End Presidential Pardons and Clemency
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
by Michael Collins
End Presidential Pardons and
An Amendment -
The president shall
not have the right to
grant pardons or
(Wash. DC) The prospect of the criminal in
chief, George W. Bush, issuing pardons to his
co-conspirators is repugnant to all citizens who’ve paid any
degree of attention over the last eight years.
neglected his duty prior to 911 resulting in a devastating
attack on the nation.
He started an illegal war based on
lies that caused injury and death to tens of thousands of
U.S. soldiers and the deaths of over 1.2 million Iraqi
He ordered the illegal wire tapping of
citizens, a clear violation of law.
He stopped scientific
research causing the suffering unto death of those with
illness and injury that could have been healed during his
The list goes on. Bush ruled like a tyrant with the
wisdom of an adolescent sociopath.
Right now this man who
should have been impeached and subsequently jailed for his
crimes is planning last minute pardons and acts of clemency
for his friends, co-conspirators, and others who meet his
deviant criteria for release from legal
Highly motivated citizens and legislators are
seeking legal precedents and rationales to stop Bush from
pardoning his collaborators.
Hopefully, their efforts, one
of which is impeachment, will meet with success. Allowing
those who attacked the people to walk away free after the
death, destruction and ruin they’ve caused will deny meaning
to any efforts aimed at true reform.
The problem of
presidential pardons goes well beyond George W. Bush’s
ability to issue them. The absolute right of presidents to
pardon any crime is archaic, arbitrary, and offensive to
those who value human dignity, rationality, and the rule of
Pardons and Clemency Emerged from Tyranny and the
“Divine Right” to Rule
width="400" height="295" border="0">
Roman emperor Nero (
target="_blank"> left) “fiddled while Rome burned” and
executed his relatives. As emperor, Caligula ( href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Caligula_bust_bw_blackbg.jpg"
target="_blank">right) showed his contempt for Rome by
torturing citizens and appointing a horse to the
Rome formalized the shift from a
republic to an imperial state when Julius Caesar was
elevated above all by the Senate. This allowed him to
accumulate vastly expanded powers even though he was a
“first among equals.”
The fiction of the Roman Republic
remained but Julius Caesar and those who followed had
extraordinary authority over policy and state action. The
emperor even had the power to arbitrarily overrule the
decisions of tribunes of the people and magistrates.
Rome claimed to bring civilization to those it subdued, it
was ultimately a lawless state given the powers usurped by
the emperors. No citizen was safe if he or she offended the
first among equals. No decision by the people meant
anything if the emperor’s needs got in the way.
dictatorship was replaced in Europe by hereditary royalty
(with the exception of the Republic of Venice). During the
middle ages, these rulers by accident of birth and raw power
generated the notion of the “divine right” of monarchs.
Subjects were to believe that God flawlessly conferred the
right of kings to rule.
With the divine franchise,
monarchs were able to determine who was arrested, tried, and
convicted whenever it suited them. They were the state.
These rulers had the absolute right to say who was and was
not tortured and executed. There was some resistance to the
notion of “the divine right.” Shakespeare echoed this in
Richard the III when the Duke of Lancaster comments on
“That England that was wont
to conquer others
Hath made a shameful conquest of
The first English Civil
War represented a full break with the assertion of divinely
conferred rule. The conflict pitted the English middle
class against the self-absorbed monarch, William I and his
supporters. The army fighting the king was one of the
first in history to openly debate policy and political
structure in the midst of war.
width="400" height="137" border="0">
target="_blank">John Wildman (left), the son of a
butcher, drafted the “Agreement of the People.” The
original transcripts of the debate (center), and agitator
and trooper href="http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/STUsexbyE.htm"
target="_blank">Edward Sexby ( href="http://www.ilcannocchiale.it/blogs/bloggerimg/200412161132811137.JPG"
target="_blank"> right) who, with Wildman, led the
debate in behalf of radical
target="_blank">The Putney Debates involved Oliver
Cromwell on one side and the href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levellers"
target="_blank">Levelers faction of the army on the
other. The army proposed a new government based on a
universal male franchise, strict proportional
representation, and punishment for King William I for his
crimes. They also specified the equality of citizens before
the law, without exception:
“That in all laws made or to be made, href="http://www.strecorsocorg/docs/agreement.html"
target="_blank">every person may be bound alike; and that no tenure, estate,
charter, degree, birth, or place do confer any exemption from the ordinary
course of legal proceedings whereunto others are subjected.” href="http://www.constitution.org/lev/eng_lev_07.htm"
target="_blank">“An agreement of the people,” Oct., 24, 1647
Cromwell prevailed against radical
democracy. But the ideas didn’t die.
Revolutionary War was inspired in part by the political
descendants of the Levelers. The outcome was compromised,
to a degree, by the retention of the artifact of divine rule
– the href="http://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/constitution.articleii.html"
target="_blank">absolute right to pardon criminals of
all sorts. As a result of the recent collapse of
legislative balance against tyranny and cloaked as executive
prerogative (much like the Romans suffered), we have a
deviant leader with the power to negate what’s left of our
most important laws with the stroke of a pen.
legislation he disliked by issuing “ href="http://acslaw.org/node/5309" target="_blank">singing
statements” indicating his intent to href="http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0709/S00264.htm"
target="_blank">ignore laws he didn’t care for. He
will soon negate the history of his crimes by pardoning
those who collaborated in the nations “conquest of itself”
thus voiding any remainder of individual and collective
Bush should be denied this power. But the
issue isn’t confined to Bush. It’s about the ability of
each citizen to expect equal treatment by the law and for
all citizens to know in no uncertain terms that no one is
above the law.
Election to the presidency is not elevation
to a divine status. It should not be taken as a right to
unilaterally declare war, torture, lie, and steal nor should
it turn into a right to allow others to do the same without
The constitution should be amended to end this
arbitrary and offensive practice now and forever:
An Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
president shall not have the right to grant pardons or