Tomgram: De la Vega, A Predisposition to Invade
[Note: For those in the Santa Barbara area in California, Elizabeth de la Vega will be speaking on December 10th at a rally, one of many events being organized around the country for Human Rights (and Impeachment) Day. She'll be on stage with Ann Wright, Dennis Loo, and David Swanson (who also writes for Tomdispatch.com) among others. For more on this event and others that day visit Swanson's AfterDowningStreet.org website.]
With the presentation of the first day of grand jury testimony from former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega's new book, United States v. George W. Bush et al., the case against the top officials of the Bush administration for defrauding the American people into war in Iraq comes to a provisional end at Tomdispatch. What the Bush administration did, De la Vega argued in "A Fraud Worse than Enron", Part 1 of her series at this site, was a crime, conceptually similar to the Enron case and should be treated as such. It was, in fact, nothing less than the Enronization of American foreign policy. It was also a crime for which there should be actual legal culpability and so, in part 2 of her series, she produced a hypothetical indictment for fraud against the main actors in the case, just as she had, over her career, presented numerous fraud indictments to grand juries.
Today, "FBI Special Agent Linda Campbell" begins to lay out that case for fraud by discussing the administration's "predisposition to invade Iraq." Those of you who want to read De la Vega's brilliantly argued full case against George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, and Colin Powell should promptly purchase a copy of her book either at Amazon, at the website of the independent publisher, Seven Stories Press, or at your local independent bookstore.
De la Vega's superb book, like the testimony of "FBI Special Agent Linda Campbell" below, is fiction of a high order, based on a deep knowledge of exactly what the Bush administration did to us and how they did it. What happens next is, in truth, in the hands of the same American people who were scammed by this administration. Only history will tell us the results. Tom
The Grand Jury Testimony
United States v. George W. Bush et al.
By Elizabeth de la Vega
Testimony of FBI Special Agent Linda Campbell
Assistant U.S. Attorney: Good morning everyone. We're back here in the case of United States v. George W. Bush et al. Let's start by looking at Exhibit 1 in your packets. It's a chart that lists the main points we're going to cover in the grand jury.
Evolution of the Fraud
* Bush, Cheney, et al. were predisposed to invade Iraq even before they were elected.
* They secretly began to plan the invasion immediately after September 11. Bush requested an Iraq war plan in November 2001 and began escalating military activity.
* They enlisted biased political appointees to find evidence to justify a war beginning in October 2001.
* They began, without a reasonable basis, to imply that Iraq was linked to the September 11 attacks and posed an urgent threat in the fall of 2001.
* They began a massive fraud campaign in September 2002 to overcome weak public support for an invasion and manipulate Congress into passing an authorization allowing the President to use force against Iraq.
* They invaded Iraq in March 2003, knowing that their stated grounds for war were false, fraudulent, and without reasonable basis.
Today, we'll talk about the administration's predisposition to invade Iraq.
Now, why is that relevant? Remember I told you that many fraud conspiracies begin as legitimate enterprises? They evolve into criminal activity when people begin to deceive others in response to problems or obstacles to achieving their goals. So, in any fraud case we need to know what the defendants' original objectives were.
Would somebody go get our witness? Thanks. [Whereupon the witness enters the room and is sworn]
Q. Could you please tell us your full name and what you do?
A. My name is Linda Marie Campbell and I'm a Special Agent with the FBI -- have been for sixteen years.
Q. What is your current assignment?
A. I'm one of eight agents on the task force that's investigating whether the President and his senior advisers defrauded Americans about prewar intelligence. But normally my office is in Boston. Home of Tom Brady -- the Patriot -- and of course, Sam Adams -- the beer and the patriot -- with a small "p." I do fraud cases, mainly.
Q. Could you tell us about your background? Sort of a Reader's Digest version?
A. Sure. I was an Air Force brat, so we lived all over--Georgia, Germany, Hawaii--until I was about twelve, when we landed at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod. After Boston College, I started teaching English at Catholic Memorial. I was going to coach softball, go down the Cape in the summer, eat fried clams. But one day I just thought, you know, I really can't stand talking about Hester Prynne for one more minute, and it seemed as if it would be wicked cool to become an FBI agent. So I applied.
Q. Has it been wicked cool?
A. Yes and no. One thing about the FBI is that they always send you somewhere that's not where you want to be, even if no one else does want to be where you want to be. Does that make any sense? So I asked to go to Boston after Quantico . . .
Q. And where'd they send you?
A. Tulsa, Oklahoma. But only for two years, because I took a language aptitude test and, next thing I knew, I was at the Monterey Defense Language Institute, learning Russian. I worked in DC for a few years and finally got back to Boston last summer. Although, now I'm in DC again working on this case. I'm also on the Emergency Response and Disaster Recovery Team.
Not exactly condensed was it?
Q. No, but that's ok. You were, in fact, part of the team at the Pentagon after 9/11, weren't you?
A. Yes, I was. I will never forget it.
Q. Jurors, you recall that you may only consider evidence your hear from the witnesses? That means we occasionally present testimony about things people already know.
Like, in this case, September 11, 2001. What happened on that day?
A. On September 11, nineteen men hijacked four commercial airplanes -- United Flight 175 and American Airlines 11 out of Logan, United Flight 93 out of Newark, and American Airlines 77 out of Washington/Dulles. They crashed two planes into the World Trade Towers in New York and one into the Pentagon. The fourth plane, United Flight 93, crashed in Pennsylvania after the passengers stormed the cockpit. In all, nearly 3,000 people were killed. It was a nightmare.
Q. Were you working at the time?
A. I was at firearms training, but I called my supervisor and told him I'd go wherever they needed me for disaster response. By 5:00 p.m., I'm headed to DC on the Mass Pike, with my Dunkin' Donuts iced coffee. One of the four essential food groups, by the way.
Q. Did you already know who committed the attacks?
A. Basically, yes. By late morning, really, everyone was talking about it having been al Qaeda and, of course, Osama Bin Laden. It was even on the radio. No specifics, but it was only a day or so before we heard those. The main hijacker was Mohamed Atta, who, along with 14 others, was from Saudi Arabia. Two were from Yemen and two were from Lebanon.
Q. We'll have more about this later, but -- bottom line -- was there ever any evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 hijackings?
A. No, not a bit.
Q. But your investigation has shown, has it not, that before the war, a majority of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved?
Q. Danny Crain -- Special Agent Crain -- will be testifying about that in more detail, but in the meantime, have you determined how people came to believe that?
A. Unfortunately, yes. President Bush -- and Cheney and Rice and Rumsfeld and Powell -- deliberately gave people that impression, or allowed them to have it. That's Danny's area of testimony, I know, but let me say this: In fraud cases, we don't have to prove that people were actually deceived, but the case is stronger when you can prove they were. And here we know that many people came to believe many things about Iraq that were just false--including that there was some 9/11 connection.
Q. Well, let's turn to --
A. May I just add something?
Q. Of course.
A. Sometimes, the best way to understand the impact of fraud is not so much the number of victims, but the stories of the victims. Like in the movie Why We Fight, Wilton Sekzer. He was a retired cop whose son died in the World Trade Center. He strongly supported the war against Iraq, but only because he thought it was related to 9/11.
So, in 2004, when the President said not only that he had no evidence linking Saddam to the 9/11 attacks, but also "I don't know where people got the idea that I connected Iraq to 9/11," Mr. Sekzer was devastated. I'll read what he said:
What did he [Bush] just say? I mean, I almost jumped out of the chair. I don't know where people got the idea that I connected Iraq to 9/11. What is he, nuts or what? What the hell did we go in there for? We're getting back for 9/11. Well, if he didn't have anything to do with 9/11, why did we go in there? I was mad. I was mad. My first thought is: you know, you're a liar.
Q. And he felt betrayed?
Q. Was he the only one?
A. No. As of July 2003, approximately 71 percent of the people in the United States believed that the President had deliberately implied that there was a link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein.
Assistant U.S. Attorney: How's the temperature? I got GSA to turn off the air conditioning.
Grand Juror: No kidding. Now it's way too hot.
Second Grand Juror: Are we allowed to vote someone off the Grand Jury?
Q. It's tempting.
Agent Campbell, what evidence shows that Bush et al. were predisposed to invade Iraq before January 2001?
A. Well, we have to start back in 1992, after the first Gulf War.
Q. Ok. We're not going anywhere.
A. As some jurors may know, the ground-assault phase of the first Gulf War had ended after a hundred hours, because George H. W. Bush decided not to send troops on into Baghdad. Afterward, there was a bloodbath as Saddam Hussein put down a Shiite rebellion in southern Iraq.
At the time, at least publicly, Cheney, who was Secretary of Defense, supported Bush Sr.'s decision. He said if we'd gone into Baghdad, we'd still have forces there and we would be running the country. Cheney didn't think Saddam Hussein was worth "that damned many" casualties, meaning more than the 146 American soldiers who had already died.
Q. Does it appear that Cheney later changed his mind?
A. Yes. But Libby and Wolfowitz disagreed from the beginning.
Q. Who are Libby and Wolfowitz?
A. Libby is I. Lewis Libby, Cheney's aide in 1992. In 2001 he became a top adviser, mainly on foreign-policy issues, for Cheney and also for Bush. Until he got indicted. Paul Wolfowitz was also Cheney's aide in 1992 and in 2001 became Rumsfeld's Deputy Secretary of Defense.
Libby, Wolfowitz, and Cheney had a foreign-policy philosophy that's been described as neoconservative. They first wrote about it, as far as we know, in a 1992 paper called "Defense Planning Guidance." It was never published, but the draft was leaked to the press, so we know its main points. They wanted the United States to "assert world dominance" and to "to punish" or "threaten to punish" possible future aggressors to protect U.S. access to Persian Gulf oil or stop the proliferation of WMD -- weapons of mass destruction. They also recommended that the United States ignore the UN Security Council and act alone if it chose to do so.
Q. How were those ideas received at the time?
A. About as well as Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents' dinner.
Q. Not a warm reception, I take it. So what happened to "Defense Policy Guidance"?
A. Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Libby published a watered-down version of it in 1993 called "Defense Strategy for the 1990s."
Q. Did other future Bush-Cheney administration members publicly state their positions about the Middle East and/or Iraq in the 1990s?
A. Yes, they did. In 1996 Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser wrote a paper for the Israeli government, called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," that advocated invading Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein.
Q. And how did those three figure in the Bush-Cheney administration?
A. From 2001 to 2003, Perle was Chairman of Bush's Defense Policy Board. Feith was Bush's Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and Wurmser was brought in after 9/11 as part of the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group that reviewed raw intelligence looking for evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden.
Q. In 1997, there was --
A. Also, oh, sorry --
Q. No, go ahead. But if we both talk at the same time, the court reporter might quit.
A. What I was going to say was that David Wurmser also publicly advocated a United States invasion of Iraq. Twice, actually. Once in a 1997 Wall Street Journal editorial and then in a November 2000 Washington Times op-ed, where he argued that the United States and Israel should "strike fatally, not merely disarm, the centers of radicalism in the region -- the regimes of Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, Tehran, and Gaza."
Grand Juror: Someone who had publicly advocated using military force to remove Saddam Hussein and attacking Syria, Libya, Iran, and Gaza was assigned to look for evidence to justify invading Iraq?
A. Yes. He is now Vice President Cheney's adviser on the Middle East.
Q. All right. In 1997, a group called Project for a New American Century, or PNAC, was formed. What was that?
A. According to its website, PNAC is a think tank dedicated to "American global leadership." Its stated principles were: (1) promoting a bold foreign policy; (2) significantly increasing defense spending; and (3) meeting threats "before they become dire."
Cheney, Rumsfeld, Libby, and Wolfowitz were founding members, as was Jeb Bush, President Bush's brother.
Q. Did the founding statement mention Iraq?
A. No, but a letter the members of PNAC wrote to Clinton in 1998 did.
Q. Before we get to that, were there other public statements advocating forcible removal of Saddam Hussein made by future Bush-Cheney people in 1997?
A. Yes, in a December 1997 issue of the Weekly Standard magazine called "Saddam Must Go: A How-to Guide," Wolfowitz and the current U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, called for "sustained attacks" on Hussein's military and security forces to get rid of him.
Q. Early in 1998, the Project for a New American Century wrote the letter you just mentioned, right?
A. Right. Yes, most of it is excerpted in Exhibit 2:
Excerpts from January 26, 1998 Letter from PNAC
to President William J. Clinton
We are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War. . . . We urge you to . . . enunciate a new strategy . . . [that] should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power...
The policy of "containment" of Saddam Hussein has been steadily eroding over the past several months...
It hardly needs to be added that if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will all be put at hazard. As you have rightly declared, Mr. President, the security of the world in the first part of the 21st century will be determined largely by how we handle this threat.
Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.
In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.
Q. Any familiar names in the signature block?
A. Twelve of the eighteen signers became Bush-Cheney advisers or appointees: Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Khalilzad, Perle, as well as Elliot Abrams, Richard Armitage, Paula Dobriansky, Peter Rodman, R. James Woolsey, and Robert Zoellick.
Q. Well, it's 12:30 and I'm "stahvin," as Agent Campbell would say. So let's go eat.
Assistant U.S. Attorney: Did everyone make it back? Good.
Grand Juror: Agent Campbell, doesn't this 1998 letter contain the same arguments that the Bush administration made in 2002?
A. Yes it does: (1) containment wasn't working; (2) inspections wouldn't work; (3) Saddam would definitely have WMD if we didn't act immediately; and (4) we didn't need to work with the UN.
Grand Juror: What does "containment" mean?
A. In the context of Iraq, it referred mainly to the use of UN sanctions and restrictions to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring WMD and from threatening his neighbors.
Q. We're going to switch gears and turn to the 2000 election campaign. Before that, any questions?
Grand Juror: Was Bush in PNAC?
A. No. But in 1999, he hired Condoleezza Rice and her future Deputy National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, along with five PNAC people -- Perle, Wolfowitz, Armitage, Zoellick, and Dov Zakheim -- to be campaign foreign policy advisers. Four of those five had previously advocated forcibly removing Saddam Hussein.
Q.> During the 2000 campaign, did Bush and Cheney talk about U.S. global preeminence and taking preventive military action against possible threats from WMD or to our oil interests in the Middle East?
A. No. Well, yes and no.
Q. Oh, okay. Everybody got that, then?
A. Well, behind the scenes, with the neoconservative crowd, Bush and Cheney conveyed a very strong message. In fact, in September 2000 Libby, Wolfowitz, and ten other future Bush-Cheney appointees signed a policy statement, called "Rebuilding America's Defenses," that was posted on the PNAC website. The paper, which described itself as a "blueprint for maintaining global U.S. preeminence" that grew out of Cheney's 1992 "Defense Policy Guidance" paper, advocated substantially increased defense spending. Regarding the Middle East, it said the "need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
In plain English: We should have permanent military bases in the Middle East.
Q. Did the statement indicate whether PNAC thought the public would agree with this strategy?
A. Yes. PNAC acknowledged that its goals would likely take a long time to achieve, "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor."
Q. Anyone could look at this website, couldn't they?
A. Yes. But it was not well known outside of DC and certain conservative circles, and publicly, especially in the general election, Bush and Cheney said nothing whatsoever about a "bold" foreign policy or any other PNAC principles.
Q. Can you give us some examples?
A. Sure. On August 27, 2000, on Meet the Press, Cheney said that the U.S. should not act as "an imperialist power, willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world, taking down governments." He was talking about the Middle East.
Also, in the presidential debate against Al Gore at UMass on October 3, Bush said he would "take the use of force very seriously" and "be guarded" in his approach. He also said he disagreed with Vice President Gore about the use of troops: "He [Gore] believes in nation building. I would be very careful about using our troops as nation-builders."
Then, in the October 11 debate, Bush was asked how the world should view us and he said they would welcome us "if we're a humble nation, but strong." He also said we needed to "project strength in a way that promotes freedom."
Q. What did Bush say about the need for building coalitions?
A. One of Bush's main themes was that he was a leader and that leaders build coalitions. On December 2, 1999, for example, he said he would "keep the peace" by "strengthening alliances, which says [sic] America cannot go alone, we must be peacemakers not peacekeepers." In the October 11 debate, he said, "It's important to have credibility and credibility is formed by being strong with your friends and resoluting [sic] your determination." It was especially important to have strong ties in the Middle East, he said, because of the oil there.
Q. Did Bush or Cheney talk about forcibly removing Saddam Hussein during the 2000 campaign?
A. Cheney never did, but early on, Bush seemed to say just that, perhaps inadvertently. In the December 2, 1999, New Hampshire Republican primary debate, the Fox News reporter Brit Hume asked him what he would do differently from Clinton regarding Saddam Hussein. And Bush said:
I wouldn't ease the [U.N.] sanctions, and I wouldn't try to negotiate with him. I'd make darn sure that he lived up to the agreements that he signed back in the early '90s. I'd be helping the opposition groups. And if I found in any way, shape or form that he was developing weapons of mass destruction, I'd take 'em out. I'm surprised he's still there. I think a lot of other people are as well.
Now, it's odd. The transcript says "'em" -- and I have no idea who's responsible for that. But, at the time, Hume clearly thought Bush was referring to "him," as in Saddam Hussein. And he -- Hume, I mean -- said, "Take him out?" And Bush responded, "To out [sic] the weapons of mass destruction." Which did not follow from saying "I'm surprised he's still there."
Q. Did Bush ever say "take 'em out" relating to Iraq or Saddam Hussein again during the campaign?
A. No. Although, in February 2000, he said, "There won't be any weapons of mass destruction left in Iraq if I'm the Commander-in-Chief." Usually, though, when Bush talked about Iraq, he'd say something like achieving world peace would require "firmness with regimes like North Korea and Iraq."
Actually, when you look carefully at what he said, he conveyed almost no information whatsoever.
Q. Have you come across a notable instance where Bush used the term "Commander-in-Chief"?
A. Yes. In May 1999, during an interview with a family friend and reporter named Mickey Herskovitz for a campaign book that someone else ended up writing, Bush said, "One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a Commander-in-Chief." He also said:
My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it. If I have a chance to invade -- if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency.
Grand Juror: In other words, Bush was saying that the way to be seen as a great leader was to start a war?
A. It appears so.
Q. Let's take our afternoon break.
Assistant U.S. Attorney: Special Agent Campbell, you mentioned that numerous advocates of the Project for a New American Century principles relating to U.S. global dominance and preventive attacks ended up in the Bush-Cheney administration in 2001.
How many of the people brought in by Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were public proponents of the PNAC principles?
A. Public proponents of the PNAC principles?
A. At least twenty-eight, including advisers and consultants, as well as officials, appointees, and staff. They're all listed in Exhibit 3.
Q. Does everyone have Exhibit 3?
Public Proponents of PNAC Principles
1. Paul Wolfowitz: Deputy Secretary of Defense;
2. I. Lewis Libby: Assistant to the President/ Vice President's Chief of Staff;
3. Eliot Abrams: Assistant to the President/ Deputy National Security Adviser for Global Security;
4. Stephen Cambone: Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy/current Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence [newly created position];
5. Richard Armitage: Deputy Secretary of State;
6. Christopher Williams: Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense;
7. John Bolton: UN Ambassador/Former Undersecretary of Defense for Arms Control and International Security;
8. Peter Rodman: Assistant Director of Defense for National Security Affairs;
9. Paula Dobriansky: Undersecretary of Defense for Democracy and Global Affairs;
10. Douglas Feith: Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy;
11. David Wurmser: Middle East Adviser to the VP/Former Special Adviser to the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security;
12. Abram Shulsky: Director of Defense Department's Office of Special Plans;
13. Zalmay Khalilzad: Ambassador to Iraq/Former Special Assistant to the President for Persian Gulf Affairs;
14. Barry Watts: Office of the Secretary of Defense/Director of Program Analysis & Evaluation;
15. Dov Zakheim: Undersecretary and Chief Financial for Defense Department;
16. Mark Lagon: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State;
17. Robert B. Zoellick: Former U.S. Trade Rep-resentative/Former Deputy National Security Adviser;
18. David Epstein: Staff, Secretary of Defense;
19. Richard Perle: Former Chairman, Defense Policy Board;
20. Eliot Cohen: Defense Policy Board;
21. Devon Gaffney-Cross: Defense Policy Board;
22. Henry S. Rowen: Defense Policy Board;
23. R. James Woolsey: Defense Policy Board;
24. Richard V. Allen: Defense Policy Board;
25. Daniel Goure: Consultant to Secretary of Defense;
26. Gary Shmitt: Consultant to Secretary of Defense;
27. Randy Scheuneman: Consultant to Secretary of Defense;
28. William Schneider, Jr.: Chairman, Defense Science Board
Q. Out of those, how many had specifically and publicly called for the use of United States military force to depose Saddam Hussein?
A. Seventeen had already called for the forcible removal of Saddam Hussein.
Q. Those would include the Deputy Secretaries of Defense and State, as well as seven additional high-level appointees in the State and Defense Departments, correct?
A. Yes. Also, of course, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. Including Rumsfeld, eighteen of the Bush-Cheney administration appointees had publicly called for the removal of Saddam Hussein before 2001, including Rumsfeld.
Grand Juror: The evidence about Project for a New American Century, and Bush talking about being a Commander-in-Chief?
Grand Juror: Are you saying that Bush and Cheney were definitely planning to invade Iraq from the beginning?
Q. No, and that is not something you have to decide in this case. The predisposition evidence shows the genesis and some of the motivation for the fraud, but it's not intended to be proof of the fraud itself. You could decide they were not predisposed to invade Iraq and still find probable cause to believe that they conspired to defraud the United States beginning on or before September 2002.
So, let's call it a day. Thank you for your testimony, Agent Campbell. Have a good evening, everyone.
[Note: For Part 1 of Elizabeth de la Vega, "A Fraud Worse than Enron" click here; for Part 2, "The Indictment," click here. For the final five days of grand jury testimony, be sure to pick up a copy of United States v. George W. Bush.]
Elizabeth de la Vega is a former federal prosecutor with more than 20 years of experience. During her tenure, she was a member of the Organized Crime Strike Force and Chief of the San Jose Branch of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California. Her pieces have appeared in the Nation Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and Salon. She writes regularly for Tomdispatch.com. This day of grand jury testimony is part of her new book, United States v. George W. Bush et al. She may be contacted at ElizabethdelaVega@Verizon.net.
Excerpted from United States v. George W. Bush et al. by Elizabeth de la Vega, published December 1, 2006 by Seven Stories Press and Tomdispatch.com.
Copyright 2006 Elizabeth de la Vega