Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
George W. Bush is churning out executive orders and Presidential directives just as fast as Dick Cheney’s lawyers can fill up yellow legal pads.
The power that he is asserting—no, grabbing—with these executive orders is astonishing and alarming. Such power imperils our liberties and our democratic system of government.
Two weeks ago, Bush issued an extraordinary executive order entitled, “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq.”
It gives to the Secretary of the Treasury the authority to freeze the property of people who are engaging in violence or who “pose a significant risk” of engaging in violence against the Iraqi government or the economic and reconstruction plan for Iraq.
It also bans donations of “food, clothing, and medicine, intended to be used to relieve human suffering” to anyone whose property has been frozen.
On August 1, Bush issued a similar executive order, this one entitled, “Blocking Property of Persons Undermining the Sovereignty of Lebanon or Its Democratic Processes and Institutions.”
Syrian meddling in Lebanon constitutes an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” Bush asserted, adding, “I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”
This executive order is even more sweeping.
Where the one on Iraq applies to people who engage in violent acts or pose a significant risk of engaging in violent acts, this one doesn’t even bother to limit it to that. Anyone who engages in any act—violent or nonviolent—against the government of Lebanon can now have his or her property frozen.
And it also gives the Treasury Secretary the authority to freeze the assets of “a spouse or dependent child” of any person whose property is frozen.
What’s next? Impounding the family dog?
The executive order on Lebanon also bans food, medicine, and humanitarian aid to anyone whose property is frozen—and that includes the “dependent child” mentioned above.
Representative Dennis Kucinich denounced the new executive order as “reckless and dangerous.” He said it is part of a strategy to “generate more turmoil” in the Middle East.
And amass more power in the Executive Branch.