A Nation Deceived (2006)
full title: A Nation Deceived: Being a Complete Transcript of America's First Presidential Felony Trial in the Court of Common Opinion, a Staged Reading of a Play in Two Acts.
Director: Craig S. Barnes (also the writer).
Starring: Mary Woods (reporter Sandra Jones), Edward Asner (The Old Man), Liam Lockhart (Bush's attorney Joe Ranger), Paul Blott (Rumsfeld's attorney Wiley Chance), Rod Harrison (Cheney's attorney Samuel Pounder), JD Garfield (bailiff), Kerry Kehoe (Judge Worthington Stern), Clara Soister (Representative Geraldine Worthy), Christopher Dempsey (CIA agent "Mr. Smith"), Zack Gould (man with camera), John Flax (Professor Adam Rabinowitz), Grady Hughes (Assistant Secretary James Hillman), Stefany Burrowes (historian Samantha Thomas).
Bush and Cheney lie the nation into a war with Iraq
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Reporter Sandra Jones introduces the trial for her television station. She says that we are here to witness a trail never seen before in this country. "Never before has a president of the United States, his Vice President and his Secretary of Defense been called to account to justify their reasons for going to war." She then virtually accuses the public interest lawyer bringing the case of fomenting class war in America. She refers to the ideas of his opponents as "more balanced opinions". "This is Sandra Jones from the Court of Common Opinion."
The prosecutor referred to as the Old Man arrives first. The President's lawyer tries to reach an accommodation with the Old Man, who replies: "If he would be willing to go to jail, I suppose I could agree to that." Then the Old Man asks for a foreign document called "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oil", but the President's lawyer plays dumb.
The next lawyer comes in and says to the Old Man that there are a great many people who believe he is being paid for by Iranians. The Old Man turns the tables on the lawyer saying that his crowd has been in bed with the Iranians much more than he.
The Judge comes in. The Old Man introduces his case against Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. He says that ". . . we have a rogue leader on the loose who has decided pretty much he can say what he wants, make war when he wants against any nation that he wants, puts people in jail when he wants, suspends habeas corpus and suspends the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution.. . . we are losing 700 years of the most important legal tradition in the history of the planet. We will show that these defendants lied about their intentions for this war, lied about the justifications for this war and lied about the conduct of the war. . . . It was a fraud against Congress."
The President's lawyer says the purpose of the trial is to undermine the people's faith in their president. The next lawyer, Pounder for Vice President Cheney, says we must find out who is paying for these people and who is behind the case. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's lawyer Wiley Chance uses the existence of violence and bloodshed in the world to justify the actions of the three men.
The judges tells the prosecutor that he will have to prove that these three defendants knew they were lying.
The Old Man calls his first witness, Representative Geraldine Worthy. She voted for the resolution that gave the president permission to go to war against Iraq. She testifies that on September 25, 2002 the president said that he did not know if he was going to war against Iraq, but in March, six months earlier, he told Condi Rice: "Fuck Sadam. We are taking him out." Rumsfeld told her and others that they knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. In October 2002 they gave us a 25-page booklet making it sound like they had the intelligence to support their claims. (The booklet was a condensed version of a CIA report, leaving out the doubts and uncertainties.)
The Old Man asks her if in the fall of 2002 Vice President Cheney said he knew Sadam was planning a nuclear weapons program. She says Mr. Cheney said it was a "fact". The source was Al Libby, who was regarded as an unreliable source by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Cheney knew that Libby didn't know, but he pretended to act as if he did know. The representative says that they lied to Congress "and for that you are supposed to go to jail." The war began March 20, 2003, while on March 6 Bush was still saying he had not decided on war. He said he was doing his best to avoid it, unless we have to.
The Old Man asks basically if the Congressional men and women are stupid. She says: "You cannot last very long in politics out on a limb by yourself." In the State of the Union message the president had said that we would fight only if war was forced upon us. The Old Man asks is there an award in Congress for being really naive? The judge cautions the prosecutor that he is hassling his own witness.
In the first week Bush was in office, the whole cabinet discussed going to war against Iraq. Nine months into the administration came 9/11. The next day the president asked Richard Clarke to find justification for attacking Iraq. Clarke objected that there wasn't any justification. The president said: "Go find it!" November 2001 the president asked Rumsfeld if he was ready with war plans. Rumsfeld says he is working on it. There was no connection between 9/11 and Iraq but they still were preparing for war. June 2002 the president announces a policy to allow pre-emptive war where he could invade Iraq. All the while Bush was saying that he was seeking peace.
Rumsfeld in June 2002 says that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The Old Man laughs. The lawyers for the defense keep objecting, but most are overruled. But Congress still did not catch on, say the Old Man. . Sadam gives a long report saying they dismantled their weapons. Rumsfeld said it was too much evidence of absence, a smoke screen. The Old Man criticizes Congress and makes fun of the representatives.
March 16, 2003, four days before the war, Cheney went on TV and said that they knew Sadam was going to produce nuclear weapons and that he was connected to Al Qaeda. Nine months earlier, July 2002, the president told Prime Minister Tony Blair's people that they did not yet have the evidence but they would go to war anyway. And just before the mid-term elections, the three defendants started the campaign theme of America cannot wait until there is a mushroom cloud. The Old Man insults the president and his comments have to be stricken.
Mr. Pounder says that the president always has to plan for possibilities even if the possibilities of actual occurrence are low. A mistake is not a fraud. The representative replies that all the mistakes were all committed in one direction: for war.
The president pushed the idea of Al Qaeda and then would say he could not make that claim followed by suggestions that there is a connection.
Mr. Ranger says that many presidents have had to bend the rules during war, including Lincoln. And in political campaigns almost all politicians bend the truth a bit, but they are not thrown in jail. The Old Man makes the point that she never told the whoppers as did the three defendants. After the Old Man and the judge take a break, Bush and Cheney's lawyers offer their own justifications for the president's actions. When court continues the Old Man reiterates the point that the president was talking peace, while preparing for war.
The prosecutor calls a witness from the CIA they call "Mr. Smith". He coordinated all the intelligence for the Middle East for the time in question. The CIA reported to the president that Iraq did not have nuclear weapons, was not trying to get nuclear weapons and did not appear to reconstitute its nuclear program. The president told Congress the exact opposite. They sent at least 31 Iraqi-Americans over to Iraq to find out about the nuclear weapons program and they all reported back that there was no longer any such program. The intelligence was that war against Iraq could and should be avoided. The evidence was withheld from the Congress. Cheney kept demanding more evidence from the CIA. The evidence reported to the Congress was cherry-picked for just the positive evidence to go to war. The administration hid the real evidence from Congress and the people.
Mr. Chance says that every advanced nation's intelligence was reporting evidence for war. "Mr. Smith" says that is untrue.
The Foreign Minister of Iraq was working with the CIA and he told them that they did not have a program for nuclear weapons.
It is reported that there is an uproar in Congress as the Court of Common Opinion continues being televised.
The Old Man calls James Hillman, former assistant secretary of defense, to the stand. The witness says that torture was forbidden. Is water-boarding torture? Hillman says extreme pressure is not torture. The Old Man wants to have Hillman go through the process, but Hillman absolutely and indignantly refuses and says: "I am not a criminal. . . . I am not a terrorist."
The court is in recess. Mr. Pounder asks that a staff member send a message to Bill O'Reilly of Fox News from the Vice President. Give him evidence for threats coming from Iran. Mr. Ranger says that Bush's popularity is down to 30 percent of the American people. Mr. Pounder concludes they are in danger of losing the case and have to go to Plan B. Mr. Ranger starts to have some qualms of conscience. He tells he Old Man to prepare for war with Iran so the administration can avoid the consequences of the trial.
Reporter Sandra Jones reports that there is a rumor of trouble with Iran and if it is true the current case will be quickly ended.
The judge comes in and says he is uneasy about the case since there are concerns brewing about Iran. The Old Man objects. The trial proceeds. Now the defense calls for the defense neo-conservative Professor Adam Rabinowitz, who has advised all the defendants. The professor provides all the scholarly arguments for the president's free use of war. The Old Man challenges the professor. He says that the professor is saying lying and empire-building are o.k. The old man mentions the neo-con Leo Strauss and his writings. He hassles the witness as a man who would justify any lie or half-truth for his own purposes or those of a client.
The defense calls the historian Samantha Thomas to testify to the fact that many presidents of the United States have lied. And in times of war, the lies or white-lies are more frequent. The Old Man cross-examines the historian and makes the case that there is more than lying involved in this case. The historian soon shows herself as a neo-con or near neo-con historian.
Pause in the courtroom. One defense lawyer tells the others to be prepared for an interview on Fox TV. Lawyer Ranger gives the Old Man the document for which he asked.
The judge returns. The Old Man presents the new document as evidence. The first two pages of the document are a list of 30 foreign oil companies lined up to get oil from Iraq. Mr. Pounder is very upset about the Old Man getting the document. The judge asks him where he got it. The Old Man asks for a five-minute recess. He telephones Mr. Ranger for what he should tell the judge. Mr. Ranger gives him the answer and the Old Man tells the judge that it came from Judicial Watch. The American oil industry had been out-scrambled for oil reserves. Cheney wanted to use war to get access to Iraq's oil. The oil map in the document came before 9/11. This was the motive for their deception. The Iraqui friendly with the America, Ahmad Chalabi, an embezzler, was made the Oil Minister once the US was in Iraq.
The prosecution sums up the case. They lied, lied, lied. And how can government work when lies and half-lies are accepted as just political maneuvering.
Mr. Pounder keeps returning to his theme of some other power being behind the case. He asks that the case be dismissed. Mr. Chance basically justifies what happened with the 9/11 event. Mr. Ranger refuses to add anything.
The judge says that he has just learned that the US has begun bombing nuclear facilities in Iran. Mr. Pounder says the judge must dismiss the trial. The judge wants to dismisses the case, but he gives the Old Man a chance for rebuttal. The common law developed in England was designed to protect the people from the King, not the King from the people. The people rest, your Honor.
The judge will take the case under advisement. Mr. Pounder immediately jumps up to object.
Sandra Jones summarizes the case.
The movie is a bit long-winded and tiring, but it is based on a play, not a film. The movie is especially tiring since even common sense tells us that lying is not something to be tolerated even in politics. The court of Common Opinion tries to use the legal arguments of the regular law courts to apply to common opinion. There obviously would be different rules in a common opinion court. And it is obvious that, except for the very conservative and fascist elements, the country would regard the three defendants' behaviors as unjustifiable. In fact, common opinion as measured by our opinion polls has already concluded that Bush and company behaved badly. Bush has the lowest approval rating of any president ever recorded in the history of the polls. Bush is assuredly the worst American president in the history of the nation. (On the other hand, the time line presented in the movie is worth reviewing even if we already know Bush and company lied like hell.)
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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