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Should President Bush Be Charged With Negligent Homicide?
June 26, 2002
By Mike Seely

Negligence: the failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in the same situation.

Negligent homicide: homicide resulting from the careless performance of a legal or illegal act in which the danger of death is apparent.

In light of recent revelations surrounding events leading up to September 11, is it conceivable that President Bush could be charged with either crime based on the legal definitions provided above? Absolutely.

The American press has done a decent job of documenting communication breakdowns between the CIA and FBI that provide some evidence that the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon might have been preventable. In fairness, whether such claims hold water is highly debatable.

What has gone relatively unnoticed Stateside, while acutely observed abroad (namely by Britain's Guardian), are specific actions taken by Bush and his sentries in advance of the attacks. To wit, there have been reports that early orders given by the Bush Administration to select intelligence agencies made it clear that they were to back off the bin Laden family - presumably due to the President's oil-soaked business ties to the arch evildoer's brother - instead pouring energy into selling the American public on the necessity for an almost pointless, Cold War-era missile shield.

Further, early areas of focus spelled out by Attorney General John Ashcroft's office put terrorism at an alarmingly low priority level, somewhere behind busting medicinal marijuana providers, child pornography, the unencumbered rights of individual gun owners and spending thousands of taxpayer dollars to cover up a naked statue's cans.

Conservative true believers argue that there were serious lapses in United States counter-errorism policy that predate Bush and even President Clinton. That may be undeniable, but at least these prior administrations placed increasingly heightened emphasis on the threat before 3,000-some innocent people burned to a crisp and it became politically expedient, as Karl Rove laid out so articulately for us in his Powerpoint fumble last week.

In fact, the American people should now be wondering whether it was really a coincidence at all that the terrorists chose to strike during the tenure of a pathetically detached, wannabe Commander-in-Chief who seems to be jogging, watching football, eating pretzels or reading goat stories to tykes every time something of national importance occurs.

I have nothing against any of the aforementioned activities, and participate in countless more negligible trifles myself, as do most Americans. President Bush may not be an articulate orator, but he's undoubtedly a reasonably intelligent person, in spite of caricatures to the contrary. Rather, Bush's tragic flaw, as The New York Times' own Frank Bruni's "Ambling Into History" so deftly insinuates, is that the guy simply is not really all that interested in public policy.

So why did he "apply" for the job? Because he could? This is recklessly arrogant at best, criminally negligent at worst. It's one thing if you're a prep cook who lucks into a head chef gig without the proper understanding of black pepper, but it's quite another when your aspirations are aimed squarely at becoming the leader of the free world. National security is therefore inate, and if you don't have a royal flush of intelligence, leadership and legislative chops, then you'd better fold, lest your fellow countrymen pay the ultimate price.

Many Americans have been impressed with the President's soothing words at Ground Zero and the subsequent attack on the Taliban. But let's not overstate these successes. For one, it could be argued that any compassionate spiritual leader could have provided similarly proficient public counseling to the American public in its time of grief. And let's not kid ourselves, Bush wasn't exactly wielding the keys to New York City's relief effort machinery in the aftermath of the attacks. That driver's seat distinction belonged to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Furthermore, the Unites States defeat of the Taliban (if you can even call it that, seeing as Al Qaeda is still operative and Osama bin Laden at large) was about as surprising as the Lakers defeat of the Nets in the NBA Finals. So Russia had a tough time in the hills of Afghanistan some years ago. Big deal - that was then, this is now.

But back to the question at hand: careless performance? Perhaps. Apparent danger of death? You bet.

Over three thousand people died on September 11, 2001. If there is any credible evidence that exists to suggest that their lives were lost due to the negligence of an administration that was asleep at the wheel, then it is the Commander-in-Chief who should stand and be judged before Congress and, perhaps, a special military tribunal.

Mike Seely is a Seattle writer whose work has appeared in Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, Seattle Magazine, The Everett Herald and Tablet Newspaper, among other publications.

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