A book review by Thomas G. Vincent
“The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder” by Vincent Bugliosi, Vanguard Press, Hardcover, 2008, 341pages, $26.95
One thing is clear at the outset of this book: Author Vincent Bugliosi is anything but an impartial observer. He admits up front that he has a passionate desire to see George W. Bush brought to justice for what he terms, “…the most serious crime ever committed in American History.” Bugliosi’s charge is a grave one indeed – that the president of the United States knowingly and deliberately lied to the American People in order to lead the country to: “… a war that condemned over 100,000 human beings, including 4,000 young American soldiers, to horrible, violent deaths”. As the title of his book suggests, Bugliosi lays out a legal road map for how a prosecutor might take this charge and successfully prosecute George W. Bush for Murder.
As a legal expert, Vincent Bugliosi is no slouch. A successful prosecutor with a string of high profile convictions to his credit, his bona fides are quite genuine. He is also an established bestselling author. Nevertheless, in reading this book, I found myself repeatedly frustrated.
Simply put, Bugliosi doesn’t make a good enough case.
This is not to say his arguments are without merit or that I disagree with the conclusions he reaches. I had my choir robes on when I bought the book. I expected “The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder” to present a convincing legal argument to reinforce my belief that George W. Bush should be held accountable for the death and destruction wrought as a direct result of his actions while President. Unfortunately, Bugliosi’s book is a disappointment in this regard.
First and foremost, Bugliosi’s central assertion – that by lying to the American people about the reasons for war with Iraq, any deaths of U.S. Soldiers during that war constitute murder – seems a bit of a legal stretch. While there may be precedent for successful prosecutions brought against those who didn’t actually pull the trigger – Bugliosi cites his successful prosecution of Charles Manson as an example – there is no precedent for prosecuting a President of the United States in this manner. The charge also seems contrived. It’s a little like going after Al Capone for Tax evasion; not nearly as clear-cut and satisfying as catching a perp with a bloody baseball bat in his hands.
Second is Bugliosi’s charge that President Bush lied to the American people about the severity of the threat from Saddam Hussein and that he knowingly deceived the American public into believing Saddam Hussein was connected with, if not responsible for 9-11. Unfortunately, the evidence Bugliosi presents, while voluminous, is all circumstantial. He can point to no incriminating Whitehouse tape where Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld conspired to deceive the American Public.
Thirdly, by his own admission, Bugliosi’s prosecutorial exercise only applies to the United states Soldiers that died in Iraq. It doesn’t even address the more than 100,000 innocent Iraqis who died as a result of our invasion of their country. Thus Bugliosi’s murder case smacks of going after the conviction he thinks will stick rather than for the one that would reflect the true magnitude of the crime.
Bugliosi’s passion for his subject is the book’s greatest strength. Unfortunately it is also the book’s Achilles heel. His righteous anger lends credence to the legal evidence he uses to support his case. However, when he descends from fact to opinion his anger gets in the way. For example, as a reader, I wince when an author berates as an idiot, anyone who can’t see the merits of his arguments. While this sort of rhetoric might spice up the dialog of an episode of Boston Legal, it doesn’t do much to support his case.
Bugliosi’s book is a valuable resource for anyone wishing to study the Bush Administration. It is a fascinating examination of the paradoxes and incompatibilities between the administration’s words and actions. However, as a legal argument it contains as much speculation, opinion, and desire as it does hard evidence. In the final analysis, there may well be enough in this book for a competent prosecutor to bring a successful case against George W. Bush, but to paraphrase C.I.A. Director George Tenet, it is hardly a “slam-dunk”.