Turley: Truth commission a 'shameful' way to avoid prosecuting war crimes


(Gold9472: Does everyone remember my question for Patrick?)

David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Wednesday February 11, 2009

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) called on Monday for a "truth and reconciliation commission" to investigate Bush administration abuses, describing it as a "middle ground ... to get to the bottom of what happened." However, constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley believes that would be a terrible idea.

"There's no question that torture occurred here," Turley told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. "There's no question that it was a war crime. And so the only reason to have a commission of this kind is to avoid doing what we're obligated to do under a treaty."

"It is shameful that we would be calling for this type of commission," Turley continued, calling it "incredible" that Leahy would be proposing an approach most associated with emerging democracies that lack a well-developed legal system.

"We're obligated to investigate," he insisted. "This whole discussion in front of the whole world is basically saying that we are not going to comply with the promise we made, not to ourselves, but to the world."

Olbermann noted that since the Bush administration itself claims that its actions were somehow above the law, "Does not using a special forum inherently validate the Bush claim that the regular rules did not apply to his presidency?"

"It absolutely does," Turley replied. "There is great love for President Obama, and I have great respect for him, but you cannot say that no one is above the law and block the investigation of the war crimes by your predecessor. It is a position without principle."

"At the end of the day," continued Turley, "no one believes that people will be prosecuted for a known war crime -- and when we do that then we will become accessories. Those crimes of President Bush will become our crimes. His shame will become our collective shame."

"The Democrats are going to have to decide whether they want to detach themselves from principle, start their control of this government with an act of the most unprincipled sort," Turley concluded. "You have to decide whether you are a statesman or just one more politician looking for the next election."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast Feb 10, 2009.

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