On Monday, December 12th, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco will hear arguments in a first--of-its-kind lawsuit against former President George W. Bush, alleging that Bush engaged in a war of aggression against Iraq. "War of aggression" is a crime under the international law which evolved out of the Nuremberg Trials after World War II. The hearing will take up an appeal to a previous dismissal of the case which was based on a judge's prior determination that the defendants held immunity, if they were acting pursuant to the legitimate scope of their duties as government officials. In response, the plaintiffs argue that waging illegal wars cannot be considered as an activity which is within the legitimate scope of holding office.
Also named as defendants in the lawsuit are former vice president Dick Cheney, former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld, former national security adviser and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state Colin Powell, and former deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz.
The case is Saleh v. Bush. The lead plaintiff, Sundus Saleh, is an Iraqi mother of four who says she was forced to flee the country in 2005 as a result of the US invasion.
The plaintiff's attorney, who is handling the case pro bono, said on the lawsuit's website:
“We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit will hear argument. To my knowledge, this is the first time a court will entertain arguments that the Iraq War was illegal under domestic and international law..This is also the first time since World War II that a court is being asked to scrutinize whether the war itself was an illegal act of aggression — a special war crime that was defined at the Nuremberg Trials in 1946.”
Saleh’s attorney is D. Inder Comar, legal director at Comar LLP.
In arguing that the push by Bush administration officials for war with Iraq was not within the legitimate scope of their duties, the plaintifs in the case cite documents signed by some of the defendants and published by Project for a New American Century, a conservative think tank, which evince a desire for the military invasion of Iraq as early as 1997, years prior to the commencement of official duties after the the 2000 presidential election.
In a letter signed in 1998 by defendants Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to then President Bill Clinton, the authors requested the implementation of "a strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power." The letter argued that this strategy should include "a willingness to undertake military action," and that "American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council."
This evidence submitted to the court by the plaintiffs is intended to support the argument that, in making the case for war with Iraq, the defendants were acting on a personal agenda which took shape long before they assumed office. Other evidence submitted shows that a decision to invade Iraq had already been made by the Bush administration long before 9/11. In 2004, former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, who sat on the National Security Council, told CBS News' 60 Minutes:
"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," .
In November of 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in a news conference months before the invasion that the fighting in Iraq might last: “Five days or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last longer.”
US combat forces in Iraq engaged in fierce battles with insurgents up through the Obama administration's 2010 draw-down of US troop levels, with nearly 5,000 US soldiers killed by 2011. Estimates of Iraqi casualties as a result of the invasion range are in the hundreds of thousands. The bloodshed continues, with a recent battle for Mosul between US-led Iraqi government forces and insurgents claiming thousands of lives, including untold numbers of civilians.
In 2008 former Los Angeles County prosecutor Vince Bugliosi, who successfully prosecuted Charles Manson, embarked on a campaign calling for the prosecution of George W. Bush for the murder of nearly 5,000 American servicemen, by taking the US to war under "false pretenses." Bugliosi laid out his case in his book "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder," which was made into the 2012 documentary "The Prosecution of an American President."
In his research on the run-up to the Iraq invasion, Bugliosi made the discovery that the version of a key intelligence report which was given to the Congress by the Bush administration differed in an important respect from the original document. In the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, in which US intelligence agencies evaluated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, Bugliosi found that the administration had altered the portion of the report in which the likelihood of an attack by Saddam on the US was discussed. The report version given to by the Bush administration to Congress had the words deleted which read:
"Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks."
The original report opines that Saddam would probably only attack the US "if the survival of the regime were imminent." Bugliosi, who passed in 2015, held that this deliberate and substantive alteration of the original report proved a clear-cut intention on the part of the Bush administration to deceive Congress and the American people into believing that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat to United States.
The group Project for a New American Century is well-known for publishing a document which proved prescient to 9/11. In "Rebuilding America's Defenses," the think tank concluded that its agenda, which included the invasion of Iraq, was likely to take some time:
"absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor."
9/11 has in the past year been back in the news after the release of the "28 Pages," which links part of 9/11 to the government of Saudi Arabia, with which the Bush family has long had a close relationship.
The Ninth Circuit hearing will reportedly be Livestreamed, and uploaded to the Ninth Circuit Youtube channel.
Vincent Bugliosi on 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, 2008 Congressional Hearings
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
cpapermaster on December 13, 2016:
Inder Comar's summary of today's 9th Circuit Court of Appeals hearing in Saleh v. Bush with a link to the youtube video of the hearing:
9th Circuit hears oral argument in Saleh v. Bush, et al.
San Francisco, Calif. — December 12, 2016 was a historic day, marking the first time that a U.S. court heard argument related to the actions of senior Bush-era officials who were responsible for the planning and waging of the Iraq War.
Circuit court judges Andrew Hurwitz and Susan Graber and District Court judge Richard Boulware (sitting by designation on the 9th Circuit), heard argument that the immunity granted to former President George W. Bush and other officials by the federal district court related to their conduct in waging the Iraq War should be overturned. This immunity was provided in December 2014, resulting in the current appeal.
The judges spent most of oral argument focusing on the nature of the domestic immunity, questioning both counsel for the Iraqi plaintiff, Sundus Saleh, as well as counsel for the United States about where immunity ends for government officials.
The judges will issue their opinion as to whether the immunity should be overturned in the coming weeks.
Kathleen Cochran from Atlanta, Georgia on December 11, 2016:
After reading this hub I went and looked at the other hubs you've written to get a sense of where you get your information. Impressive body of work. This case will be interesting to watch. I hope those actors who trusted the information they were given are separated from those who were responsible for the misinformation.