Author: Terry Jastrow

Publisher: Four Springs Press

ISBN: 9781946241153

In The Trial of Prisoner 043, Terry Jastrow offers a powerful novel focusing on a fictitious trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague where former President of the USA, George W. Bush faces charges for war crimes related to the Iraq War or as it was called, Operation Iraqi Freedom when it was initiated.

While playing golf at St. Andrews, Scotland, Bush is kidnapped by twelve British commandos and swept away to the ICC where he subsequently is informed that in accordance with the definition of war crimes as set forth in Article 8 of the ICC Statute he is accused of several crimes for which he now stands trial. He is further informed that he is entitled to his own defence attorney(s) or if he prefers, he can immediately admit his guilt. President Bush is furious and points out that the USA is not a member of the ICC and thus he cannot be tried before the court. Eventually, he reluctantly agrees to be tried and to engage his own attorneys.

The scene is set and the main actors are identified that comprise three judges, two experienced prosecuting attorneys, one of whom was born in the USA with a law degree from Harvard and the other born and raised in Fallujah, Iraq with a law degree from the University of Baghdad, and the defence consisting of three attorneys, equally knowledgeable in matters of international law.

The initial proceedings involve the validity of the court to hear the case and both the prosecuting and defence attorneys present their case, however, in the end the judges favor the arguments of the prosecuting attorneys and decide to continue the trial.

The crux of the prosecuting attorney's case is that President Bush is personally responsible for creating the pretext for, and ultimately waging the Iraq War. They will prove those incidents that most specifically implicate him in these war crimes which include the wide-spread civilian carnage and suffering caused by the war, the barbaric torture of Iraqi detainees, launching an attack knowing full-well that it will cause incidental loss of life and injury to civilians and property, attacking and killing civilians not taking part in the war, and destroying undefended buildings or dwellings that are not military objectives. It will be shown that President Bush, following the 9/11 attacks, used the nation's emotional wounds and desire for revenge to attack Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein, instead of taking out Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda. It is with these arguments that Jastrow holds a mirror up to the Iraq War and its ensuing horrendous ramifications and disillusionment which resulted in trillion of dollars in economic cost to the American tax payer, approximately one million civilian casualties, a decimation of a culture, and aggravated anti-American hostilities including the rise of ISIL.

As for the defence, their initial contention, which is immediately rejected, is that a former president of the USA cannot be brought before the tribunal and try him for acts he performed while in office. Among other arguments, the defence brings up the manner in which President Bush was brought to the court and compares it to a 'bounty hunter' technique which they contend serves prejudice to the case. They also state that the President of the USA, like all presidents before him who have waged war in Korea, Vietnam and Kuwait was doing his constitutionally mandated job to protect the Republic. The defence also maintains that the criterion for war crimes was not satisfied. Moreover, to protect the USA it was permissible to act in self-defence which meant a preemptive strike against Iraq whom it was felt had weapons of mass destruction and was a imminent threat that could be used against it or its neighbors.

The novel is engaging primarily because of its setting that Jastrow brings to life as well as the abundance of food for thought where both sides present viable arguments in a way that makes the novel read like a work of non-fiction rather than fiction. In addition, the court proceedings are never dull and just when you believe one side has the upper hand, the other strikes it down as if we are witnessing a close tennis match.

It should be mentioned that in his Author's Notes Jastrow states that he is in some ways more of an aggregator of content than a writer concerning what was written and spoken by others and which are incorporated into the novel. He goes on to list several resources that he had relied on in his collection of information. No doubt, this is one novel that will bring about heated arguments around the dinner table and readers willing to persevere until the startling ending will have a great deal to talk about and ponder.