Purchased a FORA.tv video on another website? Login here with the temporary account credentials included in your receipt.
Sign up today to receive our weekly newsletter and special announcements.
My name is Hannah Dougrey and I have the pleasure of introducing a remarkable woman who is here with an inspired book and a fine work of jurisprudence it's called the United States versus George Bush. For over 20 years Elizabeth de la Vega has been prosecuting criminals with the US attorneys' office she was an assistant US attorney in Minneapolis and a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and Branch Chief in San Jose. Her writings have appeared on tomdispatch.com, truthout.org, salon.com, The Nation, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor and Mother Jones just to name a few. Now you probably heard a television pundit say at some point that the democratic victories in the midterm election or in active protest to the war in Iraq. This book is Elizabeth's very powerful personnel protest but instead of a vote she ingeniously uses a Federal Court. In the book Bush, Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice are bought before a hypothetic grand jury and entitled with conspiracy to deprive the United States into a war against Iraq. Now the proceedings may be hypothetical but the facts laid out in the entailment are the indisputable truth, so please join me in welcoming Elizabeth de la Vega. Thank you Hannah, I was just saying to some people here there is something in the water that enables people to think more clearly. I was a prosecutor for over 20 years and as Stephen Colbert called me I am, now I am activist more of a prosecutor which is pretty funny description, but I retired in 2004 and finally really had time to look at what was happening in the mainstream press and to watch TV shows which I would never before I like Hard Ball and so forth. And as I watch those I finally understood after the election why the President was even able to be reelected and its because the nature of the debate if you can even call that on TV was I cant even think of a better word than pathetic and as I could have lot more time then because I wasn't working and I spent a lot of time cleaning up my garage which anybody who is retired probably has already done too. But I got tired of that and I really started looking into more about the war and a prewar intelligence and of course at that point I already knew that the President and the Vice President so forth had deceived the people about the war in Iraq but what really disturbed me about the level of the debate was that it all on TV at least and mostly even in the press it would devolve to this one question well did the President really believe that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And from my point of view having prosecuted many, many fraud cases and different types of criminal cases it struck me that that question was both was simultaneously too narrow and too broad, because first of all its too narrow because that is not the focus when you think about fraud. The fraud in almost every single fraud case whoever it is who is committing the fraud whether you are talking about people who trick people into buying farms which they actually do or people who sell bogus life insurance or investments no matter what it is it doesn't matter. It's almost always the case that the person who is doing this fraud deludes him or herself into thinking that the outcome is going to be okay. The final conclusion is valid and that's so much the case that in every single fraud case, if any of you have been on the jury in a fraud case you will know this, juries are instructed that the fact that the defendant believes in the ultimate outcome and that will be okay is irrelevant if the evident shows that they deceived people along the way in order to get them to agree with them, that is a standard jury instruction in every case. And I go in to this in more detail in the book, but I know you don't want to be here all afternoon so I won't tell you the whole thing. So that was one point so its really much to narrow and at the same time its way too broad because it didn't take into account all the facts that we know along the way that show in both big and small ways that the Bush administration defrauded people about the reasons for the the reasons they wanted to go to war, about their alleged grounds for war, their decision to go to war when the decided, how long the evident showed that that was going to last, how much of it is going to cost all these different categories. So when I thought about this and I thought well how can I, since one person explain this to anybody so I thought well I will do that same thing here that I did in any other criminal case and people who see prosecutors on TV might think that its really glamorous and exciting but really what prosecutors do most of the time is you sit in a room that's got like green, sick green walls or something because it is a government building and you look at boxes of documents that's what we do and then you get to talk to witnesses sometimes. I essentially decide, fortunately my house doesn't have sick green walls so I was in a much better environment but I did the same thing that I would do in any fraud case and basically the key to any fraud as you, you have to compare what you have said and done publicly that would be one timeline to what is said and done and known to the people behind the scenes. So in every fraud case I ever did I would make up two time lines and that's precisely what I did in this case, first of all I looked at the Senate Select Committee on intelligence report, the 09/11 commission report everything that has been declassified and made public that includes numerous, numerous facts that have been found to be true and they don't depend on any individual person which was the key to the way I wanted to do this book because we have had a lot of books that are inside our accounts by people who are most entirely I really cant think of one who came out when it could have done any good, but the people who after the fact have told their inside view and what always happens as you know Richard Clarke or Paul O'Neill the Former Treasury Secretary, the debate ends up focusing on that and they are you know trying to slam them or say they have a bias or whatever and you loose the whole point of what's going on. And from my practices, the criminal prosecutor that didn't surprise me at all and whenever you have a case that depends on the testimony of a witness you have to make to ensure that you collaborated with actual details. Because everybody in that how honest people are trying to be everybody does have a point of view they are either trying to make themselves look better or make the other people look worse or both. So I wanted to just focus on the facts that were completely undisputed and what I realize is that if you look at just the Senate Select Committee on intelligence report we have five more than enough information to know that the President and the Vice President so forth carried out a massive intentional deceit on the public about every aspect of going into this war and of course its still going on to that. But so I made up that timeline about what was known at different points, then I and this just seems kind of obsessive complex that I have realized, then I looked at every single White House press statement and the Department of Defense, the Department of State, starting right after 09/11 all the way through the beginning of 2004 and I made another timeline and what I ended up reading of course was often the same speech over and over and over again to the point where I could probably give those speeches if you want me to but I can still remember them like the active contrition that I learned when I was in third grade but one of the things that I realized that it was very enlightening because all of you who are here I am sure know at various levels of detail that we were deceived but and I knew it as well but I didn't realize how really Machiavellian it was and how massive and really brilliant I have to say this scheme was and throughout this process it was often really depressing of course to keep reading all the stuff and realizing how much we rely to but there was one hero who stood out and I quote from her in my book at the beginning and that was Helen Thomas and in fact before I read this I will tell you that in the weird world of the internet people end up e-mailing everybody. So after I kept reading these press conferences and they were just so depressing and listening and reading and I could practically here I suppose Scott McClellan and later Ari Fleischer so forth in hearing them and seeing them say these ridiculous manipulative things over and over again and most of the reporters didn't call them on it ever. And so I actually send Helen Thomas an e-mail and I said you know I am sure you have no idea who I am but I have been reading all these press conferences and in between wanting to stand up and strangle Ari Fleischer or Scott McClellan I wanted to give you a hug. And she actually wrote back and she said well hug back to you and which was very, very sweet but the quote in the beginning of my book is just a really short exchange on September 3rd 2002 in the White House briefing and Helen Thomas says to Ari Fleischer, let me just set the scene here well we are now in the White House briefing room but September 3rd 2002 is the time as we recall when the President was about to role out his marketing plan for the war. And but they hadn't set that they were going to do this shut. And in the month of August well the president was chopping things in Crawford yeah at the ranch and driving around in the pick up truck, people had been writing including republicans and so forth and saying there are no grounds for this war and this is disastrous plan that is being suggested right now and the public polls at that time show that the public was not in favor of this war. So Helen Thomas says to Ari Fleischer, Ari is the president willing to prepare to sacrifice American and Iraqi innocent lives to take out to Saddam Hussein, Ari Fleischer says Helen the President is prepared to protect innocent lives and she says not surprisingly pardon. Ari Fleischer, the President is prepared to protect innocent lives and that is why the president has said that Iraq is part of the Axis of Evil. Now apart from the fact that they are they are really makes no sense what so ever. I wanted to highlight this not just in this talk today, not just to honor Helen Thomas is one example of many, many, many where she had the guts to actually tell the truth and ask that the real questions which by the way shouldn't be that hard. But what followed from this after this part that I quote in the book was something very interesting as well because Ari Fleischer then went on to say, oh I think that Helen Thomas said well is in his mission going to end up with the loss of numerous innocent lives and Ari Fleisher said mission, what mission. You are assuming that president is planning to invade Iraq and that the president has said that he had not decided whether to invade Iraq and then he went on both didn't answer to Helen Thomas and actually about I think eight times in that press conference to say that the president had not decided and further more the president was going to be engaged in a dialogue with the American people and a dialogue with the world and about whether or not to go to war. So when I talk about the fraud just for today rather than go through all the evidence and so forth I just want to focus on this kind of like two week period in September and right before than August of 2002 because you don't even have to get into issues about, details about the claims that they were making about specifics. Its very clear from this time period that they were lying about everything and so anybody who says well the president couldn't be lying or deceiving because he never read any of the stuff which is another really bizarre thing that seems to be really accepted actually by the public that the president didn't read anything so how could intentionally not tell the truth so which I will address in a minute also but on September third the polls not only showed that the public was not in favor of the war they also showed that the public was more in favor of the war if it seemed as if the president was consulting congress and if congress was on board that was one thing the poles also showed that the public was more in favor of the war if it seemed that the president was actually going through this UN process and getting the rest of the world on board so it was not just off the cuff that Ari Fleischer kept talking about we are having this dialogue with the world we are having this dialogue with the country they wanted everybody to think that they were actually open minded and that was very that was extraordinarily intentional and deceptive because well let me just get to the next day. The next day September 4th was when the president came out and announced that he was having an open dialogue and I talked about this quite a bit in the book but that was extraordinary as well because the president sitting there with two democrats and two republicans and he said and it was a seven minute press briefing and he said well here we are we just had an open dialogue about whether to go to war in Iraq and here are the people here are the democrats here are the republicans and they are all good people and we are just here talking about whether to go to war in Iraq and he said that seven times in different ways about this open dialogue in this one little seven minute speech and as many of you know of course by September 4th the president had not only decided to go to war in Iraq the war had basically already started and without going into a lot of detail but I do go over in the book right after September 11th the president started talking about invading Iraq Donald Rumsfeld was out there looking for evidence about how to invade Iraq September 17th the president asked for his first plan and preliminary plan to invade Iraq. Couple of days later he says to Blair well we will do Afghanistan first and then we will come back to Iraq and that's when the president started talking about Iraq I mean Afghanistan as Phase I. Now this is the kind of thing that seems really small in some ways but its extraordinarily insidious because that's precisely how the president started wheeling people in and getting people to accept the idea of invading Iraq. And we are going to talk about Iran in a few minutes, but even though we all it's easy to laugh about what the president says when he says these things that are part of the orchestrated PR campaign almost every single word has a meaning and this Phase I was really a brilliant thing to do because it wasn't saying anything about why we are invading Iraq, but people start to think oh if there is a phase I there is probably going to be a phase II and nobody really thinks too much about it. And that's exactly how people commit fraud no matter what no mater what kind of fraud they kind of start lowering people in and they get them to agree a little bit and they get them to agree a little more and the people don't even know that they are being defrauded it's the old boiling frog technique they just keep turning up the heat and people have no idea and who has time who with the regular life has time to analyze every words that the president is saying nobody and they know that of course. So by September 4th we had 40,000 troops in the Middle East we had 350,000 tons of ammunitions over there. The president had already taken $700,000, not 700,000, 700 million from the Afghanistan funds and put into a war against Iraq, we had a final plan. The Rumsfeld and Tommy Franks and as if I know him Tommy Franks General Franks had been meeting and they've been meeting in larger groups and that just of all those meetings all along had been we need a plan that's faster, that's easier to implement and quicker and the really the only reason when you go through the whole chronology, the only reason that we didn't invade Iraq before hand I believe at least based on all the seven inches set also behind the scenes the British were telling Condoleeza Rice and the President as well you don't have any reason to invade Iraq so you have to do something and the British called it wrong footing and that was the UN plan and at one point in here I have these fictional agents who are really not three dimensional characters, I have to warn you but one of them says too wrong foot or not too wrong foot that was the only discussion that the President and the United States had with people in another countries about whether to invade Iraq it was simply should we just go in and do it anyway without going to the UN or should we files go through what Helen Thomas is say of course is charade with the United Nations. So that was the situation on September 4th and the very next day one of the people I was able to meet in the course of writing this book was a man named Tim Goodrich who is the young fellow who is the founder of Iraq veterans against the war. And he was in the Middle East at the time and he has told this story a number of times but he always wanted to be in the military he was very patriotic, he wanted to do what he could for the country and so forth and he heard, well first of all he was involved in tech support for what turned out to be the largest air strikes British and US against Iraq's major western defense facilities that we never had since 1998 that was the very next day after the open dialogue and obviously that didn't just happened on this further moment and so at that point Tim Goodrich and I quoted him in here but he said at essentially I knew that the president was deceiving us, I knew that the president was betraying us because here he is saying we are going to have a discussion with the country and with the world and with congress but at the same time where I was there bombing the heck out of them that's what he said. So this is, so we have September 3rd, 4th and 5th, September 6th is when Karl Rove and Andy Card our President's Chief of Staff reported in the New York Times I think was the next day. They essentially say we are starting this marketing campaign and we are gearing it towards the public and congress because we want to make it impossible for congress not to go along with the authorization of these military force. And if you look at it from the analysis of the criminal case that will be the smoking gun, the document that shows what they said at that point because what that means is they were very deliberately setting about to deceive the public to deceive congress for the very purpose of interfering with the vote of congress, so and I am not going to go into detail about the law but its in the book. And because what a conspiracy to deprive the United States means in criminal law is it means an agreement and the conspiracy in criminal law is not like some secret thing you know with secret meetings and the quatrains and that kind of thing, it's just a very neutral term, it just means an agreement to commit a crime. And the defrauding is actually defined in cases over the years and this statue was used in the Watergate era, it was used against Iran counter people as well it means interfering with the branch or agency of government and obviously the congress although sometimes we have doubt is a branch of government. And so this was a deliberate plan to get congress to do something by deceiving both the public and congress, its really pretty clear cut actually. And then if you look at the very next day there was the President and Tony Blair and this is the part of the plan where they are showing everybody how they are in the open dialogue with the world. So Tony Blair was at the ranch and they both came out and said well we are going to the UN but this is why we are going because just recently they both said this, just recently the IAEA issued a report that set Iraq with six months away from a nuclear weapon. Well in the book I go through a lot of explanation about fraud and how its not just outraged line, it's making statements with reckless just regard for the truth and so forth but that was just really not right lie because and they had to know it because the IAEA hadn't been there since 1998 and even the report that they did issue at that time said no such thing, it said that they were years away from a nuclear weapon so that was just a fatal lie and the thing about it is later on when they were called on in the press conference when the administration was called out in press conferences they sort of backed away but the key to much of what the administration does is to put step out there and nobody pays attention to the retractions or the qualification. So at that point most people aren't really paying any attention and then the next day I am not going to go through everyday to week and to March 2003, that is my last day but it was a good week and was a good week for the administration because the next day is when they had Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld and Cheney and couple of other people on these different morning shows and that's when they had this circuitous thing where they had actually leaked information about these aluminum tubes that many of you probably heard about and then they said oh just today in the New York Times we learned that hey are trying to get these aluminum tubes, the Iraqis that, Condoleeza Rice had that only suitable for using nuclear centrifuges to enrich uranium. Now one thing about that I think legal or anything or it's just its very bizarre that the administration would actually really want people to think they make their decisions based on what they have supposedly read in the New York Times and everybody says, "oh okay well they just read this in the New York Times". But the fact to the mater is when you look at the Senate Select Committee report and also the Rob Silverman Commission which is fairly favorable to the administration anyway but I actually made a chart which didn't end up in the book because we didn't have the budget for charts but they were 14 different reports on the Defense Intelligence Agency, CIA, Department of Energy on September 8th and they have been around, they nave been starting this discussions for over a year. 14 different report said these aluminum tubes they were talking about which one of my agents in here talks about kind of in detail but they were three feet long, they were three and a quarter inches wide, they were coated with the coating and their thickness was thicker than would be used for a nuclear weapon. So they were felt three times as long, three times as wide if you actually were going to use them for the nuclear centrifuge they would have to be, the coating would have to be removed and the expert opinion of our Lawrence Livermore Lab people and even Colin Powell's own department of state people was that if they they really could in some speculative world they could use these for nuclear weapons but it was highly unlikely because from one thing it's very hard to change the diameter of something and one of the nuclear expert said well I suppose it is possible in the sense that you could turn a you-go into a cadillac if you really if you really, really tried but if they really want to use these tubes for nuclear weapons we should just give them to them and let them have at it because they are never going to get anywhere with that. So all of this information was available when our administration was out there making these statements and it got worse and worse because there was more and more information which in a legal sense would be considered noticed to people and the key to many of the false statements that the president and other people made is that if they were not outright lies there were statements made with reckless just regard for the truth because either the administration people looked at these documents and looked at the evidence which would make it very clear that what they were saying was not true or they didn't look at it at all and they just went out there popping off about well this is, we know this and we know that, well that's a classic form of fraud, people just making wild statement and it's not a defense that you come back and say well I didn't even look at it you know I couldn't be lying because I didn't even look at it. So and then by the time, and people have asked me why would I put Collin Powell here and just to focus on the aluminum tubes for a little bit more that was one of the egregious deceptions of Collin Powell's whole United Nation speech because it was as I mentioned not just the Lawrence Livermore people but it was these State Department people who, his own people who were very adamant that these tubes were not useful, could not be used for nuclear weapons and it wasn't just like they said well we don't think they are useful, they explained it in detail over and over again in different report and yet Colin Powell stood in front of the entire world and he said well some people including the Iraqis think these are for rockets, in other words he lumped together his own analyst who mean new had specific and credible reasons for saying these were not usable for nuclear weapons, he lumped them together with the Iraqis and completely denigrated at the whole idea. now that's way beyond intentional deceit I mean there is so many different things you could say about it but so that's why Colin Powell is in this book and that's why I really have no that he may have initially try to talk to President out of the war but for whatever his own reasons were he just signed on and just went forward. So what it comes down to is that in the end we had a situation, we have a situation right now where we have a fraud that's much, much worse than the Enron fraud. Everybody was just devastated about the Enron fraud and rightly so. And you know there is a $40 billion loss and so forth well now we have who even knows in terms of money, we have, all of you know, we have hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed, we have thousands of our own soldiers, more than 30,000 seriously wounded, two million Iraqis homeless or displaced. It just goes on and on. So we have a situation where around this country every week people are prosecuted for defrauding people about anything, healthcare. I just saw in the paper this morning that Eli Lilly is being investigated for not telling people that a drug that they are putting out their causes people to gain substantial amount of weight. Now I think that's good that they are being investigated for that but what does it mean about this country that we have fraud being prosecuted for every kind of thing except the most significant thing that you can every imagine and that's really why I wrote the book and I end the book by quoting from Kathryn Ruemmler who is the prosecutor in the Enron case and in her closing argument she said to people she said to the jury, the Enron Corporation was not owned by Ken Lay or Jeffrey Skilling it was the employees Enron and it was the investors Enron and the people or the investors and the employees were entitled to full and complete and truthful information about the facts that would enable them to make decisions about what was going to happen with Enron. And the same is obviously quite sure in this case. It is not president Bush's United States, it is not Vice President Cheney's United States, there is not one set of facts for inside the oval office and another set of facts for the public, it is the peoples United States and we were in remain entitled to full and complete information about whether to go to war, whether to stay in the war, whether to start another war against Iran and that's why we have no choice we cant shrug our shoulders and walk away from this. Thank you.