December 27, 2005

Morally Reprehensible

As noted when the illegal surveillance story broke, the bad apple at the bottom of yet another bad Bush policy was John Yoo. Yoo was the one who provided the justification that Bush could determine what was or was not torture, he could wage war against any enemy the President deems is a threat without any other buy in, and he can define what was legal without regards to the Congress or the Courts. Under Yoo's theories, Bush is only constrained by his own sense of what is right or wrong. Yoo was also the first person who I heard say that the American public validated Bush's approach because they elected him in 2004 - an argument I've since heard Bush baldly state when questioned on his approach to the war in Iraq.

Monday's WaPo piece on John Yoo talks about how he is unfairly targeted by people who don't understand that he never made policy, he just provided the legal arguments that could be used by those who made policy.

Probably the strangest points in the article is the fact that John Yoo has never met Bush or Cheney. Why not? Wouldn't you think that someone that has done such a yeoman job for the administration, someone who has carried their water for so long (the only figure to repeatedly argue that Bush does have the power to do anything he wants) should have at least had one meeting with them? Perhaps the policos are aware that having Bush shake Yoo's hand would make it too clear that Bush is as immoral as Yoo?

Here's some more of John Yoo's morality on display back from those days before we realized he was aiding the President in breaking the law (Nov 16, 2006) and lying to Congress to boot:

Gillian Findlay: WHEN YOU WERE ASKED TO LOOK AT THIS QUESTION, YOU ENDED UP WITH A DEFINITION OF TORTURE EQUIVALENT IN INTENSITY TO THE PAIN ACCOMPANYING SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY SUCH AS ORGAN FAILURE, IMPAIRMENT OF BODILY FUNCTION OR EVEN DEATH. DO YOU NOT THINK WHEN YOU SAY THINGS LIKE THAT, YOU WRITE THINGS LIKE THAT IN THE CONTEXT THAT YOU WERE WRITING, THAT THAT OPENS THE DOOR TO THE KINDS OF ABUSE THAT WE HAVE SEEN?

John Yoo: You have to figure out what the law says and again, I think there is an important difference between law and policy. And so I think there is a legal question that has to be answered and I think it's a hard question. Don't get me wrong. What the word "torture" means when it's undefined by federal statutes is a hard question. It's never, that statute had never been interpreted by the executive branch, by courts, prosecutors, by anybody.
So I think it's a hard legal question. That's a different question in my mind than about whether, what kinds of policies ought to be drafted and shaped within the law. And I think factors like, will there be likely abuses to occur or not are certainly things policy makers should think about when they decide what policies to adopt. But it should not, it seems to me, change the legal analysis or the legal conclusion about what Congress has and has not prohibited.

Gillian Findlay: BUT TO THE EXTENT THAT YOUR LEGAL INTERPRETATION INFLUENCED THE POLICIES THAT CAME LATER, AND WE KNOW THEY DID

John Yoo: I don't agree with that in this sense. The memos don't say: you should interrogate this way or that you should do A, B or C or D, E and F, right?
They only say: this is what the statute means. What you do in terms of interrogation techniques is something that just has to comply with that law. But it doesn't say anything about what interrogation methods to use. Policy makers could have seen that memo and said: we should just follow the Geneva Convention standards, we'll continue to follow them.

Gillian Findlay: BUT YOU OPENED THE DOOR FOR THEM, YOU GAVE THEM THE OPPORTUNITY. YOU SAID YOU CAN ESSENTIALLY DO ANYTHING AS LONG AS YOU DON'T KILL THEM.

John Yoo: The law the memo [unclear]... it doesn't say you just can do anything but just kill them.

Gillian Findlay: I SAID SHORT OF KILLING. I MEAN INTENSITY OF PAIN ACCOMPANYING SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY, ORGAN FAILURE, IMPAIRMENT TO BODILY FUNCTION OR EVEN DEATH.

John Yoo: Right, well, that's includes a lot more

Gillian Findlay: SHORT OF KILLING THEM.

John Yoo: Well, that includes a lot more things than just short of killing somebody.

Gillian Findlay: BUT MY POINT IS THAT YOU OPENED THE DOOR, YOU SET THE PARAMETERS

John Yoo: I just don't want to buy into your characterization of the line that's drawn by the memo.

Gillian Findlay: YOU ALSO IN THE MEMO SAY THAT ACTIONS MAY BE CRUEL, INHUMAN OR DEGRADING BUT THEY STILL DON'T EQUAL TORTURE.

John Yoo: Yeah. I think that's a line that Congress drew. So the torture convention says you cannot engage in torture and it says you shall undertake not to engage in cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. So clearly, the people who drafted the treaty thought they were two different things. And when the Congress, when the Senate adopted the treaty, it only made torture criminal. It did not criminalize cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. So clearly, Congress thought they were different concepts. I think there is a broader category of things that people can do which are cruel, inhumane and degrading and only extreme versions of that constitute torture. Otherwise, you've expanded the definition of torture, I don't know, to include everything from you know standing at attention from an hour Or to things that happen in basic training in our military forces, which I don' t think anyone thinks constitute torture.

Gillian Findlay: WHAT CONSTITUTES TORTURE TO YOU?

John Yoo: I think the memo is still correct in that it's extreme physical harm, extreme physical abuse, extreme mental abuse. But I think there are things which can be done which don't meet that level. I'll give you an example. Not letting someone sleep more than seven hours a night or six hours a night. There are many people probably in the international [unclear]... who think that that's cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, limiting people's sleep. I don't happen to think that's torture. There are a lot of people in this country who live under those conditions, that don't get a lot of sleep. I don't think they're being tortured.

Gillian Findlay: YOU TALK A LOT ABOUT COST VERSUS BENEFIT. EVERYTHING THAT YOU NOW KNOW THAT HAPPENED IN THESE PLACES, WHETHER OR YOU NOT ACCEPT THAT THEY ARE SOMEHOW RELATED TO THE POLICY YOU WROTE

John Yoo: Well, a lot of them I don't think can be discussed. I mean I think the United States has successfully prevented terrorist attacks on the country, some of which could have been quite devastating.

Gillian Findlay: HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT?

John Yoo: I think the president just gave a speech a few weeks ago listing 10 attacks that were stopped, several of which were around the country, several of which could have led to a lot of deaths. But I don't think the United States can or should disclose publicly what those are in the middle of a war, where release of that information could give an advantage to the other side.

Gillian Findlay: BUT HOW DO WE KNOW? I MEAN, WITH ALL RESPECT TO THE PRESIDENT, YOU CAN SAY THESE THINGS. IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY MAKE THEM TRUE. HOW DO YOU KNOW

John Yoo: He doesn't have to justify them to the people of Canada either, but he does have to justify them to the Senate and the House. I mean there are, there is a procedure for briefing the House and Senate intelligence committees about these exactly these kind of things. But they have to remain classified, so they have had it explained. If they don't like it, they could cut funding off for it, they could pass laws prohibiting it. There's a lot of things Congress can do to counter things that they don't agree with. And those you know so it is up to the president. But he also has to get the cooperation of Congress. And I think the American people generally don't want the executive branch to start explaining in great detail how certain kinds of information led to the prevention of this terrorist attack or that terrorist attack If they understood that it could give Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda an advantage in fighting against us in the future.

Gillian Findlay: WHAT ABOUT THE COSTS? WHAT HAVE BEEN THE COSTS, DO YOU THINK?

John Yoo: Yeah, I mean there have been cases of abuse. There have been cases where people have gone beyond the rules and that has been the harm. But that is certainly cost but we have to measure it against the benefits and that's what we have elections for. We had a national presidential election in the middle, right in the middle of all of the disclosures of this, in the middle of this war. And people could have elected Bush out of office if they thought this was improper and that the costs outweighed the benefits. They could have replaced

Gillian Findlay: DO YOU THINK THAT ELECTION WAS A REFERENDUM ON THE TORTURE POLICY?

John Yoo: it was certainly a referendum on the war on terrorism.

Gillian Findlay: SO YOU THINK HIS VICTORY VINDICATES EVERYTHING THAT'S HAPPENED?

John Yoo: No. I've used that if people disagree with that policy, they certainly could have voted him out of office and voted the Republicans out of the House and the Senate. And there's no doubt the war on terrorism was front and centre, the primary issue that was being debated in the presidential election. And I'd point out that Senator Kerry could have raised this issue if he'd wanted to and attacked President Bush about it, as some you know some other people did. He certainly chose not to. I think if the people didn't approve of the policies that's what elections are for. I don't see, what's the point of having elections if not for that?

Yes, indeedy. Why have elections if your policies are kept secret from everyone except a select few that are bound by law not to talk to anyone about them? Americans don't want to know what Bush is doing in their name because it might give Osama bin Ladin an edge in the war on terror. What a brillant justification. One that the devil would find amusing.

Posted by Mary at December 27, 2005 01:15 AM | Wingnuts | Technorati links |
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