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One Toke Over The Line: University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies To Grant George W. Bush an International Service Award: Part Six of an Open Series

August 22, 2013
Daniel Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg – the Bradley Manning of the Vietnam War Era..Bradley Manning should be receiving a human rights award; George W. Bush should be facing trial for war crimes…

“So you think you’ve hit bottom? Oh No! There’s a bottom below!”

– Malvina Reynolds –

“The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war so Mr. Bush has to be into trouble now!”

Yasmeen Bartar – (a friend of my Facebook friend, Paul Wolf) – on Facebook


Part One of the Series

Part Two of the Series

Part Three of the Series

Part Four of the Series

Part Five of the Series

And here I thought Part Five of this series was `the end’, that there was nowhere else to go, that five articles of 1500-2000 words on the award the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies is to give to George W. Bush was enough, and that I’d covered the subject about as exhaustively as possible. The last piece – about Bush’s supposed contribution to fighting HIV/AIDS world wide, especially in Africa – was especially interesting to research and learn about. From what can be gleened from different sources, Bush’s main contribution to eliminating AIDS consists of photo ops with what appear to be poor African kids. He hugs them a lot and smiles and the photos are then transmitted worldwide.

But then, but then two articles popped up from a Google search that give more texture, perspective to the said award whose title has changed from an `improving the human condition’ award – that one was REALLY cynical, to a `global service’ award (which if you think about it – you know – the bombs, the torture, the destruction of two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan and many others – isn’t any better), but we’ve been over the ground before.

Then these popped up:

“Jeb Bush to Award Hillary Clinton With 2013 Liberty Medal”

Obama DOJ Asks Court to Grant Immunity to George W. Bush For Iraq War

They both deserve comment.

Concerning Jeb and Hillary

Sooooo, let’s see – on Sept 9, the Korbel School at D.U. will present George W. Bush with a `global service award’ and the very next day, George W’s brother Jeb, rumored to be a presidential hopeful, will present Hillary Clinton with `The Liberty Medal’ in Philadephia. So Dems and Republicans are `making nice’ before they go at one another? It’s getting funny…all this award stuff.

Tis the season, I guess, to smile, hold your nose, and give some skunk an award, the more cynical the better.

Comments from friends on Jeb Bush offering Hillary Clinton `the Liberty Medal’ (whatever that might be)  are worth citing. They come from private emails and `Facebook’:

“The pro wrestling metaphor is really appropriate here—fake conflict in the ring, but all on the same side.”

” I find this highly entertaining and not surprising.”

“Friends forgive me, I thought I have seen the depth of decadence but I am wrong, Man is capable of sinking lower than one could imagine”

“There is a line from a folk song by one Malvina Reynolds. ‘So you think you’ve hit bottom, oh no! There’s a bottom below.”

“There is no bottom: war criminals and thugs all, they can’t get enough of each others’ lips on their own asses.”

“We long ago passed the point where these things astound us anymore. It sometimes reminds me of when I first read about the corrupt and insane Roman ruler, Caligula. Read about Caligula to understand the depths of decadent corruption that occurs with empires in decline and then you will see all the sign posts of where we all now are.”

In the end, this award ping-pong is just an example of ruling class solidarity. Those on the top on occasion, need to remind each other, especially in the heat of battle over how many social programs to cut and where to intervene militarily in the world next,  that,  despite their differences, they remain, as they have long been `on the same side.’ It is also something of a ritualistic prelude to battle, ie – they give each other awards before taking off their gloves and going at each other bare-fisted to control the presidency, which brings with it all kinds of financial and political benefits, both while in office and afterwards.

Of course there are the more concrete matters. Jeb Bush has to reshape the Bush image if he is going to be able to make a successful run for the presidency, what better way to appear `magnanimous’ – and thus `presidential’ than to give a possible (?), probable (?) competitor an award? As to the reasons for the curious award that the University of Denver is offering George W. Bush, a month after penning some ideas about this, I stick to my previous explanations, which if you want more details you can read about here.

Concerning Obama’s DOJ (Department of Justice) asking a California court to grant immunity from prosecution to George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz for having planned and executed an illegal war according to international law

Representing the Obama Administration, Ruppa Bhattacharyya, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General argued against indicting the possible co-defendants on the grounds that they all were “acting each within the scope of their federal office or employment at the time of incidents…out of which the matters arose.” Incidents? a rather soft way to refer to the wholesale destruction, by sanctions, air, ground assault of a nation! The case is not unique. During the height of the Iraq War, there were voices calling for impeachment. After Bush left office, other voices  both domestic and international called for Bush Administrations figures to be indicted for war crimes, initiatives immediately squelched by Obama, early in his first administration.

The plaintiff in this case is one Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee living in Jordan. She filed a complaint in  in San Francisco federal court  in March of this year alleging that the planning and waging of the war constituted a “crime of aggression” against Iraq, a legal theory that was used by the Nuremberg Tribunal to convict Nazi war criminals after World War II. I guess Ms. Saleh was not impressed with George Bush’s photo ops in Africa contending that he is leading the effort to eliminate HIV/AIDS.

As an article from the website “” noted:

In her lawsuit, Saleh alleges that:

— Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz began planning the Iraq War in 1998 through their involvement with the “Project for the New American Century,” a Washington DC non-profit that advocated for the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

— Once they came to power, Saleh alleges that Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz convinced other Bush officials to invade Iraq by using 9/11 as an excuse to mislead and scare the American public into supporting a war.

— Finally, she claims that the United States failed to obtain United Nations approval prior to the invasion, rendering the invasion illegal and an act of impermissible aggression.

Ms. Saleh does seem to be arguing on rock solid ground. Interestingly enough, the DOJ did not try to counter the charges, but instead argued that Bush and Co should have immunity based upon what is called “The Westfall Act” (1988), a piece of Congressional legislation which permits the attorney general at his or her discretion, to substitute the United States government as a defendant and to “essentially” grant immunity for actions taken by people working for the government. It is a nice precursor to the 2001 Patriot Act and in some ways lays the groundwork for it. Think of how many crimes of state – illegal (by U.S. and International law) wars, illegal surveillance, COINTELPRO type activities by an assortment of federal agencies – might have taken advantage of Westfall Act provisions!

In light of recent events, this particular court case is of special interest and is part and parcel of the bipartisan effort to reshape the Bush legacy. Certainly one element of this is more political than legal – ie, to restore a certain respect for the office of the presidency which was greatly eroded during the Bush presidency as a result of Bush’s foreign wars, the unprecedented invasion of privacy (in the name of fighting terrorism) which began under Bush with the passing of the Patriot Act (but has been greatly expanded by Obama) and the reckless manner in which Bush guided the economy, his failure to respond not only to the September 11, 2001 attack, but also to the New Orleans flood of 2005 (another case by the way for which  Bush should have been indicted on a number of charges), etc. etc. In any case, certainly, to reshape the Bush legacy is to try to salvage the respect for the presidency. But after the damage of the Bush years – nearly a decade – this is, by the way, a very hard sell and it is unlikely that no amount of great photo ops or cynical awards will work – nor do I believe – help brother Jeb in his possible 2016 presidential bid.

But there are legal considerations as well as Ms. Saleh’s case suggests. That the federal government, in fashioning the Westfall Act in the first place, was essentially pre-empting such legal challenges and protecting its own from future prosecution is fairly obvious. The federal government understood well – as can be seen from the Bush years torture memos – that it was about to violate international law in both its domestic and foreign policies. The Bush Administration prepared to defend itself in two ways: first to rewrite, according to dubious legal memos, international law to justify military intervention, torture etc; and secondly in case such a legal basis turns out to be shaky (as it did) to claim what amounts to as executive immunity to defend its leaders, those indeed who should be held responsible.

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