Bush Waives Sanctions Under Burma Bill
Friday, January 16, 2009 at 11:39 pm
Seems he just couldn’t resist.
With just days left in his tenure, President George W. Bush yesterday scrapped a portion of a Burma-sanctions law that was intended to weaken the country’s brutal military junta by freezing the assets of its leaders.
The provision — found in the Block Burmese JADE Act, which Bush signed into law in July — freezes the finances of Burma’s military leaders and their families in all U.S.-owned banks, including those operating overseas. The original law also applied the asset-freeze to yet-unnamed Burmese nationals who are later discovered to support the repressive regime. Bush’s waiver prevents the freeze from applying to this anonymous group, instead limiting sanctions only to those appearing on the Treasury Department’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons. Here’s the still-president’s explanation:
Because the imposition of effective and meaningful blocking sanctions requires the identification of those individuals and entities targeted for sanction and the authorization of certain limited exceptions to the prohibitions and restrictions that would otherwise apply, I hereby determine and certify that such a limited waiver is in the national interest of the United States.
Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, isn’t convinced. Berman blasted Bush’s move Friday, saying the decision runs “contrary to the law.” From Berman’s statement:
Now those who are supporting the Burmese military clique and who have not yet been publicly identified by the Treasury Department will get a free pass — just what Congress was trying to prevent. It is puzzling that a President who has professed support for Burmese advocates for freedom has made a decision in his final days in office that was both unnecessary and so contrary to his past actions.
Berman spokeswoman Lynne Weil said the waiver provision was intended for cases when national security might be compromised or Washington wanted to cut a deal with an individual in return for some form of cooperation. “To do a blanket waiver — exempting people who haven’t even been named — it’s unusual,” Weil said.
The move is particularly puzzling because Laura Bush has been an unusually vocal critic of Burma’s human rights record.
So what is George thinking? We’ve been asking ourselves that for eight years.
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