Last weekend the Massachusetts School of Law sponsored a forum. Some of the country’s greatest legal minds were there. Among them also were one or two brilliant Brits. They convened to discuss “Planning for the Prosecution of High Level American War Criminals.”
The headliner of the event was Vincent Bugliosi. Bugliosi built his reputation a few decades back when he prosecuted Charles Manson for the Tate-LaBianca murders. He wrote a best-seller detailing the senseless slaughter and legal aftermath titled “Helter Skelter, the True Story of the Manson Murders.”
He spoke at the conference about his most recent best-seller, “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder.” Looking into the eyes of the man who looked into the eyes of Charles Manson, one could see that his conclusions were quite deliberate.
Still, convicting a man for murder who has never touched the murder weapon is an interesting concept. That’s what Bugliosi did in the case of Charles Manson and it’s what he says he can do in the case of President Bush.
You can decide if you agree when you read his book.
Most of the other speakers discussed charging the administration with political crimes. Torture was high on the list.
A July 24 USA Today story outlined what has been the United States government’s unapologetic policy on torture since 2002. A U.S. Justice Department memo expanded the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” to include waterboarding, dog threats, etc. USA Today elaborated, “The Aug. 1, 2002, memo signed by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee was issued the same day he wrote a memo for then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales defining torture as only those ‘extreme acts’ that cause pain similar in intensity to that caused by death or organ failure. That memo was never rescinded.”
A different lawyer, not Bugliosi, tackled some of these alleged human rights violations. He was almost the mirror opposite of Bugliosi. Bugliosi’s fiery demeanor and passionate delivery were perfectly contrasted by this man’s soft-spoken nature and almost detached countenance.
Peter Weiss, an expert on international law and a lifelong friend of justice, explained the notion of “universal jurisdiction.” Universal jurisdiction is invoked when the crimes are so appalling that the perpetrator should literally have no place to hide. Spain used the universal jurisdiction model against Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. Police in London honored it and arrested him. The universal jurisdiction concept allows one country to summon and another country to arrest even though the alleged crimes took place in a third country. Details of the Pinochet proceedings can be found on the Human Rights Watch Web site.
Weiss explained his theory as it pertained to charges leveled against Donald Rumsfeld in France and Germany and hypothesized whether such international charges could ever stick.
But the most fascinating part of Weiss’ talk wasn’t what he said, it was who he is.
Weiss has a long history as a fighter for justice. The day before he was to argue a case against the U.S. government for illegally bombing Cambodia, the Nixon administration halted the bombings.
Weiss gets more fascinating the further back in time you go. Born and raised in Austria, Weiss and his family fled the Nazi invasion of 1938. They moved to France for two short years when they once again had to run from Hitler’s invading forces. Eventually they made it to the United States where Weiss joined the army. Because Weiss was a native German speaker, he and other exiled European Jews interrogated high-ranking German prisoners.
After leaving everything behind not once — but twice — while the Nazi machine murdered or attempted to murder every Jewish friend or family member that Peter Weiss left behind in Europe, imagine the sort of rage he must have felt.
Peter Weiss never tortured a German POW.
He had escaped a regime that had no respect for human rights. And he knew that his new country — one that had offered him sanctuary — must never lose sight of its morality or ethics no matter how brutal or desperate the circumstances. Whether it’s bombing Cambodia or torturing prisoners, Weiss works to stop the U.S. from being unjust, and returning it to its greatness.
Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is a spokesperson for The Olympia Group and its campaign for a casino in Oxford County. She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.