Bush, Obama, and the Nine-Year ‘Emergency’
by Michael Tennant
On September 14, 2001, President George W. Bush declared a national emergency with respect to the terrorist attacks of three days earlier. The National Emergencies Act of 1976 requires the President to renew this state of emergency on an annual basis if he wishes it to remain in effect. Bush renewed it every year he was in office, and now President Barack Obama has extended it for the second time during his term.
The United States of America, therefore, is now entering its 10th year under a continual state of emergency — on the basis of a small number of (admittedly spectacular) terrorist attacks that took place in the space of a few hours back in 2001 and a handful of failed attempts since.
So-called national emergencies are a boon for governments, and particularly for heads of state. The “national emergency” in 1933 Germany occasioned by the firebombing of the Reichstag spurred the German parliament to grant Chancellor Adolf Hitler supposedly temporary dictatorial powers; we all know how that turned out. Egypt has been operating under a state of emergency since 1967 (except for a brief period in 1980 and ’81). Its government has taken advantage of its emergency declaration to lock up thousands of political prisoners indefinitely, to create a kangaroo court system for those it bothers to try, to prevent criticism of the regime, and to suspend other constitutional rights.