Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Frist Strains Credulity and His Party’s Patience in Attempt to Save Bush’s Ass

Faced with the possibility that the Torturer-in-Chief might not get to do whatever he wants, the Senate’s head rubberstamper has threatened to take his ball and go home.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist signaled yesterday that he and other White House allies will filibuster a bill dealing with the interrogation and prosecution of detainees if they cannot persuade a rival group of Republicans to rewrite key provisions opposed by President Bush.

Frist's chief of staff, Eric M. Ueland, called the dissidents' bill "dead."

What could he be thinking? Frist is on his way out, retiring, purportedly to massage his laughable presidential aspirations—doe she really want his final act as Majority Leader to be one of obstruction? Does he not remember that he was the one that railed against filibusters less than a year ago? Does he not realize even the so-called “dissidents’ bill” kills all the pending cases that could go the way of Hamdan? Does he not understand that either version will eliminate habeas rights for detainees. . . so they need never have a day in court. . . so you can do whatever you want to them?

Does he not see how hard it will be for his fellow Republicans (you know, the ones who still want their current jobs) to campaign against “obstructionist Democrats” when the Democrats haven’t done a damn thing up or down on this issue. . . and haven’t had to, because he, Frist, did the obstructing for them?

Something else has to be at work here. Wait, let me backtrack. It is possible that Frist, being about the worst, most ineffectual, dumbest Senate leader I’ve ever witnessed, is just acting out of the kind of knee-jerk recalcitrance that is typical of the sub-intellectual. . . but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt; let’s pretend he has a reason to be so stupid as to set himself and his party up for a great big blink.

So, as I said, something else has to be at work here. What has Frist so intractable? Could it be that which has his supreme leader acting exactly the same way?

Behold: President George W. Bush, a man who never before has concerned himself with the letter or the spirit of the law. A man who, endowed with made-up powers granted by crazed toadies like Alberto Gonzales and John Yoo, bogus presidential signing statements, and mythical theories like the “unitary executive,” has done whatever the fuck he has wanted to do for the first five-and-a-half years of his presidency. And yet, now, all of the sudden, in this delicate electoral season, it is absolutely crucial that Bush get exactly the law he wants—pretty much letter for letter—or he will lay the American people bare to suffer the slings and suicide bombs of outrageous terrorists:

And I will resist any bill that does not enable this program to go forward with legal clarity. . . This is an important program for the security of this country. . . If there's not clarity, if there's ambiguity, if there's any doubt in our professionals' minds that they can conduct their operations in a legal way, with support of the Congress, the program won't go forward and the American people will be in danger.

Why does he want this—how does he say?—“clarity,” and why does he want it now? Could it be that King George and his courtiers are reading some polls and are possibly worried that the Democrats might take back Congress in six weeks? Could it be that they fear that if the Democrats do grab hold of at least some of the reigns of power, this might once again be a government of laws instead of a government of men? Could it be because those laws spell out very clearly that Bush and his minions are criminals?

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 118 > § 2441

§ 2441. War crimes

(a) Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.
(b) Circumstances.— The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the person committing such war crime or the victim of such war crime is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a national of the United States (as defined in section 101 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).
(c) Definition.— As used in this section the term “war crime” means any conduct—
(1) defined as a grave breach in any of the international conventions signed at Geneva 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party;
(2) prohibited by Article 23, 25, 27, or 28 of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907;
(3) which constitutes a violation of common Article 3 of the international conventions signed at Geneva, 12 August 1949, or any protocol to such convention to which the United States is a party and which deals with non-international armed conflict; or
(4) of a person who, in relation to an armed conflict and contrary to the provisions of the Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby-Traps and Other Devices as amended at Geneva on 3 May 1996 (Protocol II as amended on 3 May 1996), when the United States is a party to such Protocol, willfully kills or causes serious injury to civilians.

(emphasis mine)

Yes, you, me, and a whole bunch of lawyers have read it right, by suborning torture, Bush and many members of his administration are not only guilty of transgressing some namby-pamby pie-in-the-sky international treaty, they are guilty of violating US law.

And that would make them criminals.

War criminals and US criminals.

Guilty of violating federal laws. . . the kind that get you sent to jail.

You see, only the White House language on torture clears Bush of any wrongdoing. The “dissident” bill does not.

You don’t think that’s it? You think it's maybe just some election year strategy to fear-monger and polarize—energize the base—that sort of thing?

Well, maybe that, too, but not that only. Not with the way this is playing out, with Republicans who are not up for reelection this year facing off against other Republicans who are not up for reelection this year.

No, I think someone has asked for cover—big cover—maybe not explicitly, but in so many words. Words like “The White House language, or nothing.”

One need only look at the Specter-Bush “compromise” on illegal NSA spying to see how important blanket indemnification is to the administration—it, too, forgives the Bush bunch of all crimes past and future. Interestingly, Frist has sent this bill back into committee—this time the Intelligence Committee—where it might very possibly stall. But this Frist move, which looks like him killing the bill, is more likely him trying to save it from an implicitly promised Democratic filibuster that would tie up the end of this session. (This might then save it for re-introduction in a lame-duck session, depending on the results of the November election.)

Perhaps (and, looking up the page, it’s a big perhaps), I am over-thinking it. Perhaps these guys are just stupid, spoiled, and power mad. Perhaps these guys just think they’ll win—whatever that means. But, I, like others, feel that Bush has been behaving differently on this; more like a cornered animal.

A scared rat.

And, in the end, that’s what I think he is now—Bush and many others in the White House, really. What else could motivate a president to go out and publicly advocate torture (because that is what he is doing—I don’t think there are many, on either side of this debate, that think “alternative measures” or “aggressive interrogation” mean anything but torture)? Advocating torture—and threatening not to interrogate prisoners unless he can continue to torture—is beyond the typical Bush/Rove fear-mongering. It’s aggressive and it’s extreme.

It is behavior commensurate with a man scrambling to save his ass. . . and Frist, with his dreams of putting his ass in the same place as Bush’s someday soon, is scrambling right along with him.

(hat tip to a comment by litigatormom on a post by occams hatchet for the US criminal code)


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