Foreign policy/war crime issues are generally outside the scope of my competency, but sometimes, the facts can speak for themselves. the Department of Justice released its report on John Yoo, the author os the legal torture memos in the Bush administration. Spencer Ackerman points to what (I hope) is the most galling part of the document (on page 70). Here’s the transcript, which is discussing Yoo’s reasoning in overruling torture statutes that limited some executive excesses:
Q: I guess the question I’m raising is, does this particular law really affect the President’s war-making abilities…
A: Yes, certainly.
Q: What is your authority for that?
A: Because this is an option that the President might use in war.
Q: What about ordering a village of resistants to be massacred? …Is that a power that the President could legally-
A: Yeah. Although let me say this. So, certainly that would fall within the Commander-in-Chief’s power over tactical decisions.
Q: To order a village of civilians to be [exterminated]?
According to the report, Yoo then defended his decision to include sections giving the President these broad powers.
It’s sickening to imagine that these sorts of folks were running our country for eight years. James Fallows (via Ezra Klein) says that this document is mandatory civil education reading, the Hiroshima of our modern troubled times.
The “torture years” are now an indelible part of our history. The names Bybee and Yoo will always be associated with these policies. Whether you view them as patriots willing to do the dirty work of defending the nation — the Dick Cheney view, the 24 view, which equates the torture memos with Abraham Lincoln’s imposition of martial law — or view them as damaging America’s moral standing in ways that will take years to repair (my view), you owe it to yourself to read these original documents.