When President Barack Obama succeeded President George W. Bush in 2008, some on the left called for him to press war crimes charges against his predecessor for authorizing extreme interrogation tactics against opposing forces in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Obama declined taking those extraordinary measures, but in his debut novel, “The Trial of President 043,” Terry Jastrow creates a scenario in which Bush is kidnapped by paramilitary commandos while golfing in Scotland and placed on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).
While that situation is unlikely to occur, Jastrow’s tome offers an intriguing “what if” situation that might prove interesting to those who wished there had been legal consequences for Bush creating one of the most controversial foreign engagements in American history. A veteran TV sports producer who has also written and directed the 2015 indie film “The Squeeze,” Jastrow will be signing the book and discussing it alongside his wife, Oscar-nominated actress Anne Archer (“Fatal Attraction”), on Saturday at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.
“The reason I wrote it, and spent more than three and a half years in researching and writing it, is because I really love America and really care about her, and I feel we’re fighting too many unnecessary wars,” says Jastrow. “World Wars I and II and Korea were good to fight, but Vietnam was a terrible situation. So much of the Iraq War seemed insane to me, and if citizens don’t stand up and oppose it, we’re destined for more such wars. Citizens need to stand up and even if I was a sports director, movies, and all that, I thought if not me, who?”
Amid a career in which he produced or directed six Olympic Games, more than 60 major golf championships and a Super Bowl, Jastrow notes he voted for Nixon, Reagan, George H.W. Bush and even for George W. Bush himself in his initial term. A Denver native, he was raised in Oklahoma and Texas before embarking on his career working with ABC Sports, and argues that his Southern upbringing sets him apart from being a stereotypical member of “the West Coast liberal elite.”
“I’m a direct descendant of a family carried over on the Mayflower, and of our second president, John Adams, and I’m as Middle American as it gets,” says Jastrow. “I’m a radical, but for the country to be what our forefathers created. Jefferson wrote that we hold these truths to be self-evident: the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They were thinking of the whole world’s rights, and I wanted to return to the principles of what we once were.”
“Trial” sets up Bush’s capture in quick fashion, playing off the idea that he could be seized and arraigned under international jurisdiction if he were to leave the US — a scenario which has occurred with other foreign leaders. From there, the courtroom showdowns explore a raft of legal and philosophical issues, including how much legal authority a president has to wage wars that might violate international criminal laws, and whether resentments caused by the Iraq War helped fuel the creation of ISIS.
According to the fact-checking site Politifact, there are no warrants against Bush from the ICC, an international tribunal established in 2002 to prosecute genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Yet Jastrow notes that international criminal law has no statute of limitations, and that the Netherlands-based ICC can step in and place a leader on trial if his or her own country refuses.
“It’s my first novel, and it’s such a monumental task, I call it a literary ascent of Mount Everest,” says Jastrow. “Given the subject matter, I wanted it to be word perfect on international law because I didn’t want to be dismissed for not complying with it.
“I became a student of international law and how it compares and contrasts with US law, so I hired law experts in the US and England,” he continues. “I also went to the ICC three times in my research and met with a prosecuting attorney there, so I could ensure the book was solid on the ICC.”
For her part, Archer is appearing with Jastrow as they also discuss the role of artists in speaking out on sociopolitical issues. She is the founder of the organization Artists for Human Rights. The group is an offshoot of their longtime belief in Scientology.
“I think it’s a very important subject, one that needs to be addressed, and I’m thrilled he’s written it,” says Archer. “I do work for a lot of other international organizations that do work for human rights, and I think the Iraq War unleashed a decade of terror, death and destruction around the Middle East and we’re feeling the ramifications today.”
Terry Jastrow will discuss and sign “The Trial of Prisoner 043” along with Anne Archer at 3 p.m. Saturday at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Call (626) 395-4920 or visit vromans.com.