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