A former student has asked me about Mr Bush’s most recent Executive Order of July 17, 2007: “Executive Order Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq.” It essentially allows the confiscation of property and other financial assets from anyone deemed a threat to the ruthless and unnecessary conflict that is raging in the widowed land of Iraq. Or to be more precise, it could be used as a tool to stifle dissent and suppress protest.
Are our home furnishings safe from confiscation??
Its language is eerily reminiscent of the Espionage Act and Sedition Act that stifled free speech during World War I and beyond I might add. Those laws were draconian and not reflective of a so-called mature democracy. This Executive Order is chilling in its vagueness and potential harm it could cause to innocent, idealistic Americans opposed to the killing fields of Iraq.
One’s property under Mr Bush’s Executive Order could be seized. Are not there multiple Fifth Amendment guarantess of the sanctity of property and the protection of due process before confiscation?
Mr Bush’s E.O. is fraught with generalities that suggest an American could be arbitrarily sent to the poorhouse which is already bursting with the growth of poverty and immiseration in America. It states that assets can be taken for:
(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq.
(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people.
These conditions are extremely broad and imprecise. Does protest against the war constitute “threatening the stability?” Does denouncing the American occupation of Iraq and establishing a puppet government, that is a prisoner within the Green Zone with NO governing authority, “undermine political reform?”
Executive Orders are sometimes appropriate but in this instance is intended to bypass critical Congressional scrutiny which is more likely after the Democratic majorities arrived in January 2007. I doubt if the Congress would have allowed this threat of arbitrary seizure to have occurred through legislation or at least it would have been drafted in a manner that does not confer confiscatory powers that a dictatorship would envy. E.O.s do have the force of law which is why presidents, particularly those facing Congressional opposition, relish issuing them but they can be challenged in the courts and altered by subsequent Congressional legislation, which would of course require a presidential signature.
War is a threat to democracy. It does not enhance its dissemination despite posturing from its architects. The United States in this war has experienced significant loss of freedoms and this latest foray into eviscerating our civil liberties is an example. The Patriot Act has been used to bar foreign scholars; The F.I.S.A. has been ignored with illegal, warrantless wiretaps; American citizens have been arrested but denied access to counsel. The list is getting larger as the Bush administration is reaching a stage of desperation as its dreams of American hegemonic rule in the Middle East are crashing under the weight of I.E.D.s as the body count of Americans killed in action inevitably grinds on toward 4,000.