Anyone following attempts to hold George W. Bush and gang accountable knows about Vince Bugliosi’s best-selling book, which has finally just been mailed to all district prosecutors. Everything you can do to make a prosecution of Bush for murder happen is posted here.
The film lays out the same case that’s in the book, but adds faces and voices, including those of Bugliosi but also those of gold star families, veterans, and citizens. This makes the case all the more powerful and motivating.
But the film is not a great film, even though it’s a good film about a great book. Disappointingly missing from the faces and voices (except in scattered images) are any Iraqis, but they were largely missing from the book as well. There is no deterrent value in vengeance, and yet we hear Vince propose the electric chair for Bush. But that’s wherecomes from and that’s the position taken in his book, even if many of us want prosecution in order to deter war and would love to eliminate emotional attitudes that facilitate war as well.
The film has other shortcomings. It depicts Bugliosi speaking to a very small gathering of people, and I have seen him speak to larger ones that would have made better footage. It leaves uncorrected (at least thus far in the production process) an assertion by Bugliosi that over 30 towns in Vermont have passed resolutions to indict Bush. The correct number of towns for that is 2, whereas at least 39 in Vermont (and 54 elsewhere) that I know of passed resolutions to impeach Bush, as did the Vermont state senate.
The film intersperses footage from, a town that did indeed pass a resolution on indictment, but the connections between these clips and Bugliosi’s explanation of the argument in his book don’t flow well. You’ll catch a glimpse of me at a Brattleboro meeting that seems to be included in the film for three reasons: to display the admirable efforts of Kurt Daims and other residents of Brattleboro to pass their resolution, in order to depict people asking questions at the meeting as unfocused not to say kooky, and in order to show gold star father Carlos Arredondo’s powerful public speaking. But Bugliosi is shown arguing that the Brattleboro approach is nonsensical, and the sub-plot about the proper focus for activism is just too short to develop into anything helpful.
While the Arredondos’ story and the other personal stories included in the film are powerful, at least as useful would have been some interviews with prosecutors.is included praising Bugliosi but denouncing his proposal to prosecute Bush at the state or district level for murder. However, Dershowitz offers no substantive critique of the idea, and – frankly – he’s a crank. What I want to know is what other serious prosecutors think. I know of one whom I respect and who wants to see Bush prosecuted who thinks Bugliosi’s approach wouldn’t work. I’m not sure why, and Vince similarly thinks this other person’s approach wouldn’t work. We need some more opinions.
Or maybe we don’t. Bugliosi’s idea is off the charts, unheard of, and mortally dangerous to the power structure in Washington, but apparently perfectly legal. And the laws are supposed to belong to us, the people. It took someone like Bugliosi to propose his idea, both because he sees the world through the eyes of a talented prosecutor, and because he seems to believe that the combination of lies and war is new to the nation and the world. Whereas I cannot think of any wars that were not largely based on lies, Bugliosi thinks only of the current war in Iraq. His proposal effectively transforms the launching of a war based on lies into the crime of murder. It’s a more surprising proposal than that of actually enforcing against wars of aggression, but equally unacceptable to those in power in the United States. A proposal can be infinitely surprising and unusual and still be solidly legal.
The question for us is primarily whether we can find or elect a prosecutor or state attorney general with decency, nerve, and ambition. Meanwhile, there are, of course, a lot of other avenues toward prosecution for us to pursue as well. One of them is at the federal level, where we can demand an independent prosecutor. If we get an indictment by Bugliosi’s means, there will almost certainly be an attempt to block it that goes to the before it’s decided. But pressure will thereby be increased for action in other states and at the . And, while a murder charge for war is unconventional, a torture charge for torture is legally uncontroversial and actually required by the law of the land.
Who knows where we’ll actually succeed in punishing the criminals responsible for the past several years’ killing spree, but electing or persuading a county prosecutor is much more easily done than any public persuasion of anyone in Washington, and there are many hundreds of places we can try it. This approach is clearly one of those we have a moral obligation to pursue, and it is the combination of approaches that has the best chance of succeeding. So get the film and show it! If we do not make this happen, every future president will know that blatantly lying the nation into war carries no penalties. And that will mean that they don’t even have to bother lying next time.
David Swanson is the author of the upcoming book “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union” by Seven Stories Press and of the introduction to “The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush” published by Feral House and available at Amazon.com. Swanson holds a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia. He has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including press secretary for Dennis Kucinich‘s 2004 presidential campaign, media coordinator for the , and three years as communications coordinator for ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Swanson is Co-Founder of AfterDowningStreet.org, creator of ConvictBushCheney.org and Washington Director of Democrats.com, a board member of Progressive Democrats of America, the Backbone Campaign, and Voters for Peace, a member of the legislative working group of , and convener of the accountability and prosecution working group of .