On Point Debate With Professor Robert Turner

logo2I just completed the discussion below on NPR’s On Point with Professor Robert Turner of the University of Virginia. It shows the flood of different rationales being put forward from every quarter to excuse not investigating war crimes.

My favorite point is when Professor Turner argues that investigating people who tortured detainee would be like investigating a soldier who shot a man on his way to the Rod and Gun club. Hmmm.

For the debate, click here.

27 thoughts on “On Point Debate With Professor Robert Turner”

  1. Budda Is Laughing

    “Being a semi-paranoid Linux geek has its drawbacks sometimes.”

    Using linux (PClinuxOS) for many years and am glad to see the Whitehouse is using some open source. Seems they might be a bit paranoid, too.

    As John Dean says, “The cover up is always worse than the crime.”

  2. Simply astounding. How could have Mr. Hayden become a military 4-star general and how could have Mr. Turner become a professor of law. They were both using grade school “logic.”

    Additionally, Mr. Turner’s statement regarding the rod and gun club shooting was outrageous.

    No wonder the U.S.A. is declining.

  3. Excellent debate! (At least your side of it, professor Turley.) I especially liked your deft avoidance of the trap that torture advocates often try to set by simultaneously raising the issues of “is torture always immoral” and “is torture effective” and then tacitly assuming that you agree with them on the question you don’t immediately answer. While I believe that (as I’m sure you do) that torture is an ineffective means of interrogation I think that the correct response to this gambit is to point out, as you did, that the morality/legality issue is far more important and once you’ve established that torture is wrong, the issue of its effectiveness is irrelevant. I do have to disagree with your argument for the prosecution (or at least the threat of prosecution) of the CIA interrogators for torture. Since both the memos supporting the legalization of torture and the fact that people were indeed tortured pursuant to those memos are part of the record, it seems unnecessary to use anything more than a subpoena and the threat of perjury to compel their testimony. Furthermore, I think there should be a very tight focus on going after the people who so grossly failed in their duty by writing these memos (and who could possibly be leveraged into testifying against President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, and Secretary Rumsfeld). It is the prosecution of these people which can wash this stain from our national honor while the prosecution of the interrogators seems likely to lead to the diluting of the public’s will to go after the big fish.

  4. Thank you so for calling a war crime a war crime and for clearly expressing your outrage at what was done by the CIA and the clearly wrongheaded desire of our president to turn the other way.
    As a 30 year member of Amnesty International, I depend on international law to make case to foreign governments. I haven’t been able to compose a convincing letter since the start of the Bush administration but had high hopes that the US would once again honor international law and its treaty and moral obligations. As someone who campaigned for President Obama, I am deeply, deeply disappointed.

  5. Thank you for being so HONEST about this all. I need to hear your firm comments to keep on believing.

  6. ‘For what it’s ‘worth’ – remember this?


    U.S. Criminal Liability for Fraud, Crimes, and Abuses Committed Oversees

    “…The immunity loophole for contractors working for agencies other than the Department of Defense became evident with the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the question of criminal culpability for contractors of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), a non-DOJ agency. In 2005, Congress passed the 2005 DOD Authorization Act to amend the MEJA to include other federal agencies and their contractors that are “supporting the mission of the Department of Defense.” Congress did not define the terms “supporting” or “mission.”…

  7. Prof. Turley,

    Ok. I’ve finished. Once again, you are my hero JT.

    Excellent job on holding Turner’s distortions on FISA rulings to a minimum as well as calling out his and Hayden’s ridiculous assertion about “these are not evil people”. Moral relativism is such a pant load. And Turner is full of it enough for three or four people. I certainly hope the UVLS charges discounted rates for his courses. I know I’d have wanted my money back.

    On a personal note, I’m sorry you have to live so close to a war criminal like Hayden! Tension on the block indeed.

    P.S. I am not sure if the Turley clan is dog enabled, but if so, I think you know where this is going or, more appropriately, where I hope the dog is going. If you don’t have a dog, might I suggest a Great Dane (good with kids, naturally protective and prodigious producers of poop).

  8. For anyone interested in hearing the interview, you can listen to On Point via podcast and it is available on iTunes. I am not sure what time each day’s program is put on iTunes, but I know they do it nightly because I usually listen to the previous day’s On Point on my way to work each morning. I wish Tom Ashbrook would have been there today. I don’t think he would have gave Mr. Turner such a free pass and would have definitely challenged a lot of his claims.

  9. Buddha,

    Very true, Now comes Cheney again! Why does he hate America? Why does he want to give our enemies information on how we treat detainees? What would Mr. Turner say?

    “Now that the memos showing the rulings of interrogation techniques have been released, the Obama administration should release additional documents that show what the interrogations yielded, former Vice President Dick Cheney told FOX News on Monday.”

  10. Wow.

    I’m about half way through and all I have to say so far is that Robert Turner is totally full of crap.

  11. Patty,

    That was indeed my earlier methodology. It works fine now, but earlier I may not have given the website sufficient java privileges to pull up the player so it routed me to essentially a 404 page. Being a semi-paranoid Linux geek has its drawbacks sometimes. 😀 Now, off to the show . . .

  12. Regretfully, I have not been able to hear the show. I get a dead link when I go to the web page. However, I am sure it was another tour de force from our host. I will keep trying to catch the interview.

  13. Matthew,

    I must agree about all the fallacies. What a frustrating interview.


    You did a very good job in a difficult situation. The program was moving all over the place. I about spit out my water when I heard Donald Rumsfield probably didn’t even know what Common Article 3 was. That despite large portions of the Bush administration finding every possible way to avoid following a law they supposedly knew nothing about. There was some really reprehensible arguments that were laid on completely false foundations. Mr. Turner should be ashamed. I’m glad you were there to be a strong moral voice.

  14. Those who use national security as a panacea and justification have historically been covering up illegal, immoral acts, or
    proponents of naked power. JT wins debate by a KO!

  15. JT (if I may call you that),

    I was pleasantly surprised to hear you on my favorite NPR program today! It really disturbs me when people like Mr. Turner can sit there and say national security trumps everything, ignoring the rule of law. I’ve recently become interested in the skeptical movement and have been reading many books on arguments and fallacies within them. The opponents of investigating these barbaric acts of torture use every sort of faulty reasoning mentioned in skeptical texts. It is refreshing to hear a voice of reason dismantle their arguments.

  16. I didn’t listen as closely as I could have, but it seems that the conservative rationale shifts faster than George Bush selling his tax cuts.

    I thought I heard Turner excuse Rumsfeld for the torture because he was not aware of the law – ignorance as a defense.

    There also seems to be a misuse of the imminent danger “Jack Bauer” defense – is there no difference between doing whatever is necessary when you believe there is bomb waiting to explode and repeatedly torturing someone you’ve imprisoned for six years?

    I’m not entirely happy with allowing CIA agents or contractors who are the equivalent of enlisted men to go free for following orders and doing what the memos allowed, so long as it was not done so that the number of repetitions makes what Bush did not think was torture into torture. But those who repeated the torture (Ari Shapiro said that one person was waterboarded 150 times), as well as the supposed adult supervision that gave the orders should be pursued. Lynndie English was not the criminal. Rather it was Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or George Bush who must be brought to justice.

  17. Dear Prof. Turley,

    As a 1954 graduate of GWU, I am exceedingly proud of you and of George Washington University because of the way you are speaking truth to power on MSNBC and now on NPR. The wider the audience the better.

    Thank you so much for your work on behalf of the Constitution, of the Geneva conventions, and the rule of law. We need many more as courageous and articulate as you.

    All the best,

    R. Thomas Douglass
    BA Geo. Wash. Univ., 1954
    Ph.D. Pennsylvania, 1964

  18. Dear Professor Turley,
    Thank you for appearing on NPR. I support your position, and am deeply troubled by the position that President Obama has taken. There should be an investigation into these illegal acts. Please keep speaking out. Mrs. Lois Capps is my representative. I will be writing to her as well.

    Is there a chance that the Attorney General will pursue justice against the people who gave credibility to these acts?

    Also, what prevents the law associations from some form of sanctions.

    Thanks for standing up.

    Dianne Delaney
    long time Democrat and ardent Obama supporter.

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