There�s a new controversy here in Philadelphia. It seems that our once-great
newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer (aka the �Inky�), has hired John Yoo as a
regular columnist. Yoo is, of course, one of the architects of the Bush
administration�s pro-torture policy and a supporter of warrantless surveillance
citizens and the unitary executive theory. In other words, Yoo is an anti-law
kind of lawyer.
In his Attytood blog on Monday, Will Bunch of the Inky�s
sister paper, the Philadelphia Daily News, expressed his displeasure with the
move: �[W]hile promoting public discourse is a goal of newspaper commentary, it
should not be the main objective. The higher calling for an American newspaper
should be promoting and maintaining our sometimes fragile democracy, the very
thing that Yoo and his band of torture advocates very nearly shredded in a few
short years. Quite simply, by handing Yoo a regularly scheduled platform for
his viewpoint, the Inquirer is telling its readers that Yoo�s ideas --
especially that torture is not a crime against the very essence of America --
Bunch makes a good point.
Others, too, have jumped on the anti-Inky bandwagon and have
called for a boycott of the paper.
But I�m not sure I agree with them.
Yes, I cringe at the thought of my local newspaper paying someone
like Yoo to litter its pages with his misguided viewpoints, just as I cringed
when the Inky made a similar deal with Rick Santorum.
But this is America,
land of the free, and land of the First Amendment rights to freedom of
expression and freedom of the press.
In this country, John Yoo has the right to spew his vile
nonsense, and the Inky has every right to publish his distasteful content. I
don�t have to read Yoo�s columns if I don�t want to. But I might want to.
Because a key to defeating one�s opponents in an argument is to understand the
opponent�s thought processes.
Hopefully Yoo�s columns can provide us with some insights
into the psyche of the torturer, and hopefully we can use those insights
constructively to present better arguments to counter Yoo�s talking points.
That is where we can be truly effective. Rather than
boycotting the Inky, we should read each and every one of Yoo�s columns. And we
should respond to each column en masse with well-reasoned and well-written
letters to the editor, in great enough numbers to ensure that some will get
For every justification for torture, we need to point out
that torture is illegal and ineffective, and that our doing so risks the
enhanced likelihood of our own troops and civilians being tortured in
retaliation if captured by an enemy.
For every justification for warrantless wiretapping, we need
to stand up for the Fourth Amendment as our Founding Fathers intended.
And for every justification for the Bush administration�s
crackdown on constitutional checks and balances, we need to defend the
separation of powers that has served this country so well for more than two
centuries. And we need to point out that Yoo sang a very different tune when he
felt that Bill Clinton was overstepping his presidential bounds. There is no
room in our legal system for double standards.
We need to keep exposing Yoo as the human rights violator
that he is.
Now excuse me while I fire off a letter to the Inky in
response to Yoo�s latest column.
Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and
activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a
former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights
group Amnesty International, and her views appear regularly in a variety of
newspapers, magazines, and websites. Note that the ideas expressed here are the
author�s own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty
International or any other organization with which she may be associated.