We executed Japanese for using these techniques on us in WWII.
Few lawyers have had more influence on President Bush's legal policies in the "war on terror" than John Yoo. This is a remarkable feat, because Yoo was not a cabinet official, not a White House lawyer, and not even a senior officer within the Justice Department. He was merely a mid-level attorney in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel with little supervisory authority and no power to enforce laws. Yet by all accounts, Yoo had a hand in virtually every major legal decision involving the US response to the attacks of September 11, and at every point, so far as we know, his advice was virtually always the same— the president can do whatever the president wants.
Yoo's most famous piece of advice was in an August 2002 memorandum stating that the president cannot constitutionally be barred from ordering torture in wartime—even though the United States has signed and ratified a treaty absolutely forbidding torture under all circumstances, and even though Congress has passed a law pursuant to that treaty, which without any exceptions prohibits torture. Yoo reasoned that because the Constitution makes the president the "Commander-in-Chief," no law can restrict the actions he may take in pursuit of war. On this reasoning, the president would be entitled by the Constitution to resort to genocide if he wished.
Since the first few days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has taken the view that the President has unilateral, unchecked authority to wage a war, not only against those who attacked us on that day, but against all terrorist organizations of potentially global reach. The administration claims that the President's role as commander in chief of the armed forces grants him exclusive authority to select "the means and methods of engaging the enemy." And it has interpreted that power in turn to permit the President to take actions many consider illegal.
The Justice Department has maintained that the President can order torture, notwithstanding a criminal statute and an international treaty prohibiting torture under all circumstances. President Bush has authorized the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, despite a comprehensive statute that makes such surveillance a crime. He has approved the "disappearance" of al-Qaeda suspects into secret prisons where they are interrogated with tactics that include waterboarding, in which the prisoner is strapped down and made to believe he will drown. He has asserted the right to imprison indefinitely, without hearings, anyone he considers an "enemy combatant," and to try such persons for war crimes in ad hoc military tribunals lacking such essential safeguards as independent judges and the right of the accused to confront the evidence against him.
In advocating these positions, which I will collectively call "the Bush doctrine," the administration has brushed aside legal objections as mere hindrances to the ultimate goal of keeping Americans safe. It has argued that domestic criminal and constitutional law are of little concern because the President's powers as commander in chief override all such laws; that the Geneva Conventions, a set of international treaties that regulate the treatment of prisoners during war, simply do not apply to the conflict with al-Qaeda; and more broadly still, that the President has unilateral authority to defy international law. In short, there is little to distinguish the current administration's view from that famously espoused by President Richard Nixon when asked to justify his authorization of illegal, warrantless wiretapping of Americans during the Vietnam War: "When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."
If another nation's leader adopted such positions, the United States would be quick to condemn him or her for violating fundamental tenets of the rule of law, human rights, and the separation of powers. But President Bush has largely gotten away with it, at least at home, for at least three reasons. His party holds a decisive majority in Congress, making effective political checks by that branch highly unlikely. The Democratic Party has shied away from directly challenging the President for fear that it will be viewed as soft on terrorism. And the American public has for the most part offered only muted objections.
The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them. For quite six years the English admirers of Hitler contrived not to learn of the existence of Dachau and Buchenwald. And those who are loudest in denouncing the German concentration camps are often quite unaware, or only very dimly aware, that there are also concentration camps in Russia. Huge events like the Ukraine famine of 1933, involving the deaths of millions of people, have actually escaped the attention of the majority of English russophiles. Many English people have heard almost nothing about the extermination of German and Polish Jews during the present war. Their own antisemitism has caused this vast crime to bounce off their consciousness. In nationalist thought there are facts which are both true and untrue, known and unknown. A known fact may be so unbearable that it is habitually pushed aside and not allowed to enter into logical processes, or on the other hand it may enter into every calculation and yet never be admitted as a fact, even in one's own mind.
Peter Feaver of Duke University, co-author of a forthcoming book on public opinion and war, says that since the Korean war 10% of Americans have opposed all military action (that was the share against war in Afghanistan). The administration cannot win them over. One-third support all wars (that was the share that backed the Vietnam war to the end).
... as the election season began, the leaders of the Republican Party, in charge of both the presidency and Congress, were trying to turn the election into a referendum on torture, which they favored.
... real power is always something far greater than military power alone. A balance of power is not a balance of military power alone: it is, rather, a balance in which military power is one element. Even in its crudest aspect, power represents a subtle and intimate combination of force and consent. No stable government has ever existed, and no empire has ever become established, except with an immensely preponderant measure of consent on the part of those who were its subjects. That consent may be a half-grudging consent; it may be a consent based in part on awe of superior force; it may represent love, or respect, or fear, or a combination of the three. Consent, in any case, is the essential ingredient in stable power--more so than physical force, of which the most efficient and economical use is to increase consent.
By using physical force in such a way as alienates consent one constantly increases the requirements of physical force to replace the consent that has been alienated. A vicious spiral develops that, continued, ends in the collapse of power. If the Government in Washington had undertaken to use the atomic bomb to control the world it would surely have ended by incurring the fanatical hostility of the world's peoples, with incalculable consequences. It would have found itself trying to dominate the world by terror alone; it would have found itself driven to ever greater extremes of ruthlessness; and the requirements of a totally ruthless policy would, at last, have compelled it to establish a tyranny over the American people as well as over the rest of mankind. At some point early in this progress, however, it would have fallen and been replaced.
The administration has repeatedly refused to say which techniques they believe are permitted under the new law. Asked to define a dunk in water, [Tony] Snow said, "It's a dunk in the water."
The so-called Military Commissions Act of 2006, signed into law yesterday [October 17] by President Bush, is replete with radical provisions, but the most dangerous and disturbing is that it vests in the President the power to detain people forever by declaring them an "unlawful enemy combatant," and they then have no ability to contest the validity of their detention in any tribunal. The President now possesses a defining authoritarian power -- to detain and imprison people for life based solely on his say-so, while denying the detainee any opportunity to prove his innocence.
There are two reasons why party control is everything in this election.
The first, lesser reason is the demonstrated ability of Republican Congressional leaders to keep their members in line, even those members who cultivate a reputation as moderates or mavericks. G.O.P. politicians sometimes make a show of independence, as Senator John McCain did in seeming to stand up to President Bush on torture. But in the end, they always give the White House what it wants: after getting a lot of good press for his principled stand, Mr. McCain signed on to a torture bill that in effect gave Mr. Bush a completely free hand.
And if the Republicans retain control of Congress, even if it's by just one seat in each house, Mr. Bush will retain that free hand. If they lose control of either house, the G.O.P. juggernaut will come to a shuddering halt.
Yet that's the less important reason this election is all about party control. The really important reason may be summed up in two words: subpoena power.
... while the Democrats won't gain the ability to pass laws, if they win they will gain the ability to carry out investigations, and the legal right to compel testimony.
« Older Free hugs in New York City inspire free hugs in Sy... | "In a close-knit Chesapeake Ba... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments
Buy a Shirt