George W. Bush Belongs in Prison

Electing Barack Obama president was the first step in redeeming American democracy. The second step must be indicting ex-president George W. Bush, giving him a fair trial, finding him guilty of many criminal acts and putting him in prison. Forget revenge. Think rule of law and justice.

I want President Obama soon after taking office to go on television and announce the formation of a special group of outstanding jurists and attorneys to make a recommendation whether or not the US Justice Department should bring criminal charges against George W. Bush. Based on earlier analyses, including work by the American Bar Association, I have no doubt they will recommend indictment.

If moral honesty and courage have any meaning, then the nation must take seriously the concept that no president can ever be allowed to be above the law. How can President Obama not strongly support this? Surely no president must be allowed to disrespect and dishonor the US Constitution. George W. Bush broke his oath of office. His behavior was treasonous. Instead of defending the Constitution he disgraced it. Instead of protecting constitutional rights, including privacy, he sullied them. He asserted his right to ignore or not enforce laws so he could break them. Respect for the office of the presidency must never be allowed to trump truth and justice.

Millions and millions of Americans and people worldwide know that George W. Bush made 9/11 the trigger for initiating an illegal war in Iraq that has killed and maimed so many thousands of people. What Vincent Bugliosi, author of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder called “the most serious crime ever committed in American history.” I say convict Bush of myriad counts of criminally negligent homicide related to both Iraq and the Katrina disaster and put him in prison. A former president in prison would not disgrace the presidency. It would restore honor to the office and the Constitution.

Surely millions more people now understand that George W. Bush bears responsibility for creating the conditions that encouraged greed-driven capitalism to rape and murder the middle class and push us into the current global economic meltdown. By removing government oversight and regulation he committed the greatest acts of fraud in the history of mankind. After he made American democracy delusional he made prosperity delusional.

We the people are paying the price for George W. Bush’s criminal acts and so must he. When George W. Bush is sent to prison everyone will see that American democracy has earned the respect of the world. Everyone will better understand that evil comes in many forms and that even an elected president of the United States of America can and must be recognized as a perpetrator of horrendous criminal acts.

Please President-elect Obama, make it so. Be the principled person we want you to be. Make the USA the nation it is supposed to be. Have the courage to do what Congress refused to do when it did not impeach George W. Bush. Change history by showing the world that American justice applies as equally to the president as it does to anyone else. Do not let George W. Bush escape the justice and prison sentence he deserves. Do not let respect for the presidency trump respect for justice. If we do not bring George W. Bush to justice that probably only you can make happen, then surely we do not restore respect for the office that you worked so hard to achieve.

To ensure that no future president behaves like George W. Bush we must punish him. Not merely through the words of historians, but through the physical punishment that he has inflicted on so many millions of people. In previous eras citizens would have demanded “off with his head.” Now we must demand “lock him up.” How poetic for a pro-torture ex-president. As summed up at “Bush must be made accountable to the law, to serve as a lesson to all those who would attempt to destroy the American system of laws and liberty for the sake of their own power.” This is a test for both President Obama and American democracy.

If there is any kind of God in the universe, then George W. Bush must go to prison. When he does, then and only then should God bless America.

Joel S. Hirschhorn was a full professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a senior official at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association; he has authored five nonfiction books, including Delusional Democracy: Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government. Read other articles by Joel.

19 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rita said on December 1st, 2008 at 11:02am #

    My goodness, this almost sounds like a prayer to President Obama, the Redeemer.

    I would have to say that the assumption right from the start, that this election has redeemed democracy, is rather naive to say the least. I am not certain what that even means, quite frankly. Perhaps it is because there were no mass reportings of malfesance concerning polling places-at least nothing that apparantly ‘worked’. Is that how low the bar for ‘democracy’ has become?

    But the prayer-like attempt to implore Obama, as though he were a member of the pantheon of semi-gods is a bit unnerving. Yet i believe it captures the zeitgiest of this moment. And the closing sentiment, that after George Bush in imprisoned, God will once again “Bless America”?

    I think this is absolutely idiotic and speaks to the fact that this kind of mindset- that of American exceptionalism and of the u.s. being in God’s favor are at the core of our hedgemonic exploits.

  2. bozh said on December 1st, 2008 at 11:41am #

    hirschhorn is dreaming. US is not a democracy but a plutocracy. voting is allowed in US and in many countries only because voting changes nothing but managers of war criminals’ business. thnx

  3. Don Hawkins said on December 1st, 2008 at 11:54am #

    Let them go. We are out of time and have a new World to build.

  4. Phil said on December 1st, 2008 at 12:02pm #

    Why single out Bush? He’s only the figurehead. An indictment of him would be a great start, but only if it’s followed by similar trials & prosecutions for every criminal behind him.

  5. Garrett said on December 1st, 2008 at 12:41pm #

    Guess when you lost me.

  6. Don Hawkins said on December 1st, 2008 at 12:48pm #

    Tell people something they know already and they will thank you for it. Tell them something new and they will hate you for it. Not anymore.

  7. Ramsefall said on December 1st, 2008 at 1:34pm #

    To follow up with bozh’s line of thought, voting is allowed but only because it effectively upholds the illusion that the outcome of democracy is in the hands of the people, the illusion of power. As many know, however, cette idée c’est merde complète. By voting for one of the duopoly members, power remains in the hands of the establishment who embed the candidates they consider appropriate to preserve their plutocratic doctrine. As such, choice is also an illusion, until the people organize and elect a third-party candidate.

    Joel, while many may sympathize with and delight in your sentiments, rationality is absent. First of all, Bush is not the only criminal, especially during the first five years that Chaney was likely calling the shots. Rumsefeld, Rice, Gonzalez and Powell are all just as guilty. So we’re not talking the prosecution of just one criminal, but up to at least a dozen complacent scumbags. How likely is it that Obama will jeopardize his far-sighted opportunity to have nearly absolute power as established by his predecessor? He would then be held accountable for any criminal activity that he subsequently commits, do you think he doesn’t know this? His advisors have already briefed him on this quixotic idea. Don’t wait around with high hopes for Obama to carry out such a heroic and noble act. That aside, how many presidents haven’t committed crimes of one form or another? You’ll be hard pressed to find any.

    As for American democracy being redeemed by the election of Obama, far from it friend. It may have been redeemed if a third party candidate or a candidate presented from the ranks of a movement had claimed victory, but that’s NOT what happened. Anyway, the concept of American democracy is about as real as the American dream, the nation has never really been a democracy and that dream was a farce for the most part…although it did help sustain capitalism beyond its natural life expectancy. Sure, the people get to vote for politicians, but how about voting for policy, how about voting for social programs, how about more than a restrictive duopoly? These characteristics embody democracy.

    The US is a plutocracy, an extension of the quasi-abandoned monarchy that only allows the wealthy to participate in governing. When was the last time our nation had a poor president climb through the ranks, or even one that wasn’t a member of the elite? Get back to me on that one.

    It seems you may be confused about the reality of your government, and therefore not very practical of the implications in incarcerating George. Don’t give the gov so much credit. What you have is an admirable and justifiable claim, but so remote that it borders inconceivability. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

    Best to all.

  8. Ramsefall said on December 1st, 2008 at 4:10pm #


    as an optimistic afterword, prosecution coming from the public sector in possible collaboration with other willing government officials is more likely. The People vs George W. Bush, looks good on paper at least.

    Best to you.

  9. Don Hawkins said on December 1st, 2008 at 7:42pm #

    In noted economist Paul Samuelson’s terminology it is the allocation of an economy’s scarce resources between “guns and butter”. More guns means less butter. All because of the threat of war. And what happens to the environment? All the wasteful resource consumption to fight the threat of war accentuates global warming.

    Wouldn’t we be better off with peace, goodwill and cordial relations between nations and checking global warming? Peace is eco-friendly . In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The real and lasting victories are those of peace, and not of war.” N Kalyani, ET Bureau

    So many reasons so little time.

  10. Andres Kargar said on December 2nd, 2008 at 12:27am #

    Remember the dismay the Americans felt after having rushed to the polls to vote for Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats only to see her stab them in the back by supporting continued funding of the Iraq war, the government spying on US citizens, waterboarding, etc? Well, the Obama experience will be Nancy Pelosi re-election redux.

    Yes, we should be proud of ourselves for having overpowered the Republican rule and elected a black man as the president of the United States. Yes, George W Bush and his collaborators should be brought to justice and sent to prison. Yes, this is the only way for the Americans to right the wrongs of the past 8 years and to redeem themselves. But NO — don’t be expecting such an undertaking from the Obama administration. You WILL be greatly disappointed.

    What gets the job done is grass-roots organizing. The momentum has been created. It is now up to the anti-war, labor, and social justice movements to go beyond the Democratic Party politics and take on the task of bringing these criminals to justice, and not just the US administration, but their counterparts: corporate CEOs. It might sound like a daunting or impossible task, but it can be done.

  11. Don Hawkins said on December 2nd, 2008 at 3:48am #

    Think Frank

  12. Don Hawkins said on December 2nd, 2008 at 4:04am #


    Los Angeles Times

    December 2, 2008

    When Barack Obama introduced retired Gen. James Jones as his national security adviser Monday, he emphasized Jones’ understanding of “the connection between energy and national security.”

    Obama touts that as a plus, but some environmental groups and global warming activists view Jones’ environmental record with suspicion.

    Jones will not be directly responsible for environmental policy at the White House, but he has said energy is a “vital” national security issue. It affects domestic economic stability and international geopolitical relationships, particularly in the Middle East.

    Jones sits on the board of Chevron Corp., and since March 2007 he has been president and chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy, which has come in for criticism from environmental organizations.

    “They have a reprehensible record,” Frank O’Donnell, the outspoken leader of the Washington-based Clean Air Watch organization, said of the institute led by Jones.

    The institute calls for immediate expansion of domestic oil and gas production, nuclear energy and use of clean coal technology, in addition to investment in renewable and alternative energy sources.

    Chamber officials waved away the concern that the chamber represented extreme pro-industry views on climate change. “If you look at our reports, one thing you will see is balance,” said David Chavern, the chamber’s chief operating officer. “The general is a balanced, rational guy. That will serve him well as national security adviser.”

    The nonprofit institute is an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country’s leading business lobby.

    21st Century Energy the Chevron way. You have heard of that the Chevron way. There are two things that these people will have a very hard time with truth and knowledge.

  13. Don Hawkins said on December 2nd, 2008 at 4:31am #

    The nonprofit institute is an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country’s leading business lobby.

    Tax and 100% dividend. A “carbon tax with 100 percent dividend” is required for
    reversing the growth of atmospheric CO2. The tax, applied to oil, gas and coal at the mine or
    port of entry, is the fairest and most effective way to reduce emissions and transition to the
    post fossil fuel era. It would assure that unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar shale and tar
    sands, stay in the ground, unless an economic method of capturing the CO2 is developed.
    The entire tax should be returned to the public, equal shares on a per capita basis (half
    shares for children up to a maximum of two child-shares per family), deposited monthly in
    bank accounts. No bureaucracy is needed.
    A tax should be called a tax. The public can understand this and will accept a tax if it is
    clearly explained and if 100 percent of the money is returned to the public. Not one dime
    should go to Washington for politicians to pick winners. No lobbyists need be employed. James Hansen

    How about three million.

  14. Don Hawkins said on December 2nd, 2008 at 6:21am #

    Let’s see if I got this right we all get to go into the darkside with the help of lobbyists the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Chevron way you have heard of the Chevron way it just seems so stupid. How about James Hansen’s plan wait don’t tell me Socialism. Would you like to have a little conversation about the state of Socialism in December 2008? I think the problem with Hansen’s plan is it makes sense and would work unlike the plans we now see for the future. Roll the presses. Can you imagine a plan something that could really work? Probably not to simple.

  15. Don Hawkins said on December 2nd, 2008 at 6:48am #

    All these important questions. Do we save this investment bank or that one. Bailout GM and Ford or not. Then of course there is that other question do we make a try at saving human civilization or not. Sorry that’s above my pay grade. Don’t you just love it when people say that? Oh really what is it that you do that you get paid for?

  16. giorgio said on December 5th, 2008 at 11:58am #

    Not only does “George W. Bush Belongs in Prison” but the American people should have long ago taken him by the scruff of his neck and seat of his pants and thrown him into a hole far deeper and filthier than the rat hole Saddam Hussein was yanked out of by American troops, and then left there to rot….then and only, only, only then should God bless America and the American people!!!

  17. Elaine McKillop said on December 10th, 2008 at 6:15am #

    If anyone believes that Obama is not more of the same they need to get a reality check. The Clinton/ Bush machine is still in power and little George is safe. It is people like Joel, the lap dog old media who convinced you to vote for another corrupt politician and told you there would be change. Joel lied. We won’t have change until we get in the streets and demand that our politicians obey our Constitution. “That old document”, many say. That old document is a blueprint for freedom. Freedom does not mean what the government can do for you, health care, education, retirement or any other collectivist activity, freedom means restraining the government from doing harm to “We the People”. Every branch of our government has usurped their power and taken our liberty. They have sold this ill begotten power to the highest bidder, including international corporations and other governments, such as the rising US funded super power ChinaWanting something from a government never sets you free, Billions of dollars are gone and pledged to be repaid by American workers. Aren’t you mad that you are being enslaved? it is my fear that this country has slipped to deeply into the hands of tyranny. It is not just George it is ourselves to blame for over 50 years of apathy.

  18. Max Shields said on December 10th, 2008 at 6:46am #

    Don Hawkins

    The LAT piece is typical Orwellianism. Every national security advisor, since oil was discovered outside US borders KNOWS that oil is part of national security.

    This is NEWS!!!

  19. Max Shields said on December 10th, 2008 at 7:01am #

    Elaine McKillop

    I like where you’re going but I would differ a bit on how you’re getting there. First, of course, Obama is not change as in turn the empire into a member of the world community.

    The only document worthy of consideration, in my opinion, is not the constitution (which was designed to rule by an elite few not as a democracy but as a plutocratically run republic and it has pretty much provided that); it is the Declaration of Independence, a truly remarkable and revolutionary document. Like all documents they are only more than the paper their written on when we actually live by them. The DoI was a kind of appeasement and it too has worked. To this day progressive Americans and others walk around saying, “we’ve got to go back to what America once was.” or “we must take our country back.”

    This is pure nonesense, but we’ve been brainwashed with the notion that this is a democracy of, for and by the people and YET the very structure of governance and that provided by the constitution has made that an impossibility.

    The constitution is a corporate charter, not a declaration of freedom. It provides a “blueprint” for a small top-down elite to govern the masses in an orderly fashion.

    This has always been a warring expansionist nation. It was set up by a few elite white men and with, but a recent change in color, it has not altered, in fact a woman president would simply be part of the same club.

    The Declaration of Independence – beautifully written though it is – is a major RUSE. It makes you feel you ONCE had something called America, that it was once a great nation free and available to all. (There are occasions and spots on the map where some of this was transiently true, but never, ever universal and always short-lived.)