Monday, January 09, 2006



Torturing children

John Yoo is currently a law professor at UC Berkeley. But back in September 2001, he worked for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, where he was a key architect of the Bush Administration's policies of torture and illegal wiretapping. Notably, he authored a series of memos, where, using constitutional theories more at home in an eighteenth-century absolute monarchy than a constitutional republic with checks and balances, he argued that the President had an absolute right to torture in the interests of national security.

That's bad enough, but it gets worse: Yoo not only thinks that it is legal and acceptable to torture terrorist suspects - he thinks that it is legal and acceptable to torture their children. Even by crushing their testicles.

For once, words fail me. I could talk about how monstrous and barbaric this is, or about how such tactics are used in Uzbekistan (and for exactly the same purpose, and likely with the same result), but for once, I can't. All I can say is that the deliberate targeting of the innocent in an effort to influence others is the very logic of terrorism itself - something the United States is supposed to be fighting a war against.

6 comments:

It seems to me, at least from what little information is in the linked artical, not that he is "advocating" executive torture... simply that his legal opinion is that its not precluded by the constitution...

I hope, he's wrong, and yes, it seems his legal opinion is being used to justify or even shape Bush administartion policies... so that IS repugnant... but the writer of the artical seems to be suggesting that Yoo actually advocates child torture... which is too big a stretch. He's simply advocating that the President is allowed to do it.

Maybe he's right? maybe the constitution needs changing?

Using the sensational example of crushing a testical doesnt help the argument... I'm sure I (well, someone) could dream up something even more repugnant, which, if put to him, he'd have to agree he thinks is allowed... not that he thinks its a good idea...

Fletch.

Posted by Anonymous : 1/09/2006 03:22:00 PM

The consitution certainly seems to clearly say he's wrong that the President is allowed to do that: unless congress lets him.

I believe that for 200 years legal scholars have been sure he's wrong.

And whenever the Supreme Court has come near the issue they seem to have said he's wrong: not that they've directly ruled on this precise issue.

There are bits of the US consitution that give congress (not the President) the powers to regulate the armed forces and to pass regulations on the treatment of prisoners of war. I don't see how Yoo pretends they don't exist.

Now I certainly agree that there's a grey area as to whether Congress has the power to permit the torture of prisoners of war. But as I understand it, that's not what Yoo's arguing.

Posted by Icehawk : 1/09/2006 05:05:00 PM

It does seem a bit far ... but then again a lot of theings people in power were thought of as "a little bit too far, and it'll never be done, surely"

Posted by Mike : 1/09/2006 10:23:00 PM

Fletch: I'm sorry. What non-"sensational" example of torture would you prefer he had been asked about? Strapado? Amateur dentistry? Power tools? Needles under the fingernails (so surgical, and yet so painful). Hot irons inserted into the anus? Boiling alive? Or just good, old fashioned beating and mutilation?

I don't think there is any rhetorical example they could have asked him which would have avoided being "sensational". Torture is, to civilised people at least, utterly shocking. And it is good that it is, because when it ceases to be so, we will no longer be civilised.

And make no mistake about it: this is a man who advocates torture, if only as a paid whore (and that is giving the world's oldest profession a bad name). He may not believe it to be morally justified, he may view it simply as a game of legal advocacy, but that is what he is doing: advocating torture by advocating its legal permissibility. And if he ever sets foot outside the US in future, he may very well find himself prosecuted for it.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/10/2006 12:44:00 AM

What really ought to fill people with fear is that the theory may have been put into practice: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's children were turned over to US authorities and flown to America to be interrogated and explicitly used as a lever against their father. Link here (the original has since succumbed to link rot). There's no implication in the story that they were in fact tortured (and according to CIA leaks, Mohammed broke while being waterboarded) - but there was the very definite implicit threat.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 1/10/2006 12:47:00 AM

Idiot is right. You can't make torture unsensational. To torture someone's children, or to bring it up as even possibly legitimate is plain blackest evil.

That he was comfortable enough to say publicly what he did is most telling. And it speaks of an internal rotten core of the administration that they could work with someone who could say this.

Posted by muerk : 1/10/2006 05:48:00 PM