1009 Art Photo by: Illustration by Luke McGarry

The prosecution never rests

Charles Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi has already put away over 100 criminals. Now he has his sights set on his biggest target yet: George W. Bush

By Interview by David Comden 10/09/2008

Fabled attorney Vincent Bugliosi, who successfully prosecuted 105 of 106 felony jury trials, is most famous for his prosecution of Charles Manson and “family,” which led Bugliosi to write about the Tate/ La Bianca murders in his book Helter Skelter. The book, which has sold over 7 million copies, is the best selling true-crime book in publishing history.  Two of his other books, And the Sea Will Tell and Outrage, about the O.J. Simpson trial, also reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. This year, he published perhaps his most controversial book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, in which he lays out his case as to why the 43rd president of the United States should be brought to justice. 

Bugliosi will be appearing Oct. 10 at the Poinsettia Pavilion in Ventura.

VCR: Can you give us the summary of the case that you make against the president in your new book?
Vincent Bugliosi: I present evidence that proves, certainly, my opinion and an opinion of many, beyond all reasonable doubt, that Bush took the nation to war in Iraq on a lie under false pretenses and therefore under the law. He’s guilty of murder for the deaths of over 4,000 young American soldiers [who] have died so far fighting his war in Iraq. I always point out that it’s his war, not your war, my war, America’s war, but George Bush’s war. We should not forget about the over 100,000 — that’s a very conservative estimate, some estimates are well estimated over a million now — innocent Iraqi men, women, children, and babies who have died horrible, violent deaths, because of George Bush’s war, although I was unable to establish jurisdiction here in America to prosecute him for these murders of the innocent Iraqis over there. But I was able to establish jurisdiction to prosecute him here in America for the deaths of the 4,000 American soldiers.

I’ve established jurisdiction to do that.

Would it be applicable via implied malice?
Well, there are two elements to murder. One is that the killing be unlawful, and it only is unlawful if you have either expressed malice or implied malice, and you have either of these two states of mind without legal justification. Now the expressed malice is intent to kill. Here, the intent to kill is the intent to do an act by Bush which he absolutely knew would result in death, unless he was planning to have some type of war without casualties. He absolutely knew that by invading Iraq, American soldiers would die. The implied malice, which also gives you murder, is where you intend to do an act, an inherently dangerous act, certainly war is, with reckless disregard of the consequences and an indifference to human life.

Now, neither of those two states of mind give you murder. If there is any legal justification for your having those two states of mind, and the main issue here is whether Bush — assuming he had either those two states of mind — was acting in self-defense. If he can show that he was acting in self-defense, then neither these two states of mind would be criminal. However, the prosecution could prove that he did not take this nation to war in self-defense, which is what he always claims was a so-called preemptive strike, that [Saddam] Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were an imminent threat to the security of this country, so he had to strike first in self-defense. If the prosecutors could prove that he did not take this nation to war in self-defense but under false pretenses, then all of the killings of American soldiers in Iraq would become unlawful killings and, therefore, murder.

Are you aware of what’s going on in Vermont? Are you aware of that whole story there?

Is that the candidate for the attorney general that you mentioned? Please touch on that, if you would.
Charlotte Dennett, she’s a candidate for attorney general in the state of Vermont. She announced at a press conference with me in Burlington, Vt., on Sept. 18, that she read the book and thought it was extraordinary, and based on the book, she said if she becomes attorney general on Nov. 4, her office would seek a murder indictment against Bush and appoint a special prosecutor. So, what I’m telling you, is that if Dennett wins, I will be taking this case to a special grand jury in Vermont, and I have every reason to believe that I will get an indictment for murder and conspiracy against Bush, Cheney, Rice, maybe more. So we’re not talking here about something theoretical. It’s no longer theoretical. It’s something that’s very tangible.

Why don’t you think there have been more calls for such prosecution or impeachment on this matter?
That’s a question that requires a long answer. There has been quite a movement for impeachment, but that’s not what I’m suggesting — the only thing close to it is the suggestion that if he be prosecuted for war crimes at the International Court of the Hague, but that cannot happen because the United States is not a member of the ICC [International Criminal Court], which was formed in Rome in 2002, so there’s no jurisdiction by the ICC. Plus, the ICC, so far, only handles genocide, which is not applicable here, and torture. And torture would be very, very weak here. When they bring a torture case, it’s much, much bigger than the torture at Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, which is probably 50 or 100 people; they get into mass torture. But even there, a book came out which I’ve not read, but I’ve been told that the author puts the hat on Cheney, and not on Bush. I know there was a presidential directive in 2002 where Bush mandated that all detainees be treated humanely. That’s not a defense, I’m just telling you that’s where the ICC is at, the torture and genocide.

The majority of people are probably in favor of what I’m doing because they dislike Bush, they believe he took the nation to war under false pretenses, but they have not come forward. The only people who have come forward are the progressives in America. The Democratic Party has not come forward. The Republican Party has obviously not come forward — politicians, celebrities, network and cable TV.

What’s the reason why the book was blacked out? Although it’s become a New York Times bestseller, mostly because of word of mouth and progressive radio, it’s fear. Where is the fear emanating from? I think it’s emanating from the right wing in America, for whom I have the greatest contempt. In any event, we’ve always had the right wing in America, but during my time, during Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford or even the first George Bush, they were on the fringes and they were an embarrassment. They literally were an embarrassment to how they had taken over the party. And I think everyone knows that the right wing has taken over the Republican Party. These are very vehement, mean-spirited people, and the psychology of human beings is that they capitulate the fear, they kneel to it, they cater to those who are the source of fear.

Like I point out in the book, if you can have a very honorable man like Mario Cuomo say, “I respect Rush Limbaugh” — Limbaugh is an uncommonly loathsome individual and, if I may be so presumptuous, Cuomo does not respect Rush Limbaugh. I don’t know how that would be possible. But I just think that’s one example among the great number of the shadow of fear that has descended upon this country. And many everyday Americans, for the very first time ever, do not feel 100 percent comfortable and safe in America. And what’s the genesis of all this? I can’t give you a 100 percent-guarantee answer, but I do believe that it’s become what the right wing has done in this country.

Here we have Bush. The evidence is very powerful that he took the nation to war under false pretenses and over 100,000 people to their graves, and no one has done anything, anything at all, to George Bush. No impeachment, not even an investigation of him by Congress or the Department of Justice, nothing. Now what’s the reason for that? I told you I can’t give you a 100 percent guarantee that what I’m saying is correct, but I believe the genesis of it all is the existence of the right wing of America.

Is there a possibility of a wrongful death civil suit?
Absolutely, but I’m not interested in that. But certainly the survivors. My wife spoke to the mother of one of the men who [was killed] in Iraq by a roadside bomb that I mentioned in the book. I wasn’t in, so I left a message for her. But she’s from Ventura. Absolutely they could. But that’s civil, and when you’re dealing with civil you’re talking about money, and I’m talking about punishment. And money is a form of punishment, but that’s not what I’m looking for.

When you come to Ventura, will you be presenting any updates or any new information?
Not in terms of evidence, although I will mention Ron Suskind’s book, which came out after mine, where he says he has very, very credible evidence that the Bush White House ordered the CIA to forge a document linking Hussein with Al Qaeda. Now, if I were to go to trial, his sources would just be additional witnesses I would use. Other than that, there’s no new evidence that I’m aware of. I’m sure at the grand jury level we’ll come up with all types of stuff. But I will be talking about the Charlotte Dennett thing, because that’s a major, major new development. But I’ll be talking about the evidence against him.    

Vincent Bugliosi will speak Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. at Poinsettia Pavilion, (3451 Foothill Rd., Ventura, 648-1143). For more information about Charlotte Dennett’s campaign for attorney general, visit www.charlottedennettforattorneygeneral.com.

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