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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Yoo-Tang Clan

Listen to this mashup of the Wu-Tang Clan, John Yoo, and el presidente (.mp3)

The ongoing fight between our various branches of government over the use of torture is heating up as Senator McCain squares off against the Bush administration.

Recently, Matt Lauer went toe-to-toe (literally) with Bush over recent CIA leaks about secret prisons in Europe where terrorist suspects have been subjected to a variety of techniques that anybody who watches 24 would probably consider to be "torture." Bush's emphasis here, as with most of the speeches he has given recently, rests firmly on the "lawful" nature of these interrogations. Lawful as determined by lawyers in the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, the mainstream press is finally starting to have a hard time understanding how exactly waterboarding, a technique first used in the Spanish Inquisition, is legal under the Geneva Convention. The article notes that, in prior wars, including Vietnam and the Spanish-American war, US solidiers were in some cases either discharged or jailed for using this technique.

Is there something different about this war? Where did the Bush administration get the idea that, regardless of the morality or effectiveness of the tactics, they have legal support?

Enter John Yoo, currently a professor at Berkeley, but formerly an employee at the US Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. Yoo authored a number of memos shortly after 9/11 pointing out that, under a textual analysis of the Geneva Convention, many of the prisoners we've captured in our war on terror do not qualify for protection under the Geneva Convention at all. They aren't fighting under command of a nation-state, they've attacked civilians deliberately, etc, etc.. A brilliant move on his part, since the need to define torture was sidestepped altogether.

In playground terms, it becomes - if they don't play by the rules, we won't play by the rules.

Even if there are valid arguments as to why the Geneva Convention, as a whole, could be outdated, that still begs the question. What are the rules?

Apparently, there aren't any. In Mr. Yoo's universe, the president may, in a time of war, do whatever he wants.

If you think I'm exaggering, listen to this interview from last December. The quote below is starting to get visibility in the blog world. No major paper has the guts to run it. If you think it might be taken out of context, listen yourself.

Doug Cassel: If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?
John Yoo: No treaty.
Doug Cassel: Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo...
John Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.

(emphasis added)

Wait, this reminds me of a song by the Wu-Tang Clan...."Method Man."

The intro goes something like this:

Torture.....
Yeah, I'll fuckin
Yeah I'll fuckin lay your nuts on a fuckin dresser
Just your nuts layin on a fuckin dresser
And bang them shits with a spiked fuckin bat
Ooooohhhh
Whassup? BLAOWWW!!


So the message from Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bush is that, in times of war, the President ain't nothin to fuck with. No, not the U.S., which also includes Congress and the Supreme Court. Just the President.

For a brilliantly concise explanation of just how legally wrong Mr. Yoo's arguments in light of the Constitution, read Glenn Greenwald's article.

For the non-lawyers, just consider these quotes from a few people who Mr. Yoo and Mr. Bush probably think are hopelessly out-of-date:


"The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist."
Winston Churchill

To bereave a man of life, [says he] or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole nation; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.
Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers

Comments:
great audio about torture and bush :)
 
great audio about torture and bush :)
 
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