John Yoo: war criminal and idiot

In a recent WSJ Op-Ed, John Yoo, creator of U.S. torture policy and unrepentant war criminal invited his critiques to actually read the memos he wrote.  Salon's Gary Kamiya takes him on the challenge and absolutely eviscerates Yoo's reasoning.  Actually, an intelligent High Schooler could probably see through Yoo's facile and fallacious attempts to legally justify torture.  Anyway, some of Kamiya's highlights:

Yoo and co-author Robert J. Delahunty advised the U.S. that the
Posse Comitatus Act, which forbids the Army to be used for law
enforcement, and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable
searches and seizures, do not apply to domestic military operations
undertaken during a "war on terror."

In other words, bye-bye,
Bill of Rights. This is a prescription for a police state, where not
just the police but the Army can kick your door down without a warrant
or probable cause, as long as the president says he's fighting
"terror." If Barack Obama had solicited such an opinion from an
obliging Justice Department lawyer because he wanted to sic the U.S.
Army on a group of domestic terrorists, the right would be screaming
about jackbooted federal thugs descending from black helicopters to
haul off American citizens. Strangely, no conservatives have taken to
the streets to warn us of the Big Government danger posed by this
radical doctrine. Perhaps they are too busy mobilizing against the
unspeakable socialist menace represented by Obama's 3 percent increase
in taxes on millionaires…

Portraying himself as a dedicated public servant whose legal
opinions were simply part of a "prudent and responsible … careful
contingency planning" for "a worst-case scenario," Yoo sarcastically
writes that to judge from the media coverage of the memos, "this
careful contingency planning amounted to a secret plot to overthrow the
Constitution and strip Americans of their rights … According to these
critics, the overthrow of constitutional government in the United
States began with a 37-page memo, confidentially issued on Oct. 23,
2001." Yoo warns that if the Obama administration fails to do the same
kind of "planning" — more to the point, if it continues to "seriously
pursue" officials like him who did that "planning" — it will endanger
America. Melodramatically conjuring up a Mumbai-like urban massacre,
Yoo says that holding him and other Bush administration officials
accountable will "restore risk aversion as the guiding principle of our
counterterrorism strategy."

Gosh, how could anyone think that an
opinion voiding the Fourth Amendment might endanger the Constitution?
How could anyone worry that legalizing torture might endanger human
rights? Strip away Yoo's sophomoric sarcasm and his "argument" is that
his legal opinions, which gave the Bush administration license to
undercut some of the cornerstones of American law — separation of
powers, the forbidding of unreasonable searches and seizures, habeas
corpus, the right to a fair, speedy trial, and the prohibition against
using the military to enforce the law — were merely "contingency

Of course, the whole thing is worth reading.  I know Obama's got a lot on his plate, but I really don't think that when it comes to U.S. government officials implementing an offiicial policy of torture, we can just say "bygones."





About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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