Yesterday, George W. Bush was paid $175,000 to speak about leadership to various Riverside County public officials at Casino Morongo in Cabazon. Occupy Riverside, Occupy Coachella Valley, Answer LA, Veterans for Peace, and various other community organizations and members came to mark Bush’s visit to Riverside County under the theme “Never Forgive, Never Forget.” Local media coverage of the event is available here and here.
I was asked to speak by my compatriots in Occupy Riverside and here’s an expanded version of the speech I gave:
I can’t say that I’m happy to be here today but I know that this is exactly where I need to be. Today is a sad day. Today a murderous criminal, an unelected dictator, walks around free while one of our democracy’s great heroes sits at trial accused of being an enemy of the state. I just heard today that the Army is filing an additional 22 charges against Bradley Manning. I ask you: What kind of state is it in which telling the truth makes you an enemy of the state but those who tell the most base lies to the American people and commit the gravest of crimes walk around free?
That is why I say today is a sad day and this is also why I know that this is exactly where I need to be. I know that someone needs to remind our fellow citizens that a murderous dictator is walking around free here today. Though I wish it were under better circumstances, it warms my heart to see so many of you here as well. I know that it must have taken a strong commitment to justice to bring you out here to the desert today. Look around. We are not alone.
My hope is that the next time all of us meet George W. Bush will be wearing handcuffs. Until the day comes when Bush is arrested and made to account for his crimes, every day will be a sad day. Seeing all of you here makes me hopeful that that day of justice will come sooner rather than later. I know that if we are to have a democracy that it has to happen. It may take 30 years but it will happen.
It took the people of Guatemala 30 years to bring the murderous dictator Rios Montt to trial. Yes, sadly it is true that although he remains in house arrest, Rios Montt’s conviction was overturned on a technicality. This is an injustice no doubt, but we must not lose sight of the fact that for the people of Guatemala the greater justice was the process of the trial itself. The crimes of a government regime of mass murder, sponsored at every step by the Washington power elite, were brought to the light of day. Victims were able to claim their stories and to make the atrocities that they witnessed a matter of public record. Telling the truth in public exposes crimes for what they are and in so doing prevents similar crimes from being repeated in the future.
That’s why we need a trial for George W. Bush. Not for the sake of punishing an individual, as deserving as he may be. We need a trial for the deeper purpose of exposing the culture of corporate and government criminality that pervades our society today. This culture of criminality is what allows Wall St. bankers to rob us with full confidence that they will never be made to account for their systematic thievery. This culture of criminality is what allows the Obama Administration to shred the Constitution as it sees fit, with its extrajudicial assassination program and the total surveillance of every form of private communication for every American that it has enacted. This culture of criminality is what allowed the head of the National Security Agency, to tell an outright lie to the US Senate when he was asked a direct question as to whether any type of data was being collected on millions of Americans. When our public officials feel unremorseful and unabashed about lying to the Senate, what else do they think they have license to do?
As long as Bush walks free, the power elite know that they are unaccountable, that there is no limit to the crimes that they can commit in our name. It is important to remember that the total surveillance program that Obama has brought to fruition was dreamt up by Bush’s employees. It took Obama’s competence to execute Bush’s fascist dream. The two go hand in hand. J. Edgar Hoover lies in his grave in awe.
If we were to list Bush’s crimes today we would be here a very long time. That being said, in my estimation, there is one set of crimes that stand above the rest. That is the deliberate fabrication of intelligence that made possible the Iraq War. The fact that intelligence was forged at the behest of the Bush Administration in order to make the case for war stands already as a matter of public record. I ask you: What else do we need to know? What could be a greater crime in a democracy than lying the public into a war of aggression? Kill a single person with a gun and you will be denounced as a murderer for the rest of your life. But evidently, if you orchestrate the killing of hundreds of thousands, not only are you able to walk around free. You’re even paid $175,000 to spend an afternoon sharing your thoughts about the meaning of leadership.
This state of affairs will not last. It cannot last. Bush himself knows this. I guarantee you that already today, before he thinks about travelling to a foreign country, Bush has to ask himself and his lawyers whether or not it would be safe for him. Already today, I do not believe that his lawyers would recommend that he visit Argentina or Spain. Every year the list of places that Bush is not welcome will grow, and every year he will find himself more and more a prisoner. The day will come, I am sure of it, when Bush will not even be safe in Texas. For the sake of our democracy, I hope that day comes sooner rather than later.