Speaking to a roomful of progressive voters in a private Oak View residence, former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega apologized that her indictment of the current presidential administration — which culminated in her 2006 book, United States v. George W. Bush et al. — was “hypothetical.”
As the guest speaker for the July 21 Vote Blue Central Coast benefit, de la Vega discussed what had driven her to compile allegations against President Bush, Vice President Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Former Secretary of State Colin Powell for conspiracy to defraud the United States.
De la Vega described the book as “law-based and very accessible,” acknowledging that although there were academic indictments already addressing the subject, a readable volume seemed absent from the debate.
After retiring in the fall of 2004 after more than 20 years of experience as a federal prosecutor, de la Vega began writing for TomDispatch, the Web log of Tom Engelhardt, a fellow of the Nation Institute, an organization focused on independent media.
“After six months I told him it was clear there was more than enough evidence we’d been defrauded, that [the evidence] fit within the elements of a federal crime,” said de la Vega. “I started gathering evidence [against the Bush administration] like I would in any criminal case.”
An article in the November 14, 2005, issue of The Nation magazine, titled “The White House Criminal Conspiracy,” outlined her arguments
“Conspiracy is the agreement to commit a crime,” de la Vega said to the crowd in Oak View. She referred to the 56th item in her indictment charges that “on or about September 6, 2002, Rove and [Andrew] Card publicly announced [in a New York Times interview] that … [the Bush-Cheney administration’s] public-relations campaign was specifically directed at forcing Congress to pass a resolution authorizing the president to use military force in Iraq,” which she categorized as “admission of one part of crime.”
“It’s similar to any kind of fraud — contracts, selling bogus cure-alls. The Enron analogy is one I chose.”
Listing examples of what she classified as overt fraud, de la Vega referred to the Sept. 7, 2002, joint public appearance of Bush and then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, wherein Bush referred to “a recent [International Atomic Energy Agency] report stating that Iraq was ‘six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon.’“
De la Vega noted that no IAEA inspection had been conducted in Iraq since 1998, at which point the IAEA concluded that the country lacked the ability to produce “weapons-usable nuclear material” or that it had ever “attempted to obtain such material.”
“We at the same time had inspectors begging us not to invade Iraq,” said de la Vega. “We now have overwhelming evidence of fraud far worse than the Enron fraud, in scope and in consequence. We have an ongoing crime.”
“The final clinch,” as de la Vega referred to it, was Bush’s July 2002 assertion that Iraq was not cooperating with weapons inspectors. She cited the Downing Street Memo, where, she said, the head of British intelligence got the sense that pre-war intelligence would be manipulated by the Bush administration to fit around a policy of invading Iraq.
In closing, de la Vega referred to the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese, a Brooklyn resident who was stabbed to death in view and within earshot of several of her neighbors, but who did not receive assistance until long after she had been fatally wounded.
Addressing the question of undertaking a trial of such a magnitude, de la Vega said, “There was a bystander effect [in Genovese’s case], with so many seeing the crime which was occurring, but no one acting as individual. We cannot let Congress just walk away from such a serious crime. We can’t — like the neighbors of Kitty Genovese — just walk away always thinking someone else is going to do it.”
Attendees were impressed by the scope of de la Vega’s project.
“I admire her fortitude in sticking to this,” Donald Wallace of Camarillo said.
For Wallace, the notion of a fraudulent war was unbearable.
“I taught at Camarillo High School for 31 years,” he said. “I saw several of my students go off to Vietnam and be killed. We all did.”
Although de la Vega does not advocate impeachment proceedings in her book, Ventura resident (and audience member) Cindy Piester of Ventura was vocal in her support of such a movement.
“My husband’s a Vietnam vet, and I live with the cost of war on a daily basis.
Impeachment is the remedy. If we don’t do it, the next administration will feel free to run rampant.”