| Shooting the Messenger: How Noam Chomsky is discussed!

How Noam Chomsky is discussed ~

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    • The more one dissents from political orthodoxies, the more the attacks focus on personality, style and character.
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      Noam Chomsky, delivering the Edward W. Said lecture in London on 18 March 2013 Photograph: guardian.co.uk

      (updated below – Update II [Sun.])

      One very common tactic for enforcing political orthodoxies is to malign the character, “style” and even mental health of those who challenge them. The most extreme version of this was an old Soviet favorite: to declare political dissidents mentally ill and put them in hospitals. In the US, those who take even the tiniest steps outside of political convention are instantly decreed “crazy”, as happened to the 2002 anti-war version of Howard Dean and the current iteration of Ron Paul (in most cases, what is actually “crazy” are the political orthodoxies this tactic seeks to shield from challenge).

      This method is applied with particular aggression to those who engage in any meaningful dissent against the society’s most powerful factions and their institutions. Nixon White House officials sought to steal the files from Daniel Ellsberg‘s psychoanalyst’s office precisely because they knew they could best discredit his disclosures with irrelevant attacks on his psyche. Identically, the New York Times and partisan Obama supporters have led the way in depicting both Bradley Manning and Julian Assange as mentally unstable outcasts with serious personality deficiencies. The lesson is clear: only someone plagued by mental afflictions would take such extreme steps to subvert the power of the US government.

      A subtler version of this technique is to attack the so-called “style” of the critic as a means of impugning, really avoiding, the substance of the critique. Although Paul Krugman is comfortably within mainstream political thought as a loyal Democrat and a New York Times columnist, his relentless attack against the austerity mindset is threatening to many. As a result, he is barraged with endless, substance-free complaints about his “tone”: he is too abrasive, he does not treat opponents with respect, he demonizes those who disagree with him, etc. The complaints are usually devoid of specifics to prevent meaningful refutation; one typical example: “[Krugman] often cloakshis claims in professional authority, overstates them, omits arguments that undermine his case, and is a bit of a bully.” All of that enables the substance of the critique to be avoided in lieu of alleged personality flaws.

      Nobody has been subjected to these vapid discrediting techniques more than Noam Chomsky. The book on which I’m currently working explores how establishment media systems restrict the range of acceptable debate in US political discourse, and I’m using Chomsky’s treatment by (and ultimate exclusion from) establishment US media outlets as a window for understanding how that works. As a result, I’ve read a huge quantity of media discussions about Chomsky over the past year. And what is so striking is that virtually every mainstream discussion of him at some point inevitably recites the same set of personality and stylistic attacks designed to malign his advocacy without having to do the work of engaging the substance of his claims. Notably, these attacks come most frequently and viciously from establishment liberal venues, such as when the American Prospect’s 2005 foreign policy issue compared him to Dick Cheney on its cover (a cover he had framed and now proudly hangs on his office wall).

      Last week, Chomsky was in London to give the annual Edward W. Said lecture, and as always happens when he speaks, the large auditorium was filled to the brim, having sold out shortly after it was announced. The Guardian’s Aida Edemariam interviewed him in London and produced an article, published Saturday morning, that features virtually all of those standard stylistic and personality critiques:

      “When he starts speaking, it is in a monotone that makes no particular rhetorical claim on the audience’s attention; in fact, it’s almost soporific . . . . Within five minutes many of the hallmarks of Chomsky’s political writing, and speaking, are displayed: his anger, his extraordinary range of reference and experience . . . . . Fact upon fact upon fact, but also a withering, sweeping sarcasm – the atrocities are ‘tolerated politely by Europe as usual’. Harsh, vivid phrases – the ‘hideously charred corpses of murdered infants’; bodies ‘writhing in agony’ – unspool until they become almost a form of punctuation.

       

      “You could argue that the latter is necessary, simply a description of atrocities that must be reported, but it is also a method that has diminishing returns. The facts speak for themselves; the adjectives and the sarcasm have the counterintuitive effect of cheapening them, of imposing on the world a disappointingly crude and simplistic argument. ‘The sentences,’ wrote Larissa MacFarquhar in a brilliant New Yorker profile of Chomsky 10 years ago, ‘are accusations of guilt, but not from a position of innocence or hope for something better: Chomsky’s sarcasm is the scowl of a fallen world, the sneer of hell’s veteran to its appalled naifs’ – and thus, in an odd way, static and ungenerative. . . .

       

      “But he answers questions warmly, and seriously, if not always directly – a surprise, in a way, from someone who has earned a reputation for brutality of argument, and a need to win at all costs. ‘There really is an alpha-male dominance psychology at work there,’ a colleague once said of him. ‘He has some of the primate dominance moves. The staring down. The withering tone of voice.” Students have been known to visit him in pairs, so that one can defend the other. . . .

      “Chomsky, the son of Hebrew teachers who emigrated from Ukraine and Russia at the turn of the last century, began as a Zionist – but the sort of Zionist who wanted a socialist state in which Jews and Arabs worked together as equals. Since then he has been accused of antisemitism (due to defending the right to free speech of a French professor who espoused such views, some 35 years ago), and been called, by the Nation, ‘America’s most prominent self-hating Jew’. These days he argues tirelessly for the rights of Palestinians. . . . . Does he think that in all these years of talking and arguing and writing, he has ever changed one specific thing?”

      So to recap: Chomsky is a sarcastic, angry, soporific, scowling, sneering self-hating Jew, devoid of hope and speaking from hell, whose alpha-male brutality drives him to win at all costs, and who imposes on the world disappointingly crude and simplistic arguments to the point where he is so inconsequential that one wonders whether he has ever changed even a single thing in his 60 years of political work.

      Edemariam includes several other passages more balanced and even complimentary. She notes his academic accolades (“One study of the most frequently cited academic sources of all time found that he ranked eighth, just below Plato and Freud”), his mastery of facts, his willingness to speak to hostile audiences, his touching life-long relationship with his now-deceased wife, and his remarkable commitment, even at the age of 84, to personally answering emails from people around the world whom he does not know (when I spoke at a college near Rochester two weeks ago, one of the students, a college senior studying to be a high school social studies teacher, gushed as he told me that he had emailed Chomsky and quickly received a very generous personal reply). She also includes Chomsky’s answer to her question about whether he has ever changed anything: a characteristically humble explanation that no one person – not even Martin Luther King – can or ever has by themselves changed anything.

      But the entire piece is infused with these standard personality caricatures that offer the reader an easy means of mocking, deriding and scorning Chomsky without having to confront a single fact he presents. And that’s the point: as this 9-minute Guardian video excerpt about Iran and the Middle East from Chomsky’s London speech demonstrates, he rationally but aggressively debunks destructive mainstream falsehoods that huge numbers of people are taught to tacitly embrace. But all of that can be, and is, ignored in favor of hating his “style”, ridiculing his personality, and smearing him with horrible slurs (“self-hating Jew”).

      What’s particularly strange about this set of personality and style attacks is what little relationship they bear to reality. Far from being some sort of brutal, domineering, and angry “alpha-male” savage, Chomsky – no matter your views of him – is one of the most soft-spoken and unfailingly civil and polite political advocates on the planet. It’s true that his critiques of those who wield power and influence can be withering – that’s the central function of an effective critic or just a human being with a conscience – but one would be hard-pressed to find someone as prominent as he who is as steadfastly polite and considerate and eager to listen when it comes to interacting with those who are powerless and voiceless. His humanism is legion. And far from being devoid of hope, it’s almost impossible to find an establishment critic more passionate and animated when talking about the ability of people to join together to create real social and political change.

      Then there’s Edemariam’s statement, offered with no citation, that Chomsky has been called “America’s most prominent self-hating Jew” by the left-wing Nation magazine. This claim, though often repeated and obviously very serious, is inaccurate.

      The Nation article which she seems to be referencing is not available online except by subscription. But what is freely available online is a 1993 article on Chomsky from the Chicago Tribune that makes clear that this did not come from the Nation itself, but from a single writer who, more importantly, was not himself calling Chomsky a “self-hating Jew” but was simply noting that this ishow he is often attacked (“one critic observed that Chomsky has ‘acquired the reputation as America’s most prominent self-hating Jew.'”). In 2010, the scholarly website 3 Quarks Daily noted an article on Chomsky from The Telegraph that also claimed without citation that “the Left-wing Nation magazine [] called him ‘America’s most prominent self-hating Jew'”. Inquiries in the comment section for the source citation for this quote prompted this reply:

      “I know this is a few years old, but the citation for the ‘most prominent self-hating Jew’ quote is: Morton, Brian. ‘Chomsky Then and Now.’ Nation 246, no. 18 (May 7, 1988): 646-652.

       

      “With access to a full-text archive of The Nation, it took me only a few minutes to locate this. The full quote in context is ‘If Chomsky has acquired the reputation of being America’s most prominent self-hating Jew, this is because, in the United States, discussion about the Middle East has until recently taken place within very narrow bounds.’

       

      “As you can see the point was quite the opposite of how it was presented. The Nation often includes different perspectives so attributing one reviewer’s comment to ‘The Nation’ as a whole would be dishonest anyway.

       

      “Regardless of that however, the reviewer was actually making the point that Chomsky’s views only seem far out because the spectrum is so limited. . . . .This is just another example of the kind of lazy, dishonest way in which Chomsky’s views are generally reported.”

      Having myself retrieved a full copy of Morton’s 1988 article, I can say with certainty that this comment is indeed 100% accurate. Even leaving aside the sloppiness of attributing one article by a freelance writer to “the Nation” itself, it is wildly inaccurate – on the substance – to claim that the Nation labelled Chomsky a “self-hating Jew”:

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      The oft-repeated claim that Chomsky has “been called, by the Nation,
      ‘America’s most prominent self-hating Jew'” is simply false. If anything, that Nation article debunked that accusation, and certainly did not embrace it.

      But the strangest attack on Chomsky is the insinuation that he has changed nothing. Aside from the metrics demonstrating that he has more reach and influence than virtually any public intellectual in the world, some of which Edemariam cites, I’d say that there is no living political writer who has more radically changed how more people think in more parts of the world about political issues than he. If you accept the premise (as I do) that the key to political change is to convince people of pervasive injustice and the need to act, then it’s virtually laughable to depict him as inconsequential. Washington power-brokers and their media courtiers do not discuss him, and he does not make frequent (or any) appearances on US cable news outlets, but outside of those narrow and insular corridors – meaning around the world – few if any political thinkers are as well-known, influential or admired (to its credit, the Guardian, like some US liberal outlets, does periodically publish Chomsky’s essays).

      Like any person with a significant political platform, Chomsky is fair game for all sorts of criticisms. Like anyone else, he should be subjected to intense critical and adversarial scrutiny. Even admirers should listen to his (and everyone else’s) pronouncements with a critical ear. Like anyone who makes prolific political arguments over the course of many years, he’s made mistakes.

      But what is at play here is this destructive dynamic that the more one dissents from political orthodoxies, the more personalized, style-focused and substance-free the attacks become. That’s because once someone becomes sufficiently critical of establishment pieties, the goal is not merely to dispute their claims but to silence them. That’s accomplished by demonizing the person on personality and style grounds to the point where huge numbers of people decide that nothing they say should even be considered, let alone accepted. It’s a sorry and anti-intellectual tactic, to be sure, but a brutally effective one.

      UPDATE

      One of the passages from Edemariam’s Guardian article that I quoted above has now been edited. The article originally stated: “Since then he has been accused of antisemitism (due to defending the right to free speech of a French professor who espoused such views, some 35 years ago). . . “, but has now been changed (with an editor’s note appended to the bottom) as follows: “Since then he has been accused of antisemitism (due to defending some 35 years ago the right to free speech of a French professor who was later convicted of Holocaust denial). . . ” I note this to avoid any confusion, not because it affects any of the points I have raised here, especially the inaccurate attribution to the Nation as having called Chomsky a “self-hating Jew”.

      UPDATE II [Sun.]

      The following editor’s note has now been appended to Edemariam’s Guardian article:

      “This article was further amended on 24 March 2013. An incorrect reference to Chomsky having been called ‘America’s most prominent self-hating Jew’ has been deleted. The error was the result of a quote being misconstrued.”

      That correction will hopefully put an end to this oft-repeated myth.

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| NYT: Great Paper. Great Propaganda Organ!

Great Paper. Great Propaganda Organ. ~ Edward S. HermanZMag

On October 11, 2011, Paul Krugman asserted on his blog that he had the privilege of writing two columns a week for “the world’s greatest newspaper,” the New York Times (NYT). The NYT is surely an outstanding paper, with exceptionally wide scope, many good journalists on board and publishing many interesting and enlightening articles. But if the standard by which we judge greatness is the quality of its service to the public interest, to the 99 percent who don’t own or advertise in newspapers or TV networks, or control or benefit directly and heavily from other corporate and financial entities, and/or exercise substantial influence on governments, the paper’s greatness is debatable.

 

In fact, a case can be made that the NYT is the world’s greatest—or at least most important—organ of state propaganda. Because of its great prestige, its being pegged as a “liberal” newspaper, and the paper’s allowing just enough dissent to give the appearance of balance and to make its most serious apologetics seem credible, the general public is not aware of how often and how effectively the paper serves the imperial state, normalizing U.S. imperial ventures and putting them in a favorable light—and providing systematic apologetics for abuses by it favored clients. The editors even belatedly admitted their war-supportive bias in the run-up to the UN Charter-violating and lie-based Iraq war. They are clearly doing the same in the case of Iran, where the paper has had almost daily accounts of Iran’s alleged moves toward nuclear weapons capability, while working on the premise that Israel’s (and the U.S.’s) actual nuclear weapons, and almost daily and credible threats, are perfectly acceptable and understandable and don’t even constitute essential context in discussing the Iran menace.

 

The paper has preserved its high reputation even as it has been repeatedly guilty of serious failures in its basic newspaper function, at huge social cost. The classic illustration is provided in their own editorial “The Lie That Wasn’t Shot Down” (ed., June 18, 1988), which acknowledged that their earlier furious news-editorial-propaganda barrage of 1983 claiming a deliberate and knowing Soviet destruction of the civilian Korean airliner 007 was based on a lie. Significantly, the counter-evidence cited in the five-years-late editorial was not uncovered by the paper’s own staff, but by a congressperson’s inquiry. So they swallowed an official lie that served the official party-line and the ongoing process of demonization of the “evil empire,” but despite all their resources never got around to examining whether it was valid.

 

When this great newspaper is in a propaganda mode, which is often, and especially where foreign policy and “national security” matters are at issue, their biases are frequently blatant and even amusing. This can often be read in their word usage and headline policy which discloses their bias at a glance. For example, their party-line hostility to Hugo Chavez has been steadfast, and even led them to editorialize in favor of the soon to be aborted 2002 coup d’etat, with the editors claiming that “Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chavez, a ruinous demagogue, [who] stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona” (ed., “Hugo Chavez Departs,” April 13, 2002).

 

The editors quickly changed their minds as the coup was reversed and the editors were subjected to sharp criticism for unprincipled behavior, acknowledging that Chavez’s “forced departure last week drew applause at home and in Washington…which we shared, [but] overlooked the undemocratic manner in which he was removed. Forcibly unseating a democratically elected leader, no matter how badly he has performed, is never something to cheer” (ed., “Venezuela’s Political Turbulence,” April 16, 2002). But the editors had cheered it, and had misrepresented the facts: the “ruinous demagogue” didn’t “step down,” his performance had not been “ruinous” as had been, for example, Yeltsin’s in Russia, lauded by the editors, and ending democracy does not terminate a threat to democracy, either in Venezuela in 2002 or Chile on 9/11/73.

 

The incident revealed that the establishment party-line bias of NYT editors runs deeper than their commitment to democracy. More recently, William Neuman’s “Chavez, After Treatment for Cancer, Gets His Bluster Back and Flaunts It” (January 22, 2012) is a simple and easily replicable illustration of the institutionalized presence of an anti-Chavez bias. “Bluster” and “flaunts” are snarl words that the paper wouldn’t use for high-level U.S. or UK politicians, but are standard for Chavez.

 

This kind of language would also not be used to describe Argentinian state terrorists during the years of military rule (1976-1983) or Augusto Pinochet in Chile, at least during the time when they were in power (see my The Real Terror Network). It was amusing to see that the December 11, 2006 NYT obituary for Pinochet by Jonathan Kandell was entitled “Augusto Pinochet, 91, Dictator Who Ruled by Terror in Chile, Dies.” While he was in power, the NYT very rarely referred to him as a “dictator” and I don’t believe they ever said that he “ruled by terror.” But with Pinochet dead and long out of power, the paper can combine “dictator” and “rule by terror” in the very title of an article on him.

 

The official party-line is now hostile to Vladimir Putin and surely not because of any undemocratic or corruption factors, which were perfectly acceptable and even encouraged in the Yeltsin and early Putin years, with the editors describing Yeltsin’s 1996 electoral victory as “A Victory for Russian Democracy” (July 4, 1996), which it certainly wasn’t, but it was a triumph of a man who was taking our orders. No, Putin’s problem is his decline in willingness to take orders and, notably, his resistance to the U.S.-NATO push for clienthood and subservience on a global basis, with Russia, like China, constituting an alternative potential center of power. The result is that the NYT selects as newsworthy, and pushes anything, that will now put Putin in a bad light.

 

Thus, the trial and imprisonment of the “Pussy Riot” trio in 2012 is given intensive, page-one coverage, with a characteristic slant and misinterpretation that meets the political demands for denigration, including outrage that a mere “stunt” attacking Putin results in a jail sentence (David M. Herszenhorn, “Anti-Putin Stunt Earns Punk Band Two Years in Jail,” August 18, 2012). That it was carried out in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, which invited police action and that it was a police action sought by church authorities, rather than political officials, is buried.

 

The subtitle is “Trial of Three Women Put Intense Focus on Free Speech.” But “Pussy Riot” members had carried out other actions elsewhere without jailing as had many others, so was it a challenge to free speech in Russia or was it a stunt that could be mobilized by anti-Putin (and pro-Western) forces as part of a larger propaganda campaign? Does this case tell us anything useful about free speech in Russia?

 

Isn’t it amazing to see it taken up by Amnesty International (AI), Avaaz, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) with such aggressiveness? AI and HRW neglected the important case of Julian Assange and the serious official U.S. campaign against whistleblowers and contributors of ”material aid” (undefined) to terrorists (see Diana Johnstone, “Pussy Riot and Amnesty International: The Decline of Political Protest,” Counterpunch, August 28, 2012). Would the NYTever give such intensive and positive publicity to Americans interrupting church services to make a political point or carrying out illegal acts of protest againstU.S. training-of-state-terrorists pro- grams at the School of Americas or nuclear weapons facilities?

 

The Moscow protests against Putin have not only been featured heavily in theNYT, with photos, but here also you can find language that is reserved for propaganda service. Thus, a rally in Moscow is described as “vast” with a crowd of tens of thousands (the organizers claimed 120,000) and a challenge to Putin’s authority, all within a single headline (Ellen Barry and Michael Schwirtz, “Vast Rally in Moscow Is a Challenge to Putin’s Power,” December 24, 2011). The same Times reporters write that, “After Election Putin Faces Challenges to Legitimacy” (March 5, 2012). Putin received a larger percentage of the votes than did Bush or Obama, but you will not find the NYT mentioning any challenge to an elected U.S. president’s “legitimacy.” Such language is reserved for hostiles.

 

The NYT has long been unfriendly to labor unions and in favor of “reform” here and across the globe, “reform” meaning “flexible” labor markets and more compliant or disappeared unions. This may strike people as implausible given the liberalism of the paper, but it is an establishment newspaper. While it expresses regret that inequality has grown so great and it may oppose crude attacks on labor, still the underlying forces damaging labor and escalating inequality have been openly supported. The Times’s leading liberal for many years, Anthony Lewis, was enthused that Margaret Thatcher had put labor in its place and he and the editors both supported the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement and castigated labor for opposing it.

 

The Times had only modest and scattered coverage of the Reagan-business community attacks on organized labor in the 1980s, even though many of these attacks were in violation of the law, and although they were badly weakening an important civil society institution that protects ordinary citizens both in the workplace and political arena and was arguably essential to a real rather than nominal democracy. Business Week wrote in 1994 that “over the past dozen years…U.S. industry has conducted one of the most successful union wars ever,” assisted by “illegally firing thousands of workers for exercising their right to organize.” But you would hardly know this reading the New York Times (or for that matter its mainstream colleagues).

 

I was still intrigued to see a recent Times article by Liz Alderman with the title “Italy Wrestles With Rewriting Its Stifling Labor Laws” (August 11, 2012), with the word stifling repeated on the continuation page. The article rests almost entirely on the claims by members of one Italian family business of their multiple difficulties: that they won’t hire because they can’t fire workers in a business downturn; that they can’t fire for theft without an airtight case; that taxes to support an “extensive social welfare net” are burdensome; and workers can stay on three years beyond retirement age even if superior and cheaper replacements are available.

 

No contesting or qualifying sources are introduced, so that the benefits of these laws and taxes to workers are not mentioned and evaluated. Only the costs to business and their further macro effects are deemed relevant. “Italy” and theNYT want “reform.”

 

The New York Times is a great newspaper, but arguably this very fact helps make it a great instrument for the engineering of consent to lots of problematic and sometimes very nasty policies and pieces of reality.

Z


Edward S. Herman is a media critic, economist, and author of  numerous books, including The Politics of Genocide (with David Petersen).

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| If only … The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder!

The Prosecution of George W. Bush for MurderVincent Bugliosi.

In The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, Bugliosi presents a tight, meticulously researched legal case that puts George W. Bush on trial in an American courtroom for the murder of nearly 4,000 American soldiers fighting the war in Iraq. Bugliosi sets forth the legal architecture and incontrovertible evidence that President Bush took this nation to war in Iraq under false pretenses—a war that has not only caused the deaths of American soldiers but also over 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women, and children; cost the United States over one trillion dollars thus far with no end in sight; and alienated many American allies in the Western world.

Video Trailer

 

See also – http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/WBushf

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The Legal Framework for the Prosecution ~ Vincent Bugliosi

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That the king can do no wrong is a necessary and fundamental principle of the English constitution. –Sir William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1765

No living Homo sapiens is above the law. -(Notwithstanding our good friends and legal ancestors across the water, this is a fact that requires no citation.)

May 19, 2008 — With respect to the position I take about the crimes of George Bush, I want to state at the outset that my motivation is not political. Although I’ve been a longtime Democrat (primarily because, unless there is some very compelling reason to be otherwise, I am always for “the little guy”), my political orientation is not rigid. For instance, I supported John McCain‘s run for the presidency in 2000. More to the point, whether I’m giving a final summation to the jury or writing one of my true crime books, credibility has always meant everything to me. Therefore, my only master and my only mistress are the facts and objectivity. I have no others. This is why I can give you, the reader, a 100 percent guarantee that if a Democratic president had done what Bush did, I would be writing the same, identical piece you are about to read.

Perhaps the most amazing thing to me about the belief of many that George Bush lied to the American public in starting his war with Iraq is that the liberal columnists who have accused him of doing this merely make this point, and then go on to the next paragraph in their columns. Only very infrequently does a columnist add that because of it Bush should be impeached. If the charges are true, of course Bush should have been impeached, convicted, and removed from office. That’s almost too self-evident to state. But he deserves much more than impeachment. I mean, in America, we apparently impeach presidents for having consensual sex outside of marriage and trying to cover it up. If we impeach presidents for that, then if the president takes the country to war on a lie where thousands of American soldiers die horrible, violent deaths and over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, including women and children, even babies are killed, the punishment obviously has to be much, much more severe. That’s just common sense. If Bush were impeached, convicted in the Senate, and removed from office, he’d still be a free man, still be able to wake up in the morning with his cup of coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice and read the morning paper, still travel widely and lead a life of privilege, still belong to his country club and get standing ovations whenever he chose to speak to the Republican faithful. This, for being responsible for over 100,000 horrible deaths?* For anyone interested in true justice, impeachment alone would be a joke for what Bush did.

Let’s look at the way some of the leading liberal lights (and, of course, the rest of the entire nation with the exception of those few recommending impeachment) have treated the issue of punishment for Bush’s cardinal sins. New York Timescolumnist Paul Krugman wrote about “the false selling of the Iraq War. We were railroaded into an unnecessary war.” Fine, I agree. Now what? Krugman just goes on to the next paragraph. But if Bush falsely railroaded the nation into a war where over 100,000 people died, including 4,000 American soldiers, how can you go on to the next paragraph as if you had been writing that Bush spent the weekend at Camp David with his wife? For doing what Krugman believes Bush did, doesn’t Bush have to be punished commensurately in some way? Are there no consequences for committing a crime of colossal proportions?

Al Franken on the David Letterman show said, “Bush lied to us to take us to war” and quickly went on to another subject, as if he was saying “Bush lied to us in his budget.”

Senator Edward Kennedy, condemning Bush, said that “Bush’s distortions misled Congress in its war vote” and “No President of the United States should employ distortion of truth to take the nation to war.” But, Senator Kennedy, if a president does this, as you believe Bush did, then what? Remember, Clinton was impeached for allegedly trying to cover up a consensual sexual affair. What do you recommend for Bush for being responsible for more than 100,000 deaths? Nothing? He shouldn’t be held accountable for his actions? If one were to listen to you talk, that is the only conclusion one could come to. But why, Senator Kennedy, do you, like everyone else, want to give Bush this complete free ride?

The New York Times, in a June 17, 2004, editorial, said that in selling this nation on the war in Iraq, “the Bush administration convinced a substantial majority of Americans before the war that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to 9/ 11, . . . inexcusably selling the false Iraq-Al Qaeda claim to Americans.” But gentlemen, if this is so, then what? The New York Times didn’t say, just going on, like everyone else, to the next paragraph, talking about something else.

In a November 15, 2005, editorial, the New York Times said that “the president and his top advisers . . . did not allow the American people, or even Congress, to have the information necessary to make reasoned judgments of their own. It’s obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans about Mr. Hussein’s weapons and his terrorist connections.” But if it’s “obvious that the Bush administration misled Americans” in taking them to a war that tens of thousands of people have paid for with their lives, now what? No punishment? If not, under what theory? Again, you’re just going to go on to the next paragraph?

I’m not going to go on to the next unrelated paragraph.

In early December of 2005, a New York Times-CBS nationwide poll showed that the majority of Americans believed Bush “intentionally misled” the nation to promote a war in Iraq. A December 11, 2005, article in the Los Angeles Times, after citing this national poll, went on to say that because so many Americans believed this, it might be difficult for Bush to get the continuing support of Americans for the war. In other words, the fact that most Americans believed Bush had deliberately misled them into war was of no consequence in and of itself. Its only consequence was that it might hurt his efforts to get support for the war thereafter. So the article was reporting on the effect of the poll findings as if it was reporting on the popularity, or lack thereof, of Bush’s position on global warming or immigration. Didn’t the author of the article know that Bush taking the nation to war on a lie (if such be the case) is the equivalent of saying he is responsible for well over 100,000 deaths? One would never know this by reading the article.

If Bush, in fact, intentionally misled this nation into war, what is the proper punishment for him? Since many Americans routinely want criminal defendants to be executed for murdering only one person, if we weren’t speaking of the president of the United States as the defendant here, to discuss anything less than the death penalty for someone responsible for over 100,000 deaths would on its face seem ludicrous.** But we are dealing with the president of the United States here.

On the other hand, the intensity of rage against Bush in America has been such (it never came remotely this close with Clinton because, at bottom, there was nothing of any real substance to have any serious rage against him for) that if I heard it once I heard it ten times that “someone should put a bullet in his head.” That, fortunately, is just loose talk, and even more fortunately not the way we do things in America. In any event, if an American jury were to find Bush guilty of first degree murder, it would be up to them to decide what the appropriate punishment should be, one of their options being the imposition of the death penalty.

Although I have never heard before what I am suggesting — that Bush be prosecuted for murder in an American courtroom — many have argued that “Bush should be prosecuted for war crimes” (mostly for the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo) at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands. But for all intents and purposes this cannot be done.

*Even assuming, at this point, that Bush is criminally responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 people in the Iraq war, under federal law he could only be prosecuted for the deaths of the 4,000 American soldiers killed in the war. No American court would have jurisdiction to prosecute him for the one hundred and some thousand Iraqi deaths since these victims not only were not Americans, but they were killed in a foreign nation, Iraq. Despite their nationality, if they had been killed here in the States, there would of course be jurisdiction.

**Indeed, Bush himself, ironically, would be the last person who would quarrel with the proposition that being guilty of mass murder (even one murder, by his lights) calls for the death penalty as opposed to life imprisonment. As governor of Texas, Bush had the highest execution rate of any governor in American history: He was a very strong proponent of the death penalty who even laughingly mocked a condemned young woman who begged him to spare her life (“Please don’t kill me,” Bush mimicked her in a magazine interview with journalist Tucker Carlson), and even refused to commute the sentence of death down to life imprisonment for a young man who was mentally retarded (although as president he set aside the entire prison sentence of his friend Lewis “Scooter” Libby), and had a broad smile on his face when he announced in his second presidential debate with Al Gore that his state, Texas, was about to execute three convicted murderers.

In Bush’s two terms as Texas governor, he signed death warrants for an incredible 152 out of 153 executions against convicted murderers, the majority of whom only killed one single person. The only death sentence Bush commuted was for one of the many murders that mass murderer Henry Lucas had been convicted of. Bush was informed that Lucas had falsely confessed to this particular murder and was innocent, his conviction being improper. So in 152 out of 152 cases, Bush refused to show mercy even once, finding that not one of the 152 convicted killers should receive life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. Bush’s perfect 100 percent execution rate is highly uncommon even for the most conservative law-and-order governors.

The above is an excerpt from the book The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder by Vincent Bugliosi Published by Vanguard Press; May 2008;$26.95US/$28.95CAN; 978-159315-481-3
Copyright © 2008 Vincent Bugliosi

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