Would Mr. Bush really sign a bill like that? He might, I guess, but only after making a signing statement that said he didn't have to abide by it. Whether such a thing is constitutional or not is moot--we all know how Mr. Bush regards the Constitution.
Overshadowing the Signing Statements Act is the Scooter Libby sentence commutation story. As Michael Roston of Raw Story reports that the Federal Judge who sentenced Libby to 30 months for perjury and obstruction of justice thinks the commutation cannot be issued until Libby has actually served time in jail. The House Judiciary Committee plans to hold hearings on the commutation issue next week.
What I'm not clear about is whether a president is allowed to issue sentence commutations at all. Article II of the Constitution says "he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States." The Constitution doesn't say anything about commutations. Every modern dictionary I can get my hands or keyboard says "pardon" means "to release someone who has committed a crime from punishment." To "reprieve" is to "halt or delay somebody's punishment, especially when the punishment is death." "Commute" is generally defined as "to reduce a legal sentence to a less severe one." By my reckoning, "commute" means something quite different from "pardon" or "reprieve," but then come might say I have peculiar ideas about what "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall no be violated" means too.
Speaking of peculiar ideas…
Mr. Bush used the occasion of this Independence Day to equate his war in Iraq with upholding the First Amendment. In a speech at a West Virginia Air National Guard base he exhorted the audience that victory in Iraq is vital to our cherished freedom of religion. You know--if we withdraw, they will follow us here and take away our bibles.
I'd get real scared if I thought "they" would follow us here and take away our right to habeas corpus and due process. But, oh, yeah, Mr. Bush and his supporters have already done that. So what do we have to fear from the terrorists again?
Bush also played the "A" word gambit: "We must win it, we must succeed for our own sake. We must defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq," he said. If you haven't noticed yet, administration rhetoric increasingly folds any and all threats to al-Qaeda. Look and listen closely, and you'll find that they use al-Qaeda, terrorists, militants, and insurgents almost interchangeably these days. But how many of the militants in Iraq are actually al-Qaeda?
In the 24 June issue of Progressive Daily Beacon, A. Alexander makes a convincing argument that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia strength is somewhere between 400 and 1,000 fighters. Why all the hype about al Qaeda then? Alexander quotes a memorandum written by a Marine first lieutenant in response to a reporters question, "Are the marines in this unit still serving in Haditha?"
Yes, we are still fighting terrorists of Al Qaeda in Iraq in Haditha. ('Fighting terrorists associated with Al Qaida' is stronger language than 'serving'. The American people will side more with someone actively fighting a terrorist organization that is tied to 9/11 than with someone who is idly 'serving', like in a way one 'serves' a casserole. It's semantics, but in reporting and journalism, words spin the story.)
This resonates of the propaganda principles Mr. Bush used in this years Fourth of July speech when he said, "we must defeat al Qaeda in Iraq." Yeah. All thousand of them, if that many. The thousand or fewer who would gain control of Iraq and its massive oil reserves plus follow us here plus who knows what else? Boy, that al-Qaeda sure can accomplish a lot with not many people. If Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times can be believed, Operation Arrowhead Ripper involves 10,000 U.S. troops assigned to capture or kill 300 to 500 al-Qaeda fighters holed up in Baquaba, the capital of Diyala province. A pretty tough crowd, that al-Qaeda must be, if they can convince the mighty U.S. Army that it needs a 20 to one manpower advantage to ensure operational success against them.
The bottom line for all of us on this Independence Day is that our president says we need to stay in Iraq so al-Qaeda doesn't control the oil that Dick Cheney's pals want to control, that anybody who did anything for Bush has nothing to fear from the law, and that the law is still pretty much whatever Bush says it is.
For this we fought a revolution?
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.