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Talk Nation Radio: Inder Comar on Prosecuting Bush for War

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-inder-comar-on-prosecuting-bush-for-war

D. Inder Comar is legal director at Comar Law, a boutique law firm in San Francisco. We discuss the case of Saleh v. Bush in which he is lead counsel, currently in the 9th Circuit, seeking to hold George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, and others responsible under the laws of Nuremberg for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. See: http://witnessiraq.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Human Experimentation: a CIA Habit

The Guardian on Monday made public a CIA document allowing the agency's director to "approve, modify, or disapprove all proposals pertaining to human subject research."

Human what?

At Guantanamo, the CIA gave huge doses of the terror-inducing drug mefloquine to prisoners without their consent, as well as the supposed truth serum scopolamine. Former Guantanamo guard Joseph Hickman has documented the CIA's torturing people, sometimes to death, and can find no explanation other than research:

"[Why] were men of little or no value kept under these conditions, and even repeatedly interrogated, months or years after they'd been taken into custody? Even if they'd had any intelligence when they came in, what relevance would it have years later? . . . One answer seemed to lie in the description that Major Generals [Michael] Dunlavey and [Geoffrey] Miller both applied to Gitmo. They called it 'America's battle lab.'"

Non-consensual experimentation on institutionalized children and adults was common in the United States before, during, and even more so after the U.S. and its allies prosecuted Nazis for the practice in 1947, sentencing many to prison and seven to be hanged. The tribunal created the Nuremberg Code, standards for medical practice that were immediately ignored back home. Some American doctors considered it "a good code for barbarians."

The code begins: "Required is the voluntary, well-informed, understanding consent of the human subject in a full legal capacity." A similar requirement is included in the CIA's rules, but has not been followed, even as doctors have assisted with such torture techniques as waterboarding.

Thus far, the United States has never really accepted the Nuremberg Code. While the code was being created, the U.S. was giving people syphilis in Guatemala. It did the same at Tuskegee. Also during the Nuremberg trial, children at the Pennhurst school in southeastern Pennsylvania were given hepatitis-laced feces to eat.

Other sites of experimentation scandals have included the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn, the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, and Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia. And, of course, the CIA's Project MKUltra (1953-1973) was a smorgasbord of human experimentation. Forced sterilizations of women in California prisons have not ended. Torture by Chicago police has for the first time just resulted in compensation for victims.

If we are, at long last, to put such contemptible behavior behind us, it will require breaking some bad habits.

Congress has busily re-banned torture a number of times in recent years. Now it must drop that charade and instead demand that the Attorney General enforce the anti-torture statute, which made torture a felony before George W. Bush ever became president.

It's good of John Oliver to denounce torture. And he's right to go after the lies told about torture in popular entertainment. But he's also spreading the false idea that it's legal. "We checked," he says, reporting that his crack team of investigators discovered that the only ban on torture is found in an executive order written by President Obama. This is dangerous nonsense. The U.S. was a party to the Anti-Torture Convention and had made torture a felony under the anti-torture statute and the war-crimes statute before George W. Bush ever became president.

Since then, Congress has repeatedly "banned" torture. But, just as the U.N. Charter's ban on war actually legalized certain wars, purporting to replace the total ban in the Kellogg-Briand Pact with a partial ban, these Congressional efforts (such as the Military Commissions Act of 2006) have actually legalized certain cases of torture, replacing (at least in everyone's mind) the total ban already existing in the U.S. Code and in a treaty to which the U.S. is party.

The latest "ban" proposal from Senator McCain and friends, would create exceptions in the form of those in the Army Field Manual, and advocates maintain that step number two would be to reform that manual. But if you skip both steps and acknowledge the existence of the anti-torture statute in the U.S. Code, you're done. The proper task is to press for its enforcement.

Oliver's mistake, like virtually everyone else's, is based on two myths. One, torture began with Bush. Two, torture ended with Bush. On the contrary, torture has been around in the United States and elsewhere for a very long time. So has the practice of banning it. Torture is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In fact, under international law, torture can never be legalized and is always banned.

Myth number two is also wrong. Torture has not ended and won't as long as it's not punished.

An attorney general can be questioned and threatened with impeachment until our laws are enforced. A new website created Monday let's you email Congress to demand that it do just that.

Pentagon Admits that War is Illegal

The Pentagon has just published 1,204 pages on how it thinks you can behave legally during a war. Looking through this "Law of War Manual" at various hot topics, one finds some atrocities excused as acceptable (cluster bombs, nuclear bombs) and others rejected as completely disallowed (torture) even when in reality they are routinely engaged in.

Beginning to wonder what the point is of writing out such a lengthy description of laws when someone could just read the laws themselves in less time, I notice that nowhere does this document strengthen any actual law, while in many places it weakens them. It picks and chooses which laws to mention and which to leave out or marginalize in footnotes. It stresses the supposed right to ignore any international law that a nation objected to while that law was being created. It incorporates into the whole scheme the idea of launching wars not only against nations, but against any other entities, and of launching wars in nations with those nations' approval. This paper is a sort of enormous signing statement appended retroactively to all existing laws, indicating which will be adhered to and which disregarded, while attempting to advertise a pattern of legal behavior by the U.S. military as a public relations correction to people's awareness of the actual pattern of lawlessness.

But I think the place to start is with the pretense that war itself is legal. This is what permits three-quarters of this document to exist, devoted as those sections are to proper legal conduct during a war. The Pentagon says that one must fight wars legally whether or not the wars are legal. That is, whether or not you have some legal justification for attacking a country, you must nonetheless meet completely vague standards of proportionality and so forth during the course of the attack -- or of the occupation. There's a large section on the legal conduct of occupations that breezes right past any question of the illegality of maintaining the occupation at all. Here's a typical passage about legal "proportionality": "Attacks using nuclear weapons must not be conducted when the expected incidental harm to civilians is excessive compared to the military advantage expected to be gained." How much "harm" to civilians from nuclear weapons would be "excessive"? The so-called law, once you accept war and then try to regulate its conduct, is in the eye of the sociopathic beholder; there's nothing empirical or enforceable about it.

The short section of this manual on what makes wars themselves legal is of particular interest, I think, because it -- in fact -- ends up admitting that they are not. It doesn't intend to make this point, however. In fact, it goes to every effort to suggest that legality is something murky, almost something aesthetic, laying out a number of "principles" to consider in deciding whether to begin a mass slaughter of human beings. Is a "competent authority" making the decision? Is the action "proportionate"? Have all peaceful alternatives been exhausted? That last one, actually, would ban every war the United States has ever launched, including all current ones, if the facts of each situation were dealt with honestly -- but when does that ever happen?

Eventually, the manual comes around to mentioning a law: the U.N. Charter. It gives this tiny part of its text the heading "Prohibition on Certain Uses of Force," but quotes the Charter: "All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations." The "purposes" in Chapter I of the Charter are focused on the need "to maintain international peace."

And the manual notes: "Numerous other treaties also reflect these prohibitions on the threat or use of force." There's a footnote that reads as follows:

"See, e.g. , Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, art. 1, Sept. 2, 1947, 62 STAT.1681,1700 ('The High Contracting Parties formally condemn war and undertake in their international relations not to resort to the threat or the use of force in any manner inconsistent with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations or of this Treaty.'); Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy, art. 1, Aug. 27, 1928, 46 STAT.2343, 2345-46 ('The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.')."

This footnote is the key to unraveling the entire 1,204 pages. It fudges its contents by lumping together two treaties and including only half of the key language of the second one. The first treaty it cites has holes in it, just like the U.N. Charter, and by virtue of reference to the U.N. Charter. The second treaty, the "Treaty Providing for the Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy" -- more commonly known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact -- does not. Article I of the Peace Pact of Paris, the Pact of Kellogg and Briand, is quoted above. But Article II reads: "The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."

This is a treaty, let us note, that remains in force, is listed as such on the U.S. State Department's website, and is acknowledged as such, as just noted, in the Pentagon's brand-new murder manual. It is a treaty that includes some very difficult-to-fudge words: "all" (disputes or conflicts), "whatever" (nature), "of whatever" (origin), "never" (be sought except by pacific means). "Pacific means" is not pacific ends. That is, one cannot claim to be pursuing peace through war and be in compliance with the Kellogg-Briand Pact. One is required to pursue whatever one is pursuing through peace. The Pentagon offers no justification for violating this treaty. None. It simply buries it in a footnote and omits half of its content. But that's an evasion, not a justification. The ban, it is worth repeating, is absolute. A war on Afghanistan is a non-pacific means. A murder by missile from a drone is a non-pacific means; one need not dive into obscurantist twaddle about how many drone strikes fit onto the head of a war.

A truly desperate debater could claim that a drone murder in Yemen is not a dispute between the United States and Yemen but between the two aligned governments and another group or individual. But this line of justification runs up against the most common line of argument produced in the White House and Justice Department, namely that drone murders are not murder because they are war. Once you claim that Kellogg-Briand allows wars on non-nations, you not only violate the entire purpose, intent, and past use of Kellogg-Briand (including at Nuremberg; it's not as if the Jews were a nation), but you legalize murder by any nation or non-nation (or local police department) that declares its murdering to be warmaking. It's worth remembering that the people of Yemen never approved U.S. drone murders in their country, and in fact were lied to for a long time by their own government that it was in fact their own government and not the U.S. doing it. The Yemeni government, in the person of a dictator, later fled to Saudi Arabia and asked Saudi Arabia to attack the people of Yemen with more U.S.-made weaponry. Can a dictator who has fled a country still legalize a war just by uttering the word "war"? I contend that an interpretation of a law that eliminates the very possibility of lawfulness is no interpretation at all.

So, understanding Kellogg-Briand as it was written, what good is it? Well, elsewhere, this same manual says, "[T]he fact that a State's domestic law does not provide for a penalty with respect to a violation of international law does not relieve a person from responsibility for that act under international law." In other words, the fact that violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact has not been made punishable under U.S. domestic law does nothing to exonerate an American who violates it, any American, that is, who launches or participates in a war. This was the clear intent of those who created this law. Yes, some, but not all, of the U.S. senators who ratified it, expressed their belief that self-defense would still justify warfare, but they did not add that or anything else as an official reservation to the treaty upon ratification -- false rumors to that effect notwithstanding.

Having skipped past the heart of the matter -- the complete ban on war -- in footnote #208, the Pentagon's manual hurries on in this manner:

"The resort to force must have a legal basis in order not to violate these prohibitions. The legality of the use of force must be assessed in light of the particular facts and circumstances at issue."

But something that is banned cannot have a legal basis that allows it to not violate the ban. A further footnote (#209) adds that in the most egregious cases of aggressive wars, one should ignore legal standards in light of the uniqueness of the situation:

"See, e.g., William H. Taft IV, Legal Adviser, Department of State, & Todd F. Buchwald, Assistant Legal Adviser for Political-Military Affairs, Department of State, Preemption, Iraq, and International Law, 97 AJIL 557 (2003) ('In the end, each use of force must find legitimacy in the facts and circumstances that the state believes have made it necessary. Each should be judged not on abstract concepts, but on the particular events that gave rise to it.'); Daniel Webster, Letter to Mr. Fox, Apr. 24, 1841, reprinted in DANIEL WEBSTER,THE DIPLOMATIC AND OFFICIAL PAPERS OF DANIEL WEBSTER, WHILE SECRETARY OF STATE 105 (1848)('It is admitted that a just right of self-defense attaches always to nations as well as to individuals, and is equally necessary for the preservation of both. But the extent of this right is a question to be judged of by the circumstances of each particular case;')."

The manual goes on to list lots of rationales for launching wars. But the fact that legally there can be none has already been acknowledged. What we're dealing with here is a matter of culture, not of written law. The U.S. public has been so propagandized that the very idea of abolishing war is unthinkable, and so the fact that it has legally been done cannot be thought. And so it does not have to be refuted.

But what if we were to take the radical step of obeying the law as written? What, then, should be done? Well, according to this same manual,

"Each member of the armed services has a duty to: (1) comply with the law of war in good faith; and (2) refuse to comply with clearly illegal orders to commit violations of the law of war."

The manual quickly muddies up that legal clarity with this:

"[T]he obligation of individual service members to comply with the law of war in good faith is met when service members: (1) perform their duties as they have been trained and directed; and (2) apply the training on the law of war that they have received."

In other words, you can refuse to comply with unlawful orders by complying with whatever you are ordered. But the clarity of the actual law, once stated, can't really be undone. Nor can this, also from the new manual:

"State responsibility for violations of the law of war results in obligations to compensate other States for violations. . . . A State that is responsible for an internationally wrongful act is under an obligation to make full reparation for the injury caused by that act."

Compensating Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc., will not be cheap, but it is required by law and it will cost less than continuing the crime of war-making and preparations for more of the same.

Reading further in the manual, we find that, in fact, the Pentagon believes people like George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and all of their subordinates, can be prosecuted for the wars they've launched under U.S. domestic law:

"The War Crimes Act authorizes the prosecution of individuals for certain war crimes if the victim or the perpetrator is either a U.S. national or a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, whether inside or outside the United States. Under this statute, an individual may be prosecuted for conduct: . . . prohibited by Article . . . 25 . . . of the Annex to the Hague Convention IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, signed 18 October 1907 . . . "

Here's Article 25:

"The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited."

How many of the houses that U.S. missiles and bombs (from drones and otherwise) have been hitting have been defended? Not all, certainly. Not most, I suspect.

But this is a silly way to go after a part of the overarching crime of war, even if it is the largest part of that crime. When the U.S. prosecuted Nazis at the end of World War II, it did so on the basis of the Kellogg-Briand Pact and an understanding that each smaller component action was criminal because the whole of the war (on the losing side) was criminal. Robert Jackson and others expressed the hypocritical sentiment at the time that the U.S. should fall under the same standard in future years.

What more prevalent tradition is there in the United States than striving to live up to past hypocritical but eloquent statements on justice and equality? Perhaps we should try that in the case of the greatest evil there is.

Talk Nation Radio: Rebecca Gordon on Mainstreaming Torture

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-rebecca-gordon-on-mainstreaming-torture

A new book called Mainstreaming Torture argues that torture has been with us for a long time and remains with us and has been mainstreamed and increased in acceptability in the years since Bush and Cheney left office.  We speak with the author, Rebecca Gordon. She teaches in the Philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. Previous publications include Letters From Nicaragua  and Cruel and Usual: How Welfare “Reform” Punishes Poor People. She is an editor of WarTimes/Tiempo de guerras, which seeks to bring a race, class, and gender perspective to issues of war and peace.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://davidswanson.org/talknationradio

AP Re-Used Three-Year-Old Article on Torture Report

The Associated Press is denying claims by two of its writers that cost-savings was a motivation.  Rather, says editor Richard Giardino, an error resulted in the accidental re-publication last week of an article on a Senate committee report on torture, an article that had originally been published in 2011.

In defense of the wire service, Giardino noted in a 2,000-word explanation, that "while the article may have been dated, it ran in dozens of newspapers without anyone noticing." In fact, wrote Giardino, were it not for a couple of bloggers, the incident "might have passed unnoticed."

I think he has a point.  Over the past eight years, there have been 73 separate moments in which major news stories have reported widely across the U.S. media that it has for the first time become clear that former President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, or their subordinates ordered the commission of torture.  That count does not include several interviews, and memoirs, in which Bush and Cheney have openly admitted to the crime, bragged about it, or professed the sentiment that they "would do it again."

While torture has been a violation of international law and U.S. treaty obligations, and a felony under U.S. law, since before George W. Bush moved into the White House, indictments have not been forthcoming.  Instead, a series of investigations and reports, and censorship thereof, have generated stories around the possibility that individuals might have done what we've already seen them confess to on camera.

Questioned on CBS Evening News on Monday, Giardino became agitated. "Look," he said, "if we just put out the sort of fact-based news that bloggers say they want, we'd be describing top authorities in this country as routine violators of the law.  We have to find a balance between straight-forward reporting and the understanding that we aren't locking up presidents and CIA directors because the investigations are ongoing.  And when the investigations are ongoing for years and years and years, then breaking the same news more than once is actually more accurate than inventing new details that haven't taken place."

During the past eight years, thousands of U.S. news reports have discussed the possibility of criminalizing torture, without noting that it already is criminal.  Frank Cretino, associate editor of the Washington Post, defends this record, saying, "The fact that torture is already banned does not negate the act of banning it, particularly as most people do not know it is already banned.  Of course, we could so inform our readers, but that would be like noting that politicians take bribes, or indicating wherever relevant that our owner makes more money from the CIA than from our paper, or recognizing that torture is just one aspect of a collection of actions made criminal by the illegality of the wars they are part of, or pointing out to people that the date is April 1 at the beginning of a story.

Arrest Bush in Richmond, Va.

To: Richmond, Va., Mayor Dwight C. Jones, Police Chief Ray J. Tarasovic, Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr,

From: David Swanson, author; Phil Wilayto, editor, The Virginia Defender; Ana Edwards, chair, Defenders' Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project

We hope you will consider this request from deeply concerned Virginians on its legal merits rather than its acceptability in certain social circles or how it might be received by certain television talking heads.

Conspiracy to torture has long been a felony in the U.S. Code, in both Title 18, Section 2340, and Title 18, Section 2441.  The United States is also a party to the Convention Against Torture, which requires the criminal prosecution of complicity in torture, and which -- under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution -- is part of the supreme Law of the Land.

Were a local resident credibly accused of torture, we sincerely doubt you would hesitate to seek his or her immediate arrest and indictment.

Waterboarding was universally recognized as torture until its acceptance by the U.S. government between 2001 and 2009.  The United States hung Japanese soldiers for it following World War II, and U.S. citizens have been convicted for it in U.S. courts.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush has repeatedly admitted to personally authorizing waterboarding.  He has made this confession in writing and on television, repeatedly, also declaring "I would do it again."

The Virginia state legislature has banned Virginia law enforcement personnel from cooperating with federal efforts to detain any U.S. citizen in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act in violation of the U.S. Constitution.  George W. Bush ordered such unlawful detentions, including in the well-known case of Jose Padilla, as well as numerous such unlawful imprisonments and kidnappings of non-U.S. citizens, including one case in Italy for which 23 U.S. subordinates of President Bush have been convicted in criminal court.

Then President George W. Bush's submission of his March 18, 2003, letter and report to the United States Congress justifying a war on Iraq on false pretenses violated federal criminal law, including: the federal anti-conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. - 371, which makes it a felony "to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose..."; and The False Statements Accountability Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. - 1001, which makes it a felony to issue knowingly and willfully false statements to the United States Congress. Not only does overwhelming evidence show us that Bush knew his claims about WMDs to be false, but the former president has shown us that he considers the question of truth or falsehood to be laughably irrelevant. When Diane Sawyer asked Bush on television why he had claimed with such certainty that there were so many weapons in Iraq, he replied: "What’s the difference? The possibility that [Saddam] could acquire weapons, If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger." The difference was, of course, one of life and death, but also one of law.

The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor reads:

On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the Constitution
my community and the agency I serve.

This admirable oath does not commit one who swears it to upholding the Constitution when convenient, or finding courage when Fox News approves, or betraying one's integrity as long as there's a good excuse handy.

There is no good excuse we are aware of not to arrest George W. Bush if he sets foot in Richmond as he plans to do to speak at the Richmond Forum.  Other towns in the United States have passed ordinances committing to seeking his arrest should he set foot there. Bush could be arrested and turned over to federal authorities.  What they do with him, if anything, is not our concern.

Or Bush could be arrested and indicted in Virginia.  Why Virginia?  A program of warrantless spying instituted by Bush has almost certainly violated Virginia law in Virginia.  Programs of lawless imprisonment and torture developed by Bush have almost certainly violated Virginia law in Virginia, including in the case of Chelsea Manning's torture at Quantico under Bush's successor, as well as the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi whose illegal treatment under Bush's presidency has been recognized as such by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The CIA's torture program has almost certainly violated Virginia law, U.S. law, and the Convention Against Torture at the CIA's headquarters in Langley and its training facility in Williamsburg. Virginia's obligations under the Convention Against Torture are not eliminated by the United States' open and shameful violation of that treaty. Members of the U.S. military from Virginia were sent to their deaths in Iraq on the basis of claims known by Bush and his subordinates to be false. That last fact led famed prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi to draft an indictment of Bush for murder.

Powers seized by Bush are being continued and expanded by his successor in the White House, whose attitude of law enforcement by "looking forward" is a grant of immunity that the state of Virginia is under no obligation to support.

We thank you for your serious consideration of the legal and moral action to be taken in this moment of national weakness.  We would be grateful for your response, and we promise to seriously consider any points on which you can enlighten us.

Sincerely,
David Swanson, author; Phil Wilayto, editor, The Virginia Defender; Ana Edwards, chair, Defenders' Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project

Dallas Morning News Claims Bush Never Lied

George W. Bush should be given an indictment, not a library.  An online email action is letting the Department of Justice know the facts about the former president.  And the People's Response to the George W. Bush Library and Policy Institute is filling the streets of Dallas with protesters this week as five current or former presidents join in a celebration of Dubya's national service.  I'll certainly be there.

I wish I were kidding about the following.  The Dallas Morning News is refusing to take good money to publish the ad below because it suggests former president Bush lied about Iraq. 

Of course it would be shocking to suggest that Bush might have lied.  Who ever heard of such a thing?

Campaign promises don't count, of course.  Bush discarded those by the dozen, but who doesn't?  And when he said he'd fire whoever leaked Valerie Plame's name and then didn't, that's more of a technicality than a lie.  And when he claimed in his 2007 State of the Union to have prevented four terrorist plots and none of them were real, that was more of a poetic license than a lie.  Also when he said he hadn't been warned about Hurricane Katrina and then we saw that video of him being warned, there was no proof he actually understood what was being said to him.  Oh, and when he promised never to spy without a warrant and then got caught, that was sort of a willful falsehood for our own good, not a lie at all.  And when he said he didn't torture and then confessed to torturing, that was the fault of pesky journalists; Bush himself never intended to admit to torturing if he hadn't been pestered about it!

But if we can remember all of these near-lies these several years later, it does seem possible that Bush had a little trouble with the truth.  Let's look at Iraq, just to be sure.

On January 31, 2003, Bush met with Tony Blair in the White House and proposed all sorts of harebrained schemes to try to start a war in Iraq.  They understood that Iraq was no threat.  Bush promised an all-out effort to get U.N. approval for an attack.  Then the two of them walked right out to the White House Press Corpse (sic) and proclaimed their intention to avoid war if at all possible, warned of the threat from Iraq, and claimed to already have U.N. approval for war if needed.  I'll grant you that looks like a lie, but if none of the reporters there that day are bothered by it (not a one of them has ever complained), why should we be?  Maybe Bush meant that he'd try to avoid war for 60 more seconds.  That could have been true.  Later that day when he had the NSA start spying on other nations' U.N. delegations, maybe he was trying to determine the best Christmas presents to send them.  Hey, it's possible.

In 1999 Bush told his biographer Mickey Herskowitz that he wanted to start a war with Iraq.  But that could have been just a random fleeting whimsy.  Maybe you had to be there to catch the humor.  Also in 1999 at a primary debate in New Hampshire, Bush said he'd "take out" Saddam Hussein.  "I'm surprised he's still there," he said.  But Bush did get the nomination, so we're probably misunderstanding him somehow.

When Bush moved to the White House he must have learned what was what.  In 1995 Saddam Hussein's son-in-law had informed the U.S. and the British that all biological, chemical, missile, and nuclear weapons had been destroyed under his direct supervision.  After U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998, the lead inspector said they'd come to the same conclusion.  In 2002 the Defense Intelligence Agency agreed.  Also in 2002 CIA Director George Tenet told Bush that Iraq's Foreign Minister Naji Sabri -- a CIA informer -- agreed with the U.N. and the D.I.A., as did Iraq's intelligence chief.  So, still in 2002, the CIA sent 30 Iraqi-Americans to visit Iraqi weapons scientists, but the mission was a failure: they came back with the same definitive conclusion as the U.N., the D.I.A., and Sabri. 

In 2001, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and others in the Bush Administration were telling the media that Saddam Hussein had no weapons.  The closest connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden was that they had both worked with the United States.  Everything changed in 2002, and not because of any evidence.  In October 2002, the CIA told Bush that Hussein was unlikely to attack unless attacked first.  The CIA had told Bush this four times in morning briefings since that spring.  Bush immediately gave a speech in Cincinnati warning of a dire threat from Iraq.  Bush's subordinates took an October 1st National Intelligence Estimate that said Hussein was unlikely to attack unless attacked and "summarized" it to say nearly the opposite in a "white paper" released to the public. 

By the time Bush and Blair stood before the White House Press Corpse, they had decided on war and begun it.  Troops were being deployed.  Escalated bombing missions were preparing the ground.  Assorted attempts to initiate all-out war had already failed or been abandoned.  That Bush was interested in provoking Iraq is confirmed by extensive covert operations called DB/Anabasis reported by Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their book Hubris:

"Over an intense forty-five day period beginning in late 2001, [two CIA operatives] cooked up an audacious plan. . . . It called for installing a small army of paramilitary CIA officers on the ground inside Iraq; for elaborate schemes to penetrate Saddam's regime; recruiting disgruntled military officers with buckets of cash; for feeding the regime disinformation . . . for disrupting the regime’s finances . . . for sabotage that included blowing up railroad lines. . . . It also envisioned staging a phony incident that could be used to start a war.  A small group of Iraqi exiles would be flown into Iraq by helicopter to seize an isolated military base near the Saudi border.  They then would take to the airwaves and announce a coup was under way.  If Saddam responded by flying troops south, his aircraft would be shot down by US fighter planes patrolling the no-fly zones established by U.N. edict after the first Persian Gulf War. A clash of this sort could be used to initiate a full-scale war.  On February 16, 2002, President Bush signed covert findings authorizing the various elements of Anabasis. The leaders of the congressional intelligence committees -- including Porter Goss, a Republican, and Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat -- were briefed.  'The idea was to create an incident in which Saddam lashes out' [said CIA operative John McGuire]. If all went as planned, 'you'd have a premise for war: we've been invited in.'"

A White House staffer was instructed in 2003 to forge a letter that could be used to tie Hussein to al Qaeda as well as to forge letters smearing vocal opponents of invasion.  Other information tying Hussein to al Qaeda consisted largely of claims fed to a torture victim.  Evidence of biological weapons came from a German informant identified as a heavy drinker with mental breakdowns, not psychologically stable, "crazy," and "probably a fabricator."  Evidence for nuclear weapons rested heavily on a forged letter, rejected as a forged letter by the CIA.  There was also a claim re aluminum tubes that was rejected by the Energy Department and the State Department and even by the military until it contracted out to a couple of hacks in Central Virginia who were willing to say what was needed. 

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller concluded that "In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even nonexistent."

Clearly Rockefeller is jumping to a conclusion, and the more responsible people over at the Dallas Morning News know better. 

Still, if you think there might be something to all of this, I recommend reading The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush.

Laws clearly violated by George W. Bush include, among many others: The U.S. Constitution Article I, Sections 8, 9, Article II, Sections 1, 3, Article VI, and the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, the prohibition on covert propaganda, Title 2 U.S. Code Section 194, Title 18 U.S. Code Sections 4, 371, 1341, 1346, 1385, 2340A, 2441, The War Powers Act, the United Nations Charter Chapter 1 Article 2 Section 3, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the Hague Convention of 1899, Joint Resolution 114 Section 3, Additional Protocol I to Geneva Conventions, the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2008 Section 1222, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Third Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Human Rights Articles 7, 10, the Convention Against Torture, the Optional Protocol to the Fourth Geneva Convention on Rights of the Child, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Stored Communications Act.

But who's counting?

Why I'm Attending the Dedication of the Bush Lie Bury

On April 25th the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and General Rehabilitation Project will be dedicated in Dallas, Texas.  It takes up 23 acres at Southern Methodist University, 23 acres that neither humanity nor any other species may ever reclaim for anything decent or good.

I'll be there, joining in the people's response (http://ThePeoplesResponse.org) with those who fear that this library will amount to a Lie Bury.

"The Bush Center's surrounding native Texas landscape," the center's PR office says, "including trees from the Bush family's Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, continues President and Mrs. Bush's longstanding commitment to land and water conservation and energy efficiency."

Does it, now?  Is that what you recall?  Bush the environmentalist? 

Well, maybe you and I remember things differently, but do we have a major educational institution that will effectively repeat our corrections of the Lie Bury's claims for decades to come?

According to the Lie Bury, Bush was and is an education leader, saving our schools by turning them into test-taking factories and getting unqualified military officers to run them.  This is something to be proud of, we're told.

The Lie Bury's annual report shows Bush with the Dalai Lama.  No blood is anywhere to be seen.  The Lie Bury's website has a photo of a smiling George W. golfing for war.  "The Warrior Open," it explains, "is a competitive 36-hole golf tournament that takes place over two days every fall in the Dallas area.  The event honors U.S. service members wounded in the global war on terror."

Now, I actually know of some soldiers wounded in what they call by that name who don't feel honored by Bush's golfing, just as millions of Iraqis living as refugees within or outside of the nation he destroyed find Bush's liberty to walk outdoors, much less golf for the glory of war, offensive.  But none of them has a quarter-billion dollar "center" from which to spread the gospel of history as it actually happened -- as it happened to its losers, to those water-boarded, shot in the face, or otherwise liberated by Bush and his subordinates.

When Bush lied about excuses to start a war on Iraq -- as with everything else he did -- he did so incompetently.  As a result, a majority of Americans in the most recent polls, still say he lied to start the war.  But few grasp the lesson as it should be applied to wars launched by more competent liars.  And memory of Bush's lies is fading, buried under forgetfulness, avoidance, misdirection, revisionism, a mythical "surge" success, and a radically inaccurate understanding of what our government did to Iraq.

I won't be attending the Lie Bury ceremony for vengeance, but in hopes of ridding our culture of the vengeance promoted by Bush.  He based a foreign policy and a domestic stripping away of rights on the thirst for vengeance -- even if misdirected vengeance.  We have a responsibility to establish that we will not support that approach going forward. 

Bush himself is relevant only as his treatment can deter future crimes and abuses.  No one should wish Bush or any other human being ill.  In fact, we should strive to understand him, as it will help us understand others who behave as he has. 

Bush, of course, knew what he was doing when he tried to launch a war while pretending a war would be his last resort, suggesting harebrained schemes to get the war going to Tony Blair.  Bush knew the basic facts.  He knew he was killing a lot of people for no good reason.  He was not so much factually clueless as morally clueless. 

For Bush, as for many other people, killing human beings in wars exists outside the realm of morality.  Morality is the area of abortions, gay marriage, shop lifting, fornicating, or discriminating.  Remember when Bush said that a singer's suggestion that he didn't care about black people was the worst moment in his presidency?  Racism may be understood by Bush as a question of morality.  Mass murder not so much.  Bush's mother remarked that war deaths were not worthy of troubling her beautiful mind.  Asked why he'd lied about Iraqi weapons, George W. Bush asked what difference it made.  Well, 1.4 million dead bodies, but who's counting?

I won't be attending the Lie Bury because Bush's successor is an improvement.  On the contrary, our failure to hold Bush accountable has predictably led to his successor being significantly worse in matters of abusing presidential power.  And not just predictably, but predicted.  When we used to demand Bush's impeachment, people would accuse us of disliking him or his political party.  No, we'd say, if he isn't held accountable, future presidents will be worse, and it won't matter from which party they come.

I helped draft about 70 articles of impeachment against Bush, from which Congressman Dennis Kucinich selected 35 and introduced them.  I later looked through those 35 and found 27 that applied to President Barack Obama, even though his own innovations in abusive behavior weren't on the list.  Bush's lying Congress into war (not that Congress wasn't eager to play along) is actually a standard to aspire to now.  When Obama went to war in Libya, against the will of Congress, he avoided even bothering to involve the first branch of our government. 

When Bush locked people up or tortured them to death, he kept it as secret as he could.  Obama -- despite radically expanding secrecy powers and persecuting whistleblowers -- does most of his wrongdoing wide out in the open.  Warrantless spying is openly acknowledged policy.  Imprisonment without trial is "law."  Torture is a policy choice, and the choice these days is to outsource it.  Murder is, however, the new torture.  The CIA calls it "cleaner."  I picture Bush's recent paintings of himself washing off whatever filth his mind is aware he carries.

Obama runs through a list of men, women, and children to murder on Tuesdays, picks some, and has them murdered.  We don't know this because of a whistleblower or a journalist.  We know this because the White House wanted us to know it, and to know it before the election.  Think about that.  We moved from the pre-insanity state we were in circa 1999 to an age in which presidents want us to know they murder people.  That was primarily the work of George W. Bush, and every single person who yawned, who looked away, who cheered, who was too busy, who said "it's more important to elect a new president than to keep presidential powers in check," or who said "impeachment would be traumatic" -- as if this isn't.

In Guatemala a prosecutor has charged a former dictator with genocide, remarking, "It's sending the most important message of the rule of law -- that nobody is above the law."  It's not so many years ago that the United States had the decency at least to hypocritically propose that standard to the world.  Now, we advance the standard of lawlessness, of "looking forward, not backward."

That's why the people need to respond to the lie bury.  Ann Wright is going to be there.  And Diane Wilson.  Robert Jensen and Ray McGovern are coming.  So are Lon Burnam and Bill McElvaney and Debra Sweet.  Hadi Jawad and Leah Bolger and Marjorie Cohn and Kathy Kelly are coming.  As are Coleen Rowley and Bill Moyer and Jacob David George and Medea Benjamin and Chas Jacquier and Drums Not Guns.

Also coming will be many familiar faces from the days when we used to protest in Crawford.  When we'd go into that one restaurant at the intersection in Crawford, there'd be a cardboard cut-out Dubya standing there.  We picked him up and stood him in the corner, facing the corner.  We said he needed to stay there until he understood what he'd done wrong.  In reality, of course, he was cardboard.  The lesson was for everyone else in the restaurant.  It's a lesson that still needs to be taught.