Sovereigns in Power – Fear of September

George W. Bush
September 9/11 is a well known topic and case for a State of Emergency.  The State of Emergency was declared by former President George W. Bush following the attacks on the United States believed to be orchestrated by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.  Many people remember today where they were when the first tower fell, and the second, and the horrors of watching thousands of people running for their lives leaving behind friends and getting separated from family.  The images we watched on the news reports, some that stations still replay, remind us of how fragile our societies can be.  These images that are constantly in our minds, they are reminders of why specific legislations exist but in the United States they are an indication of something else.  The replaying of the 9/11 attacks in the USA on September 11th is another way of solidifying the needs of the government to maintain their State of Emergency as “the terrorist threat that led to the declaration on September 14, 2001, of a national emergency continues” (Pres. Barack Obama, taken from: MSN BC).

By enacting a State of Emergency at such a heightened emotional time for people the President had next to no opposition.  In the United States, American citizens elect one President to rule for a set period over the country.  This President essentially holds the end all say all to discussions and decisions that affect the entire country.  Should he decide to wage a ‘war on terror’ as President Bush did following the September 11 attacks then that power is his sword to wield.  “These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our people into chaos and retreat…but they have failed.  Our country is strong.  A great many people have been moved to defend a Great nation” (Address to Nation, President George W. Bush, video below).

Following his national address many Americans regardless of political affiliation felt the “quiet anger” that Bush was speaking of in his address.  As a result, the War on Terror began.   The Department of Homeland Security was formed merging “22 governmental agencies into one, including the Customs Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency” (CNN September 11th Facts).

“The Washington Times wrote on September 18, 2001 that:

Simply by proclaiming a national emergency on Friday, President Bush activated some 500 dormant legal provisions, including those allowing him to impose censorship and martial law.” (Global Research 2013).

The information that was kept from even the newly formed Home-front defense of Homeland Security was significant in both power and understanding.  People who were thought to be retired or to be in one position within the government were now acting upon secondary orders and making decisions that the public and defences had no idea existed. Furthermore from that fact is that Bush ordered specific Officials to bunkers to ensure the survival of the Federal Government.  This quickly became noted as the entrance of the “Shadow Government” by the Washington Post.  The post declared the reasoning for this was fear of nuclear weapons.  For the duration of Bush’s Presidency the action he took while exercising his power as an elected sovereign of the nation, were justified through the idea of 9/11.  Just the mention of the attacks that took place that day, the fear that the idea of a reoccurrence of the attacks, created such a strong fear in people and anger in others that few of Bush’s actions were initially questioned. (Washington Post Article on Shadow Government)

It was not until information began to be leaked out to the public that they even knew things like personal conversations on phones, emails, bank accounts, and the like of American citizens were being watched that the anti-war support grew.  But here’s a question, did the anti-war support grow to stop the physical war?  Or was the support to stop the war on American privacy law?  More and more throughout the process you start to see a pattern that the Bush administration created and orchestrated in such a way that made the population just accept the actions as movement in the best protection of their home.  But the patterns I see here resemble more actions like those of the cold war between USSR and the USA than protection plans.  The idea of the government partaking in and committing acts of espionage on their own populous is one that is not new.  But is it old because of the duration of the State of Emergency Bush declared in 2001 that is still in effect 12 years later?

Bush’s actions and decisions, though he is no longer in office, were still in effect.  Current President Barack Obama extended the State of Emergency that Bush declared citing once again the War on Terror.



On September 23, 2001, by Executive Order 13224, the President declared a national emergency with respect to persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism, pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706).  The President took this action to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States constituted by the grave acts of terrorism and threats of terrorism committed by foreign terrorists, including the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, in New York and Pennsylvania and against the Pentagon, and the continuing and immediate threat of further attacks against United States nationals or the United States.  Because the actions of these persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, the national emergency declared on September 23, 2001, and the measures adopted on that date to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond September 23, 2012.  Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support terrorism.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.


September 11, 2012.” (taken from: The White House Archive)

What’s more, is that though some group oppose the action, so many people have become accustomed to living under the state of emergency the it has become a normative universe of understanding among the general public.  Most view the idea of extension as just that, an extension on how they live today.  Of course there will have been movements who have succeeded in changing aspects of how the government conducts its surveillance and “shadow” operations but essentially they are still the same at the foundations.  To look closer at the legislation, possibly the most important legislation in America is being superseded through the actions of the White House, the American Constitution.

Because Homeland Security had been granted full access to information regarding the continuity of governmental plans and this information was denied to them, the balancing actions that the Constitution ensures is under question.

This would be to say that the “continuity of government plans [that] are specifically defined to do the following:

  • Top leaders of the “new government” called for in the COG would entirely or largely go into hiding, and would govern in hidden locations
  • Those within the new government would know what was going on. But those in the “old government” – that is, the one created by the framers of the Constitution – would not necessarily know the details of what was happening
  • Normal laws and legal processes might largely be suspended, or superseded by secretive judicial forums
  • The media might be ordered by strict laws – punishable by treason – to only promote stories authorized by the new government” (Global Research 2013)

are permitted because the President made them so.

If the department set up to ensure that the mentioned list does not happen is superseded by the current government, which it appears to have already been, then the sovereignty of the President and his administration is absolute.  The President gets to remove and exempt himself and those he seems necessary to carry out his ideals from any legal reprimand or consequence with no order higher than the President to take issue with the actions.

In this context, the soverign’s power of authority in a State of Emergency, essetially overrules all prior legislation and rights of the people of the country.  Though to maintain order the sovereign must not let actions and/or words show the level of manipulation and expanse of his power the actual power itself is held by maintaining the population’s fear.  A brilliant more recent example of this sovereignty and its fragility could be compared to The Hunger Games by Suzzanne Collins.  She rights of a society divided by divisions, much like the states, and hold one man as the ruler of the nation, the president, who holds ‘games’ much like the gladiator battles in rome where children selected at random must fight to the death to maintain peace in their nation as a reminder of the distruction that rebellions can cause.  You could take these novels and apply them to a global scale as well but for the purposes of the states, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon are the rebellion.  The replaying of these images on televisions and the establishment of “Patriot’s day” on September 11 every year in the USA, these are the actual hunger games themselves.  Using images of something so heavily emotional and devastating to so many people to maintain that the action of the images in necessary for a peacefully continuing life.  The fact that people live this way for years, under heavy guard, or in the USA surveillance, become the normative stance for the public while the rich and higher-class officials that run the country or nation are exepmt from the games and may do whatever they wish, whenever they wish, without fear of consequence.  That is soverignty absolute until rebellion.


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One response to “Sovereigns in Power – Fear of September

  1. This is a detailed, well-researched, and engaging contribution to the blog. Thanks!

    As you note, theories of sovereign power have often been used to make sense of post-Sept. 11 policies and practices. If you are looking for some interesting socio-legal texts on this topic, I recommend Michael Welch’s ‘Crimes of Power and States of Impunity’, Giroux’ ‘Beyond the Terror of Neoliberalism’, and Ericson’s ‘Crime in an Insecure World’.

    The use of the Hunger Games as a case study is also interesting – and it fits with a tradition of examining socio-political concepts through an exploration of popular culture. Do Agamben’s concepts of homo sacer / bare life and the camp fit the example of the Hunger Games?