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Will Wonders Never Cease? NPR's Juan Williams Finds His Voice, Argues with O'Reilly

Reported by Marie Therese - June 17, 2005

What a day! FOX News Contributor,Juan Williams, whose "liberal" voice has rarely been raised in anger to his FOX colleagues, gave as good as he got on last night's O'Reilly Factor on the topic of the Gitmo detainees. Bill did not like it one little bit. It was clear from his demeanor that he was extremely upset that the usually mild-mannered Williams suddenly seemed to have sprouted lion's claws and refused to be bullied.

It did my heart good to see this, because I like Juan Williams. He's educated and thoughtful and for a long time I've wondered how he could stomach playing second fiddle to the likes of the obstreperous Bill O'Reilly and dyspeptic Brit Hume. I certainly hope we see more of the roaring and righteous Mr. Williams!

In the course of the interview O'Reilly savaged Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and advanced his own definition of torture, claiming that what has transpired at Gitmo is not. Williams and Napolitano strongly disagreed with him.

Here's my transcript.

O'REILLY, TALKING POINTS MEMO: "Senator Dick Durbin slams his own country. I think it's safe to say that most Americans see the war on terror in a far different way than many in the rest of the world and before we analyze the incredible remarks by Senator Durbin, it's important we understand exactly what the majority of nations inside the the UN are willing to accept.

"First, chaos inside Iraq that could lead to the rise of another terrorist state even worse than Saddam's regime. Nuclear weapons in the hands of fanatical Iranian mullahs and the protection of top Al Qaeda leaders by those same mullahs. Nuclear weapons in the hands of brutal North Korean regime. Captured terrorists being given Geneva Convention rights which means no coercive interrogation. A World Court that after nearly four years still can't complete the trial of Serbian dictator Milosovich and genocide in the Sudan. That is what the world is willing to accept and, if the U.S.A. does not accept those things, then we are considered the problem!

"There's also a fifth column within America that's willing to accept the aforementioned and it's here where things get dicey because irresponsible dissent can undermine the war effort.

"Enter Dick Durbin, the liberal Senator from Illinois who voted against the action in Iraq this time around and back in 1991 after Saddam invaded Kuwait. Senator Durbin didn't want the U.S. to take military action against Saddam even when his thugs were murdering and raping Kuwaitis, so I was a bit puzzled when Durbin went off the rails after reading an FBI report that said Gitmo interrogators has kept suspects chained in hot and cold rooms.

VIDEO CLIP of SEN. RICHARD DURBIN, June 14, 2005: "If I read this to you and didn't tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have happened by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some made regime, Pol Pot or others, that had no concern for human beings." END CLIP.

O'REILLY: "Now, I hope Durbin'll come on the Factor, because I have a simple question for him! If he's so concerned about human beings, what about the Kuwaitis or the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis whom Saddam murdered!!! If it were up to Durbin, Saddam'd still be sittin' there, killin' people. It's a simple question, because I'm a simple man.

"What it comes down to is this, ladies and gentlemen: Do you the American people approve of coerced interrogation of suspected terrorists? As for Durbin, the good people of Illinois have got to vote him out. His provocative sound bite'll be used all over the world by anti-American media and that, in turn, will create even more hatred of the U.S.A. The simpletons abroad will say: (snide sing-song voice) See! Even a U.S. Senator says America is like Hitler!

"Sen. Durbin is entitled to dissent but his unreasoned condemnation of his own country is disgraceful and, more importantly, it's dangerous. And that's the Memo."

After a segment on missing white teenager, Natalee Holloway, and a discussion of the possibility that she's been abducted and forced into white slavery in the Caribbean, Bill argued with both of his guests - Judge Andrew Napolitano and Juan Williams - on the topic of Senator Durbin's remarks.

Neither man supported coercive interrogation and - wonder of wonders! - Juan Williams actually forcibly got his points across. My jaw dropped. He refused to let himself be talked over by an increasingly more and more agitated O'Reilly and only once did he say that he agreed with the Mr. Bill. After Williams expressed his very strong opinions, Judge Napolitano explained to O'Reilly that even the prisoners at Guantanamo have the right to a hearing and that coercive interrogation is not legal. O'Reilly was not happy to hear this news.

O'REILLY: So where am I goin' wrong here, Juan?

WILLIAMS: Well,you know what, I don't think you understand the basics of modern war. If you are going to, in fact, give your enemy ammunition by allowing this kind of torture to go on, Bill, it's not serving America's interests. Dick Durbin is a Senator from the heartland. This is a guy who was in the House of Representatives for thirteen years, second, now, term in the Senate from Illinois. This guy is the Minority whip, he's a Democratic spokesman and what he's saying is what you're hearing from Republicans like Mel Martinez, Chuck Hagel, President Bush himself last week saying maybe we should close Guantanamo. It's not serving America's interests. And now you have an FBI memo - remember Dick Durbin's not speaking out of turn. He's citing an FBI memo that says you have people laying on the ground 24 hours, shivering, in a fetal position, handcuffed, feet locked up in cuffs. This is terrible. People pulling out their hair, piles of hair on the floor. What does that sound like to you, Bill? It doesn't sound like the America we love.

O'REILLY (overtalks last 8 words): Coer - well, I know what it sound - it's coerced interrogation. Now, let me ask you a question. These people, who are being interrogated this way - and we know this to be true - are broken, most of them. They break them ...

WILLIAMS: Right.

O'REILLY: ... and then they get information that saves thousands of lives in some cases. Now, I will agree with you - it's harsh and you could put a torture rap on that if you want. I wouldn't but you could. But Pol Pot and Hitler and these people - it doesn't come close to what they did - not even close. It's not in the same universe. I'm sure you'd agree with that, right?

WILLIAMS: I'd agree with that ..

O'REILLY: OK. Good! Wait, wait, wait!

WILLIAMS: ..start talkin' a gulag ...

O'REILLY: No "buts". No "buts."

WILLIAMS: I said ...

O'REILLY: Let's just keep walkin' through it!

WILLIAMS: I said I agree with you, I agree with you.

O'REILLY: OK. So Durbin misstated what the problem was. It's not what Hitler did. It's not what Pol Pot did. What it is is a decision the American public should make, whether saving thousands of lives is worth chaining a guy in a cell and making it hot and cold and playin' him loud rap music, which is what the FBI memo said.

WILLIAMS: You know, Bill, Bill ....

O'REILLY: Now, come down obviously and say ...

WILLIAMS: ... you're playing games here.

O'REILLY: ... no, it isn't worth it.

WILLIAMS: No.

O'REILLY: That's what you said.

WILLIAMS: No. No. Bill, you're playing games here. You're changing the frame of reference. First of all, what Pol Pot and Hitler did was to literally millions of people. What we're talkin' about here is an example of a few people being abused ....

O'REILLY: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: ... at, at Guantanamo Bay

O'REILLY: Well, Durbin didn't bring that context

WILLIAMS: And the con ...

O'REILLY (louder): Durbin didn't bring that context, Juan, did he?

WILLIAM: Well, no. No. And so what we have here, though, if you're the individual on the floor, who's pulling his hair out, not being able to go to the bathroom, defecating on himself, urinating on himself, you're being tortured. There's no question about that. But the second important point is you make it out as if the information we're getting out of this individual that we're torturing is gonna save thousands of lives. Do you know how long we've had Guantanamo Bay workin', Bill? (louder) We're not gettin' any key information out of those guys!

O'REILLY (really loud): That's not a ... That's absolutely FALSE!!

WILLIAMS (shouting): I'm talking to people at the CIA ...

O'REILLY (his mic is clearly louder than Williams'): That's absolutely false!

WILLIAMS (loudly): They're not - it's the truth!

O'REILLY (loudly, pointing finger): Not according to the Pentagon - according to the Pentagon, we have saved tens of thousands of lives by breaking people in Guantanamo. PERIOD!!

WILLIAMS: Maybe early on.

O'REILLY: NO!!

WILLIAMS: Maybe early on we got some information but not now ...

O'REILLY (overtalks last 8 words): No. It depends on who they are - it depends are who they and and what they learn about them. Now I gotta turn it over to the judge.

WILLIAMS (not letting go): Not now. (shot of a smiling, bemused Judge Napolitano) We have ...

O'REILLY: Well, look ..

WILLIAMS (loudly): In fact, we've - we've even returned people ...

O'REILLY (really loud): Juan, you don't know that! You don't know that at all!!

WILLIAMS (Loudly): Yes, I do, because Bill ...

O'REILLY: You're not privy to that!!

WILLIAMS: .... you're not doing the reporting. (points thumb at himself) I'm doing the reporting and I'm tellin' ya' intelligence people are sayin' we're not gettin' anything ..

O'REILLY (exasperated): Alright.

WILLIAMS: ... that's giving us any information to prosecute this war

O'REILLY (belligerent, pointing, overtalks the last ): You give me the names of those people ...

WILLIAMS (amused, disdainful): Ha!

O'REILLY: You give me the names of those people and I'll get 'em on the show

WILLIAMS: Yeah, right!

O'REILLY (to Napolitano): Now, you ..

NAPOLITANO (looking wary): Yes. Bill ...

O'REILLY: ... have a problem with the Geneva Convention.

NAPOLITANO: I do. The reason Guantanamo Bay is a problem is because the government won't obey the law. If the Bush administration would follow the Geneva Convention ...

O'REILLY: You've read the Convention.

NAPOLITANO: I've read the Conventions. They're this thick. (holds hands apart) There's four of them..

O'REILLY: OK. Well, it's very clear ...

NAPOLITANO (overtalks last 3 words): .. it would not have over 100 cases in the United States District Court ...It would not have ...

O'REILLY: That's not true!

NAPOLITANO (somewhat louder): It would not have federal judges supervising what they're doing. It's making up the law as it's going along.

O'REILLY: Well, look, Judge, I'm really gonna make this simple so even I can understand it.

NAPOLITANO: Well, you said you're a simple guy.

O'REILLY: I am. According to the Geneva Convention, to be a POW and to get protections under it, you've gotta wear a uniform, Judge. They don't wear uniforms.

NAPOLITANO: According to the Geneva Conv ...

O'REILLY (angry): No! That's what it says ...

NAPOLITANO: Let me finish.

O'REILLY (holding up papers with yellow highlighting): ... right here!!

NAPOLITANO: According to the Geneva Convention everyone captured in war is entitled to a status of being tried to determine who sent them there and what they're doing there and what their [indecipherable] ...

O'REILLY (annoyed): That's far different than Geneva Convention protections!

NAPOLITANO: ... and they're entitled to a trial with a lawyer, a translator and to see the witnesses against them.

O'REILLY: Under a military tribunal.

NAPOLITANO: Absolutely! The government is not giving them those trials.

O'REILLY: Alright. I'll agree with you ..

NAPOLITANO: Instead the government is torturing them!

O'REILLY: Well, I - I don't be - I'm not buyin' that. I'll agree with you ...

NAPOLITANO: You said it yourself, it's torture.

O'REILLY: I will agree with you that military tribunals ... (delayed response to Napolitano's last statement) No, I didn't. I said you could interpret it that way.

NAPOLITANO: OK.

O'REILLY: I don't think that was torture. Torture is takin' off a limb. Torture is takin' somebody's eye, somethin' like that.

NAPOLITANO (overtalks last 3 words): Torture is driving somebody crazy to the point where they pull their out and defecate on themselves.

O'REILLY: OK. This, this - this was a twenty-four, forty-eight hour deal. That's what it was.

NAPOLITANO: The Congress has written statutes and we've signed treaties that make torture illegal.

O'REILLY (exasperated): I understand that!

NAPOLITANO: Why do we break our own laws?

O'REILLY: We have to decide as a people whether coerced interrogation is what we want or not.

NAPOLITANO: We've already decided we don't want it.

O'REILLY (coldy): Military tribunals, yes. Geneva Convention, no. Thank you, Judge. Thank you, Juan. And, again, out there, it's your decision whether you want coerced interrogation or not.

COMMENT

FOX News has painted Sen. Dick Durbin as the devil incarnate but creatively editing his June 14 the speech on the topic of Guantanamo Bay.

Here are the words that preceded the clip that FOX has so gleefully used to drag Durbin's name through the mud. In context, they make quite a difference.

EXCERPT from the FLOOR STATEMENT BY SENATOR RICHARD J. DURBIN ON
GUANTANAMO BAY JUNE 14, 2005

"When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw.

"And I quote from his report:

"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold....On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners. It is not too late. I hope we will learn from history. I hope we will change course."

If you would like to read the entire statement, go to Talk Left and then click on the link that says "this floor statement."

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