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.
2. Market meltdown
Economic fallout from the subprime mortgage market collapse has extended further, with prominent investment company Bear Stearns admitting last week that two of its hedge funds, once valued at $1.6 billion, are now of "very little value."
Meanwhile, the prestigious Bank for International Settlements released a statement warning that the global economy could be facing a Great Depression, and that the dollar in particular "remains vulnerable to a sudden loss of private sector confidence."
Fasten your seatbelts.
3. Escalating US military operations in Pakistan
Following 911, the Bush administration propped up Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf as a key ally in the "war on terror," spending billions of dollars on Pakistan’s military while ignoring Musharraf’s support for the Taliban. Those days might be over. Just last week, the White House announced US military forces could be deployed to strike "actionable targets" in the country - with or without Musharraf’s permission.
The Bush administration threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age" in 2001 if it didn’t deal with the Taliban, but Musharraf has so far been able to convince the US that if his administration falls, then Pakistan will be ruled by Islamists. As a former CIA officer recently told National Public Radio, "I've heard Gen. Musharraf ... tell American presidents that if you don't support me, the next person will be the 'bearded ones'."
But Musharraf faces growing domestic opposition for his strong-arm tactics, and while last week’s brutal storming of the Lal Masjid Mosque in Islamabad may have won bonus points in Washington, it only served to further alienate the Pakistani people.
In other words, US military action in Pakistan will most likely destabilize the Musharraf government, and may in fact push Pakistan's nuclear arsenal into the hands of a government of "bearded ones."