It has come to this:
For Immediate Release(Full text here)
Office of the Press Secretary
July 17, 2007
Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, as amended (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.)(IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.)(NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,
I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that, due to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by acts of violence threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq and to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people, it is in the interests of the United States to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, and expanded in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004. I hereby order:
Section 1. (a) Except to the extent provided in section 203(b)(1), (3), and (4) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(1), (3), and (4)), or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the date of this order, all property and interests in property of the following persons, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons, are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense,
(i) to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of:
(A) threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq; or
(B) undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people;
(ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, logistical, or technical support for, or goods or services in support of, such an act or acts of violence or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or
(iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.
It's that B clause that concerns me -- and should concern all of us who blog, comment, organize, write letters, and otherwise exercise our rights to agitate against this unholy war. "Undermining the efforts" is a term that can be defined very, very broadly. And since those of us opposing this war have been told repeatedly, from the beginning, that our efforts to change our fellow citizens' minds were in fact treasonous acts that undermined the war effort, emboldened America's enemies, and harmed our troops, it's not unreasonable to believe that those warnings are now being backed up by official action. "At risk of committing significant acts of violence" is more overbroad weasel-speak: How many of us have said things that could be construed (at least by the certifiable paranoids in the White House) as a threat of violence against the Bush Administration?
This government has now asserted -- without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress -- its right to take away our houses, cars, savings accounts, the stuff of our lives, on the say-so of the President and his Treasury Secretary. They are not kidding. What we do here, what I am doing right now (unless I choose my words very carefully) is being done in defiance of the Law According to George Bush.
For the past four and a half years, Dave has carefully and thoughtfully argued that there's a difference between proto-fascism -- the sprouts that are present in the garden, but have not yet borne flower or fruit -- and the real thing.
When the President can take away your life's savings without due process, under authority of a law no people's legislature ever approved, for simply disagreeing with his policies and publicly stating your intentions to do something about them, we are treading so close to that line that it's hard to tell whether we're actually over it.
And, worse, we've reached the point where these outrages seem to occur weekly -- bigger and more blatant every time, but by now we've seen so many so often that we're inured. We don't even know where to start fighting. In any other administration we've ever had, this one act on its own would be an impeachable offense. In this one, it's just another drop in an overflowing bucket.
And that, too, is how fascism works. As Milton Mayer explained in They Thought They Were Free:
"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.The America that would accept this kind of edict in silence is not the America that we grew up in. Something has changed. We are poised to accept this like we've accepted every other insult. It's hard to imagine that, even when bloggers and other dissenters start losing their property, that there will be tens of thousands in the streets to protect us. As long as the forms are still there, and the system continues to do what it must to sustain itself, we will simply be collateral damage.
"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’
"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have....
"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.
"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.
If we accept the forcible removal of our property without due process, forcible removal of our lives will not be far behind. And there are people eager to accomplish this: according to Barna Research, there are about 50 million hardcore fundamentalists who have been eagerly awaiting the day, training and planning and praying for the chance to do just that -- to take out their frustrations on the liberal traitors whom they have been taught to believe are responsible for everything that's wrong with their lives. They believe, in their bones, we have stabbed God's America in the back; and they are out for vengeance. This is the edict that will provide "legal" support and justification for their first tentative steps toward mob rule.
Are we there yet? Not quite. But Bush has just put the capstone on the doorway leading to the coming fascist state. Whether your own B clause is a passport or a gun, it's probably time to make sure both are in good working order.
Update: Thom Hartmann did a long interview with far-right economist Paul Craig Roberts on Friday that sheds more light on the implications of this. (There are plenty of people on the right who are at least as concerned about Bush's intentions as we are.) You can go hear the audio here.