The Law And The Government Are Supposed To Be On The Same Side

April 30th, 2009at 05:53pm Posted by Eli

Yet another example of why the Bush administration was morally and ethically repulsive:

Karen Greenberg’s book, Least Worst Place, gives us a very compelling answer. It’s found in a passage in which Will Taft (who emerges from all of this as a minor hero who genuinely believes the values that he articulates) relays a discussion he had with John Yoo. He didn’t understand why there was such ferocious pushback against the Geneva Conventions–why not just accept and live with these standards? America had done so for fifty years. The room got quiet, and Yoo said, “We have an Article 17 problem.”

That was a key point. Article 17 says, “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war,” and John Yoo and the others did not want to have to agree to that. Taft understood what was going on, and he fought back. The State Department team wrote a memo calling Yoo’s opinion “seriously flawed” and “fundamentally inaccurate.” They were saying that John Yoo’s lawyering was incompetent.

But we learn from Greenberg’s book that there was a point to all of this. Yoo’s analysis of the law was dishonest. It was driven by a need to get a certain result–to introduce a system of torture of the prisoners. He was intent on twisting the law to get all the restrictions out of the way.

Good-faith opinion writing? I think not.

The whole purpose of the OLC is to tell the administration what it legally can and cannot do, not act like a mob lawyer finding loopholes or concocting bogus rationales for whatever sordid things the boss wants to do.  If (I repeat, IF) we still had functioning mechanisms for accountability, Yoo and Bybee’s legal malpractice would have exposed Bush and his inner circle to the risk of some serious jailtime.

The OLC is supposed to rein in the administration’s criminal impulses, not enable them.

Entry Filed under: Bush,Constitution,Corruption/Cronyism,Prisoners,Republicans,Torture


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