George W. Bush is guilty of a lot of things. But in her just-released book United States v. George W. Bush et al. (Seven Stories Press), former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega gets specific. She crafts a hypothetical grand-jury trial demonstrating that, in their zeal to sell the Iraq War to Congress, Bush Administration officials violated section 371 of US Code Title 18, which prohibits conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Starting with opening arguments and moving through a week’s worth of fictional but exactingly fact-based testimony, de la Vega, who worked for more than 20 years as a federal prosecutor, makes the case.
Title 18, Section 371, which is applicable when “persons conspire either to . . . defraud the United States, or any agency thereof,” is broadly worded. But, de la Vega says, “it’s been interpreted over the years, in numerous cases, to mean agreeing to commit a crime using any form of deceit — it doesn’t matter if it’s an outright lie or a half truth — in order to impair or obstruct a branch or agency of government. And, of course, Congress is a branch of government.”
De la Vega sticks to reliable sources: Iraq-related public statements available on Web sites for the White House, the State Department, and the Defense Department; the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report; the 9/11 Commission Report; and impartial news stories. As documents piled up, scattered about her dining room and nibbled by her dog, de la Vega was able to piece together meticulous timelines, showing what administration officials knew, and when. “It was pretty clear to me, even before I did an extended analysis, that this statute would apply to these facts,” she says.
The most compelling evidence? Those pesky aluminum tubes. “On September 8, 2002, you had Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Powell, and General Myers out there saying that these aluminum tubes were being sought by the Iraqis. Condoleezza Rice said they were only suited for use in a centrifuge. But half the reports, the ones from the actual experts, say that the tubes were not suited for centrifuges.” (It was theoretically possible they could be used to make Iraqi nukes, one Energy Department analyst told the Senate — just as it was theoretically possible to “turn your new Yugo into a Cadillac.”)
De la Vega maintains that “there’s overwhelming evidence that the manipulations of prewar intelligence were not the result of a mistake, but were rather intentional and quite Machiavellian. Knowing that, and knowing that if this were a criminal case the evidence points to their having committed a crime, we can’t responsibly just walk away from this.”
The former federal prosecutor will present her case at Jimmy Tingle’s Off-Broadway Theatre on May 6 at 3 pm and at the Cambridge Forum on May 9 at 7:30 pm. People who read her book or attend those events have an obligation to keep pressure on their senators and representatives, she says. “I believe quite strongly at this point that we have ample ground for there to be articles of impeachment brought. But it’s the public that should be deciding this. We need to do our job.”
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Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway: http://www.jtoffbroadway.com/