By signing an executive order in his first days in office, Obama, for the most part, nullified U.S. authorization for capture, interrogation, and indefinite imprisonment of terror suspects all over the world.
According to Jane Mayer, author of the book “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into the War on American Ideals,” in the first few days of his presidency, Obama “consigned to history the worst excesses of the Bush Administration's "war on terror”” by canceling “seven years of controversial Justice Department legal opinions authorizing methods of treating terror suspects,” which Susan Crawford, a top Bush Administration official in charge of prosecutions at Guantanamo, recently said amounted to torture.
A chief architect of the legal opinions which granted interrogators the right to torture, John Yoo, could not resist the urge to respond to the actions of President Obama.
The Wall Street Journal published Yoo’s editorial this week, an editorial where Yoo claims, “Mr. Obama is returning America to the failed law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism that prevailed before Sept. 11, 2001.”
Yoo also claims Obama is "drying up the most valuable sources of intelligence on al Qaeda, which, according to CIA Director Michael Hayden, has come largely out of the tough interrogation of high-level operatives during the early years of the war.”
Yoo’s editorial seems to suggest the old Bush mantra that “we live in a post-9/11 world.” The supposition that there is a difference allows for policies like Yoo’s to be constructed; the idea that 9/11 means Americans must think differently is used to justify torture.
Mayer points out that Obama consulted military officers and went to great lengths to make sure that any anti-abuse or anti-interrogation policy was appropriate to them.
Mayer reports that last month two future Obama Administration lawyers met with retired four-star Marine general and conservative Republican Charles (Chuck) Krulak.
“Krulak insisted that ending the Bush Administration's coercive interrogation and detention regime was "right for America and right for the world," reports Mayer. Krulak “promised that if the Obama Administration did what he described as "the right thing," which he acknowledged wouldn't be politically easy, he would personally "fly cover" for them.”
So, say torture hadn’t occurred. Does Obama's consultation of the military really fail to ease Yoo's fear?
Better---Would a four-star Marine general and conservative Republican, Krulak, be opposed to the change of policy the Obama Administration that is being undertaken if it was true that, as Yoo states in the WSJ editorial, “eliminating the Bush system will mean that we will get no more information from captured al Qaeda terrorists. Every prisoner will have the right to a lawyer (which they will surely demand), the right to remain silent, and the right to a speedy trial?
For those who lived in a state of fear or adopted this public persona meant to show people they were afraid so certain policies could be advanced, it may be reasonable for Yoo to worry about the reforms Obama is undertaking.
Yoo explains in his editorial that he fears that military commission trials will be stayed, “good-cop bad-cop routines” will no longer be allowed, the Army Field Manual will dictate what is and is not a permissible interrogation technique, detainees will be reclassified as POWs under the Geneva Conventions, and the civilian law-enforcement system will be asked to prevent future terrorist attacks.
Why is a professor who teaches law at UC Berkeley convinced the rule of law is not adequate for security and justice when most laws are enforced to keep people safe and maintain fairness in society? Is Yoo like a Republican in government who believes all government is bad and so he or she goes to work deregulating and dismantling all that government does for the people?
Yoo suggests Obama’s reversal of policy will require “CIA interrogators [to] be polite” and will mean “coercive measures are unwisely banned with no exceptions, regardless of the danger confronting the country.”
Before Yoo becomes worried that Obama’s base will get what they want, he should admit that Obama’s executive order did not just include something to appease anti-torture advocates but also included something for pro-torture lawyers like Yoo.
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