Takoma Park/Silver Spring Voice editor Eric Bond posed several questions of both panelists. The first concerned the efficacy of resolutions like the proposed NDAA/AUMF resolution. Referring to impeachment and anti-Iraq War resolutions, Bond pointed out that “Bush finished out his presidency… the Iraq War was not stopped by this resolution… can you both address the role that Takoma Park can play by passing this resolution?” adding that he wondered if the community could avoid the appearance of joining a “fad.”
Buttar answered that there was something new about this issue — Takoma Park would be joining conservative-leaning communities that have spoken out against the NDAA such as El Paso County, CO, home to five military bases including the Air Force Academy. Indeed, “quite frankly, progressives and liberals have been very slow to adopt this struggle at the elected layer,” even though at the grassroots level, Occupy camps around the country were quick to oppose the NDAA as well.
Buttar also spoke to the way the issue took even activists somewhat by surprise: “the NDAA makes the PATRIOT Act look like a joke. Because all the PATRIOT Act says is …that the government can peer into your life and invade your privacy at whim. But the NDAA means it can lock you up at whim. Without a trial, indefinitely.” Buttar agreed that there was only so much one community could do, but that it was crucial to be a part of a greater movement.
Bond asked whether indeed it was harder to organize opposition to the NDAA in an Obama-leaning community like Takoma Park to oppose the NDAA: “what do Democrats do when a Democratic president is… behind legislation like this?” In reply, Hurlburt noted that “this was fought out inside the White House, and the interesting thing, again, is the national security professionals… wanted to veto this bill. The political people did not want to veto it. Look who won.” Those people care about votes, money, and publicity, she continued.
Like Buttar, Hurlburt is impressed by the bipartisan nature of NDAA opposition. “In my dream world, Takoma Park passes the resolution and it gets written up. …And we start spamming relentlessly the Hill, the White House, and the media saying ‘look at the insane range of localities that have spoken out against this, and how much the media have jumped on it and what a story it is.'”
To make that plainer, Hurlburt suggested “my second fantasy is that we work with Shahid and we put a Takoma Park city council member together with a county councilor from El Paso County, CO … And you take those two folks and the retired two star general who works with me and we go visit some Congressional offices. Boy, would we have fun doing that.”
Bond’s next question invoked the emergence of a “security-industrial complex”; “homeland security” majors were one of the fastest-growing major in colleges. Was there a strategy for addressing that?
Buttar answered that in his view — and in contrast to surveillance — there (hopefully) wasn’t the kind of cash cow potential with detention policy. Hurlburt agreed that “in terms of money, this is a sideshow. ” She continued,
“But the need to be this afraid, and the idea that the threat we face is so profound that the FBI can’t handle it, the Justice Department can’t handle it, the police can’t handle it, a Supermax prison can’t handle it, the prison industry can’t handle it — that’s the foundation that lets everything else happen. That’s the foundation that lets it be OK to suspend the Constitution, that’s the foundation that lets it be OK to start new wars… So actually in a funny way, if we don’t have this, then a lot of the pressure for massive security industrial complex starts to go away.”