August 01, 2017

Exploring a historical what-if

Behind the Book by
Sports producer Terry Jastrow imagines what might happen if George W. Bush went on trial for war crimes.
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America wages too many unnecessary and perhaps illegal wars—for example, the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Although it would be foolish to say all wars are unnecessary, if leaders of superpowers are allowed to wage unnecessary wars with impunity, then humanity is destined to be plagued by such wars. I felt strongly that someone had to do something about it. Then I thought, how about me?

I spent three and a half years researching and writing The Trial of Prisoner 043 because I believe it is important for the future of humankind. The more sophisticated and powerful weaponry becomes, the more destructive war will be. The concept of George W. Bush being tried in a globally recognized legal forum to determine if he waged an illegal war enables us to critically consider both sides of an issue that has had ripple effects across human history.

In The Trial of Prisoner 043, I advocate equally for both the prosecution and the defense. To do less would have defeated the purpose of the book. Readers are given all the information necessary to come to their own conclusions. I set out to tell the story in a balanced way so readers could determine for themselves who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist, depending on their point of view, which may or may not shift during their reading of the book.

I have no personal animosity for or vendetta against George W. Bush. In fact, I voted for him when he ran for president the first time. And on a social level, I like him. When we were boys living in Midland, Texas, George and I played Little League baseball against each other. When I was a student at the University of Houston and he was a young oilman in Houston, we saw each other socially. And when he was elected governor of Texas, he invited my wife and me to visit him in the governor’s office. But governance is not a popularity contest.

The plain and simple truth is, there was never legitimate justification for George W. Bush’s war. It should never have been fought. The damage and destruction to human lives and property, incarceration of people without due process of law, and prisoner abuse all constitute war crimes. The Iraq War would never have happened if George Bush didn’t cause it to happen, and he bears the legal responsibility for the death and damage resulting from his war.

Not until leaders of superpowers understand that their actions are subject to scrutiny and perhaps trial at the International Criminal Court will they think longer and harder about fighting wars.

Why would a television sports producer/director be compelled to write a novel? Because I love storytelling. My mentor at ABC Sports was the legendary producer Roone Arledge, who wrote, in collaboration with Jim McKay, the iconic opening to ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”: “the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, the human drama of athletic competition.” In every sports telecast, our principal goal was to focus on and celebrate the human drama—and to tell a great story.

Some may ask if my novel can make a difference. I hope and believe it will. The voices of artists are the most powerful in advocating for the protection and preservation of human rights, dignity, and peace. It seems evident that governments, militaries, and the press will not oppose unnecessary wars, as each profits greatly from war. Only the impassioned voices of fair-minded people around the world can oppose war and promote the preservation of the common good. The concept of peace, not war, needs to be constantly communicated, and no group can communicate more effectively than artists.

As Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote in 1839, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”


Terry Jastrow is a playwright, screenwriter and producer/director of some of the biggest sporting events in the world, including Super Bowl XIX, six Olympic Games and 60 major golf championships. He also wrote the stage play The Trial of Jane Fonda, performed in 2016 in London and nominated for Best New Play (Off West End). His new novel, The Trial of Prisoner 043, is a work of speculative fiction that explores what might happen if George W. Bush stood trial in the Hague for war crimes.

Terry Jastrow

Get the Book

The Trial of Prisoner 043

The Trial of Prisoner 043

By Terry Jastrow
Four Springs Press
ISBN 9781946241153

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