SRB: The Prosecutor and the President
The Prosecution of George W. Bush for
Vanguard, US$27, Reviewed by MICHAEL COLLINS for the Scoop Review of Books
Vincent Bugliosi wants George W. Bush prosecuted for murder. There are others who are complicit in the crime, namely the Vice President and Condoleezza Rice, but Bush is the target of this famed former Los Angeles prosecutor (the Charles Manson case) and best selling author (Helter Skelter and The Betrayal of America as two examples). He is undeterred by the virtual major media blackout on interviews and advertising. He's taking his case directly to the people through alternate media and the internet.
Bugliosi constructs a devastating case in The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. As I write this review, it is still difficult to grasp my sense of shock at this title with this author's name below it. A legendary prosecutor with a near perfect record in big cases, Bugliosi articulates one of the most revolutionary ideas imaginable in a mix of today's otherwise vapid and obtuse political thinking. But first, the book and how the prosecutor makes his case.
He wastes no time in following up on the shock generated by the title. In the first sentence, we're told:
"The book you are about to read deals with what I believe to be the most serious crime ever committed in American history - - the president of the nation, George W. Bush, knowingly and deliberately taking this country to war in Iraq under false presences, a war that condemned over 100,000 human beings, including 4,000 American soldiers, to horrific, violent deaths." (V. Bugliosi, p. 3)
The president "knowingly and deliberately" caused the deaths of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians and that's called murder, plain and simple. This is not a hypothetical case that could happen under special legal interpretations. When the president leaves office, he is subject to the same law as the rest of us. Bugliosi explains the ability to prosecute the case against George W. Bush by a district attorney or states attorney in any local jurisdiction where a life was lost in the Iraq war. Federal prosecutors also have that option. Bugliosi's detailed analysis of this phenomenon offers some of the best analysis in the book and the detailed end notes.
In the first chapter, "Opening up One's Eyes," Bugliosi explains how he was able to reach this conclusion and then encourages the reader to do the same. He attributes his huge success as a prosecutor and author to his willingness` to "see what's in front of me completely uninfluenced by the clothing (reputation, hoopla, conventional wisdom, etc.) put on it by others" (p. 5).
After the stage is set for an open minded look at recent history, we're offered a series of incriminating quotations from Bush, Cheney, Rice, and others. Before the invasion, these statements had the power to shift public opinion in favor of the war. How could we tolerate a dictator, Bush asked, who "threaten(ed) the world with horrible poisons and diseases, and gasses and atomic weapons"? Iraq had "unmanned aerial vehicles" and was "exploring ways of using these to target the United States" (p. 22). These and other inflammatory claims by Bush and his crew were not only wildly off target, he knew that they were when he made them, without any doubt.
By the end of the carefully constructed first two chapters, the prosecutor, known to devote several hundred hours to a closing statement for a jury, has the reader prepared to accept his charges. He pauses before beginning his core case to let us know the cost of these lies. Over a hundred thousand died in a war predicated on lies which were deliberately fabricated by the president.
These aren't just any deaths, we are told. We are dealing with the murder of young, impressionable, patriotic Americans who joined the service for a variety of honorable reasons. They all shared one bond, loyalty to their country and a willingness to die for it in war. While Bugliosi shows highly appropriate concern for the dead Iraqi civilians as a result of the civil chaos caused by the Bush invasion, he notes that he could find no domestic law allowing a prosecution for those losses.
After the first three chapters we know the tragedy
that requires a legal remedy and we are clear about the
author's motivation to seek justice on behalf of the fallen.
He is righteously angry that this crime has taken place and
determined to provide the means for justice. Bugliosi is
indifferent to a virtual media blackout as a result of the
comatose state of the political and corporate elite,
manifested through the calculated denial of their network
news readers and the Bush administration stenographers at
the New York Times and Washington Post.
There are three dates that define the guilt of Bugliosi's defendant:
On October 1, 2002, Bush received a National
Intelligence Estimate (NIE) representing all federal
intelligence sources. Iraq's imminent danger to the Unites
States was described in this sentence: There's no reference
to poison dispensing unmanned aircraft, weapons sales to al
Qaeda which would be turned against us, or other immediate
Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW against the United States, fearing that exposure of Iraqi involvement would provide Washington a stronger cause for making war.
"Iraq probably would attempt clandestine attacks against the U.S. Homeland if Baghdad feared an attack that threatened the survival of the regime were imminent or unavoidable, or possibly for revenge. Such attacks--more likely with biological than chemical agents--probably would be carried out by special forces or intelligence operatives." NIE, 10/2002 and (V. Bugliosi, pp. 104-105).
On October 4, 2002, Bush released a doctored summary of the NEI to Congress referred to as a White Paper. He left out the critical information - Iraq was deemed an imminent danger only if the survival of the regime were threatened by a U.S. attack. "Judgments" and other qualifying language in the NIE were converted to simple assertions of fact in the White Paper giving the case for war a seemingly unambiguous authority from the intelligence community.
In fact, the White Paper provided to Congress was diametrically opposed to the NIE which the White House received from the intelligence agencies on Oct. 1, 2002 and withheld from Congress. The critical trigger for an Iraqi threat to the U.S. was said to be just what Bush had proposed --.an attack that threatened the survival of Hussein's regime. Rather than securing the nation's safety, by the logic and advice of his own intelligence community, Bush put the nation at risk while concealing vital intelligence. White Paper - Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Program and (V. Bugliosi, pp. 112-116)
On October 7, 2002, Bush spoke to an audience in Cincinnati, Ohio and claimed that Saddam Hussein was a danger to the United states with his "unmanned aerial vehicles" with WMD "for missions targeting the United States" (p. 105).
This is the critical evidence. It is unambiguous. Bush knew that Iraq was not an imminent threat to the nation, yet portrayed just that to gain approval for his war. It represents only a part of the detailed and overwhelming case presented in a determined, thorough, and totally engaging narrative that Vincent Bugliosi sets out to do what he promised.
He builds an overwhelming case against George W. Bush, lays out the jurisdictional and other legal issues that make this a viable case for prosecution, and argues that presidential accountability is a fundamental requirement to restore the status of "great nation" to the United States, so damaged over the past eight years.
But there's a much broader significance to the prosecution, should it take place.
The Birth of the Public Servant
While a trial and conviction of George W Bush for murder would be an event of momentous proportions, it would pale in comparison to enduring impact due to the precedent established. Presidents could no longer offer up the lives of soldiers and civilians sent to a war that was stated for anything other than national defense or imminent danger to the country.
Although the president had rotating rationales for the invasion, that act and occupation had little to do with protecting the United States. As Bugliosi said in a recent interview with this author, over 4,000 soldiers have died "not your war or my war or America's war, but George Bush's war." The explanations offered by Bush have been discarded by all but the perpetrators and none of the financial or political motives suggested by others are acceptable justifications for the death and destruction caused.
Were there a prosecution and conviction, any future president would need to think long and hard before serving his political interests or necessities by filling the trough of financial backers and other chosen few no matter what they gave or promised. The president and his top aids would be accountable for a fundamental individual right that is obvious to us but not them: the right of each citizen to be free from death due to a president's egotistical, political, or financial desires. Presidents would no longer be able to conceal the sin of premeditated murder by draping it in the fiction of necessary losses in the service of a larger national interest. The real basis for presidential decision making would be opened up to the scrutiny of communities through their local prosecutors.
The long standing conflict between individual rights versus collective rights would be resolved as well. By having to serve each member of the public by refraining from unnecessary war making, the chief executive would need to show restraint thus eliminating the requirement for an oversized military establishment designed as an imperial presence throughout the world. The tools of diplomacy would devolve to shared interests rather than coerced solutions forced on weaker states. And this would not just be for major wars.
The United States has engaged in over 40 military incursions since World War II. Unless a president could be assured that no one soldier died, he or she would be wise to have a solid justification for defense of the nation for any military action in order to avoid an indictment carrying a hefty sentence. The president would also have the example of a convicted and sentenced ex president who was vulnerable ddue to nonstop lying about the rationale for war.
The national defense was sorely lacking during the 9/11 attacks, despite an awesome world wide military potential. Similarly, the administrations successful efforts to exempt themselves from the consequences of international war crimes tribunals since 2003 occurred while the potential existed for domestic prosecutions as Bugliosi outlines in this book. It poses a much more serious and final threat to willful leaders who casually use their citizens as fodder in their wars to benefit the narrow interests of financial interests who fear real competition on an even playing field.
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Michael Collins writes about the assault on voting rights and other corruptions of the new millennium. He conducted an extensive interview with Vincent Bugliosi on August 3, 2008 published here and here. He is the author of Election 2004: The Urban Legend and Notes from the Underground which exposed the distortions required in the 2004 national exit poll to show a Bush win. He is one of few to report on the ongoing struggles of Susan Lindauer, an activist accused of being a foreign agent, who was the subject of a government request for forced psychiatric medication.