Trump’s executive orders keep coming — what would Hammurabi say?

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post

Hammurabi (fl. c. 1792–1750 B.C.) King of Babylonia. Author of the Code of Hammurabi, which is recognized in legal literature as one of the earliest surviving legal codes. (from Architect of The Capitol)

“[The] 23 marble relief portraits over the gallery doors of the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol depict historical figures noted for their work in establishing the principles that underlie American law.” One of the portraits is that of Hammurabi, shown above. Sandwiched between a portrait of Moses and Lycurgus of Sparta. These portraits were installed between 1949 and 1950, when Harry Truman was President of the U.S.

Hammurabi belonged to the First Babylonian Dynasty and reigned along the Euphrates, from 1792 BC to 1750 BC. And this is the area, among others, that is reportedly being targeted by Donald Trump.

Left: Map showing the Babylonian territory upon Hammurabi’s ascension in c. 1792 BC and upon his death in c. 1750 BC (from Wikipedia). Right: Map from the CIA World Fact Book.

With a flourish of his pen, Donald Trump will suspend issuing visas to people from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya,Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. Because these countries are predominantly Muslim.

To ensure that no individual or group overreaches its assigned roles, the Constitution of the United States outlines three branches of government: the legislative branch — it makes laws (Congress); the executive branch — it carries out laws (the President, Vice President, and the Cabinet); and the judicial branch — it evaluates laws (the Supreme Court and other courts). Constitutional scholars have said that the constitution does not explicitly permit executive orders, yet almost all presidents have issued orders that are what are now referred to as executive orders. Including the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863. The Office of the Federal Register assigns a number to the presidential executive order, once it receives the signed original document from the White House. This process can take up to 3–5 days. The document can then be viewed electronically, via a searchable interface at https://www.federalregister.gov/executive-orders.

What would Hammurabi say if he knew of all the public-facing documents that Donald Trump has been signing since the time he was sworn in on January 20, 2017? It’s hard to say, but one hopes that Hammurabi would speak in the context of the current times, rather than 1790s BC. And perhaps he would echo the words of a renowned poet, translated as shown below:

Taken from Urduwallahs

It is a classic poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and the English translation doesn’t do full justice to the original. To get a sense of the emotions in the original you can listen to a brilliant recording by clicking the picture below.

We are only into the sixth day of Trump’s presidency, and everything I have heard from him and his representatives is nothing short of alarming. With all the kerfuffle related to the dispute around the number of people who attended the inauguration, one worries that it is a ploy to shift attention from the more insidious things Trump et al. are rolling out. It is indeed time to speak when we still have the freedom to. Sitting back and waiting for someone else to speak on your behalf, is not the best option.

What would Hammurabi say?