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Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld to Be Prosecuted by Ed Asner

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The evidence that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld lied us into a war is overwhelming but also dry and dense. But imagine seeing it presented coherently and systematically in a dramatic performance full of humor and emotion. That is the gift that playwrite Craig Barnes has given us in "A Nation Deceived." The script is available now at http://www.anationdeceived.org and Barnes encourages you to take it to your local organizations and perform it. Beginning November 1st, you will be able to go to the same website and purchase a video on DVD of the play being performed by a group of actors with Ed Asner in the lead role. (If you're in Los Angeles on November 6, you can catch a live performance with Asner.)

To give you a taste of what this play is about, I interviewed the author. Audio of this interview is here:

David Swanson: Craig Barnes, author of "A Nation Deceived", it's good to talk to you.

Craig Barnes: Thank you, it's good to be here.

David Swanson: So, tell me about this play and where the idea came from to write it.

Craig Barnes: When we watched a year ago when Patrick Fitzgerald did his press conference indictment of Scooter Libby, the mere recitation of the facts was so powerful, so compelling, and so attended to by the networks that I thought to myself, the facts themselves unvarnished, without hyperbole and without special ridicule of the president actually can have great power, and I had been accumulating notes since before the war began. As a former trial lawyer, I had been accumulating facts, which I had put together in what I call an indictment, and so I had about 28 pages of very thick, dense material, but nobody was going to read my 28 pages of thick, dense material and then I thought well, if Patrick Fitzgerald can have such an impact and get the network anchor people to be quoting him with careful recitation, I could try to do that in a drama, so this began almost a year ago, somewhere about a year ago, when we decided to see, since I had written a couple of successful plays, maybe I could put this in a drama form and get those facts in front of people who need it.

David Swanson: I actually had just started reading the script of the play on your web site, and I'm halfway through it and I'm dying to finish it, and that lays out facts, but it does so with a great deal of humor and it occurs to me that it may be an excellent way to not just keep people's attention, but allow them to get through some pretty ugly facts; what was the thinking in writing this dialogue as an exchange among players in a courtroom?

Craig Barnes: Well, if you are going to keep people's attention and not just make them feel like they're force-fed, you ought to put some humanity into it, have the characters be interesting as people and then, of course humor is the heart of any Shakespearean play too, you have to have some of that, remember that from the eighth grade? So, of course, a little bit of humor helps us all swallow this material, and one of the fun things was that when we did this reading with Ed Asner here in Santa Fe, after the first night reading, he said I need a little more tension here between me in the congresswoman, and so the next day, I wrote him some tension and some repartee between the two of them and it was a whole lot more fun, and so you get your suggestions wherever you get them, you know. Ed Asner was responsible for that one.

David Swanson: Right, and the first witness in this trial of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld is a congresswoman who voted for the war because, as she says, she was lied to, and it's an interesting part, and I wonder if there is a group of actual Congress members that you think fit sort of that role, because clearly, there was a huge section of Congress that saw the lies and voted against the authorization to use force, and there was a huge section of Congress that was happy to play along with anything, didn't care of it was true or not; was there significant group in Congress that really took matters seriously and honestly and believed the lies and went to war on that basis, or is your prosecutor right in badgering the congresswoman that, "what did you do, have to park your brain outside?" Did anyone honestly fall for it?

Craig Barnes: Well, I think John Kerry is a pretty good... He is, of course, in the Senate and not in the Congress...

David Swanson: Sure...

Craig Barnes: He is a well-known example of a congressperson who voted for the war, a person who ended up and the Congress and voted for the war, thinking that the intelligence had been presented to them. I think quite a number of them thought that they had gotten straight shot, they got that 25-page booklet that did not include all of the information, but they thought that they had and for a long time, the White House was telling them that you have all the intelligence we did, so I think those who are predisposed not to rock the boat, those who saw the avalanche of public opinion in favor of the president were inclined because of the avalanche of public opinion to interpret it in the president's favor. It also worked to their favor, they thought, because it would help them get reelected, so there was a kind of combination of self interest in reading the facts in a way that supported the president. An awful lot of democrats went down that road and I think the prosecutor in this case in this "Nation Deceived" is right to say with some skepticism that you have to be really, really naïve to get elected to Congress, because, of coursed, looking back, they were just duped.

David Swanson: Yeah, John Kerry was at that time planning to run for president, and the hype in the media was "if you don't vote for this war you can never run for president, and so then during the primaries with the other Democrats, Kerry maintained that he had been lied to, but then towards the end, he was asked even knowing now that you were lied to, would you still have voted for the same war, and he said yes, presumably, the only explanation for which can be that he still thought that he had to support the war, while opposing it, in order to get elected president, and so there seems to be at least a mixture of motives as you say, not strictly a matter of honestly believing that the mushroom clouds were coming.

Craig Barnes: Well, when you run for office, these motives tend to get confused and mixed and so yeah, he probably had both, and I think his confusion in the end is much of what defeated him as anything else. He just didn't come down where he could have done or as he had done in the late 1960s, early 1970s, so he did himself in with that and it's appropriate for somebody standing outside of that political vortex, like the prosecutor in this pay to say to him, "Are you kidding? Doesn't all this hype just make you a little bit sick?" And, of course, it does us. We are not doing the calculus of getting reelected, but its time that they stood up and one of the reasons for this play is to say to Congress people, you have heard enough now to have the courage to vote for impeachment, to talk about lying, to talk about not funding Halliburton to the tune of 11 billion dollars. You've heard enough now to stand up and be counted, and I hope that that is the intended audience.

David Swanson: Yes, one way to watch this play, I imagine, is as a nice fantasy. This would be wonderful if this happens, sort of like watching the West Wing, where you imagine what if we had a president with a little integrity, but impeachment seems to be what we're more likely to get than a trial that matches this play, and of course, in impeachment, the prosecutors have to be those very same congress members, some of whom were complicit in the crimes. How do we get around that?

Craig Barnes: Well that is, of course, exactly right, and the congress floats along in the middle of the stream; it doesn't take a lot of chances with people like Dennis Kucinich and John Conyers, but in general, they are looking for the middle all the time, so what a play like this can do, has to do first, is go to the public and create a public that understands these issues and has enough factual material to really be confident, so that's part of the strategy here is to create a solid, factual base that people can say, this is real material, the playwright didn't make this up, we're not conniving to leave some evidence out and put other evidence in. This is really reliable, so that's one of the strategies here.

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)
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