I was idly speculating on what would happen if George W. Bush were actually put on trial for torture (a pleasant pastime on a Friday evening). One thread of thought led me to the question, Would the Supreme Court allow such a prosecution? Or might they rule that an ex-President could not be tried for "policy decisions"? Given the nature of the Bush-packed court these days, I wouldn't be surprised if they did the latter.
Since IANAL, I decided to Google it and see what was out there. In the process, I stumbled on this dual book review of Dennis Kucinich's The 35 Articles of Impeachment and the Case for Prosecuting George W. Bush and Vincent Bugliosi's The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder on the right wing website New American. The review, dated Feb. 19, 2009, was entitled, Could Bush Be Prosecuted?
The answer might surprise you, but the identity of the author is especially jaw-dropping.
Read on below the crease.
I must admit, as I read this review, I didn't know who the author was. I began to think as I read, "For a right-wing site, this person is taking a pretty realistic approach."
After rejecting possible trials of Bush for starting the Iraq War or for authorizing illegal surveillance because of political considerations (too many Dems were involved and the public wouldn't stand for it), the author zeroed in on torture as Bush's least defensible crime.
The real value in Kucinich's book is that it does lay out several possible charges that could be prosecuted against President Bush and his subordinates, which under the right circumstances might stick: specifically those charges that relate to detention, rendition, and torture.
The writer goes on to say that Bugliosi and Kucinich outline a framework for prosecution under torture statutes and "deprivation of rights under color of law" (U. S. Code Title 18, Section 242) and related crimes.
Any prosecution would require both an iron-clad legal case and a clearly unpopular crime that has been committed. Such is the case with detention and, especially, torture. There are plenty of innocent detainees, and many innocents, like Muhammad Saad Iqbal, are considering suing the U.S. government. "It's easy for the U.S. government to say, 'There are no charges found and he's free,' " the Pakistani says of being picked up on a false rumor while visiting family in Indonesia. "But who will be responsible for seven years of my life?" Someone should be responsible for this injustice, and that someone is anyone who was responsible for the policy.
Highly publicized court cases of innocent detainees, combined with televised congressional hearings and witnesses, could pave the way for prosecutions of senior Bush officials and even President Bush himself.
He goes on to list a number of specific cases of innocent detainees and then notes
The point of congressional hearings would be to document and publicize the unconstitutional and inhumane torture that took place, as well as to establish the fact that the large number of innocents detained is directly proportional to the denial of trial rights. Trials, Americans need to be reminded, separate the guilty from the innocent. They are not privileges "given" to the guilty; they are protections for the innocent. And because the Bush administration criminally denied trials, many innocents suffered unnecessarily.
If President Obama doesn't pardon Bush (which would end any hope for a trial) or squelch a Justice Department investigation, then trials are a real possibility.
So who is the author?
Thomas R. Eddlem, "a freelance writer, [who] served as the John Birch Society's director of research from 1991-2000."
The John Birch Society??!!??
I have to admit, my jaw dropped when I read that. What's more, he does a pretty good rant against the Iraq War as well as against illegal detainment in this article at antiwar.com from June 25, 2005:
Because the Attorney General’s office continues to see the Constitution’s "Commander-in-Chief" clause as an Enabling Act for the abolition of individual rights, whenever I think of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales I think of the Mexican bandits posing as federales in the movie Treasure of the Sierra Madre who reply to Humphrey Bogart: "Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!" Let’s face it, the official Bush/Gonzales position is you don’t need no stinkin’ trial.
Of course, he also says
Perhaps there are a few of you reading these words who trust the Bush Administration in its decision-making completely. I would ask you to consider that the fortunes of elections mean that Democrats also occasionally win the White House and that Hillary Clinton or some other – perhaps worse – leader will be inheriting the precedents set by the current administration.
But he balances that with this:
The guilty are in no way protected by a trial; they still face punishment – usually going to prison or perhaps even facing execution – when they are convicted. Timothy McVeigh was not protected by having a trial after conducting the Oklahoma City bombing in 1994. He was apprehended, tried and executed by the Clinton Administration. Neither was his co-conspirator Terry Nichols protected.
By way of contrast, the Bush Administration avoids trials and can’t apprehend Osama bin Laden. Moreover, Bush and his officials appear disinterested in even apprehending the 9/11 mastermind. Bush has said "I just don't spend that much time on him" and his CIA Director Porter Goss has claimed he has "an excellent idea of where he is" but "we're probably not going to be able to bring Mr. bin Laden to justice."
I got a chuckle out of the frustration that this guy expressed when faced with the reality of Bushco:
Isn’t it ironic that the lawless Clinton administration was able to follow constitutional restraints and apprehend the nation’s most dangerous terrorists, while the Bush Administration is using more "efficient" extra-constitutional police state tactics and can’t get the job done? The McVeigh/Osama examples are perhaps a perfect metaphor for the attitude of the Attorney Generals’ office under the two administrations.
I wrote a column for LewRockwell.com in February that compared fiscal spending under George W. Bush with that of the Clinton Administration, and found that federal spending rose much faster under Bush than under Clinton, concluding that "I Miss Bill Clinton." A netizen wrote back to me and said:
"You think that's bad? I miss Janet Reno as Attorney General!"
Back then I thought it was a flippant remark. But upon further reflection, as American Idol’s Randy Jackson would say, "I’m feeling ya, dog."
What a commentary on the state of the GOP today! The former director of research for the John Birch Society is more reality-based than Faux News, Boner, McConnell, McCain, the rest of the Rethug congresscritters, and their base of idiots and racists.
Who woulda thunk it?