ABSTRACT: I might say he is the antithesis of a conspiracy researcher. An almost mythological attorney who doesn’t like to see strange coincidences passed-off as empirical evidence. He can quickly turn the tables on someone thinking they’ve got their argument made, and instead make their attestation tumble like a house of cards, leaving that person dissolute and unable to substantiate the claim any longer. Many a criminal have met such a fate at the hands of Vincent Bugliosi, the bulldoggish prosecutor best known for sending Charles Manson to prison.
Since then, he has written a panoply of best-selling indictments against various monsters of the past century, often changing the reader’s mind and wondering how they could have ever thought otherwise. He destroyed the reasoning of U.S. Drug War policies; he explained to us all how O.J. Simpson got away with murder; wrote a 1600-page tomb (which I’m still reading) on how Lee Harvey Oswald murdered JFK – alone; detailed the crimes of an imperial presidency in George W. Bush; and, with his latest book, Divinity of Doubt: The God Question, tells us why agnosticism is the most responsible and reasonable position to take when it comes to the question of God’s existence.
The following essay is both a compilation and an expansion of Bugliosi’s voluminous library, including excerpts from our recent interview. A lot of quotations are made verbatim from his books, and then added with my own narrative and my own reading. I sincerely thank Vincent for the time he took for Cannabis Times, and wait anxiously for another interview in the near future.
“I don’t want to get into that right now,” he had told me. Even still, he was kind enough to afford Cannabis Times an interview for his latest, Divinity of Doubt: The God Question. “You can quote me out of my book…there are many of my books out there Kevin, and you can quote me out of them, but I don’t want any current statements on that.” Vincent was referring to my query as to whether we should possibly legalize drugs in America, sourcing from his 1991 title, Drugs in America: The Case for Victory. It was towards the end of our phone interview, and he had answered only a few of my other questions, sticking mainly to the topic of his newest literary indictment; against organized religion – theist and atheist alike.
My interest in Bugliosi’s work came last year, when I decided to pick up a used copy of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder at a second-hand book store in Pasadena. Written in 2008, he makes the legal case that our forty-third president took the United States to war in Iraq under a deliberate and brazen lie – that of an immediate threat to our nation’s security. It was a quick, incisive read. In it, he summarizes startling evidence not soon to be discussed on network television.
For example, one week before Congress was set to authorize war in Iraq, in October of 2002, George Bush (and CO.) released an unclassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). That, a compendium of sixteen intelligence agencies evaluating Saddam Hussein’s aspirations for WMD’s, was heavily edited by the Bush camp to insinuate that Hussein had, or was trying to obtain, the said-weaponry. It came to be known as the ‘White Paper.’
The thing about this ‘White Paper’ was that it had a classified version as well, which began leaking out in ‘03 and ‘04. It was discovered then that all the dissenting criticisms put forth in the final evaluation had been completely deleted by the Bush Administration and sold-off as the last word to our Congress, including language used to indicate only an analysis or judgment instead of a confirmation. The clincher: Every one of the agencies, unanimously, agreed that Hussein was not an imminent threat to the security of this nation.
One week after the approved war vote, on October 7th 2002, Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati where he told an unsuspecting public that Hussein was “a great danger to our nation” and that he could strike “on any given day.” These warnings came on the heels of other direr caveats, which constantly led the public to believe that Hussein was “a threat” that “constituted a unique danger.”
It was worse than even that. Bush, so determined to take this country to war in Iraq, even discussed flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft over Iraq, falsely painted in U.N. colors, hoping to “provoke a confrontation” with Hussein. This was recounted by David Manning, chief foreign policy advisor to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, while Bush was still having dreams of war. And it was all recounted by Bugliosi, ferocious in his claims, and after having been largely ignored by the mainstream press.
That having been said, Part One, Section Two of The Prosecution of ‘Bush for Murder, is entitled “Why George Bush Went to War.” It is, with the utmost respect, an undeservingly titled chapter which is more than just a bit disappointing. If they aren’t already known, the true reasons for going to war in Iraq are the same antiquated privileges that we, as an American collective, are inclined to forget. In two words: cheap oil. Immediately after stealing the 2000 election (another topic Bugliosi deals with in his book Betrayal of America), Bush Jr. signed an executive order creating the U.S. National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG), headed by Darth Cheney. Although the final report has yet to be fully disclosed, FOIA requests eventually uncovered what the energy task force was studying: the remaining oil reserves in Iraq – totaling 11% of the world’s petroleum. The report also included corporations considered for oil contracts.
Going back further than even this evidence are the notorious PNAC Documents. That dastardly Neo-Conservative think tank, Project for the New American Century, was comprised of such real-life Dr. Evils’ as Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton – all men who swam in ‘lil Bush’s administration and inner circle. Its final report, Rebuilding America’s Defenses, had specified Iraq as a country in need of a new leader. This is long after having first put Saddam Hussein in power in the late 60’s, and nearing a decade after widespread support for him during our proxy war against the Iranians, and his elimination of the Kurdish tribes. Unlikely to garner support for this venture of imperialism, the 21st Century Hitlerites suggested the need for a “New Pearl Harbor” to catalyze public opinion and shift attention towards a common goal of hegemony. This event came to fruition in New York City soon after.
Investigative journalist Russ Baker’s meticulously detailed Family of Secrets provides even more evidence from a year before, in which he quotes Texas journalist Mickey Herskowitz, who was commissioned to help write Bush’s first book, A Charge to Keep. “He [Bush] was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” Herkowitz recounted to Baker. “My father,” Bush supposedly told him during an interview, “had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait, and he wasted it…If I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it.” Herkowitz was subsequently fired from the project for failing to follow the program. In other words, he brought up the subject of Bush’s undeniable AWOL status, in which he disappeared from his last two years of National Guard service, evidently tired from saving Texas from the nonexistent Vietnamese invaders.
Regardless of these omissions, the evidence presented by Bugliosi undeniably proves Bush as a murderer. And as much as I loved the critical, unusually controversial indictment, I was upset that he was incorrect on a few certain aspects, leaving out the true motivation of Bush that I – as a damn fine conspiracy researcher – was determined to point out to him. Nonetheless, I wanted to read more of his titles, and – pray – secure that precious interview.
Around this time I began hearing rumblings about his next title, dealing with the ‘god question.’ Wikipedia had a small entry stating that Bugliosi was “an agnostic…open to the ideas of deism.” That entry evolved into his most recent 338-page book that has been deemed ‘An Agnostic’s Manifesto.’
It’s a special subject for me, being an agnostic since around the age of six or seven, when first posing that all-important, unanswerable question to my family: Why would God create Man knowing he was going to send him to hell? The question has never been, nor likely to ever be, answered, except by those willing to use a little logic when discerning the scripture involved.
Preparing for my solicitation of Bugliosi led to a towering stack of books on my dining room table. One of them, Drugs In America, was a title written 20 years ago at a period when narcotics were considered to be the number one menace to our society. Dealing with another favored topic of mine, Bugliosi wrote:
“The phenomenon when it comes to the drug problem, for some unfathomable reason this nation refuses to change its policies, regardless of the failure they have proven to be. In the war on drugs, the mind-set seems to be: I came, I saw, I concurred. An effort is called for to at least speculate on the dynamics behind the intellectual inertia (and hernia) which has caused our government to continue to employ an ineffective battle plan, and that will most likely cause it to refuse to employ changes recommended in this book.”
And what were those revolutionary ideas advocated? Collectively, they are known as the ‘Phoenix Solution.’ First articulating the futility and hypocrisy of the current policy, Bugliosi averred:
"When Florida’s dealers and traffickers are caught and prosecuted, who represents them? Very frequently, as is the case throughout the country, former prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s officer, who, before they switched sides, had specialized in prosecuting major drug cases; IE, they are now defending the very types of drug traffickers they once vigorously prosecuted. The source of their six – and sometimes seven – figure fees that allow them to live regally in places like walled-and-gated Bay Point in Miami? Their clients’ drug profits. And the game goes on.”
He then enunciates two distinct measures that, he believes, would reject this paradoxical policy and actually begin to reduce the drug problem down to manageable levels. The first, a series of ‘search and find missions,’ would call upon the executive office to go into foreign nations who grow and distribute drugs – specifying cocaine throughout the book – and to bring the growers to justice.
“What is meant by this,” the logistical tactician writes, “is the deployment of American military forces on Columbian soil for the specific and limited purpose of apprehending and bringing to the U.S. for criminal prosecution the drug kingpins who are responsible for the cocaine blitz of America.” He then correctly points out that the American Empire has been launching attacks against nations who have been far less of a threat than the drug blitzkrieg.
Sourcing from a 1952 Supreme Court case, he documents the many American presidents who have neglected the explicit Constitutional requirement of a vote and declaration for war – numbering 125 cases since only that date in which the Armed Forces have been sent abroad illegally. We can add at least one more number to that total with Emperor Obama’s invasion of Libya. Instead of this, Bugliosi says, we should forego any operation even resembling a military strike, and instead make it an act of law enforcement under the Posse Commitatus Act.
Meaning exactly, ‘The Power of the State,’ Posse Commitatus in the days of old allowed Kings and Queens to summon their citizenry to act in accordance for any and all biddings pronounced by the ruling monarchs. If nonsensicality isn’t gleaned immediately from that idea, a reading of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense will give you a beautiful explanation on why that policy needed to go. And even more so, the American Posse Commitatus Act of 1878 did the precise opposite: forbidding use of the military on domestic U.S. soil.
Arranging words and numbers of the legislation together, Bugliosi believes it’s something entirely different when applying the law to foreign missions. “As opposed then,” he writes, “to a typical military invasion, this would be a very limited search and find mission by the number of American military personnel deemed necessary by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to accomplish the job” – gesticulating again the need to take out the Drug Lords of Columbia.
The second proposal is a bit more complicated. Since drug cartels have polished a near-seamless method of money laundering, he argues that the U.S. should introduce a new form of currency into the market: One for domestic transactions, and another for transactions outside of the U.S. Comparing his proposition with a situation during the Vietnam War (and for the sake of a better explanation), I’ll quote again verbatim:
G.I.’s were selling U.S. dollars to the Vietnamese currency, because they could get more piasters (also called dong) for dollars this way than by going to an official exchange. These dollars often found their way into Communist hands, and since piasters were unacceptable to foreign manufacturers and arms merchants, the Communists would use the dollars to buy their arms and munitions. To prevent this, the U.S. military started paying G.I.’s not in dollars but in scrip called MPC’s (Military Payment Certificates). The scrip had the same value as dollars but could only be used at American facilities, such as the officers’ and enlisted men’s’ clubs. Since scrip had no value outside of Vietnam, it could not be used by the Communists to buy the means of war from foreign sellers.”
Basically, his idea would make it so that money becomes disadvantageous to Drug Lords outside of this country. And, just to be sure, Bugliosi also argues – with his trademark prosecutorial prose – that we place IRS agents inside of banking institutions throughout the land, always to be vigilant of the potential drug launderer. Certain to upset civil libertarians everywhere, he says that “without the money launderer, virtually all federal drug officials believe that cocaine drug trafficking in America would he dealt an incapacitating blow.”
The last chapter of this book dealt with an issue very familiar to me: the legalization of narcotics. Although not listed as one of his proposals, the many pages written on the potential benefits of drug legalization left me wondering why it wasn’t. Before I verbalize some of the reasons, a brief crash course on criminal law, taken from Latin, is in order – per Mr. Bugliosi. If, as a demonstration, someone happened to look outside their window and bear witness to a robbery, or murder, or arson taking place, there is little doubt that the immediate reaction would be one of horror. Instinctively, the basic code of human morality dictates a sense that something’s wrong, and negates any urge to grab a philosophy book or reference of law in hope of clarification.
On the other hand, if one were to peer outside that same window and see a person standing beside a cloud of thick, luminous smoke, one would not likely be as aghast, and might only consider the ethics involved if it was already predisposed as being wrong. Otherwise, what’s the reason for concern? A ‘true crime’, the first illustration, is wrong in itself – malum in se. The second example, malum prohibitum, becomes a crime only because it is unacceptable to the State. Vincent would no doubt correct me and specify it as a ‘public welfare or regulatory offense.’
“Under certain circumstances,” the legendary lawman writes, “one might feel sorry for such a person, feel him to be unwise, or sick, or hedonistic, or what have you, but unless you would likewise consider immoral or evil someone who is hurting himself by smoking a pack of cigarettes, drinking himself blind-drunk, or hitting his head against a wall, you would have no reason to consider the drug user or his act evil.” He also correctly points out that if drug use was a ‘true crime’ it would make all Vietnam veterans, adolescent delinquents, and previous societies, who have dabbled in substance use, undistinguishable from Charles Manson himself.
The remedy proposed, so subtly, by Vincent? Instead of legalization, he says that the U.S. should only suspend the legal framework, and abdicate current law enforcement procedures. A sort of puritan’s vision for decriminalization. However, it is my opinion – because I’m inclined to give one – that state regulation would be in order to insure proper facilitation. Heroin, for example, is four times as powerful as morphine, and could, as Vincent also argues, allow bone cancer patients to live the rest of the their lives pain free. But that’s not to say that bags of black tar should be sold on Ice-Cream trucks outside of schools. Savvy?
Although Vincent says that “legalization…is not a solution, only a different approach whose advantages may, or may not, outweigh the disadvantages,” the recently-released Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy adds credulity to his (and my own) arguments, declaring that “the global war on drugs has failed.” The 17-page report, headed by such international namesakes as Richard Brandon, of Virgin fame, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, and three former presidents of Latin American countries, said that “drug policies and strategies at all levels too often continue to be driven by ideological perspectives, or political convenience, and pay too little attention to the complexities of the drug market, drug use and drug addiction.”
Conspiratorial as it might be, there is also a very well-chronicled legacy of U.S. government operations involving narco-trafficking, which would obviously compromise any proclaimed mission of a “drug free” America. There is circumstantial evidence that Bush Senior, the namesake who is the nemesis of my narrative, might also be indicted. Two lawyers, one representing the Columbian hit team who gunned down infamous drug runner Barry Seal (also mentioned in ‘Drugs) in the middle of Baton Rouge on the night of February 19, 1986, and another lawyer who represented Seal during a 1980’s trial, vouch for this dubious claim.
Sam Dalton, defense representative of the Medellin Cartel’s hit men, told journalist Daniel Hopsicker that during preliminary hearings, he obtained a phone number found in Seal’s car trunk. That number was a private line to the Office of the Vice President. Lewis Unglesby, representing Seal, said that he once called the number, and received a secretary from the office. Although only circumstantial, Bush Senior is the former head of the CIA; comes from a dynasty long associated with SpyCraft (detailed in Russ Baker’s wonderful inquiry); while Seal is admitted as being on the CIA payroll during the height of his drug running. Sourcing from a 1998 CIA Inspector General’s report of Contra-era cocaine trafficking, the CIA admitted to ‘briefing’ then Vice-President Bush on how it lied to Congress about cocaine running by its agents. A prosecutor would no doubt have his own questions about such “revisionist” history.
Vincent Bugliosi lives on the suburban outskirts of Los Angeles. That, and our mutual enemy, mark at least two things that we have in common. When going on book tours, he likes to stay close to home and with his wife, Gail. When Divinity of Doubt was published in April, he started the same way; going to local book shops, doing telephone interviews, and lecturing on our many college campuses. This is how I found out about one of his first presentations being given, at a book fair hosted at USC.
Bringing along Clarissa, my ex-pseudo-part-time girlfriend, we went over to the campus, received our free tickets to Vincent’s colloquy, and made our way into the auditorium, where roughly 200-plus people were sitting down waiting for the man to arrive. And then he did; and he spoke of god, and all the things we had wrong about him.
Bugliosi’s arguments for agnosticism formulate two palpable conclusions, at least from what I gathered. First: We are not, as a species, capable of understanding anything outside of the observable Universe. Second: We are, as a species, expected to produce mythology in replacement for this shortcoming, even if those fairy tales have proven to be fraudulent, misleading, contradictory, hypocritical or – as quite often is the case – deleterious.
After the 45 minute speech was over, we all went outside and began lining up for the book signing. I hadn’t purchased his new book yet, and instead brought along The Prosecution of Bush, while Clarissa brought along her copy of Helter Skelter. “I hope he doesn’t see the other fella’s signature,” I remember musing aloud. It was, after all, a used copy, already once signed by Vincent. And I am, coincidently, a used journalist, just trying to figure some shit out in the world.