On War Crimes and Torture: Should High Government Officials Be Investigated and Prosecuted? – Debate Between Michael Ratner and Stuart Taylor – Georgetown University – Speech Notes – PDF

2008 Georgetown Debate with Stuart Taylor Speech Notes

Nov 20 Georgetown 08

  1. Obama recently said he will —”make sure we don’t torture” Ran on that premise; end torture

I am hopeful that will happen under his admin—lots he can do

-Exec order—afm;

-withdraw presd orders and memos—authorize conduct that amts to torture;

War crimes and cruel treatment

–declassify and make public the documents that related to the program

  1. But also was leaked “little or any chance” justice go after those who authorized torture, or abusive interrogation techniques

That decision is not set in stone–

It’s up to all of us to persuade the new administration that

No investigation and prosecution would be the wrong decision

  1. I think if Obama really wants to “make sure we don’t torture”

Must investigate and prosecute the torture team—principals and lawyers—

Key– Cheney tenet Rumsfeld (bush)

war council: Addington Gonzales yoo haynes

Others—Powell Ashcroft Rice; Flanigan

Next level cambone miller

That is the way to end torture for now and into the future—

That is the way to send a message to future admin

To other countries —and to our own–

Not acceptable–

  1. It is not sufficient to pass new executive orders and fix claimed loopholes in the laws—we thought we had pretty strong laws—anti-torture (2340) war crimes (2441)

Can’t build addington/yoo proof laws—free from twisted interpretations

Even if you could—remember what happened here:

An assault on the law itself—claim that the President could override or ignore laws prohibiting torture, war crimes etc; fsia

All the laws in the world can’t fix that problem.

Yes that premise needs to be forcefully rejected—exec not above the law-

But to insure that the limits on govt are adhered to—

It is investigation and prosecution of those who twisted the law–

And went beyond the law that will deter similar transgressions of the law in the future—-

  1. To do otherwise — to fail to investigate and prosecute
    Is the equivalent of giving impunity—

That is the wrong message

Wrong message to future administrations–

Wrong message to every precinct that sometimes is tempted to cross the torture line

Wrong message to other countries—

If laws can be broken with impunity today can be broken with impunity tomorrow–subverts our const system

  1. You will hear a lot reasons why this administration should not pursue investigations and prosecution of the torture conspirators

Just remember they all amount to impunity–for horrendous conduct—

for a torture and war crimes program that went on throughout the world—authorized—supervised—from the top–

Impunity for water boarding and other abuses at secret sites–

Impunity for the torture of maq and abuse at gitmo

Impunity for the war crimes and torture in Iraq and Afg.

Impunity that sent maher arar to syria; habib to Egypt;

  1. You will hear we can’t prosecute because they had legal defenses—

The Torture conspirators knew their conduct violated the War crimes act and anti-torture stat. They went ahead anyway.

But they were nervous. Prosecutor in the future–

So they had to manufacture defenses.

These defenses will do them little or no good. But that I hope will be a question for a court and a jury in this country.

One thing I can promise you—if this country fails to act, other countries will—

And these so called defenses and even pardons will be completely ­irrelevant in prosecutions for the international crimes of torture and war crimes

  1. You will hear it will divide our county; hurt the admin etc.

–Not a reason for leaving in place a precedent: law viol with impunity

Already divided—leave it where it is-

A divided country will insure torture again;

job is to close that divide—obama can; we can

Investigations and prosecutions can–no excuse; no circumstances

  1. You will hear that we at ccr not realistic—not the gauge—Doing what is right is the measure; 35 years Pinochet–Without the demand— it will never happen-

10. You will hear not look backward–

Investigation and prosecution is not looking backward

It is looking forward—it the best we can do to make sure this will not happen again

It’s called deterrence—no problem with concept of deterrence

  1. Close Gen. Taguba—”The commander in chief and those under him authorized a systemic regime of torture. …There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

That is up to all of us—


12. As Jane Mayer said in her book “the dark side”

This was the First time in history the United States sanctioned govt. officials to physically and psychologically torment US captives—making torture the official law of the land

So they had to manufacture defenses: Assert that the President was above the law and could do no wrong. Argue that torture was not torture. Claim that torture could be used in self-defense. Assert that the Geneva Conventions were inapplicable. And finally push through Congress a retroactive narrow redefinition of war crimes they hoped would protect them.

As Greg Craig, who is soon to be white house counsel, said: “The idea that the president can do almost anything that he deems necessary in the name of national security, there is nothing in the Constitution that supports that, and it goes against 200 years of Supreme Court jurisprudence.”