“War is the Health of the State” – Randolph Bourne
On March 6th, President Barack Obama issued an executive order pertaining to the situation with Russia and Ukraine, which declared a national state of emergency. This executive order is named “Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine.” The language in this bill is vague and thus, frightening in it’s implications. Before we get into the details, let’s look at exactly what an executive order is and what it means.
“An executive order is any directive issued by the leader of the executive branch. They are usually used to direct certain tasks or actions to cabinet members and other executive officers. Some executive orders even have the ‘force of law’ when permissions are given by the Senate or House of Representatives. For example, in 2001, both houses of Congress voted to give President Bush emergency powers after the 9/11 attack. Bush was able to use this power to make executive orders that would allow him to make important decisions regarding the war on terror without a vote from Congress. However, these emergency powers do expire. Despite this, not all executive orders need an approval from Congress. Presidents have been issuing executive orders since 1789 even though the Constitution does not explicitly give them the right to do so. However, vague wording in Article II Section 1 and Article II Section 2 gives the president this privilege. Executive orders also include National Security directives and Homeland Security Presidential Directives.”
An executive order is used to direct how a law is enforced, it is not meant to be used to create a new law. The power to create new laws lays solely with the congress, and the executive branch can only enforce those laws that the congress has passed. However the current precedent allows for presidents to circumvent the congress and essentially make their own laws through executive order.
The language in most executive orders is vague and broadly written, so that it leaves nearly everything open to interpretation. Here is an example in this recent executive order mentioned at the beginning. The President asserts that asset seizure is possible for any US person “determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State”:
(I) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, and of the following:
(A) actions or policies that undermine democratic processes in Ukraine
(B) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; or
(C) misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine;
Firstly, the irony should be noted here, because the US government is guilty of both sections A and B with their recent refusal to recognize a democratic election in Crimea, followed by more sanctions. More importantly though, this legal language could be used to discourage dissent among the American people, of whom 56 percent believe that the US should not be involved in the affairs of Ukraine and Russia.
This executive order is disturbing, especially when factored into many of the statements in 2014′s NDAA. Anyone who speaks about their views, or expresses their views on a blog post or even potentially on a YouTube video, are at risk of having their assets seized. The chances are low that this will actually happen, but the fact remains that the president just gave himself the authority to do so, if he pleases.
The quote at the start of this article is just as appropriate today as it was when it was written back in 1918. The government absolutely loves a good war, because it is an easy excuse to take the liberty and property of it’s citizens, especially those who speak out against the war effort, all while shifting attention away from domestic problems.