President Bush Declares War on Dissent — Part 97

  Might you be determined to commit, or pose a significant risk
  of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the
  purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of
  Iraq or the Govern
ment of Iraq, or undermining efforts to
  promote economic reconstruction and political reform in
  Iraq, or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people?  Might you be part of an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and pose obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in that country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq?

Boy. Have I got a Commander-in-Chief for you.

"Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq," White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 17, 2007

Leave aside the fact — decisive in and of itself — that by far the greatest threat to the peace and stability of Iraq is, and for years has been, the U.S. war machine and the three successive governments that have staffed and operated it through the present moment.

Instead, zero-in-on the kind of questions with which I began. — Might anyone care to take a crack at explaining the real-world significance of the Executive Order signed by the President on July 17?

The possibilities are near limitless.

To speculate: In case any kind of impeachment and/or contempt of Congress funny business starts to seriously bear fruit and put regime members at risk, the regime will have the ultimate trump card up its sleeve?  Congress is aiding and abetting the terrorists in Iraq.

In case the regime escalates its current pacification campaign (the benignly named "surge") against its Iraqi enemies (pretty much the whole population) and/or launches a new war against Iran, and opposition movements in the States take off on a scale that hitherto have been contained, dissipated, or diverted into other endeavors? 

Or simply to provoke another test case which, if it winds up contested in the heavily stacked U.S. courts, could lead to another judicial dispossession of the rights the Constitution grants to citizens?  (The real reason behind keeping the gulag at Guantanamo Bay open, never forget: Not to extract "actionable information" from the prisoners locked up there, which can be done far more efficiently and less publicly off in a torture chamber in Afghanistan or similar venue.  But to keep having this otherwise illegal and supra-constitutional practice tested in the courts, and to keep racking up favorable precedents from all of the right-wing judges who serve on them.)  

Remarkably, I only learned of the existence of the July 17 Executive Order when a friend emailed me on Friday, the 20th, to ask whether I knew anything about it.  Of course I didn’t, because the event barely has been reported.

Aside from its having been posted to the White House’s website, and aside from the fact that a copy of it was circulated by the Congressional Quarterly Regulatory Intelligence Data service, as well as several other PR-type distribution services, this one entered the public realm as quietly as possible.

Having checked around, I now know for a fact that on July 17, White House spokesman Tony Snow mentioned it.

Also that it was reported by Agence France Presse, Associated Press, the Indo-Asian News Agency, and the Xinhua News Agency.  

In print, the July 18 Washington Post devoted all of 106 words to it; the July 18 Fort Worth Star Telegram devoted 31 words; and the July 18 St. Petersburg Times devoted 89.  But as far as the U.S. print media go, this is all that I’ve found.

Also this single paragraph — a single sentence, actually — in a July 20 commentary in the Washington Post ("Trouble With the Neighbors," Michael Gerson):

Additional economic pressures on Iran and its proxies would increase the cost of its current course. This week, President Bush issued an executive order financially targeting groups and individuals who recruit and send terrorists to Iraq. But any real leverage in this area will require the Europeans to take actions of their own.

This make a total of 126 words in the Washington Post (106 + 20).  So it’s good that we don’t live in one of those totalitarian states.  Even bad news manages to seep through.

(Note that the Washington Post Writers Group syndicates Michael Gerson’s column. So this single relevant 20-word sentence got picked up elsewhere.  But since I could find only roughly a handful of instances of it beyond the Post‘s original, I’m not counting them.)

Significantly, it does not appear that the New York Times reported anything on the existence of the Executive Order.

Far more difficult is making a judgment call on something as vast as "TV" news programming.  But nothing jumped out at me.  So let’s just say that the July 17 Executive Order was barely mentioned by all of the TV news programming (including the cable TV news shows). 

"Executive Order: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq," White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 17, 2007
"Message to the Congress of the United States Regarding International Emergency Economic Powers Act," White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 17, 2007

"Bush Executive Order: Criminalizing the Antiwar Movement," Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, July 20, 2007
"A Big Mile Marker on our March into the Police State," Alexander Cockburn, CounterPunch, July 21/22, 2007.  (Be sure to scroll-down to the relevant section.)
"Hillary’s Inquiry ‘Reinforces Enemy Propaganda’," Gary Leupp, CounterPunch, July 21/22, 2007
"How to Sell an Endless War," David Keen, CounterPunch, July 21/22, 2007
"In Bush we trust – or else," John Diaz, San Francisco Chronicle, August 5, 2007

Update (July 21): No surprises here.  As sure as night follows day.  ‘B’ follows ‘A’.  And the other shoe drops. 

The only difference being that this judgment and this Executive Order were reported.  

U.S. District Judge John Bates
Valerie Plame Wilson et al. v. I. Lewis Libby et al
., Judge John D. Bates, July 19, 2007

National Security (Homepage), White House Office of the Press Secretary
"Executive Order: Interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to a Program of Detention and Interrogation Operated by the Central Intelligence Agency," White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 20, 2007

The very last of of these ought to be renamed the Executive Order AGAINST the Geneva Conventions 

(Note that Common Article 3 refers to an article that appears in each of the four Geneva Conventions (1949).  Since the American gulag concerns the well-being of prisoners of war — or, to be more precise, illegally detained individuals — whether or not the American President tells the world they are "unlawful enemy combatants" or some other non-existent category of humanity, I happen to be directing you to Convention III, Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, August 12, 1949.)

Section 1 General Determinations. 

(a) …. On February 7, 2002, I determined for the United States that members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces are unlawful enemy combatants who are not entitled to the protections that the Third Geneva Convention provides to prisoners of war. I hereby reaffirm that determination.  

(b) The Military Commissions Act defines certain prohibitions of Common Article 3 for United States law, and it reaffirms and reinforces the authority of the President to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions.

Section 3. Compliance of a Central Intelligence Agency Detention and Interrogation Program with Common Article 3.

(a) Pursuant to the authority of the President under the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including the Military Commissions Act of 2006, this order interprets the meaning and application of the text of Common Article 3 with respect to certain detentions and interrogations, and shall be treated as authoritative for all purposes as a matter of United States law, including satisfaction of the international obligations of the United States. I hereby determine that Common Article 3 shall apply to a program of detention and interrogation operated by the Central Intelligence Agency as set forth in this section….

(b) I hereby determine that a program of detention and interrogation approved by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency fully complies with the obligations of the United States under Common Article 3, provided that:….


(ii) the conditions of confinement and interrogation practices are to be used with an alien detainee who is determined by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency:

(A) to be a member or part of or supporting al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated organizations; and

(B) likely to be in possession of information that:

(1) could assist in detecting, mitigating, or preventing terrorist attacks,….


(iii) the interrogation practices are determined by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, based upon professional advice, to be safe for use with each detainee with whom they are used;….


Section 5. General Provisions.

(a) …. [T]his order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, against the United States, its departments, agencies, or other entities, its officers or employees, or any other person.

(b) Nothing in this order shall be construed to prevent or limit reliance upon this order in a civil, criminal, or administrative proceeding, or otherwise, by the Central Intelligence Agency or by any individual acting on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency in connection with the program addressed in this order. [###]  

Of course the news media are badly misreporting Bush’s July 20 Executive Order.  Basically, they’re reporting it upside-down: The Order reaffirms the rights and powers of a Tyrant-in-Chief, and the media instruct us that the tell us that the Tyrant has reformed his ways. 

But under no circumstances does the Order do anything other than reaffirm Bush’s authority to interpret Geneva Convention III exactly as his office sees fit. 

True, news accounts would have us believe that Bush issued "new" rules or "altered" the old ones, and has told everybody who works for the American gulag to "end inhumane interrogation" and "cruelty," and similar fare.

In fact, the Order is viscously circular.  It reaffirms that the Tyrant-in-Chief has the sole authority "to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions," just as it reaffirms that "unlawful enemy combatants…are not entitled to the protections that the Third Geneva Convention provides to prisoners of war…."  And so on.  And so on.

So that when Bush signed the Order telling the interrogators to respect Article 3 of the Third Geneva Convention, it was the emptiest of gestures: The exception remains the quote-unquote "unlawful enemy combatants," who are regarded as far outside the Third Geneva Convention today as they were on February 7, 2002 — or at any other time in American history, for all real-world purposes. —

In short, the July 20 Executive Order reaffirms that the sky is the limit, if and when the Tyrant-in-Chief says that it is.

And the July 20 Order clearly says that it is.

"Bush Alters Rules for CIA Interrogations," Katharine Shrader, Associated Press, July 21, 2007 (as posted to Truthout)
"End inhumane interrogation, Bush tells CIA," Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, July 21, 2007
"Bush signs new CIA interrogation rules," Greg Miller, Los Angeles Times, July 21, 2007
"Rules Lay Out C.I.A.’s Tactics In Questioning," Mark Mazzetti, New York Times, July 21, 2007
"Bush Approves New CIA Methods," Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, July 21, 2007 





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