I wonder what passed through George W. Bush’s mind today as he signed the War Commissions Act?
A quick backgrounder: This is the act, passed by both Republican-controlled houses of our Congress, and with little more than unmanned, whimpering protests by our Democratic representatives and senators, which gives the president the power to decide that you or I are “enemy combatants” and put us in a dungeon cell for, conceivably, the rest of our lives. It also gives him the power to have us tortured in whatever manner he decides is appropriate. He doesn’t have to have evidence of wrongdoing any stronger than hearsay; he doesn’t need to get a warrant; and he doesn’t even have to tell anyone he did it. He can sentence us to death based on evidence that was obtained by detaining and torturing our families, our friends and our neighbors. He can, if he wishes, just lock the door to our cells and toss the keys to whichever sadist he’s put in charge of our particular place of “detainment,” and never bother his mind about us again.
Honestly, what was he thinking as he sat down at that little desk with the presidential seal and the banner, made up for the photo-op in blue with gold lettering, that said “Protecting America”?
I don’t feel protected. In fact, I feel more threatened than I’ve ever felt in my life, and I expect that anyone who’s really thought about what this new law means feels the same way. Americans who haven’t thought about it yet will before long, and when they do, they’ll be stunned and appalled.
Too late, then. Done deal.
But back to our grinning president, he with the fine black pen in his hand. When he signed his name, was he thinking about all the people out there who’ve said things he didn’t like about him? The ones who protested that his “war on terror” was a war in error? Who called him a liar and a cheat, who accused him of stealing the presidency, who made fun of him for mispronouncing “nuclear”?
Was he thinking to himself, “Got you now, suckers.”
We’ll know what Bush was thinking as he put pen to paper before long. Because with this law, he’s been given the power to silence his critics forever. If you’re a journalist – a real journalist, doing the job you’re supposed to do, writing and publishing the truth about what he and his supporters have done to America, you’ve got to be feeling the cold cat-paws of fear along your spine. If you’re a parent, you have to wonder what sort of world your children will find themselves in tomorrow. If you’re a university professor, trying to teach your students to ask questions and think critically, you’ve got to be wondering how long it will be before you’re told you no longer have a job, and how long after that it will be before you simply vanish, never to be heard from again.
I know. I sound like a deluded paranoid, even to myself. This just can’t happen in America. But I wonder, I really do, what George W. Bush was thinking today. Because after he signed the Military Commissions Act, I also wonder if perhaps he went into a back room and also put his name to a carefully worded signing statement which denies even the Supreme Court from declaring the act unlawful and unconstitutional, stopping them from stopping him, once and for all.
After all, it’s a done deal, isn’t it.