Monday, January 21, 2008

not yoo again

Here he comes again. I think most of us know by now that being book smart and being regular smart are two different traits. I’m not certain I have a whole lot of either, but…John Yoo is an ass. Yoo, one of the authors to the Bush Administration torture posse, has been sued by Jose Padilla – for $1. Yoo wrote in defense of his actions last week in the Philadelphia Inquirer and proudly makes his case via this stirring type of narrative:

"At the time, I was an official in the Bush administration Justice Department working on the response to the 9/11 attacks. Our lives had taken very different paths. Padilla had turned to drugs and crime in Chicago and was convicted of murder as a juvenile. He became a radical follower of fundamentalist Islam, left for Egypt in 1998 and journeyed in 2000 to Afghanistan, where he trained to become a terrorist at al-Qaeda and Taliban camps.

I had the good fortune to grow up in the Philadelphia area, attend the Episcopal Academy for high school, and go off to Harvard for college and Yale for law school. I studied and eventually taught war powers, a subject that always interested me because of Philadelphia's rich history with the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and my family's origins in South Korea, the scene of one of America's more recent conflicts."

And he trots out the troops (as they are wont to do) as further defense of his actions for both the memos for the Administration and support of his cause:

"Think about what it would mean if Padilla were to win. Government officials and military personnel have to devise better ways to protect the country from more deadly surprise attacks. Padilla and his lawyers want them, from the president down to lowest private, to worry about being sued when they make their decisions. Officials will worry about all of the attorneys' fees they will rack up to defend themselves from groundless lawsuits."

Are we so confused in a time of war that it’s impossible for people to determine right and wrong? Legal and illegal? I would think that the President, whoever he or she might be, and the lowest private in the military should be damned concerned about whether or not what they are doing is legal or not. The idea that Yoo would blatantly drape a flag across his shoulders and put forth a lukewarm defense, of himself, by using wartime and potential legal action as justification for government misdeed is heinous. He seems to believe that when standing at the abyss of decision and consult that the only safe way across is to ensure that we, or they, are provided absolute immunity and free rein – how could they be wrong? And even they are, so what? We’re in charge. How dare!

I don’t think any legal mind would say that the Padilla chronology was a victory for America. Yoo is pretty flippant when he opens a paragraph with “After being sued by convicted terrorist Jose Padilla…” He was certainly convicted of conspiracy to aid terrorists (a conviction that was overturned and then reinstated), but the suit brought against Yoo and others pertains to his being held – in isolation, without charges for years – because he was an ‘enemy combatant’. His enemy combatant status was deserted as the case worked its way to the Supreme Court and he was eventually transferred (by the Bush) to civilian confinement and eventually tried in civilian courts – where the ‘dirty bomb’ charges were not even mentioned. It was the process, and Yoo’s direct influence and ‘lawyering’, that begat the life he’s now got to defend.


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