Annotated Aggression: Being Jay Bybee
It's October 23, 2002, and you're Jay Bybee, the man in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel in the United States Department of Justice. John Yoo and a bunch of other lawyers willing to claim that absolutely anything is legal work for you. But you'd much rather be a judge. That would be a cushy job, a lifetime job, a job with a book of the Bible named for it, a job where you would get to decide which crimes to legalize rather than being told by someone else, a job where you might eventually even get to rule on the legality of some of the crimes you were presently engaged in committing. At the moment, however, if you want to become a judge you're going to have to follow instructions, and that means legalizing the greatest crime of them all. Millions may die in the process, but you will get that nomination and you will become a judge.
You pray for divine guidance and sit down to write (or at least sign) this apology for, authorization of, and confession to mass murder, another term for which is often genocide. Here's your opening line in all caps:
"AUTHORITY OF THE PRESIDENT UNDER DOMESTIC AND INTERNATIONAL LAW TO USE MILITARY FORCE AGAINST IRAQ"- Advertisement -
This is a remarkable thing for you (or even Yoo, your psychotic sidekick) to have written, because the Constitution is the supreme law domestically, and it gives Congress the exclusive power to decide to wage war. And under the United Nations Charter, no nation has the authority to attack another. But you were Jay Bybee. You were the man. You were the authority handing out personalized torture laws for individual victims. You were, in fact, already a judge convicting and sentencing people in lengthy rulings before "legalizing" and imposing their sadistic punishments. Granting U.S. presidents the power to launch aggressive wars didn't trouble you in the way it might have someone who cared about people and their lives. But this single memo would mean far more pain and suffering than all of your soon-to-be-famous torture memos put together.
You added a bit more to your composition, about 50 pages more in fact. You (or whoever wrote this for you) began thus:
"The President possesses constitutional authority to use military force against Iraq to protect United States national interests."- Advertisement -
Now you were showing off, digging yourself deeper. Now you would need to explain how the United States could have national interests in somebody else's distant nation that outweighed that nation's own interest in not being attacked or invaded.
And you were just warming up. You dug deeper:
"This independent constitutional authority is supplemented by congressional authorization in the form of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution."
This is apparently a reference to the 1991 version of this type of congressional buck passing. In fact, such a resolution could not alter the Constitution to either remove or augment anything. In addition, it was more than a decade old. That wouldn't faze you, Jay Bybee, because you'd already given the president "independent constitutional authority" to treat such an authorization as redundant and superfluous. Its primary purpose was to pack these pages and obscure the simplicity of your primary argument, if that's a name merited by your bald assertion that verily this is that.
You did some international digging too:
"Using force against Iraq would be consistent with international law because it would be authorized by the United Nations Security Council or would be justified as anticipatory self-defense."- Advertisement -
Now you were digging deep indeed. By citing the two exceptions that the UN Charter makes to its ban on war, you were acknowledging its authority. But neither exception applied. The UN rejected a US attack on Iraq as something it could not authorize, and such an attack would -- of course -- not be self-defense. But that didn't matter either, because you'd already begun to alter the law. You invented something called "anticipatory self-defense." But international law did not recognize such a thing, and no international authority agreed that it legalized an attack on Iraq. Your citation-packed memo failed to present any citations for this hooey.
Through such alterations, of course, you were increasing the "legal" acceptability of almost any future war launched by any nation against any other.
What could possibly be more damaging? Or more well documented? Your crime is in black and white and continues for almost 50 more pages. Yet, as of December 2009, congressional committees were pretending to await a report on your memos from the Justice Department itself, with the incorporation of watering-down edits from you and your co-conspirators. Even bar associations were awaiting the same report before concluding that a desk-chair mass-murderer like you was unfit to be a lawyer.