John Yoo stands
outside the Anglo-American legal tradition. His views lead to self-incrimination
wrung out of a victim by torture. He believes a president of the US can
initiate war, even on false pretenses, and then use the war he starts as cover
for depriving US citizens of habeas corpus protection.
attorney general informed by Yoo�s memos even went so far as to tell the
Senate Judiciary Committee that the Constitution does
not provide habeas corpus protection to US citizens.
Yoo�s animosity to US civil liberties made him a logical
choice for appointment to the Bush Regime�s Department of Justice [sic], but
his appointment as a law
professor at the University of California, Berkeley, shatters that
university�s liberal image.
Habeas corpus is a centuries-old British legal
reform that stopped authorities from arbitrarily throwing a person into a
dungeon and leaving him there forever without presenting charges in a court of
law. Without this protection, there can be no liberty.
Yoo is especially adamant that "enemy combatants"
have no rights to challenge the legality of their detentions by US authorities
before a federal judge. Yoo would have us believe that the detainees at
Guantanamo, for example, are all terrorists who were attacking Americans.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The question is whether any of the detainees are "enemy
combatants." Yoo would have it so because the president says it is so. As
the president has already decided, what is the sense in presenting evidence to
a judge? For Yoo, accusation by the executive branch is the determination of
But what we know about the detainees is that many are
hapless individuals who were captured by warlords and sold to the Americans for
the bounty that the US government offered for "terrorists."
Some of the other detainees could be Taliban who were
engaged in an Afghan civil war that had nothing whatsoever to do with the US.
The Taliban were not fighting the US until the US invaded Afghanistan and began
attacking the Taliban. This would make Taliban detainees prisoners of war
captured by invading US troops. How POWs can be tortured, denied Geneva
Convention protections, and tried by military tribunals without the US
government being in violation of US and international law is inexplicable.
Suppose you were a traveling businessman grabbed by a tribe
and sold to the Americans. Would you consider it just to be detained in Gitmo,
undergoing whatever abuse is dished out, for five or six years of your life, or
forever, without family knowing what has become of you?
Perhaps the greatest injustice was done to John Walker Lindh, an
American citizen who, like Americans of a previous generation who fought in the Spanish Civil War, was
fighting for the Taliban in the Afghan civil war against the Northern Alliance.
Suddenly the Americans entered the Afghan civil war on the side of the Northern
Alliance. Lindh was captured and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
This kind of punishment is a new form of tyranny. It is not
law, and it is not justice.
Lindh had no opportunity to withdraw once the US entered on
the opposite side. The only point of treating Lindh as if he were some
dangerous traitor was to demonstrate that American citizens can be treated to a
Kafkaesque experience and have the American public accept it.
Yoo stands for the maximum amount of injustice, illegality
and unconstitutionality that can be committed in the name of the national
No American security was at stake in Afghanistan or in Iraq,
and none is at stake in Iran today. The Bush Regime may be creating security
problems for Americans in the future by fomenting hatred of Americans among
This security problem is insignificant compared to the
threat to our liberty and freedom posed by John Yoo and his Republican
Federalist Society colleagues who are committed to tyranny in the name of
"energy in the executive."
Writing on the Wall Street Journal editorial page on
June 17, [The
Supreme Court Goes to War], Yoo denounced the five Supreme Court
justices who defended the US Constitution against arbitrary "energy in the
Yoo believes that the Constitution and liberty rank below
"the nation�s security." Fortunately, Yoo wrote, a fix is at hand.
"The advancing age of several justices" means that President McCain
can give us more judges like Roberts (no relation) and Alito who will make
certain that mere civil liberties don�t get in the way of arbitrary executive
power justified by national security.
In a Yoo-McCain regime, the terrorists you will have to fear
are those in your own government, against whom you will have no protection
Craig Roberts [email him] was
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan�s first term.
He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous
academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic
and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow,
Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by
French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side
Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation
and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown:
Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton
Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the
Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter
Brimelow�s Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of