Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mistaking Victory for Justice

That the king can do no wrong is a necessary and fundamental principle of the English constitution. -Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765

No living Homo sapiens is above the law. (Notwithstanding our good friends and legal ancestors across the water, this is a fact that requires no citation.) -Vincent Bugliosi, 2008

The common sense of mankind demands that law shall not stop with the punishment of petty crimes by little people. It must also reach men who possess themselves of great power and make deliberate and concerted use of it to set in motion evils which leave no home in the world untouched." –Supreme Justice Robert H. Jackson at Nuremburg, 1945

What will it mean to end the war in Iraq “responsibly” as Obama promises he will do? “Responsibly” does not mean the same thing McCain means by “victory.” “Victory is coming,”
said four-star General James Mattis speaking in our community this past week:

“The mission in Iraq will be complete when security can be turned over to local police, as has recently happened in Anbar province… We now have a victory coming in Iraq. We’re still a long ways away, but victory is coming.”
That eventuality—placing security completely put in the hands of Iraqis and claiming victory—neither justifies the invasion nor constitutes a responsible ending. Justice cries out to get our troops out of Iraq as soon as logistically possible, and bringing to account those who got us there under false pretenses. The American populace will be tempted to allow the smell of “victory,” however defined, to sweeten the stench of a criminal invasion.

But there are some determined that shall not happen.

I hope that at some time in the near future a courageous U.S. attorney general, U.S. attorney, state attorney general, or district attorney in America who is committed to the rule of law and who has dedicated his career to enforcing the law fairly against all who, big or small, violate it, will hear the cries for justice from the graves of the thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children who had their lives violently cut short because of the lies of a man who smiled through it all. And that, with a sense of uncompromising righteousness, he will take the ample case I have laid out in this book before an American jury to let them decide whether George W. Bush is guilty or not guilty of murder, and if so, what his punishment should be.

Even if this doesn’t happen and what I have said in this book receives all the attention of a new fly in the forest, I do know that someone had to say what is written on the pages of this book.
Vincent Bugliosi wrote these words in the closing paragraph of Part Two of his indictment, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, published May 26, 2008.

If President Bush intentionally misled the American people to justify the invasion of Iraq, does that mean that he is liable for criminal prosecution for murder?

I understand that you may not want to think about this subject right now. You are probably right to assume that if Obama made an issue of it, it would be a recipe for his defeat in November. Besides, Bugliosi is some sort of sensation-seeking nut, right?

Not exactly! Bugliosi has been successful in two fields, one as an author and as a lawyer. In his career at the L.A. County District Attorney’s office, he successfully prosecuted 105 out of 106 felony jury trials, including 21 murder convictions without a single loss. His most famous trial was the Charles Manson case. His excellence as a trial lawyer is
attested to by his peers:

“Bugliosi is as good a prosecutor as there ever was,” Alan Dershowitz says. F. Lee Bailey calls Bugliosi “the quintessential prosecutor.” “There is only one Vince Bugliosi. He’s the best,” says Robert Tanenbaum, for years the top homicide prosecutor in the Manhattan D.A.’s office.
As a best-selling true crime author, his classic was the story of the prosecution of the Charles Manson case, Helter Skelter, the biggest selling true crime book in publishing history. His Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, is probably the most extensive debunking of conspiracy theories about the assassination likely to be written.

No, Bugliosi can’t be dismissed as a quack. How, then, can his newest work be so completely ignored by the mainstream media? Well, the subject may have something to do with it; the book is the basis for an indictment of George W. Bush for murder. Bugliosi
argues that impeachment does not fit the magnitude of his crime:

If we impeach presidents for that (what Clinton did), then if the president takes the country to war on a lie where thousands of American soldiers die horrible, violent deaths and over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, even babies are killed, the punishment obviously has to be much, much more severe. That's just common sense. If Bush were impeached, convicted in the Senate, and removed from office, he'd still be a free man, still be able to wake up in the morning with his cup of coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice and read the morning paper, still travel widely and lead a life of privilege, still belong to his country club and get standing ovations whenever he chose to speak to the Republican faithful. This, for being responsible for over 100,000 horrible deaths? For anyone interested in true justice, impeachment alone would be a joke for what Bush did.
There is no doubt that the book has been ignored. In a New York Times article Tim Arango writes that there has been

…nary a peep from the usual outlets that help sell books: cable television and book reviews in major daily newspapers.
And he proceeds to chronicle the blackout, network by network and media outlet by media outlet. When asked by Arango what he thought about it, Bugliosi responded,

“They are not responding at all,” he said. “I think it all goes back to fear. If the liberal media would put me on national television, I think they’d fear that they would be savaged by the right wing. The left wing fears the right, but the right does not fear the left.”
Being ignored by the mainstream media not withstanding, the book has sold 130,000 copies and is climbing the NYT best-seller list. Newsweek’s editor, Jon Meacham, acknowledged that the Internet community might have something to do with it.

“If it’s selling well,” Mr. Meacham said, “it’s another sign that the traditional channels of commerce have been blown up. If a dedicated part of the Internet community wants to move something, it doesn’t need a benediction from the mainstream media and might benefit from not having one.”
Bugliosi wonders if his plea will be ignored as “a new fly in the forest.” Thanks to the Internet community his book is getting out. Next weekend Bugliosi’s case will be getting out in another way. On September 13 and 14 the “Justice Robert Jackson Conference to Plan the Prosecution of High Level American War Criminals” will convene in Andover, Massachusetts.

Lawrence R. Velvel, Dean of the Massachusetts School of Law and Convener said the Conference’s purpose is

“to hold high U.S. officials accountable in courts of law and, if guilt is found, to obtain appropriate punishments. Otherwise, the future will be threatened by additional examples of Executive lawlessness by leaders who need fear no personal consequences” for their actions, leading to “the possibility of more Viet Nams, more Iraqs, and more repression.”
The issues to be addressed, Velvel said, include:

# What international and domestic crimes were committed, which facts show crimes under which laws, and what punishments are possible.

# Which high level Executive officials — and Federal judges and legislators as well, if any — are chargeable with crimes.

# Which international tribunals, foreign tribunals and domestic tribunals (if any) can be used and how to begin cases and/or obtain prosecutions before them.

# The possibility of establishing a Chief Prosecutor’s Office such as the one at Nuremburg.

# An examination of cases already brought and their outcomes.

# Creating an umbrella Coordinating Committee with representatives from the increasing number of organizations involved in war crimes cases.

# Creating a Center to keep track of and organize compilations of relevant briefs, articles, books, opinions, and facts, etc., on war crimes and prosecutions of war criminals.
Scheduled to address the Conference include:

# Famed former Los Angeles prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, author of the best-selling “The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder”(Vanguard).

# Phillippe Sands, Professor of Law and Director of the Centre of International Courts and Tribunals at University College, London. He is the author of Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values (Penguin/Palgrave Macmillan), among other works.

# Jordan Paust, Professor of Law at the University of Houston and author of Beyond The Law.

# Ann Wright, a former U.S. Army colonel and U.S. Foreign Service official who holds a State Department Award for Heroism and who taught the Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare at the Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg, N.C. She is the coauthor of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

# Peter Weiss, Vice President of the Center For Constitutional Rights, which was recently involved with war crimes complaints filed in Germany and France against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others.

# Benjamin Davis, Associate Professor at the University of Toledo College of Law and former American Legal Counsel for the Secretariat of the International Court of Arbitration.

# David Lindorff, journalist and co-author with Barbara Olshansky of The Case for Impeachment: Legal Arguments for Removing President George W. Bush from Office(St. Martin ’s Press).

# Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, responsible for drafting the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, and the U.S. implementing legislation for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

# Lawrence Velvel, a leader in the field of law school education reform, has written numerous internet articles on issues relevant to the conference.

One of the hopeful things about this Conference is that it is a “planning conference,"

one at which plans will be laid, and necessary organizational structures will be set up, to seek prosecutions to determine guilt and, if guilt is found, appropriate punishments.”
I hope the Internet community will be present at the Conference and reporting. I don’t expect any more coverage of this event by the mainstream media than of Bugliosi’s book.

I don’t know what will come from this Conference or from Bugliosi’s work, but I believe they are defining what justice requires to end the war “responsibly. “ At this moment in history they are the conscience of our nation’s ideals, at a time when the citizenry and its leaders are wont to mistake victory for justice.

- Milo

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