"The Torture Professor," Feature, 5/14
Yoo Was Wrong, But So Are You
While I largely agreed with Gammon's criticism of Professor Yoo, I'm appalled by some of the arguments he makes.
First, he cites the notorious Nuremberg Trials as some sort of moral authority. Those show trials were a "macabre farce" as the leading UK historian, A.J.P. Taylor noted. One side to a conflict served as Judge, Jury, and Executioner. See Advance to Barbarism by F.J.P. Veale. The Germans were not permitted to contest the main charges of crimes against humanity and aggressive warfare. All they could plead were individual cases of "following orders."
The "Allied" side were guilty of at least as many war crimes as the so-called "Axis," and in the case of the USSR many more. There were fantastic allegations of human lampshades, human bars of soap, and four million gassed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, all of which are totally discredited even by mainstream hacks.
Second, there's the inevitable recycling of the old statist bromide from old Ollie Wendell that free speech is limited. Not so. You either have an inalienable right to free speech or it is a government granted permission. While property rights routinely govern its exercise, a publicly funded university has no right to censor political views since we are all forced to pay for it. Even as deranged a far leftist as Noam Chomsky conceded that Kissinger had a right to return to Harvard if he wished.
Gammon is attempting to smuggle his own abhorrent ideas into domestic law as Woo did in international law.
A pox on both your houses.
Michael P. Hardesty, Oakland
He's a War Criminal
John Woo is like Albert Speer and Edward Teller. He is very intelligent but has sacrificed his soul and compassion in pursuit of power. He should be treated like a Nazi war criminal, his tenure revoked, and let him spend the rest of his life changing bedpans. I am amazed that Boalt Law School Dean Christopher Edley Jr. says he is protected by academic freedom. Would he still feel the same way if Yoo created a legal framework to make lynchings possible again?
Steve Deutsch, Berkeley
We Did Protest Yoo
Thanks for your piece on John Yoo. It is a valuable summary of the history of the torture memos.
I do, however, take exception to your assertion that Berkeley students haven't protested Yoo. While there should be more and continuing protests against Yoo, you are simply wrong that they haven't done so in the past. In fact, as early as the fall of 2005, there was a series of protests inside and outside of Yoo's classroom at Berkeley. These protests culminated in students getting arrested. At the time, the only source reporting this story off of campus, and the source where I learned about it (since I'm not a Cal student) was KPFA 94.1 FM, and specifically Dennis Bernstein's "Flashpoints" program. These protests were, if I'm not mistaken, some of the first actions taken by the young activist group, World Can't Wait — Drive Out the Bush Regime. Incidentally, Marjorie Cohn, who you cite in your piece, was a regular guest on Flashpoints during that period.
It's unfortunate that the student protests haven't continued, if that is indeed an accurate representation of fact (of which I'm not convinced), but to a great extent, there cannot be activism without information on which to predicate it. And until the last six months, there has been very little establishment media coverage of the case of John Yoo, and the alternative presses have been all too quiet themselves. Of course, students on campus must have had access to damning information about Yoo, and therefore some of the onus must be placed on them, but the East Bay Express should not be making pronouncements when it wasn't beating this drum back in 2005 when students were being arrested for protesting Yoo.
Matthew Isles, Oakland
No Hague, No Money
No, UC Berkeley Boalt Hall law school should not fire John Yoo. That would be an insult to academic freedom. They should set up a special Chair for Law and Torture at a satellite campus in the Hague, the Netherlands. And, they should keep Yoo's academic load light, so he can find time to defend himself in the unfortunate event he is indicted by the prosecutor for World Court.
I'm a graduate of Boalt Hall. Next time the school calls me to ask for money, that is exactly what I will suggest. If they go for it, they'll get my money.
Don Driscoll, Albany
Go a Step Further
Thanks East Bay Express for the excellent article. I hope you will follow it up with more information. I have a few points I would add:
1) John Yoo's thesis on the unlimited powers of "the commander in chief" suggests that when the president is at war Congress' war powers are suspended altogether. A letter from John Conyers et al. to President Bush on May 8, 2008, reminded the president of their powers:
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