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Regular contributor ("Carson City Limits" and other content) for Random Lengths (circulation 56,000) in San Pedro, CA, 2001-present. Manga reviewer: LA Alternative (circulation 150,000), 2005-2006. Some manga reviews also ran in NY Press around this time. Entertainment reporting: Music Connection (circulation 75,000), 1983-1906. Travel writing: Oakland Tribune (1998) and Life After 50 (2006). Other bylines: Goldmine, Star Hits, Los Angeles Reader, Los Angeles Times, Long Beach Press Telegram, Blade, BAM, Daily Breeze, LA Weekly. Specializations include community news reporting, writing reviews (book, theater, concert, film, music), copywriting, resumes, editing, travel writing, publicity, screenwriting, lecturing, and content development. Education: B. A. Theater Arts, UCLA. Post-grad work, Education, Chapman University.

Friday, March 6, 2015

DVD Review: The Prosecution of an American President

This DVD review appeared in edited form in Random Lengths, Jan. 8-21, 2015

DVD Review:  The Prosecution of an American President
Based on Vincent Bugliosi’s Book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder
(First Run Features)

 When is war murder? With the recent release of the senate torture report, the discussion of enormities the George W. Bush administration committed has been reopened.  An earlier account of their wrongdoing was undertaken by eminent prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi who, in his 2008 book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, charged that America’s invasion of Iraq wasn’t war, it was mass murder. 
 
  Now a DVD-only documentary, The Prosecution of an American President, based on the book, is available at multiple online retail sites (it’s released by First Run Features). It primarily documents a lecture Bugliosi gave at UCLA in 2008.

 Like his book, Bugliosi’s lecture applies conventions of criminal law—finding evidence of murder—to the president’s words and actions prior to the United States invading Iraq.  Bugliosi starts with the legal principle of the effects doctrine, attempting to demonstrate, “Invading Iraq made absolutely no sense.”

 By documenting the administration’s false statements—more than 935 altogether—Bugliosi presents provocative evidence of pre-meditated mass murder. Those lies were deliberately calculated to kill American service members (and Iraqis) by the thousands. 

 To be murder, unlawful killing cannot be self-defense.  Bugliosi debunks as “preposterous” Bush’s lies that Iraq was an imminent threat. Bush didn’t invade Iraq in self-defense. The intention was to kill, not defend.

 Bugliosi argues it isn’t necessary to establish a true motive for the invasion—only to prove that the publicly stated motive, that Iraq was an imminent threat, was a lie.  Bugliosi does a masterful job of proving the lie.

 He primarily documents two very big lies built on hundreds of smaller ones.  The first was that Saddam Hussein and his regime were imminent threats. On Oct. 1, 2002, a classified federal intelligence report showed all sixteen federal intelligence agencies agreed Iraq wasn’t an imminent threat.  The declassified version (often called “the white paper”) shown to Congress was intentionally altered to appear otherwise.

 In the Oct. 7, 2002 “Niger Incident” speech, Bush deliberately spoke of a non-existent threat that was the opposite of what CIA sources told him numerous times. Bugliosi argues, “[The speech] knowingly used discredited bogus info.”

 The second big lie Bugliosi debunks concerns a false link between Saddam Hussein, Iraq, and 9/11. The day after 9/11, only 3% of the public believed there was any connection between Iraq and 9/11. At the time Iraq was invaded, that number went up to 70% and today, after the lie’s been repeatedly debunked, 50% of the public still believes it. What Bush did was run together the words “9/11” and “Iraq” repeatedly, misleading the public with linguistic sleight-of-hand.

 Bugliosi differs from other legal experts when he asserts Bush’s crimes are not against the Constitution—although he admits misleading Congress, as Bush did, is a crime against the Constitution. How Bush’s actions constitute “high crimes” is missing here.

 Some stark evidence is missing. Very briefly Bush crawls around the floor at a Republican banquet, bragging about looking for weapons of mass destruction. It’s a vivid demonstration this man knew his false WMD claims sent thousands of Americans to death—and he thought it was funny. This footage should have been given much more play.

 Footage of a reporter asking Bush “What did Saddam Hussein have to do with 9/11?” and Bush’s nonchalant answer (“Nothing!”) is missing completely. Also absent is any discussion of how pro-invasion propaganda was eerily similar to Nazi Germany’s Big Lie.

 As for Democrats, Bugliosi argues Obama’s refusal to prosecute constitutes dereliction of duty and a violation of his presidential oath. After Democrats took control of Congress, Bugliosi pleaded with the House Judiciary Committee in 2008 to make a criminal complaint to the Department of Justice. They didn’t.

 Elizabeth De La Vega, a former federal prosecutor whose own book charged Bush committed fraud when he invaded Iraq, supports Bugliosi, “If you come to the conclusion the Bush administration has lied to us about the most serious decision a country can make, invading another country—that had done absolutely nothing to us--you have to decide what are we going to do about it.”

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