"Ha! I kill me!" Unfortunately, the death of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq is not metaphorical.
"...the rulers of the states are the most criminal group in a respective population. With a limitation of their power their criminality tends to decrease; but it still remains exceptionally high in all nations."
What was the offense for which Saddam Hussein was executed?
Most people in a position to answer that question -- those with an attention span superior to that of the typical goldfish -- would probably say that Saddam suffered the long drop to the end of the rope as punishment for his multifarious crimes against humanity.
That list would include waging aggressive war against Iran, the use of chemical weapons in that conflict and against his own subject population, or for other mass murders and acts of domestic terror.
The correct answer, as former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi recalls, is that the formal charge for which Saddam was hanged was not the murder of millions or even thousands, but rather the execution -- following a proper trial, conducted under established law and settled standards of due process -- of 102 Shi'ite men from the village of Dujail.
Those men were convicted of plotting and carrying out an attempt on Saddam's life when he visited the Shi'ite village 35 miles north of Baghdad in July 1982. At the time of that assassination attempt, Saddam was a subcontractor for the world's most malevolent regimes -- the one infesting Washington, and the one afflicting Russia -- and so he was obviously capable of bestial behavior. Yet in dealing with the attempt on his life, Saddam behaved as if he were a legitimate head of state*.
Saddam let his security forces round up about 800 people and winnow from them the relative handful of people who had some direct connection to the attack. After a two-year inquiry, a 361-page indictment was compiled naming some 148 suspects. By that time, 46 of the suspects had died under torture at Abu Ghraib prison, a fate not unfamiliar to those imprisoned there under American rule following Iraq's "liberation." The remaining 102 were tried, convicted, and executed for the attempt on Saddam's life.
Interestingly, the attempt by Shi'ite radicals to murder Saddam came just months after the Syrian regime of fellow Ba'athist Hafez al-Assad dealt with an uprising organized by the Muslim Brotherhood (a beneficiary of U.S. aid since the early 1950s, as Robert Dreyfuss documents in his book Devil's Game) in a small town called Hama. Assad dealt with that rebellion by unleashing his military and pounding Hama into blood pudding massacring an estimated 10,000-25,000 people.
Saddam dealt with a much more personal threat in Dujail. Had he behaved as the prevailing caricature would suggest, that village would have been destroyed root and branch: The town itself would have been subject to Carthaginian destruction, and the extended families of its residents would have been liquidated. Instead, Saddam's government undertook to distinguish the guilty from the innocent and punished only those determined to have been complicit in the attempt on his life.
As Bugliosi notes, Saddam "was killed [by execution] for killing those who first tried to kill him." More than five years ago, George W. Bush ordered American military personnel to invade and occupy Iraq, thereby authorizing the killing of Iraqis who had never harmed or threatened Americans in any way. Thousands of Americans and -- most likely -- hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died as a result of Bush's orders. Sundry justifications have been offered for this unnecessary bloodshed. Among them was the charge that Bush flung at a September 2002 fund-raiser in Houston: "After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my Dad." Even if that were true -- something we have ample reason to doubt -- it must be pointed out that Bush's Daddy tried to kill Saddam first during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The revenge motive, whether or not it reflects genuine filial passion on Bush's part, makes as much sense as any of the other rationales for the ongoing conflict in Iraq, aka The War In Search Of A Reason. And this fact underscores the fact that the legal case for convicting Bush is much stronger than the one used to convict Saddam.
Consider: Saddam was the direct target of a documentable assassination attempt, and his response was to find those specifically responsible and punish them. Bush the Younger, claiming an irrepressible desire to punish those responsible for a dubious alleged attack on his father, instigated a war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, devoured hundreds of billions of dollars in wealth, helped bring about an accelerating economic crisis, and threatens to metastasize into a regional or even global conflict. Saddam was made to stretch a rope for much less than this. In fact, the "crime" for which Saddam was executed was nothing of the sort.
In his new book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, Vincent Bugliosi takes note of this contrast, but he curiously doesn't elaborate on it. That's probably the only notable shortcoming in the case made by Mr. Bugliosi in his timely and necessary book.
Bugliosi made his reputation by prosecuting the Charles Manson, so he's well-equipped to deal with the blank-eyed sociopath defiling the White House. He insists that Bush can and must be put on trial -- within the United States, not at The Hague -- for the deliberate, premeditated murder of Americans sent to die in Iraq. Those deaths were entirely unnecessary and occurred because of the depraved indifference to human life displayed by the Grand and Glorious Decider in bringing about the Iraq War.
According to Bugliosi's analysis, Bush can find no legal refuge in the fact that Congress "authorized" and funded the war, since "consent is not a defense to the crime of murder. Further, even if it were, it is [well-established] law that fraud vitiates consent. So the consent that Congress gave Bush is nullified by the deliberate misrepresentations he made to Congress in inducing it to give him its consent."
Additionally, after he leaves office Bush is fully liable for any criminal actions he committed while he was president, unless his successor issues a plenary pardon. Under existing law, it is not necessary to prove a specific intent to kill in order to demonstrate "premeditation"; the act of "lying in wait" to attack a victim who subsequently dies is sufficient.
No lack of jurisdiction: Bush's murder victims come from every state and most U.S. territories. Any state Attorney General, or county prosecutor, could pursue an indictment against Bush.
As applied to Bush's crimes, this principle would mean that it's not necessary to prove that Bush intended for any specific American or Iraqi to die in order for him to face the charge of first degree murder. At an absolute minimum, however, "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," writes Bugliosi.
Thus "any state attorney general in the fifty states (or any district attorney -- called the state's attorney in cities like Chicago and Miami -- in any county of any state) could bring a murder charge against Bush for any soldiers from that state or county who lost their lives fighting Bush's war," the author continues.
In fact, such an attempt has already been made by Ed Felien, a former City Councilman from Minneapolis. Last May, Felien petitioned the Minneapolis District Court for a writ of mandamus "alleging that President Bush committed third degree murder by sending Minneapolis National Guard troops to Iraq on false pretenses," reported Jason Leopold of The Public Record. Felien has appeared before a District Court judge to argue "that a county attorney should be ordered to arrest the president on murder charges when he arrives in the city for the 2008 Republican National Convention."
Unfortunately, Felien's complaint is attenuated -- and thus made ineffective -- by various less important allegations of oil price-fixing and drug distribution.
But this doesn't foreclose the possibility of other, more tightly written complaints being filed by other officials in Minnesota or elsewhere.
George W. Bush habitually displays the sociopath's frigid indifference to the suffering of others, but he is exquisitely sensitive to impositions on his own leisure time.
Yeah, war's a real laugh riot -- isn't it, Idiot Boy?
Witness, as just one example, Bush's recent lie (widely reported while Bugliosi's book was on the presses) that he had given up golfing as an act of sacrificial solidarity with U.S. troops and their families. Bugliosi points out that of the approximately 2,535 days of Bush's presidency through last January 1, "Bush spent all or part of 908 days, an incredible 36 percent of his time, on vacation or at retreat places.... Two and a half years of the less than seven years of his presidency in which his main goal was to kick back and have fun."
And boy, has the Bushling had fun.
While Iraqis are dying by the tens of thousands, American troops are on their fourth and fifth rotations into hell, and more than four thousand American families have lost children, husbands, fathers, and mothers, Bush's life has been one protracted lark punctuated by the unpleasant occasional necessity of pretending to work. Neither the rigors of education nor the burden of painfully acquired wisdom has ever left is impress on Bush's face -- something genuinely remarkable for someone in the seventh decade of life.
During the past five years of war, the expression most often seen radiating from the face of that in-bred, pampered Man-Child has been the kind of delight one would expect of an idiot child who can indulge every transient whim. No matter the suffering inflicted on others by his war, no matter how many Americans die or suffer life-altering injuries, Bush "is always seen with a big smile on his face ... and is in good spirits," notes Bugliosi. "How would that be possible if he was suffering?" Just weeks after 9/11, while Americans were still shattered by the event, the New York Times noted that "Mr. Bush's nonchalant, jocular demeanor remains the same."
In an August 2002 interview with Runner's World, while Americans were killing and dying in Afghanistan and his administration was getting ready to roll out the case to expand the killing to Iraq, Bush complained that his daily jogging regimen was suffering: "It's sad that I can't run longer. It's one of the saddest things about my presidency."
"All in all, it's been a fabulous year for Laura and me," effused Bush in December 2001, a year incurably disfigured in the memory of the rest of us by 9/11 and its aftermath. "We're having the time of our life," he gushed during his second inaugural in January 2005, nearly two years into the war of choice he inflicted on the world.
Given that his reign has taken place in a permanent state of quasi-vacation, Bush probably won't notice a dramatic change of lifestyle when he retires. Perhaps the only significant difference will be that he'll no longer be able to kill people at whim. He really should spend the remaining decades of his life being either pursued or punished for the murders he has committed. One wonders how the Secret Service would react to process-servers or bounty hunters charged to carry out court orders resulting from the legal process Bugliosi outlines; I think such incidents would be both entertaining and edifying.
While Bugliosi's criminal case against Bush is compelling, there are weaknesses in the rest of the book.
He insists, for instance, that Bill Clinton and Al Gore were somehow less inclined toward the promiscuous murder of foreigners than Bush has been, which is demonstrably untrue. Clinton shed blood needlessly in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as well as in the politically convenient anti-impeachment military campaigns of 1998: The "Monica Missiles" missile attacks on Afghanistan and Somalia in August, and the "Desert Fox" bombing of Iraq in December. And Clinton's 1999 78-day terror bombing of Serbia, supposedly to prevent "genocide" in Kosovo, was an act of mass murder easily as prosecutable as Bush's assault on Iraq.
Don't forget Clinton's war crimes: Belgrade, the capital of a pro-U.S. European country, burns under assault by NATO bombers during the 78-day terror bombing ordered by Clinton in 1999 (left); a young girl who lost her legs in a bombing attack is just one of hundreds of civilian victims of the assault (below, right).
Where Bush -- as Bugliosi capably documents -- did everything he could to precipitate war with Iraq (to the point of discussing with Tony Blair various ways of provoking a first strike from Saddam), Clinton used a January 1999 diplomatic meeting in Rambouillet, France to present the Serbs with an ultimatum he knew they would have to refuse: The price of avoiding a bombing was Serb acquiescence to the military occupation of their country. "They [the Serbs] need some bombing," one State Department Clintinoid commented at the time, "and that's what they are going to get."
If it was just for Saddam to be forced to dance between heaven and earth because he executed would-be assassins, Bush deserves no less for his acts of mass murder, and Clinton really should join his successor in the dock as well. That's one reason why both wings of the Ruling Party will work in tandem to shelter Bush and his minions: Both sides are mired in the same morass of murderous criminality.
This is why Barack "The Holy One" Obama has disavowed any intention to pursue criminal investigations of the previous administration should he be elected, or even to support impeachment this year. "I think you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breaches, and intentional breaches of the president's authority," he commented more than a year ago.
Apparently, waging aggressive war, institutionalizing torture, and eviscerating due process protections are merely "policy options" from Obama's perspective. That's certainly the view of the criminal class that produced him, and in whose service Obama would deploy his remarkably well-developed gift for mass deception.
* By using the term "legitimate" in this context, of course, I don't intend to imply that the state enjoys any innate legitimacy.
Dum spiro, pugno!