The title itself should immediately grab your eyes. But first, let me give you some info on Bugliosi.
As a state prosecutor in Los Angeles, Bugliosi prosecuted Charles Manson and members of his “family” for the 1969 murders of Sharon Tate and six others. Bugliosi says he lost only one of the 106 felony cases he tried as a prosecutor. He says he won 21 out of 21 murder cases. He is also the author of Helter Skelter – the best-selling book on the Manson trial.
As you can obviously tell, this book is by a lawyer (a really good one at that) who builds a case on why President George W. Bush should be prosecuted for murder by sending our troops to Iraq. What makes him different? After all, many presidents in the past have sent our troops to war, how come they don’t get prosecuted? Bugliosi’s case is that Bush purposely lied to get the American people involved in the war in Iraq. It’s a bold statement. When it came down to information, I saw it as three things:
- Bush purposely lied.
- Bush was ignorant about the costs of the war, or
- Bush received bad information.
All of them could be justified, but I’ve always thought that the first one was harder. After all, if you want to find out if someone is truly lying, it seems the only way to do that was to get inside his head and see if he really knew that information, but the liar purposely got the people away from the truth. The second seems easier, but it may come down to a psychological thing as well (although easier to figure out if someone’s ignorant rather than someone purposely lying). Thus, if someone was going to make a case, it seems that the third one is the best one to go for. Not Bugliosi. He’s going straight for the throat and aims to show that number one is true.
To start, Bugliosi says that because Americans were affected throughout the country, any state (not just the US attorney general) can bring murder charges against Bush.
As we go through the evidence, Bugliosi brings up some interesting facts about Saddam Hussein’s trial. Here’s the first question: what were the charges against Saddam Hussein? Your first answer might be something like genocide or the killings of Kurds and Shiites in the 1980’s. Nope. The prosecutor charges Saddam Hussein of killing his assassinators. But that seems weird. If someone was trying to kill the President (in any country) and the President orders those people to be put on trial or even killed, no one would blink. In fact, most people would consider that proper. But Saddam Hussein is charged because he’s trying to get rid of his assassinators. Odd.
Back to the evidence. Bugliosi uses Bush’s speech to Congress on October 11, 2002 as evidence on why Bush should be prosecuted. The speech basically said that the war was for the purposes of national security, nothing else. Again, before the war started, Bush spoke about how Hussein had WMDs and that he was a threat to our national security. That was all that was mentioned.
However, the message changed. We couldn’t find the WMDs, and links between Hussein and al-Qaeda showed to be false. Thus, the message changed from national security to a real purpose: giving birth to democracy in the Middle East which would spread throughout. Bugliosi brings his first point: if that was the real reason, then Bush has no right to keep this reason a secret from the American people. But with this, many conservatives agree that the real reason was to spread democracy and not to find WMDs or that it was a national security issue. Ok. But if that’s the case, isn’t that an implicit admission that Bush lied to the country initially? Also, even if the point was to bring democracy, a major problem with this is that democracy isn’t just having elections. Bugliosi brings up something that I believe is a good argument but everyone seems to miss: before you can have a political democracy, you must first have a democratic culture. If you don’t have that first, you cannot have a democracy. What’s a democratic culture? Bugliosi says that it’s “a tradition of voluntary associations, a tolerance for nonconformism and pluralism, a shared belief in the dignity of the individual, separation of political power from religious authority and a belief in the legitimacy of the dissent” (p. 265). Now a democracy has a hidden corollary that the majority usually wins. Well, the Shiites are the majority. If a democracy holds out, wouldn’t this mean that the Shiites would be the ruling power? They are extremely religious, much like Iran. Wouldn’t this suggest that this would eventually turn into a theocracy? Indeed, many analysts predict that Iraq is going to be even more hostile to us and become friendly with Iran. Wouldn’t Islamic extremists much more likely to go to a state like this instead of a secular Islamic nation like Saddam Hussein’s was? And shouldn’t the Bush administration known about this?
Now this is just the first chapter. Next, the US was ready to fight Iraq (for whatever reason), but Bush wanted the rest of the world to get involved. Bush knew (notice that italic there) that he couldn’t get the world involved if it was a national threat to the US, thus Bush brought in the motivation of bringing in WMDs so that the world could see that it was a worldly threat, not just a US threat. (Whether this motivation was a lie or not is another thing, however. If it turns out to be a lie, then it seems that Bush could be tried in an international tribunal rather than just a national one, but that’s a tangent.) With that, Bush didn’t use WMDs primarily to get the US motivated for war, he used the WMDs to get the world involved. In other words, Bush is being (or at least trying to be) a realist. Not a good one at that, but mainly it’s because I find neoconservativism a bad strategy, both pragmatically and ideologically.
Next, there’s a huge assumption that Bugliosi points wants to bring out that no one has mentioned. The assumption is that Saddam Hussein was a treat to the security of the US. Even liberals would say that Hussein was a threat. But Bugliosi says “show me the evidence.” Indeed, Bugliosi notices that all major newspapers agreed that Hussein was a threat to the country when in reality he wasn’t. This is because Bugliosi makes an argument: Saddam Husseain was not really an enemy of this country. Even though many people, including Bush, said that Hussein was hostile toward us, Bugliosi against points out: “show me the evidence.” Instead, Hussein is hostile to Bush (both of them) and not to America. Indeed, if we were really enemies, then we couldn’t have bought so much oil from him.
In the next part, Bugliosi makes a prologue about the prosecution. It’s kind of like the opening remarks in a trial. What does he say? There were many statements that the Bush administration have said that makes one wonder about their preparedness or their seriousness about the war. For example, when Rumsfeld went to Iraq to visit the troops, a lot of the military personal complained that there wasn’t enough armor or protection. Rumsfeld reply was “you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” This seems odd. That reply only works if you’re caught off-guard and you have to fight with whatever resources you scrounge up. In the case of Iraq, they had a lot of time to prepare. Thus, Rumsfeld is mistaken. You should not go to war with the Army you have, you should go to war with what is needed and you better prepare yourself for that need. Now this is the argument that Bugliosi is presenting:
- If you go to war, the administration must prepare the Army with protection that it deserves.
- If the administration does not prepare the Army for war, then that is a criminal offense.
- The Bush administration did not prepare the Army for war.
- Therefore, they committed a criminal offense. (Modes Ponens from 2 and 3)
The argument is valid, but is it sound? I’m afraid not. I question premise number two. I think Bugliosi makes a big leap and assumes that the Bush administration were rational. Now if they were rational, then number two holds. However, I don’t consider the Bush administration rational. I would rephrase number two as:
2.’ If the administration does not prepare the Army for war, then the administration is either stupid and ignorant, or if they are rational, then it is a criminal offense.
Thus, with this new premise, the best we can say is that the Bush administration is either ignorant and criminals. Frankly, I think the former is more believable and true. To back this up, Bugliosi points out that Bush has been the only president that was “happy” during the war. All previous presidents have had a terrible time or a grievous time during war. Bush, however, doesn’t wince about the war or even 9/11. Thus, Bugliosi concludes, Bush is irresponsible and lazy. Indeed, Bush’s decisions are usually based on instinct and Rice’s job was to “intellectualize his instincts.” That is her quote. With the war going on and with terrorism a huge priority, Bush decides to spend about 30 percent of his presidency on vacation. He considers working at the White House an inconvenience which seems that being President was interfering with what he really wanted to do.
But Bugliosi makes another interesting claim: Bush wanted war. The previous presidents resent or doubt whether the war they were involved in was the right thing to do. Bush never had any doubts. His concern is that America will win this war. But Bugliosi notes that in previous wars, all of the presidents have asked its citizens to make some sacrifice. Bush never asked. With this, “the president can say we’re a country at war all he wants. We’re not. The military is at war. And the military families are at war. Everybody else is shopping, or watching American Idol.” No one else is sacrificing. And sorry, donations and putting that lame yellow magnetic ribbon on the back of your car doesn’t count. Remember in WWII, everyone contributed to the war cause. No one is contributing to this war except the military. The citizens don’t do anything.
Here’s my problem: is this fair to Bush? I mean, suppose that Bush did tell the citizens to sacrifice but the citizens don’t. Is Bush, then, off the hook? It seems odd that the metaphysical criminality of Bush rests on whether the citizens sacrifice or not. If the blame falls somewhere on sacrifice, it falls on the citizens, not on the president. This is just the prologue. The meat of the argument is next. The evidence hasn’t been presented, but I’m not convinced yet. To me, this only shows that Bush is stupid or ignorant, which I can go for.
Impeachment won’t do it. It’s not enough. The murder of 4,000 Americans is too much just to allow impeachment. Even if Bush somehow apologized or realized that he made a mistake, that’s not enough. He must be prosecuted for murder. So how can Bugliosi do this?
First, the prosecution must show that Bush did have an intent to kill Americans (having a criminal state of mind). Perhaps one of the first things that Bush could do is claim self-defense. However, Bugliosi shows in the previous chapter that Saddam Hussein was not a threat to this country, therefore self-defense won’t work.
MY PROBLEM: Bugliosi specifically states: “Therefore, Bush did not act in self-defense and hence, did have a criminal state of mind” (p. 96). This is too much of a jump. At best, I think the proper result should be that Bush did not act in self-defense, and hence he acted dumbly. This is, again, ignorance and not having intent.
But Bugliosi realizes this and states that intent in a legalistic framework means some foreseen knowledge. What this means is that if the president goes to war under false pretenses, he intended to fight. With the intention to go to war, he knew that American soldiers would die. Thus, the intention holds. But hold on here, does this follow? Again, it falls to ignorance. Bush did not know that this was a false war. His intention was that this was a proper war. Because of his intentions, this isn’t murder.
At best, Bugliosi could probably go for second-degree murder, but that’s pushing it. Bugliosi doesn’t think so:
Bush’s taking the nation to war would constitute implied malice, that is, an intent to do a highly dangerous act with reckless disregard and indifference to human life, and hence, at least second degree murder in every state, as well as under federal law. (p. 97)
The best we could go for is manslaughter if it comes down to ignorance. But that’s something I never thought before. Ignorance still implies negligence and under the law, you could prosecute someone for manslaughter.
However, Bugliosi does say that even though we can’t really see into someone’s mind and find his or her intent, in a criminal case, we don’t need to. We have to look at the conduct and statement to infer what was on his mind. That’s all that’s needed in a prosecution. (He sites various cases where this is true.) So what is the evidence that Bugliosi provides that not only Bush lead this country to war, but mislead us to war?
First Evidence: The White Paper
In October 15, 2001, Sec. of State, Colin Powell told the press that “Iraq is Iraq, a wasted society for 10 years. They’re sad. They’re contained.” Indeed, at the Gulf War, we could see that they were a weak military. We defeated their army on the ground in about 100 hours. Only 128 Americans died, and 44 of those were by accident or friendly fire.
Here’s the thing: no idiot is going to fight the US head-on. So you do one of two things: you can use propaganda (which is what the Taliban and al-Qaeda does) or you just don’t fight at all (which is what Hussein did). Hussein wanted to live and attacking the US or helping someone to attack the US won’t help Hussein’s survival. Bush knew this, but he went ahead and came up with the idea that Hussein was still an imminent threat to the nation. Thus forms the lie.
Another piece: we went after bin Laden, the person responsible for 9/11, but then we went to Iraq and diverted our country’s military and resources to go after Hussein. In the words of my realist professor on Radical Islam: “Big Strategical Error.” Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 (and we officially knew this in 2007 after a study from the Pentagon) and this just shows circumstantial evidence that Bush wanted to go after Hussein all along and 9/11 was the excuse to do so. Indeed, many neoconservatives before Bush came into office have commented that the Bush administration had been dreaming of invading Iraq for years. About a month after 9/11, the CIA concluded that Saddam Hussein was not an imminent threat to the US and wouldn’t use any weapons against us unless we attacked him first; that is for self-defense. (On another note, I found it odd that Bush claimed that Saddam Hussein has WMD, but he wasn’t worried that he’d use them against us if we fought him.) Bush had to have known this since the CIA briefs him on important matters such as this. But Bush also said that he’ll be deciding based on the latest intelligence. Well, in Oct. 2002, the latest intelligence at the time was Hussein was not an imminent threat. Phrasing Bugliosi:
So when Bush told the nation on the evening of October 7 that Hussein was an imminent threat to the security of this country, he was telling millions of Americans the exact opposite of what his own CIA was telling him.
Bush, it seems, was pushing his own agenda and the media gave him the pass to go to war under false pretenses. With this, this was not an attack based on self-defense.
The hard evidence that Bugliosi provides is what is known as the “White Paper.” In the original classified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), there were major differences when it became declassified (which is known as the White Paper): deletions, insertions, and manipulations of words to make it look like Iraq was more menacing that it actually was. Things like:
- Hussein was purchasing aluminum tubes. (Turns out that based on the length, strength, and width, these were more suited for rockets rather than nuclear weapons.)
- A source from Niger telling us information. (Turns out the information wasn’t true.)
- Iraq could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year. (Turns out that if left unchecked, Iraq could have gotten one in about five years.)
A British official who was the chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (their equivalent of our CIA) told Prime Minister Tony Blair that the Bush Administration “wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around policy.” The Bush Administration had already decided to go to war with Iraq, now they just needed the justification to do so. To see a good summation of this section, check this out: and also go here.
When the weapons inspectors went to Iraq and Saddam complied, Bush got worried. Bush originally said that he won’t go to war unless there was a regime change. But now that the inspectors were in and they were saying that there no WMD, Bush changed his words and said (two days before the war) that there’s no need to go to war unless Saddam and his sons leave the country, something that the Bush Administration knew that Hussein wouldn’t comply to do so.
Of course, a reply could be that Hussein didn’t allow the inspectors into everything. The answer is simple: in Arabian culture, you have to look tough. If not, you’re seen weak and you can easily be taken over. He wasn’t trying to look tough to the Americans (because we could easily defeat him). He was trying to look tough to Iran. At the same time, there were Shiites in Iraq and if they knew that Hussein didn’t have weapons, there would surely be an uprising. In the end of this segment, Bugliosi is concluding that Hussein did not have WMDs. I’m not so sure about that as you can see here. (You’ll probably have to right click and “save link as. . .”. Admittedly, Sada does say that Hussein did have chemical and biological but was not making nuclear, which may help Bugliosi’s case, but ironically will hinder him as well.)
Second Evidence: No Link Between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda
In this next section, Bush admits on Sept. 17, 2003 that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. But the damage was too late. As of June 2006, 90% of American soldiers believed that there was a link and in Sept. 2006, 43% of Americans still believed there was a link. With the knowledge that Bush received from the CIA and the NIE, he had knowledge that there was no link, but he still went to to the American people and said that “we’re taking the fight to those that attacked us.” There’s no other way to interpret that.
Next, when we captured Saddam Hussein, we turned him back to the Iraqi government. That was odd. Granted, we couldn’t give him an international tribunal because it wasn’t a UN fight. However, if the Bush Administration stated that Hussein was responsible for 3000 deaths on 9/11, then legally speaking you can bring him to America for murder charges. After all, we had the 20th highjacker (he’s not American) and we still tried him on American soil. I can guarantee you that if we capture bin Laden, we will bring him back to America to try him. It would seem odd that if we capture bin Laden, we turn him to Afghanistan for a trial. So why would Bush let Hussein go to Iraq for a trial? It would seem that letting him be tried in Iraq is an implicit admission that the Bush administration knew that Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. When Hussein was captured, there was a document on him that told his supporters to not join other foreign Arab forces in Iraq. This was because he wanted to Ba’ath Party to be powerful again (wishful thinking, I know), but this document implies that he wants nothing to do with al-Qaeda or bin Laden. Al-Qaeda wanted a holy war against the West whereas Saddam and the Ba’ath Party only wanted political power in Iraq. CIA reports also indicate that al-Qaeda had the opportunity to work with Iraq, but bin Laden immediately turned down the proposal. Bluntly speaking, Hussein and bin Laden hate each other.
The 9/11 Commission and Richard Clark (the counter-terrorism adviser from Regan through Bush Jr.) have both stated that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Clark even told Bush this the day after 9/11 but Bush still told Clark to go find a link.
Bush supporters might say that Zarqawi was in Iraq seven months before the war. That should indicate some link between Hussein and al-Qaeda. While it’s true that Zarqawi was in Iraq (and even in Baghdad), Hussein was unaware of his presence. As soon as Hussein was aware of it, he ordered his intelligence service to capture Zarqawi.
Bugliosi asserts that the Manning Memo shows that, far from making serious efforts to avoid war, Bush considered the possibility of provoking Saddam into starting a war by sending U2 reconnaissance aircraft, falsely painted in UN colors, on flights over Iraq along with fighter escorts, and if Saddam ordered them shot down, it would constitute war. With this, if Bush is serious about Hussein being an imminent threat, why would you go to the enemy and provoke the enemy to fight?
Now who else would be a coconspirator in this? The circumstantial evidence points to Cheney and Rice. Bugliosi believes that if they go down, he would be able to convince them of a plea bargain. With this, the truth will fully come out against Bush. Rumsfeld is a maybe, same with Rove. Powell is probably innocent.
As soon as the prosecutor asks Bush what intelligence agency gave him the information that Hussein was an imminent threat to the US, Bush couldn’t respond because the intelligence was a lie.
Finally, Bugliosi ends the book commenting that Bush was horrible at the war on terror. How so?
- On Aug. 6, 2001, there was a memo and the title of it was “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” What did the Bush Administration do about it? NOTHING! As the Clinton Administration left the White House, they even recommended to the Bush Administration that Al Qaeda should be their top priority. The CIA and the FBI kept giving out warnings throughout August. But Bush and Rice commented that they did nothing to add new additional steps even to counter that. There wasn’t even a meeting on what to do about it. Indeed, when Bush came into office, Rumsfeld didn’t relaunch the Predator drone that was used by the CIA to track bin Laden, and Wolfowitz shut down the disinformation program to create dissent within the Taliban. Under the Clinton Administration, the counterterrorism budget went up since 1999. It went up from 22.7% in 2001 (and Clinton was only in office for 21 days in 2001!). Ashcroft immediately cut the budget. This shows that the Bush Administration did not take terrorism seriously.
- Amazingly, he was considered a hero after 9/11. Why? He did nothing! Why should he be considered a hero? No one even blamed him when people should’ve been. He was the guy to stop this, and instead, people were praising him. Here’s the thing: if there was another huge terrorism plot under Obama’s watch, I can guarantee you that people would blame him for it. If counterintelligence showed there was a terrorist attack but Obama did nothing, you can bet that I’d be mad too. But amazingly, no one blamed Bush for 9/11. Even with the information coming out that Bush knew beforehand. Sounds inconsistent to me.
- When Bush was told that the nation was under attack, he was in a Florida classroom in the second grade. He sat there for five minutes. Any rational person would immediately excuse himself and asked to be briefed. Bush, however, didn’t do that. Indeed, he didn’t make a public announcement about 9/11 until Sept. 20th, 11 days later! Even FDR made the attack on Pearl Harbor two days after that.
- Bush had the audacity to tell the American public that the reason why bin Laden hates us is because of our freedoms. That’s not actually true. Bin Laden announced on Nov. 24, 2002 on why he hates America: it’s because we support Israel, we were stationed in Saudi Arabia near the holiest places to the Muslim world, and because we put economic sanctions on Iraq where it starved 1.5 million children but left Hussein unharmed. With this rhetoric, Bush just uses his speech to get people on his side. MY QUESTION: that’s politics though. As I hate to admit it, politicians are very good are rhetoric. It’s just that the masses are dumb enough to fall for it. So why blame Bush on his rhetoric when the population at large are also to blame for believing such nonsense? I guess Bugliosi could reply that it is the President’s job to explain to the American people what is really the case, not some rhetoric to get the people inflamed for a cause.
- Bush was considered a hero because he went out to fight the terrorists. Most people (including liberals) said that he was very “ballsy” and bold for doing such a thing. Bugliosi’s reply: but that isn’t heroic. Any rational person would do that. President Bush was doing his duty to go after the bad guys. It’s not as if he really wanted to stay home and not fight them. Anyone would automatically do the same thing. When the Democrats said no to fighting the war in Iraq, many people equated that as the Democrats are weak on terror. They’re not weak on terror, after all they were all for fighting in Afghanistan. Bugliosi got it right: to say that they didn’t want to fight is simply a non sequitur. However, Bush still came out on top because he was seen as a hero. But why? He should’ve been seen as a failure for not protecting us. It was his duty to protect us. MY QUESTION: but wouldn’t this logically imply that the firefighters and policemen at NY were not heroes? After all, they were just doing their duty.
- There was a bipartisan commission to investigate 9/11 and Bush wanted to prevent it from happening. I guess the investigation would look into the lies that Bush and his Administration was doing. However, the commission went through. . . from the widows of 9/11 victims pushing for the commission to happen!
- In Afghanistan, we thought we went there in Nov. and Dec. 2001 to fight al-Qaeda. It actually turns out that Bush didn’t send out one single soldier. He only sent out forty American Special Forces to coordinate the bombing. The job of finding and capturing bin Laden was given to three anti-Taliban Afghan warlords and their men. They were even frustrated. They told the American press: “If America wants to capture Osama, why aren’t they trying?” They even told the Bush Administration where he was, but the Bush Administration ignored the advice. Rumsfeld later said that they’ll rely on Pakistani military to take care of it. Thus, Afghanistan and Pakistan: it’s now your problem. But these people–who are mostly Muslim and somewhat sympathetic to bin Laden and the Taliban, and whose people were not murdered by bin Laden–were supposed to go after him. Where’s the logic in that? In 2005, Germany confirmed that bin Laden had paid off the Afghan warlords, the same Afghans who were helping us capture bin Laden. So we’re not willing to invade Pakistan, but we’ll invade Iraq? When the real fighting occurred, it was mainly the Northern Alliance that did it. Our military was only there in an advisory and support capacity. Indeed, many newspapers across the country around March 2002 (six months after 9/11) that American forces took the lead in Afghanistan for the first time.
- Bush, in an interview, was asked about bin Laden in March 13, 2002. Bush’s reply: “I don’t know where he is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you. . . I truly am not that concerned about him.” Bush didn’t know nor did he care about the guy who murdered 3000 Americans?
- The invasion in Iraq has actually made al Qaeda stronger but making Iraq the center of anti-American terrorists for years to come. With this, Bush had no plans for a postwar Iraq. The only terrorist we knew of in Iraq was Zarqawi. But his ties with bin Laden were shaky, if they even existed. More importantly, Zarqawi had no ties or relationship with Hussein. Zarqawi even operated in Kurdish territory, which was outside of Hussein’s control anyway resulting from the Gulf War.
Finally, the book ends in a bad way. It’s basically Bush bashing in the last chapter. Actually, it bashes Bush, Michael Moore, Hollywood, and the “ignorant masses” of America. He says what happened to America? We simply got dumber. This book is supposed to appeal to the general population but I would suspect most people would be turned off by this last chapter.
In the end, the result is startling: either postmodernism is route to go for, or Bush is a liar. Bugliosi goes for the latter.
Overall, it’s an interesting paradigm shift on the thinking of how Bush handeled 9/11 and the War in Iraq. I don’t think any prosecution will come out, however, but I still think that Bugliosi does a fine job of building up a case. It’s worth a read, but be prepared to add in marginal notes like I did. Also, do not read with any political bias. Read it simply as a case and see where reason (and not your emotions) take you.