TAC readers with longish memories might recall George W. Bush’s executive order 13438 issued on July 17th, 2007, which is apparently still in effect though yet to be used, authorizing the President acting through the Treasury Department to seize the property of anyone who “Threatens Stabilization Efforts in Iraq.” As the administration’s own Justice Department decides what constitutes “threatening stabilization efforts” the order could have been used to go after any critic of the integrity of the Iraqi government or of Washington’s efforts to prop up the same. Most disturbing, similar to much of the other post-9/11 legislation, the order did not permit a challenge to the information that the seizure was based on and it also allowed the confiscation of the property of anyone who comes to the assistance of the suspected de-stabilizer. It was a lot like being on a no-fly list only much, much worse.
Well, if history really does repeat itself as farce, the current Administration has revived the concept with an executive order issued on May 16th. The Obama White House has shown itself to be truly reluctant to let any bad idea inherited from GWB go to waste, so it has come up with an authority to freeze the US based assets of anyone who “obstructs the political process” taking place in Yemen. The order includes US citizens in its purview and is intended to serve as a deterrent aimed at “those who are even thinking of spoiling the transition.” You might well be asking what transition they are referring to and could also be wondering why the Bill of Rights should be suspended for those who are thinking too hard in light of the fact that Washington does not appear to have any treaty with Sana’a obliging some kind of quid-pro-quo in terms of good behavior. Well, the Washington Post describes Yemen’s transformation somewhat opaquely as an “administration backed political transition,” but then admits the order is “unusual.” An anonymous administration source “authorized to discuss the new order” explains that Obama will make sure that friends and relatives of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh do not try to get involved in politics and disrupt the transition from their guy to the next strongman in line Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Oh, by the way, Hadi has promised to introduce democracy.
In other words, if Saleh’s cousin has a bank account at Chase he had better not think of running for alderman. But of course he doesn’t have an account there. Which means that the order is really directed at American citizens, mostly of Yemeni descent, who might want to get directly involved in the politics of that unhappy land. They have to understand that only the White House can meddle in Yemen. For those few who still believe in the Obama mystique and who would argue that the Treasury Department action would only be directed at those giving material support to terrorist groups, think again. There are already laws enabling the Treasury to do all kinds of things to those supporting terrorism. This is all about attempting to micromanage the outcome of a chaotic political process inside Yemen. If it as successful as earlier efforts in Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and ongoing in Afghanistan and Syria, God help us all.