"The most successful democracy in history is just about to see war crimes, do nothing about it -- and that's an indictment not just of George Bush and his administration. It's an indictment of all of us if we walk away from a clear war crime and say it's time for another commission." - Jonathan Turley
Turley: Bush calling Democrats' bluff by not pardoning torturers
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday November 26, 2008
"You remember those memos, right?" MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked on Tuesday. "Part of the Bush administration's unofficial game plan to ... dismiss the Geneva Conventions and other laws by using the veneer of serious legal scholarship to create an illusion that these near-death interrogation tactics ... were somehow legal."
However, constitutional expert Jonathan Turley told Maddow, "I don't believe that anyone seriously believes in the administration that what they did was legal. This is not a close legal question. Waterboarding is torture. It has been defined as a war crime." Instead, Turley suggested that "what's really happening here is a rather clever move at this intersection of law and politics."
"They know that the people what want him to pardon our torture program is primarily the Democrats, it's not the Republicans," Turley explained. "The Democratic leadership would love to have a pardon so they could go to their supporters and say, 'Look, there's really nothing we could do. ... There really can't be any indictments now.'"
"The Bush administration is calling their bluff," stated Turley. "They know that the Democratic leadership will not allow criminal investigations or indictments."
"The question is the intestinal fortitude of the Democrats to stand with the rule of law," he continued. "Unfortunately, we have many people who campaign on principle but they govern on politics. And I think that we're seeing that with the balloon they're floating saying, 'Let's have a commission ... like the 9/11 Commission.' ... Everyone in Washington knows that commission's being proposed so that there would be no serious criminal investigation or prosecution."
"What would need to be done," asked Maddow, "in order to ensure that torture is clearly illegal in the United States?"
"This has always been a crime," replied Turley. "It's always been a war crime ... The question is not whether the act is immoral, but whether moral people will stand forward and say ... 'Let's investigate it, and if there's crimes here, let's prosecute.'"
However, Turley doesn't see much chance of that happening. He concluded scathingly, "The most successful democracy in history is just about to see war crimes, do nothing about it -- and that's an indictment not just of George Bush and his administration. It's an indictment of all of us if we walk away from a clear war crime and say it's time for another commission."
This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Nov. 25, 2008.