Rumor has it President Bush will sign the Military Commissions Act of 2006 Tuesday, October 17. I believed I could be finished reading the text of this new law a week ago. But, one thing leads to another. I'm still not finished reading the document as thoroughly as needed to write a complete summary. I will do that. I am ready to begin commenting about it, and I guarantee you won't be happy with what I'm going to tell you.
Many fine news stories and editorials have been written about the Act, including this one by Stephen Rohde and this one by Keith Olbermann. I can recommend those. They cover all the usual, hard-to-find provisions of the Act mentioned time and time again. Those astonishing, unbelievable measures, to be applied to those who are taken into detention by our military, are surprising on their face; indeed, it's also hard to believe Sen. McConnell (R-KY) would put his name on this deplorable bill retroactively absolving the Bush administration, members of the service and contractors of criminal liability related to crimes committed upon people in detention, particularly torture, in view of the Constitutional prohibition of making such a law.
What is most striking to me are the provisions of this law which have escaped the attention of the usual popular writers, and which I suspect even the authors of the Act failed to take into consideration. How far are we willing to go to protect President Boy Idiot? I can only spend so many hours a day studying these materials, and in that I'm not an experienced military lawyer, I suffer from a considerable learning curve. It occurred to me early in the process all the lawmakers, analysts, commentators and I were missing the big picture with this law. Just minutes ago, I suddenly realized what that glaring omission is.
Sometimes the most obvious things are hiding in plain sight. I've spent most of the day comparing the language of the Act with titles in U.S. Code which the Act amends and appends. As if that matters! I rightfully threw up my hands days ago, deciding this law lets our errant government do most anything to most anyone in the world--talk about the long arm of the law. All Bush or an authorized minion has to do is attach your name to the descriptive term "unlawful enemy combatant" and you can be taken away, held indefinitely without charges and tortured to death with no one ever hearing what became of you. Or, you can be treated in a variety of other remarkable ways. But, I have a point to make, first and foremost, which, in the haste of writing the most horrible law I've ever seen, clearly the authors overlooked--or maybe they didn't--who the hell knows.
This law will become part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Ask yourself this simple question: military commissions, tribunals, courts, provost courts, have jurisdiction over whom precisely? Active members of our military. Stop and let the meaning of that sink in for a few minutes.
In the big, last minute rush to protect Bush, Cheney and Rummy from a small aspect of their maiming and killing, Congress approved a law which, when enacted tomorrow, will legalize the indefinite detention and torture of our nation's finest, our own military--the people who volunteered to risk their lives to protect and serve America. That's some fine-ass lawmaking. Forget about whether they plan to imprison and beat war protestors. There isn't a single line in the document which says the law can't be used on our service members, and given half a reason, it will be.
Even the despicable people who support this legislation, wrongly believing it applies ONLY to torturing bad Islamic terrorists to death without a trial, won't care for the news that the Act provides for treating our men and women in uniform the very same way.
That's not the end of the bad news. It gets much worse. I'm suffering transmission failure and must go to my appointment with a master mechanic in a few hours, but will resume my series on the Military Commissions Act of 2006 soon. In conclusion, it is my opinion that everyone who signed off on this grievous, wholesale destruction of our system of criminal justice has earned a place in the town square stocks, or chained to a wall, where they should be left alone to starve, rot and sprinkle the ground with their dust. It is not appropriate to handle war prisoners through military tribunals; at least, not with such a ham-handed law as this. They should have established a system outside of military justice.
A patriot would give his life for his country. Any and every member of Congress, and the other two branches, should be willing to risk their career at least, if not their life at most, to say no to this law, which removes the words "with liberty and justice for all" from the pledge of allegiance, in that when Bush signs it there will be no liberty or justice for anyone. Without expressly exempting members of the military from denial of habeas corpus and legalized torture, he and Congress will have (inadvertently?) committed the greatest act of treason in American history.
Update: you can read part 2 here.