Where Was The Military Brass Against The Yoo Memo? The Political Leadership?
While resembling an August 2002 memorandum drafted largely by Mr. Yoo, the March 2003 opinion went further, arguing more explicitly that the president’s war powers could trump the law against torture, which it said could not constitutionally be enforced if it interfered with the commander in chief’s orders.
Scott L. Silliman, head of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University and a former Air Force lawyer, said he did not believe that the 2003 memorandum directly caused mistreatment. But Mr. Silliman added, “The memo helped to build a culture that, in the absence of leadership from the highest ranks of the Pentagon, allowed the abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.”
Because opinions issued by the Office of Legal Counsel are “binding on the Defense Department,” Mr. Silliman said, Mr. Yoo’s opinion effectively sidelined military lawyers who strongly opposed harsh interrogation methods.
There were JAG corps lawyers and judges, and upper-level brass, grumbling and pushing back on various issues. But the neocons appear to have engineered and end-run on a policy decision to promote rather than try to prevent torture techniques being used that run contrary to the UCMJ. There were instances of strong pushback — the Mora work being a prime example, as well as Lt. Commander Swift and others who stood for the rule of law.
But where were the usual retired military brass surrogates speaking for the folks still in uniform, whose personal opinions are restricted from public airing under the UCMJ? Usually they are dispatched whenever there is a fundamental disagreement between civilian and military leadership on an issue of consequence. The Abu Ghraib reaction was fairly swift denunciations and horror, but I’m trying to recall objections prior to those pictures surfacing and not coming up with much. Anyone recall specific instances? If so, let me know.
If there was objection to the Cheney JAG end-run, why wasn’t it getting more media play? Because, frankly, the yappy stylings of Huckleberry Graham’s petulant hearing question performances when coupled with his over-the-top "yer either patriotic or yer agin’ us" MCA defense on the Senate floor leave a lot to be desired in the "public outcry" column. And that goes for John McCain as well.
As we look further at this, the layers of complicity and silence weigh heavily. What we already know, and have known, is bad enough. But I cannot shake feeling that the worst is yet to come in terms of revelations of misconduct and acquiescence — every time we’ve hit the rock bottom of unethical and illegal conduct, we take the next step down to another stomach churning revelation. And top-level officials have yet to feel the heat on any of this, even though it was their policy directive bidding that Yoo was doing.
I agree with Marty, when it rains it pours…"they were willing to throw away our values" pretty much sums it up in a nutshell, doesn’t it? Yoo’s discussion with Esquire about his memo being declassified and other legal justifications from his perspective does nothing to dispel this and, as Marty aptly notes, the record doesn’t sustain his assertions. But this, in particular, from the Esquire discussions with Yoo is deliberately obtuse obfuscation:
I don’t [necessarily] agree that the methods did migrate to Iraq, because I don’t know for a fact that they did. The analysis of the memo released yesterday was not to apply to Iraq, and we made clear in other settings that the Geneva Conventions fully applied to the war in Iraq. There was no intention or desire that the memo released yesterday apply to Iraq. (emphasis mine)
It’s as though all efforts to have honesty, integrity or accountability seep into their internal versions of reality are vehemently opposed at all times. Can’t possibly look the consequences of your decisions straight in the eye and accept your role in them, now can you?
Especially given that wanna-be King Petulance stomped out of a lengthy meeting on Afghanistan policy with NATO allies because it ran too long for his scheduling tic, at a time when Taliban forces are massing on the Afghan/Pakistani border again and lengthy discussion about strategy and long-term planning was desperately needed. How is it possible that one administration can drop so many balls, create so many self-inflicted consequences and leave so many problems hanging at one time?
The rain has been pouring down outside my window in large sheets that run like rivulets across our yard and down the storm drains all day long…but we can’t just wash this stain away.
(YouTube of Lt. Commander Charles Swift discussing the importance of the rule of law and its application to the President as well as the rest of the nation.)