Do not separate text from historical background

Under the Radar: Ten Warning Signs for Today

1. Protest war, lose your property?

On July 17th, The White House quietly announced an Executive Order entitled “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq.” Among other developments, it gives Bush the power to “block” the property of people in the US found to “pose a significant risk of committing” an act of violence which might undermine “political reform in Iraq.”

The terms “significant threat” and “act of violence” are unclear. If you attend a demonstration against Bush’s definition of “political reform in Iraq” would that count? How about writing an angry letter to the editor?

The vague language also includes outlawing “the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.” What if you donate to an anti-war group which, outside of your knowledge, has been blacklisted by the government? Does that mean that your property can be “blocked”?

Similar to the Patriot Act, the potential implications are staggering.

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6. Cutting off Iraq’s water supply

For years, the Turkish government has tried to get international funding to build a dam across the Tigris River. The potential impact on villagers and the environment has stalled the project, and both Iraq and Syria have expressed concern that the proposed Ilisu dam could give Turkey power over their water supply.

European entities considering funding the project have received strong public pressure to back out, and if they do, China appears only too happy to step in and help build the dam.

Meanwhile, an estimated 250,000 Turkish troops are amassed near Northern Iraq and just this week, the Prime Minister of Turkey threatened to invade the country.

Long story short, Turkey and China are increasingly likely to assume a major role in both Iraq and Syria. Doesn’t bode well for the Bush’s administration’s plans.

The idea that Bush can make laws ( Bush, like Cheney must think he is also part of the legislative branch ) is no big surprise. Bush and his remaining supporters are making satire a bit difficult. As the Decider he decides what laws he will obey, which pretty much means none and then uses iron gloved “executive orders” to rule. If the jihaidists hated us for our freedoms they need to find another reason. That Congress can’t or will not find a way to reign this unhinged presidency accounts for why their approval rating is so low. Add China to the list of beneficiaries along with Iran of Bush’s policies. If a Democrat had handed over so much power and influence to communists and Shia fundies millions of Republicans would be having seizures about now, but since its Republican they just rewire their cognitive disbelief and tell themselves whatever lies it takes to sleep at night. One could almost envy their power of denial. Just What the Founders Feared: An Imperial President Goes to War

Given how intent the president is on expanding his authority, it is startling to recall how the Constitution’s framers viewed presidential power. They were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not accidentally create a kingdom. To guard against it, they sharply limited presidential authority, which Edmund Randolph, a Constitutional Convention delegate and the first attorney general, called “the foetus of monarchy.”

The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war. They were haunted by Europe’s history of conflicts started by self-aggrandizing kings. John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”

There is something personal and obsessive about Bush’s view of Iraq. As September approaches we’re getting louder echoes of 2004, Iraq is the front in the terror war. Then again it is a Republican obsession too. They used the war to hide their power grabs at every level of federal government and as a litmus test for patriotism. The least of what patriotism is, is the support for a president that manipulates the country into an unnecessary and counterproductive war. Like many catch phrases such as “values” conservatives have used “patriotism” the way Madison Ave uses where’s the beef to sell fast food. In doing so they have cheapened the honor of fidelity to country all the while as they wear little flags as though they were fashion accessories.

The founders would have been astonished by President Bush’s assertion that Congress should simply write him blank checks for war. They gave Congress the power of the purse so it would have leverage to force the president to execute their laws properly.

When I first read Mark Kleiman’s suggestion that Congress just stop funding various departments of the government I had a yea sure reaction, but Mark might be on to something even as much as Bush and Cheney should be impeached and put in stocks on the Whitehouse lawn, Gaming out the confrontation

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that the real action is on the appropriations side. By de-funding a bunch of units the average voter never heard of and doesn’t care about, Congress can bring the Bush Administration to its knees. And unlike the Iraq pullout measures, this doesn’t require 60 votes in the Senate.

In fact, it doesn’t even require 50 votes in the Senate: just a majority in the House and a Senate Majority Leader willing to play rough.

Bush Must Stop Blaming Military Leaders for Failed Strategy

And during 2005 and 2006, as the violence in Iraq and American casualties increased, the President said that General Casey the Commander in Iraq had not asked for more troops. Of course, Bush never mentioned the fact that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld made it clear to the Generals that they would not get more troops. And that Rumsfeld and his top lieutenants had publicly criticized General Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff for having the temerity to testify before Congress that several hundred thousand troops would be necessary to stabilize Iraq after the regime change.

The President’s use of the military as part of the domestic debate did not stop there. The combatant Commanders on the ground and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been continually “offered” to the Sunday morning talk shows to buttress the administration’s case for staying the course in Iraq. Moreover, when Congressional Republicans blamed General Casey for the problems in Iraq, Bush was silent.

However, the most flagrant use of the military to influence the domestic political debate has been with General David H. Petraeus. When Petraeus was in charge of training Iraqi security forces he was permitted or encouraged to write an op-ed in the Washington Post on September 26, 2004 that spoke glowingly about the progress that Iraqi Security forces were making under his tutelage. Not only was this not true, but coming a bare six weeks before the presidential election, the Petraeus op-ed assured an increasingly anxious public that the Bush strategy in Iraq was succeeding and helped the President secure reelection.

There are so many negative qualities of this administration that it is difficult to single one out, but ideological purity trumping both competence and factual analysis has brought about many of the administrations failures. Iraq is the most glaring example, but it played a large role in the vote caging scandal at the Department of Justice. Isn’t it odd that Bush has stood by Alberto Gonzales, but not his generals. How paradoxical for those right-wing conservatives that day in and day out tries to sell themselves as the militaries best friend.

“Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.”
James Madison