When he ascended to the presidency in 1974, one of the first things Gerald Ford did was to issue a pardon for Richard Nixon for any and all crimes he may have committed while in office.
One of Jimmy Carter's first acts as president was to issue a mass pardon for those people who had dodged the draft during the Viet Nam war. Most of them had fled the country, and with a stroke of his pen, Carter allowed them to come home.
In 1986, Ronald Reagan signed the Immigration Reform And Control Act, which granted amnesty to illegal aliens who entered the United States prior to 1982.
When the first truly democratic government took power in South Africa after years of apartheid rule, they set up "truth and reconciliation commissions." At those meetings, those who had committed crimes and atrocities under the old regime could gain forgiveness and absolution (and legal immunity) by giving a full and honest and complete account of their actions.
Now, in Iraq, AP photographer Bilal Hussein has been freed.
You won't learn very much from the AP, however. Their official notice on the matter:
BAGHDAD (AP) -- An Iraqi judicial committee has dismissed terrorism-related allegations against AP photographer Bilal Hussein and ordered him freed after nearly two years in U.S. military custody.
You have to look to alternate sources of information to get the full poop here -- the charges aren't being dismissed for lack of evidence, but because Hussein's actions fall under a new amnesty law.
Here's a hint: innocent people don't need amnesty. As a general rule, innocent people are exonerated; guilty people are pardoned or forgiven.
Perhaps Mr. Hussein was just incredibly lucky to score all those great photos of Iraqi
terrorists insurgents, and not actively working with them to boost their image and make them seem so mighty. Perhaps he was amazingly fortunate to find them posing with the corpse of a murdered hostage. And perhaps it was a wild coincidence that he was arrested with a bunch of terrorists, and it took the Allies a little while to realize he wasn't one of them, just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But I doubt it.
As the story continues to unfold, remember this clearly: at no point was Bilal Hussein adjudged innocent of the terrorist-related charges he faced. Instead, he was freed by the same law that also set loose a lot of captured insurgents.
Immunity is not innocence. Amnesty is not exoneration. Forgiveness is not an admission of error.
Keep that in mind, because I predict that the AP, the rest of the media, and the anti-war factions will be spinning like hell to conflate them.