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Impeachment? Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

08.27.2008 | POLITICS

As you may have heard by now, the mainstream media has been giving Vincent Bugliosi's latest book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, the cold shoulder. Never mind that he authored what was, at the time, the bestselling crime book in history, Helter Skelter, about his successful prosecution of the Manson family. Nor that he's written numerous bestsellers since. His 2007 book, Reclaiming History, a 1,600-page attempt to dispel alternative histories of the Kennedy assassination, is being made into a mini-series by HBO and Tom Hanks.

In the only mainstream media article addressing The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder and its reception, New York Times reporter Tim Arango writes: "The editor of Newsweek, Jon Meacham, said he had not read the manuscript, but he offered a reason why the media might be silent: 'I think there's a kind of Bush-bashing fatigue out there.'"

Myth-busting aside, and however out of fashion Bush-bashing may be, Bugliosi summons up a depth and breadth of rage that shames those of us who have been reduced to ennui and cynicism by the Bush years. You'd never know that not only is he 73 years old but still on the rebound from the monumental task of researching and writing his Kennedy tome.

For instance, he has no compunctions about pulling the rug out from under soldiers' rationalization of last resort –- that they fight over there to keep from fighting here. To Bugliosi the question isn't why but who. He writes: "If you say our young men didn't die for Bush, Cheney, and Rove, then whom did they die for?"

Nor does he pull any punches on Bush's character. "What I strongly believe (without absolutely knowing) is that this man has no respect or love for this country." What makes him think that?

For starters, Bush put our young people in harm's way for no good reason, avoided the draft when young himself, and experiences no apparent concern for the carnage in Iraq. Furthermore, he spends much of his time in Crawford, neglects to read reports, and is guilty of blatant cronyism. What really sticks in Bugliosi's craw is the cheerfulness and insouciance that Bush exhibits in a time of war.

For instance, Bugliosi cites an August 2005 day Bush spent in Crawford in the midst of a two-week period during which 42 Americans were killed. With Bush's only work-related activity lunch with Condoleezza Rice, he called it a "perfect day." Bugliosi writes: "I don't know about you, but if I ever killed just one person, even accidentally, like in a car accident, I'd never have another perfect day as long as I lived."

At one point Bugliosi even declares: "Bush is a grotesque anomaly and aberration." If, even in the service of rallying us to prevail upon the Justice Department to bring charges, such exclamations seem over the top, look at this way. The least we could do is allow Bugliosi to vent since much of this book is essentially a turnkey project for a federal attorney to start the ignition on the prosecution of Bush and put it in gear.

A crime is an act that's not only prohibited, but accompanied by criminal intent. In the case of murder, this is known as malice aforethought, which comes in two varieties. The first is express malice -- the specific intent to kill. In the second, implied malice, the intent is not to kill but to commit a dangerous act with wanton disregard for the consequences as well as an indifference to human life.

Bush, Bugliosi writes, not only fulfilled the second requirement, implied malice, but he started the Iraq War "without any lawful excuse of justification."

Bush's defense would be self-defense –- that he needed to carry out a preemptive strike on Saddam. But lying that Saddam possessed WMD and conspired with al Qaeda to commit 9/11 shows that Bush wasn't acting in self-defense, but, instead, in a criminal state of mind. Hence, every American killed as a result of his actions are murders on Bush's part.

In most states implied malice is second-degree murder. But, Bugliosi writes, "Bush's alleged crime is. . . on such a grand scale that it would greatly dishonor those. . . who paid the ultimate price because of it if he were not to pay the ultimate penalty."

In the interest of prosecuting Bush for first-degree murder, Bugliosi writes that a "very credible argument could be made that in a real sense he did intend to have American soldiers killed in his war."

Say what?

Bugliosi explains. A typical example of implied malice is a high-speed chase though a school zone, in which "not only didn't the defendant intend to kill, but he had no way of knowing whether someone would die or not. [But] while Bush never specifically intended to kill any American soldier, he absolutely knew American soldiers would necessarily die in his war." (Italics are Bulgiosi's.)

He continues. "Therefore, a case could be made that unless Bush intended to have a war without any casualties, which is. . . an argument that would make Bush sound absurd. . . he did, in fact, specifically intend to have American soldiers killed."

In other words, as everyone knows, in war, casualties come with the territory. If the "natural tendency" of an act is to take another's life, the law can't help but conclude that was intentional.

As for his chances of success, ". . . as a former prosecutor with twenty-one murder convictions without a loss. . . I am probably in a better position than the average person to know what type of evidence is necessary to go to trial with." If he's rusty, he sure doesn't sound like it. In fact, he's begun to arouse the interest of current prosecutors.

Much of the rest of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder is given over to cataloging Bush's crimes. Bugliosi brings some to our attention that have gone unnoticed by many of us. For example, who remembers Hans Blix, UN weapons inspector, stating before the invasion that Iraq's cooperation in the inspections, "can be seen as active, even proactive"?

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder is a call to action. A man of 73, in the wake of years spent creating his masterwork, 2007's Reclaiming History about the Kennedy assassination, has constructed his case with the passion of an idealistic college student. Surely the rest of us are capable of catching one last wave of Bush & Co. outrage. We do want to see Bush brought to justice, don't we?

RW: On July 25 you appeared on a panel before the House Judiciary Committee with the likes of Dennis Kucinich and Elizabeth Holtzman to examine the "imperial presidency" of George Bush. When you appeared at the Great Mind Series in Los Angeles, it was reported that you said of Committee Chairman John Conyers, "He's completely behind what I'm doing here." Do you think summoning you to speak was Conyers's way of shifting attention from impeachment to a process with a better chance of success?

VB: Conyers called me up and said he read the book and liked it very much. This was before there was any mention of the hearing. Then I got the invitation. So I spoke to his assistant and I said I'm not an authority on impeachment. I'm only talking about prosecuting George Bush for first-degree murder. Everyone there was talking about one of two things: executive power and constitutional limitations or impeachment, and I was talking about murder. So they knew in advance.

Though they didn't say it, they may have expanded the hearings for me. I'm just saying that I told them that I was not coming back there [to Washington from L.A. -- Ed.] to talk about the subject matter of the hearings. Although, certainly, if you're talking about the basis for impeachment -- high crimes and misdemeanors -- murder obviously qualifies as one. They may have very well felt that what I was saying obviously did apply.

I tried to simplify for the hearing. I didn't have much time. The difficulty always is it takes more time to figure out how to convey your message when you only have a short period of time. [Here Bugliosi cites the famous saying attributed to either Pascal, Voltaire, or Mark Twain: "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I've written a long one instead." –- Ed.]

They're telling me I've got five minutes -- tell me what's in your book in five minutes. It took me more time to figure out how I was going to do that then if they said I had a half hour. I tried to compress it into five minutes, which was not easy at all. But I got some good stuff in there.

I want to make it very clear. I definitely believe that Bush should be impeached. There's no question about that. It's just that I'm not satisfied with impeachment, him not spending one day in the county jail, continuing to enjoy himself. I don't see any real justice there.

But impeachment isn't too likely because of a couple of things: One, the time element. Two, Nancy Pelosi, doing what Democrats do so well, is not in favor of impeachment and she's the speaker. That makes it almost insurmountable when you have the speaker against it. Three, impeachment would be good even if it's not successful. Anything to stain the record of this terrible human being.

You can't get a conviction on impeachment because you need two-third vote of the Senate and, as you know, the Senate is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. Still, I'd like to see an impeachment at least. But the notion that would be enough for what he did is something that I don't agree with.

RW: You're not working in opposition to Congressman Kucinich, who introduced articles of impeachment against Bush, are you?

VB: No, absolutely not. I agree with everything Dennis says. But, again, impeachment alone is too good for George Bush.

RW: You also said to the Judiciary Committee: "It would greatly dishonor those in their graves who paid the ultimate price because of this war were you not to refer this case to the Department of Justice." Does the go-ahead for a prosecution start with Conyers and his committee?

VB: No, it doesn't start there. This is just one way to get this case going and it's the least likely. If they did it, then a criminal investigation would commence. The attorney general in Washington DC, that would be the best way. If anyone does anything –- I have to be candid with you –- it's unlikely that any one of the 93 federal attorneys would begin criminal proceedings without getting the consent of their boss in Washington, the attorney general. And that's why, realistically, on a federal level, there is only one person who would ever bring criminal charges against Bush and that's the attorney general.

I want to point out that the burden that has to be met when referring a case to the attorney general's office is very low. All that's required is that there be a quote reasonable unquote suspicion that a crime has been committed. Surely, there's a reasonable suspicion here that Bush took this nation to war under false pretenses. The attorney general's office can't prosecute him now but they can commence the investigation immediately. Then once he leaves office, at that point they can file charges. But there's only one attorney general and it's a highly politicized office.

RW: Will the next president have any say in the prosecution of George Bush?

VB: No, he doesn't have any say in it at all. The attorney general on his own can institute legal proceedings against Bush. But a pretty powerful way is for Congress to send what they call a criminal referral over to the attorney general.

RW: That was probably in your book. I just forgot.

VB: No, I didn't talk about criminal referral in my book because the most likely way is not by way of a criminal referral. But here's an example. You know about the Mitchell hearings and Roger Clements. They were talking about the possibility of a criminal referral from Congress to the attorney general. And that's still a possibility.

If they make a criminal referral that doesn't mean the attorney general has to investigate. But certainly it carries more weight coming from Congress than from a private citizen. Congress is spineless. They're not going to do that.

Anyway neither of these things is necessary and they're not the typical way. Usually when the attorney general brings a case, it's not because it has been referred to him by Congress. The typical way is just that he's the attorney general, a crime has been committed in the US, and he finds out about it. 99% of their cases happen that way.

The most likely way that Bush will end up in court after he leaves the presidency would be either a state attorney general or a district attorney. Of those two, the most likely is some D.A. in some county in this country.

But on a state level, I've established jurisdiction for the attorney general in each of the 50 states, plus the approximately 950 district attorneys in counties within those states. To prosecute Bush for the murder of a soldier or soldiers from their state or county who died fighting Bush's war.

That's 1,000 prosecutors. My position is that though there may not be a high probability, as a direct result of this book, there's a substantial possibility that Bush may end up in an American courtroom being prosecuted for murder. There's no statute of limitations for the crime of murder. Before Bush passes on, there will have been 15 to 20,000 prosecutors out there.

There may be some law student who heard me on the radio or read the book who's saying to himself, "When I get out of law school, I'm going to become a D.A. or state attorney general and I'm going to bring charges against Bush." Pinochet down in Chile? 33 years later they brought murder charges. His death aborted the process.

I'll give you something a little closer to home. There's a lawyer back east who said a couple of weeks ago, "Mr. Bugliosi, I read your book. We haven't lost any citizens from my county in the war in Iraq, but if we lose a soldier, I'm going to run for D.A. in the county. If I win, I'm going to prosecute Bush."

The reason I'm telling you this story is to show you there's a lot of people out there that someday can prosecute George Bush. I think I said in the book if I achieve nothing else -- and I certainly want to achieve much more because I won't be happy until I see him in a courtroom being prosecuted for murder.

If I achieve nothing else, I want him to know for the rest of his life that any give day, some aide on his ranch might tap him on the shoulder and say, "Mr. President, there's this prosecutor up in Fargo, North Dakota, sir, he's prosecuting you for murder. And we're due in Fargo at 10 a.m. Tuesday for your arraignment." I want to put that thought in his mind. This guy has gotten away with murder.

The thing that has angered me beyond all belief is that he's enjoyed himself throughout the entire period, had a lot of fun. How this guy can be enjoying himself when young kids are being blown to pieces by roadside bombing. . . what kind of human monster is this? It's just mind-boggling.

RW: You wrote, "I strongly believe without absolutely knowing that this man has no respect or love for this country." And, "I don't know about you, but if I ever killed just one person, even accidentally, like in a car accident, I'd never have another perfect day as long as I live." Now many of us think those thoughts. But we're either too afraid, or too politically correct, to put them into words. What makes you willing and able to say those things?

VB: I did the same thing with my book, The Betrayal of America. [about the 2000 Supreme Court decision to end the recounting of presidential votes in Florida]. All your legal scholars around the country were saying that the Supreme Court –- the five justices [who voted to end the recount] –- had done something just absolutely terrible. And that was that they caused people to lose respect for the court.

I said "What? You can steal a presidential election and all that happens is you lose respect?" That's like telling Timothy McVeigh, "Tim, don't worry, we're not going to hurt you. We're not goanna prosecute you. But, you know, Tim, we don't like you. You're a terrible person." So I wrote [an article in 2001 titled] "None Dare Call It Treason" for the Nation, in which I said these five were among the biggest criminals in American history.

But I'm a member of the bar and members of the bar don't do that. Gerry Spence said, "It's just not done." I was calling them criminals. But I sent a copy of the article by registered mail to each justice to make sure they got it. So I've done this before.

You're asking me where I get the courage to do this. People are always asking me, "How do you put this stuff in print?" Look, I'm not a courageous guy -- I'm motivated solely be anger. To me, the country is going down the tubes. I want to bring about justice. I don't think about courage.

I wouldn't do this, believe me, if I weren't so incredibly angry. I don't like to see anyone get away with murder, even one murder. O.J. Simpson got away with two murders and I was so angry I wrote Outrage: The Five Reasons Why O.J. Simpson Got Away with Murder. People then were saying, "He was just found not guilty. How can you accuse him of murder on the cover of a book?"

"Fine," I said. "Let him sue me for libel. I'd love to cross-examine him." He didn't do anything to me.

RW: Most who've spent years in the legal system grow jaded and cynical. Yet you've been able to maintain a sense of outrage and injustice.

VB: I think of these kids coming back in a box and their parents -- maybe it's the only child they have. They're advised by the Department of Defense not to look in the box because the contents are unviewable. Sometimes it's just limbs coming back, parts of the body.

And this rotten, no good S.O.B. is dancing and having fun and joking. How dare he? I didn't say "how dare he" before the House Judiciary Committee because they told me I couldn't accuse Bush of a crime or any type of dishonorable conduct. But I'm saying it to you: How dare he? Quote me on that.

Bush can't be permitted to get away with this. I use the figure 100,000 Iraqi dead in my book. But that's a very conservative estimate. The number could be in excess of a million. I don't want him to get away with a million murders.

I worked on it, but I couldn't establish jurisdiction against him for the Iraqi citizens. But I spent many hours establishing jurisdiction to prosecute him for American soldiers dying.

RW: You lay out the whole process for any lawyer contemplating this. First you do this, then you do that. It doesn't seem that hard.

VB: No question about it. This can happen. I think I made an important point when I talked in front of Congress. If we want to become the great nation we once were, because I don't see this as a great nation anymore –- you can quote me on that -- the first step we have to take is to bring those responsible for the war on Iraq to justice. [Emphasis added.] I think that would enhance our image around the world.

RW: If we fail to prosecute him, what adverse effects would it have on the country and our image abroad?

VB:Well, probably not that much because most people are not even thinking about this. They're not thinking Bush should be prosecuted and if he's not we're a weak country. The vast majority of Americans don't even know this book is out there because I've been blacked out.

I'll tell you where it would have an effect though -- with subsequent presidents. People argue: "Mr. Bugliosi, you can't do this because it would inhibit future presidents." Here's my response: "If there's another monstrous individual like Bush who's thinking about doing what did, we do want to inhibit him."

If you're a president who's not a criminal, you have nothing to worry about. Who'd even bring a murder charge against someone under normal circumstances? Where would the evidence be? It's extremely important we do this to help ensure that it never happens again.

RW: The public is a little queasy about this sort of thing. In a sense, we elect a president to make the big decisions about life and death. War-time killing is on his conscience to spare ours.

VB: I've been on the radio all over the country. I can tell you that the average American who hasn't read my book thinks that the whole idea of prosecuting a president is crazy. "That's just absurd," they say.

I ask them, "Have you read the book?" And a hundred percent of the time they say no. I've yet to hear from someone who's read this book who think it's crazy. They may not agree with me but they don't think there's anything crazy about this book.

But those who haven't read the book think it's preposterous. I had an attorney general call me on the phone. He said he heard I had a book out about impeachment.

"It's not about impeachment," I said. "It's about murder." And the first words out of his mouth were, "Under what law?"

Now you have to realize the attorney general is the chief legal officer in the state. He's also the chief law enforcement office in the state. Under what law? Under the law that's already on the book in all 50 states. There's no statue that says it excludes certain people, like a president.

But people are not thinking in those terms. They think that the president is somehow above the law. So, not prosecuting Bush would certainly have an effect on some people, just not the majority of Americans.

But it could have a tremendous effect on our image around the world and a deterrent effect on subsequent presidents. And I think it would make the nation feel good about itself actually. But if it doesn't happen, this is something that very few people pay attention to.

RW: If Bush were prosecuted and found guilty, would you recommend the death penalty?

VB: Absolutely. It would dishonor those in their graves who paid the ultimate price if Bush did not pay the ultimate penalty. If I were the prosecutor I would seek the death penalty. I mean, my God, prosecutors seek the death penalty when there's only one person in their grave. Here we have at a minimum 100,000 people in their graves.

By the way, Bush is a proponent of the death penalty and he would have no difficulty understanding why someone would recommend it. 152 death warrants came across his desk while he was governor. He signed all 152. He has an 100% batting average. If I were the prosecutor I would seek the death penalty, yes, of course.

RW: Sorry, I know this question's not new to you, but I have to ask. Who's more evil? Charles Manson or George Bush.

VB: (Laughs.) I've been asked that question a few times. Obviously Manson is a very evil person. When I was prosecuting him I thought the death penalty was appropriate for what he did. I sought the death penalty and the jury did come back with a verdict of death, but it was set aside along with everyone else on death row by the Supreme court.

I also knew that if he got out he would continue to kill. He would kill as many people as he could. Someone who knew Manson a lot better than I do -- he's dead now -- little Paul Watkins [who split ways with Manson before the murders] said, "Vince, death is Charlie's trip."

Manson I knew as being evil. Bush is not evil. I don't think he wants to kill people. But I do view him as a despicable human being who is extremely cold-hearted and couldn't care less about the deaths of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. The evidence is overwhelming that he enjoyed himself to the fullest and had a lot fun throughout the entire war.

I don't think he wished those deaths on anyone. But I do think he couldn't care less. I think he is extremely arrogant, extremely self-centered, and without any redeeming human characteristics. But you asked a tough question and I have to do more thinking about that.

RW: You've been in the middle of all these great American stories. Beside the Manson case, the Simpson case, the 2000 election, and the Kennedy assassination.

VB: I worked on Reclaiming History for 20 years. That's my magnum opus. It's the equivalent of about 13 volumes of 400-page books, a million and a half words. It's got over 10,000 citations in it. It may be the most heavily sourced nonfiction book ever written. They used to say that the Warren Report had 6,500 citations and was the most heavily sourced.

I did write about the major crimes of the 20th century. People who've read my books believe I prove my case beyond a reasonable doubt. The reason why the right is so terrified of this new book is because they know I have a history of proving my case. So they have to be very concerned about this book because I'm not just some joker who's coming up with this idea of prosecuting Bush. I'm taking this very seriously.

As I said in front of Congress, at this time I don't have much time for fanciful reveries. Bush cannot be permitted to get away with over 100,00 murders. We can't have that in America. We just can't have it.

RW: The Prosecution of George Bush is being made into a film, right?

VB: It's in production here in LA. But the producers couldn't raise one penny for this documentary in America. The money came from Canada. By analogy, the audio tape for this book. . . I get a call from my agent: "Vince, I cannot find an audio company in America that will do the audio for the book." We had to get the BBC to do it.

The New York Times article opened things a very little bit. Before that, it was a total complete blackout in the national mainstream media. First time in my career I could not get on national TV.

It's never, ever happened before, for all my true crime books. I always fly to New York City and start traveling around the country. This time I didn't fly to New York. Couldn't get in anywhere. ABC Radio refused money from my publisher who wanted to take out a radio spot.

Bill Clinton, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, he's attacked and then impeached. They want to hang him in the town square at noon. And he's done nothing at all. Just silliness, sublime silliness.

Yet here we have Bush committing at least 100,000 murders and everyone is trying to protect him. Apparently, it's okay for him to do what he did but it's not okay to prosecute him or even to talk about prosecuting him.

All of my books have gotten major reviews all over the country. The Prosecution of George W. Bush hasn't been reviewed yet in the mainstream media. What does that say about America? Aren't we supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave?

RW: What can we do?

VB: The average American can contact your DA or get together as a group, 10 or 15 signatures, and send a letter to your D.A. or state attorney general. That's what people can do on a local level. Because that's where it's going to happen.

I don't think that the US attorney general, no matter who he is, is going to bring charges. If it happens at all, it will happen at the state local level. That's where this thing has a good chance.

RW: Thank you, Mr. Bugliosi.

About the Author
Russ Wellen is an editor at Freezerbox who specializes in foreign affairs and nuclear deproliferation.
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