Published: July 4th, 2009
Federal District Judge Michael Ratner denied Mr. Bush’s request to represent himself. Ratner is the former president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
High treason is usually defined as participation in a war against one’s own country; attempting to overthrow its government; spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power; or attempting to kill its head of state.
“In this case, high treason has been interpreted to include pursuing an illegal and devastating war that has cost hundreds of billions of dollars and the lives of over 4,000 Americans and perhaps a million Iraqis, for essentially insane ends,” said Vincent Bugliosi, a former federal prosecutor whom Feingold named lead special prosecutor in the case. “In effect, the Iraq War amounted to a war against America,” added Bugliosi, who is also the author of the book, The Prosecution of George Bush for Murder.
Although the treason indictment came as no surprise to most observers, what was completely unexpected was the party who brought it.
“The case is highly unusual in a number of ways,” said Bugliosi, “not the least of which is that the defendant is actually accusing himself.”
In a press conference held close to midnight yesterday at his Crawford, Texas ranch, former President Bush cited his renewed Christian faith as the catalyst for this unprecedented action. “Last month, I had a conversation with Jesus Christ. A new conversation. And I’ve been very blessed to have been born again, again. This time, for real,” Mr. Bush read in a prepared statement to half a dozen stunned reporters.
“It’s taken a lot of soul searching, or more like deep-soul diving, I think is the term. But now I see that it was wrong to lead our nation to war under false pretenses. Millions have suffered for my sins, and I see now that it is only fitting that I should suffer as well.”
Mr. Bush’s self-accusation seems largely to have been plagiarized from years of accusations made against him in the press. It refers to his “political propaganda campaign to sell the war to the American people,” and describes how he and his team attempted to make the “W.M.D. threat and the Iraqi connection to terrorism appear certain, whereas in fact we knew there wasn’t one at all.”
“The death and economic collapse that resulted has been completely devastating to our nation and, most of all, to me,” read Mr. Bush’s indictment. “I want to make amends, and it is for this reason that I am requesting that I be indicted for high treason. I thank the court for allowing me to right my grave wrongs. Bring it on!”
Some analysts suggest that Mr. Bush’s self-indictment is part of a strategy to avoid the death penalty. Although treason carries a potential death sentence, Mr. Bush and his team of attorneys are seeking a triple life sentence without possibility of parole.
“We don’t want to be too cynical about Mr. Bush’s motives,” said a spokesperson for AfterDowningStreet.org, one of the main groups that had been pursuing Mr. Bush’s indictment. “But even if it doesn’t get moved to the I.C.C., requesting his own conviction is so unusual it could move some jurors, or even help with an insanity plea.”
A friend of Mr. Bush, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that Mr. Bush would attempt to move the case to the International Criminal Court, which does not have a death penalty, and was quietly pressing Secretary of State Naomi Klein to bring the U.S. under the court’s jurisdiction. In 2002, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld rejected the I.C.C.’s jurisdiction, saying it was “unaccountable to the American people.”
Mr. Bush maintained his characteristically jovial manner throughout the proceedings. “I could be executed, but what good would that do anybody? Especially me. I think the nation would rather I spend a good long while considering what happened — not only the tragic end of hundreds of thousands of lives, but the end of American capitalism, that I liked, I sincerely liked,” Mr. Bush said. (See also “An Exclusive Interview With George W. Bush,” on Page A9.)
The treason charge does not address compensation for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed in the war. It is expected that surviving family members of fallen American soldiers will file thousands of civil lawsuits alleging wrongful death.