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War Crimes Conference Seeks Ways to Prosecute Bush

Over the weekend of Sept. 13-14, AFP's corresponding editor Mark Anderson attended the conference on war crimes which focused on ways to hold George W. Bush and his underlings accountable for the deaths of U.S. soldiers.  


By Mark Anderson

ANDOVER, Mass.—Author Vincent Bugliosi made it achingly clear at a special war crimes conference that President George W. Bush should—and can—be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Bugliosi, the well-known former Los Angeles district attorney who, some 38 years ago, put Charles Manson and his band of killers in prison for the Tate-LaBianca murders, made no overtures for trying the president in foreign tribunals. Rather, he said that Title 18 of the United States Code provides the essential legal framework for trying and convicting this president for what Bugliosi describes as nothing short of murder for pushing the nation into a war under false pretenses, thereby bringing about what he sees as the needless deaths of more than 4,000 soldiers killed in action and at least 100,000 innocent Iraqis who died “horrible, violent deaths,” as his book notes.

Bugliosi was the keynote speaker at the Sept. 13-14 Robert Jackson Conference for the Prosecution of High Level American War Criminals, organized by Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law.

Bugliosi’s comments on the event’s first day lent an air of clarity and gravity to a conference that brought together various activist groups, attorneys, scholars, journalists and others with divergent views that did not always harmonize. But when all was said and done, everyone understood one another fairly well. Velvel planned to boil down all the input to specific goals to pursue the objective that coincides with the title of Bugliosi’s hard-hitting book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. Charges against Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice likely will be on the table. Other high administration officials may be included as well.

“I realize the title of my book is a little ambiguous,” Bugliosi mused. “I’ve been chided by some people for not being more clear about my intentions. Credibility has always meant everything to me, therefore, my only mistress and my only master are facts and objectivity. If a Democratic president had done the same thing that I strongly believe George Bush has done, I would have pursued the same course.”

He added: “This is not my war or your war, but George Bush’s war,” while noting that his fatality numbers are conservative. He acknowledged that Iraqi deaths could be as high as 1 million, and later in a video interview with AFP, he conceded that America’s real war dead from all causes—mainly war-related illnesses and injuries—could be much higher in the current conflicts—perhaps 100,000 or more. But he wants to keep the matter relatively simple so that tangible charges which will hold up in court can be brought forth. This is why he leaves suicides out of the equation, since it could be argued that other factors beyond the war may contribute to soldiers’ suicides.

“That would dilute the case,” he told the audience.

Bugliosi said that he has established domestic jurisdiction to try Bush for the deaths of the soldiers, but has not been able, at least so far, to do so for the Iraqis’ deaths.

When his overall quest began some years ago, he thought long and hard on the question of whether he could apply “conventional principles of criminal law” to a sitting president for taking the nation into a war under false pretenses.

“The resolution of this question initially seemed daunting to me,” he said, but “in the criminal law . . . the answer to that question had to be in the affirmative.”

He said that he eventually determined that Bush’s actions “fell within the legal architecture” of criminal law. He made that determination by focusing on a primary reality: “No man is so high that he is above the law, and that includes the president of the United States” He continued: “Bush can find no comfort in federal or state law.”

Bugliosi said that Bush should have been, or perhaps still should be, impeached. But impeachment and conviction would only remove Bush from office, allowing him to live out his retirement years without long-term punishment. Bugliosi is looking for justice beyond Bush's presidency; numerous impeachment backers in the audience agreed with him, but they still want impeachment to uncover facts, preserve the integrity of the presidency and send a warning to future presidents who would abuse their powers.

“No one has done anything at all to Bush—no impeachment . . . not even an investigation—nothing!” Bugliosi declared, stressing what he sees as the extreme severity of Bush’s war-related crimes and the moral bankruptcy of a nation whose government will not enforce checks and balances and somehow probe or punish an imperial president who seems to answer to no one.

Bugliosi also said he has established that the White House ordered the CIA to falsify reports linking Saddam Hussein to al Qaeda (the terrorist network allegedly responsible for the 9-11 attacks that sparked early calls for “retaliatory” war), among other major revelations found in his book.

“These revelations do not mean anything at all unless we do something about them,” he said, adding that his book “sets forth the case, the legal architecture and evidence of his guilt and the jurisdiction to prosecute him.” As a “legal blueprint,” the book could lead to the prosecution of Bush “in an American courtroom.”

A particularly interesting twist is that the Manson case, Bugliosi believes, provides a guidepost, of sorts, for the Bush case—in that both involve a leader who brought about the conditions for murder, in Bugliosi’s view. “I was able to convict Manson by the vicarious liability rule,” he explained, saying that Manson’s actions deliberately set in motion a chain of events that resulted in murders even though Manson did not personally kill anyone and was not even at the crime scene. Still, he got life in prison, due to this legal principle.

This vicarious liability rule, Bugliosi said, “provides that each member of a conspiracy is criminally responsible for all crimes committed by his co-conspirators.” Even on a distant battlefield, the rule still applies. “If the conspirator(s) deliberately sets in motion a chain of events that he knows will cause a third party or an innocent agent to commit a criminal act, the conspirator is criminally responsible for that act . . . that’s the law of the land.” This even applies if “innocent [unwitting] agents of the conspirators further the objective of the conspiracy.”

Therefore, “it does not have to be shown that the principal (Bush, for example) wanted the innocent agent (Iraqis shooting and killing U.S. soldiers) to commit the act, only that he [Bush] caused them to do so.”

Bugliosi stressed that “caused” is the operative word, in that he believes that by sending troops into war on the basis of lies, such causation appears to have taken place, since doing so caused Iraqis to shoot U.S. troops in self-defense or to “repel an invader.”

Bugliosi dismissed the mere suggestion that Bush could have sent soldiers into war thinking that no one would die among them.

The overall conference dealt with a host of matters to be covered in future AFP editions as organizers work out the details with which to proceed.

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