in both Congress and the Justice Department. The concerns persist.”

As Scott notes, plans for detention camps are nothing new, and indeed “have a long history, going back to fears in the 1970s of a national uprising by black militants. As Alonzo Chardy reported in the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987, an executive order for continuity of government (COG) had been drafted in 1982 by FEMA head Louis Giuffrida. The order called for ‘suspension of the Constitution’ and ‘declaration of martial law.’ The martial law portions of the plan were outlined in a memo by Giuffrida’s deputy, John Brinkerhoff.”

Brinkerhoff told PBS: “The United States itself is now for the first time since the War of 1812 a theater of war. That means that we should apply, in my view, the same kind of command structure in the United States that we apply in other theaters of war.”

Giuffrida was the Reagan administration’s first director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 1981 to 1985 and was the head of then-Governor Reagan’s California Specialized Training Institute, a National Guard school. In “1970 he had written a paper for the Army War College in which he called for martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. Among his ideas were ‘assembly centers or relocation camps’ for at least 21 million ‘American Negroes,’” writes Sam Smith. “During 1968 and 1972, Reagan ran a series of war games in California called Cable Splicer, which involved the Guard, state and local police, and the US Sixth Army. Details of this operation were reported in 1975 in a story by Ron Ridenour of the New Times, an Arizona alternative paper, and later exhumed by Dave Lindorff in the Village Voice…. Cable Splicer, it turned out, was a training exercise for martial law. The man in charge was none other than Edwin Meese, then Reagan’s executive secretary. At one point, Meese told the Cable Splicer combatants: This is an operation, this is an exercise, this is an objective which is going forward because in the long run … it is the only way that will be able to prevail [against anti-war protests.]”

In response to Richard Nixon’s October 30, 1969, issuance of Executive Order 11490, “Assigning Emergency Preparedness Functions to Federal Departments and Agencies,” which consolidated some 21 operative Executive Orders and two Defense Mobilization Orders issued between 1951 and 1966 on a variety of emergency preparedness matters, Howard J. Ruff noted: “The only thing standing between us and a dictatorship is the good character of the President and the lack of a crisis severe enough that the public would stand still for it” (see Diana Reynolds, Civil Security Planning).

Not only is Bush’s lack of “good character” obvious, he also considers himself our unitary decider with the power to ignore over 750 laws. “Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ‘whistle-blower’ protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research,” the Boston Globe reported in April.

“From the inception of the Republic until 2000, Presidents produced signing statements containing fewer than 600 challenges to the bills they signed. According to the most recent update, in his one-and-a-half terms so far, President George W. Bush (Bush II) has produced more than 800,” explains the American Bar Association Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine.

“It has become clear in recent months that a critical mass of the American people have seen through the lies of the Bush administration; with the president’s polls at an historic low, growing resistance to the war Iraq, and the Democrats likely to take back the Congress in mid-term elections, the Bush administration is on the ropes,” concludes Morales. “And so it is particularly worrying that President Bush has seen fit, at this juncture to, in effect, declare himself dictator.”