Chris Floyd: Nightmare On Main Street


Richard Moore

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Nightmare On Main Street
More On Bush's Anti-Dissent Order
By Chris Floyd
Empire Burlesque

        I think we are in rats' alley
        Where the dead men lost their bones

We wrote recently here of Bush's new executive order granting himself and his 
minions the arbitrary power to seize the entire assets of any American citizen ‹
without warning, without any criminal charges whatsoever ‹ solely by declaring 
that their victim somehow poses an unspecified threat to "the peace or stability
of Iraq" or else is "undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and 
political reform in Iraq." In other words, Bush now claims the power to strip 
you of your assets if you oppose American policy in Iraq.

This latest tyrannical outburst from the Outrager-in-Chief has passed largely 
without notice. Even some of the Administration's fiercest critics have 
downplayed its significance. The always-admirable Dave Neiwert at Orcinus has 
been among the skeptics, on the reasonable grounds that right-wing militia 
groups were forever reading vast conspiracies into ordinary government decrees 
in the 1990s, and that one should wait for more informed legal analyses before 
leaping to scarifying conclusions. Fair enough ‹ although Dave himself has done 
as much as anyone out there in detailing the extremism of the Bush Regime and 
its supporters. To his credit, Dave has kept an open mind on the question, and 
co-blogger at Orcinus, Sara Robinson, has taken a far darker view of the 
executive order.

Now Dave has featured a long ‹ and highly disturbing ‹ piece of informed legal 
analysis of the order from one of his regular commenters, attorney Den Valdron. 
who draws out the very dangerous implications of the order's wording in 
convincing detail. Perhaps most disturbing is Valdron's insight that the 
executive order doesn't even have to be formally invoked in order to have a 
chilling effect on political dissent. Just its mere existence ‹ and the 
ever-present threat of social and legal obliteration that it represents ‹ will 
be enough to quell all but the hardiest opponents of the Leader's criminal 
rampage in Iraq.

You should scoot on ever to Orcinus and read

"That Executive Order" in full, but below is an excerpt about the "chill factor"
that Valdron identifies:

Essentially, in this Executive Order the President is assuming unbelievably vast
powers to simply sidestep normal criminal or civil procedure, and to operate 
quite explicitly on the basis of guilt by anticipation, guilt by pre-emption, 
guilt by association and guilt for any reason in the mind of the decider. There 
is literally no limitation on authority, except that the person's actual 
physical being is unaffected.

However, a person so designated by this Order could be rendered into a 
non-person literally instantaneously. They could be stripped of every asset, 
have every financial or commercial opportunity denied to them. Worse, this 
literally creates a power to shun. Anyone who employs this person, who hires 
them, who pays them for work, lends them money to tide them over, who rents them
an apartment, or allows them to sleep on the couch, who drops them a few coins 
as they panhandle would be liable to becoming subject to this order. The only 
protection would be to fire this person, to not hire them, to not pay them, to 
not lend them money, evict them from your apartment, kick them off the couch, 
and look away if you see them begging on the street.

If the potential implications of this make you think of Jews in Nazi Germany, 
think again. The Jews pre-war had it good compared to the potential of this.

The most disturbing thing is that this Executive Order need not be actually 
used. Consider it as a weapon of intimidation. Most Americans are not rich. Most
people live in apartments, they may have a house that the bank owns, they may 
have a car they're making payments on, they struggle with credit card debt, live
paycheque to paycheque. We all live in these little islands of stability that 
can be so easy to disrupt.

So imagine that you are a dedicated, committed, politically active person. 
You're donating to the Green Party, perhaps active in local politics, going to 
demonstrations...Then one day, a person from the treasury department comes to 
visit. He shows you this executive order, and he tells you that you have been 
identified by your actions and associations as being a 'significant risk to 
commit acts of violence.' He says that by their lights, you may already be 
deemed to have committed acts of violence. He tells you that it has been 
concluded that these acts of violence undermine the Iraqi government and the 
reconstruction campaign...

You protest of course. He says it doesn't matter, these are the findings of the 
Secretary of the Treasury under the executive order. You challenge him to prove 
what act of violence they think you are about to commit. He replies that there's
no particular act, only that you're a 'significant risk.'

Then he tells you, in very clear terms, what they can do. That they can and will
take your house. That they can and will take your car and your bank account. 
That you will be fired from your job. That you will find it impossible to get 
another job, or find another place to live. That anyone who helps you will be 
similarly punished, so no one will help you. He tells you that if this isn't 
enough, they are prepared to take the same tactic against your parents, your 
children, your girlfriend, your friends, based on their association with you 
making them a 'significant risk of committing violence' or of 'providing support
to you.'

He asks you if you are prepared to see your life erased? Are you really that 
brave? Do you really want to lose your job, your home, your nest, your savings, 
your income, your retirement...And if you are that brave, are you really 
prepared to see this done to your girlfriend, your parents, whoever is close to 

You could take it to court and fight it, of course. All you need is a lawyer 
that will work for free, because you won't be able to pay him. And he'll have to
be a lawyer willing to risk winding up in the same situation you'll be 
inFighting it will take two or three years. That's a long time to spend eating 
out of dumpsters and sleeping on heating grates. It's possible of course, that 
you'll win and be vindicated. Or you could lose.

Are you feeling lucky?

So most people in that situation, what would they do? They'll just shut their 
mouths, stop making waves, they'll do their jobs, collect their paycheques and 
mind their own business. They'll stay out of trouble.

But sometimes, when they see the Sheriff driving down the street to evict 
someone, when there's a hiccup in their credit card, when they get a call from 
the bank, or a call into their boss's office... well, they'll get a cold sweat 
running down their backs, and their stomach will flutter, and they'll search 
their memories for anything that they might have done wrong, maybe said the 
wrong thing to the wrong person, had the wrong friend, went to the wrong 
place... And of course, most times, it'll turn out to be nothing. They'll 
recover from the scare, their life will go on. But the fear will remain 
somewhere, and the cold sweat, and the only choice they have will be to be good 
little citizens.

This is the dystopian thug-state that the Bush Administration is building before
our eyes ‹ often in broad daylight, with little or no pretense of masking their 
lust, their obsession, with authoritarian power. Yet every institution in 
American civic life that might act as a bulwark against these tyrannical 
encroachments seems completely paralyzed ‹ or else thoroughly complicit in this 
monstrous mutation. Bush and his cronies are effecting a wholesale revolution in
the American state, despite being one of the most discredited and widely 
despised administrations in the country's history. It's like a long and vivid 
nightmare, where you watch some hideous, filth-encrusted beast gnawing your 
child to pieces, in agonizing slow motion, while you stand mysteriously frozen 
on the spot, unable to move or scream.


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