Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Vincent Bugliosi and His Book on Bush
I am old enough to remember the Manson murders, which occurred almost 40 years ago in Los Angeles. I was living in LA at the time and lived through the trial. I will be the first to state that the prosecutor in that case, Asst. DA Vincent Bugliosi did a great job of prosecuting that case and obtaining convictions and death sentences against Charles Manson and his followers (subsequently commuted to life imprisonment when the death penalty was successfully challenged.)
Subsequent to the trial, Bugliosi wrote an excellent book on the case (Helter Skelter).
Unfortunately, in recent years, Mr Bugliosi has made a post-prosecutorial career as a writer and commentator that, in my estimation, has detracted from his overall career. His book, Outrage, a criticism of the prosecutors who tried the OJ Simpson case, while probably correct in many respects, was to me an example of another legal figure jumping on the bandwagon and capitalizing on the most sensational murder case in recent memory. (Almost every legal figure involved in the trial later wrote a book on the trial, which I still consider unseemly.)
Now comes Mr Bugliosi with a book on the Bush Administration arguing that George W Bush and his top aides should be prosecuted for murder (The Prosecution of George W Bush for Murder). Based on what? Lying to the American people to get us into a war in Iraq, that's what.
First of all, Bugliosi is out of his area of expertise. If he opposes the War in Iraq, fine, I respect that. However, as a prosecutor, he should know that there were arguable reasons why Bush launched the attack against Iraq. Virtually every intelligence service that mattered believed that Saddam was pursuing the development of weapons of mass destruction. After all, he had already used chemical weapons against Iran and against his own people who revolted after the first Gulf War.
In addition, after 9-11, it is clear that the Bush Administration was determined to prevent further terrorist attacks on American soil. It can also be (legally) argued that Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of surrender in the first Gulf War. In addition, Iraq was in violation of 17 United Nations resolutions pertaining to the issue of WMD.
Now read this carefully. I am not trying to destroy the arguments of those who were and are opposed to our attack on Iraq. That is not the point here. My point is that an experienced prosecutor like Bugliosi should recognize the obvious defense arguments that Bush et al would raise. If a law enforcement agency were to bring a request for indictment to Mr Bugliosi, he would have to examine the case not only from a point of view as to whether a crime had been committed and whether the suspect had committed the crime, but also how strong the case was. Was there a reasonable doubt? Were there points of defense that could be raised-such as I outlined above? Would a jury be swayed by arguments showing the torture chambers, rape rooms and mass graves in Iraq under Saddam? Mr Bugliosi knows that these are considerations that a prosecutor must take into account-and probably present to a committee of his fellow prosecutors for a consensus decision on whether to proceed.
I know what I am talking about here. As a former DEA Agent-and Customs agent before that, I had several experiences when I presented a case to the US Attorney's Office or a local prosecutor for prosecution-and was told to go out and get more evidence. It wasn't that the prosecutor felt that the suspect(s) were innocent-just that there was a question that a conviction could be obtained.
It is easy for Bugliosi to grandstand and advocate the prosecution of Bush et al for murder. He doesn't have access to the intelligence and thinking that went into the decision to invade Iraq-and he knows it. What Bugliosi is doing is the same thing he did with his book, Outrage. He is trying to cash in on a controversial issue.
Vincent Bugliosi is entitled to his opinion on the Iraq War. He knows, however, that using American rules of evidence and independent of partisan emotion, a conviction is doubtful at best. The only reason he would take such a case on as prosecutor would be for his own self-aggrandizement.