Dan Lawton : Journalist

John Yoo is Not a Nice Guy, Especially When He’s Filling Your Coffin With Insects

I saved yesterday’s articles on the release of Bush-era harsh interrogation memos  for today, because the weatherman told me that it would be gorgeously sunny in pastoral Eugene, Oregon and he was correct.  So, I’ve spent the last hour or so eating an oversized chef salad at the Monroe Street pub and reading about sleep deprivation, nudity, abdominal slaps, waterboarding, walling and my personal favorite, “confinement with insects.”

I thought that the weather and the delicious meal would offset the gory details of the interrogation memos, and to some extent they did, but there is a chilling eeriness in actually reading the “dispassionate prose”–as the NYT so aptly phrased it–of the legal masterminds who set the gears of the Bush interrogation programs in motion.

Bush's DOJ Torture Dream Team

Bush's Torture Dream Team

Though it was Jay S. Bybee who oversaw the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel when many of the memos authorizing brutal interrogations were approved, much of the handiwork was done by John Yoo.

Yoo–A South Korean immigrant and Yale Law graduate–set the standard for torture by defining it as action that “must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death.”

Using this broad definition, he was able to authorize a slew of deplorable tactics, but the most stunning revelation wasn’t the sort of brutal torture methods the U.S. was using–as this was already well known–but the calculated, rational legal minds who so cavalierly validated it.

Yoo was a dream legal counsel for a president attempting to enhance his power, as he was totally divested from the human cost of his work. During  a 2005 debate, Yoo was asked by Notre Dame legal scholar Doug Cassel, “If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?”

His  answer: “No treaty,” and, depending on the president’s belief at the time, no law either.

For this reason, it should come as no surprise that when Yoo and his cohorts were asked to supply the legal backing to exploit detainee Abu Zubaydah’s fear of insects by telling him they were putting stinging insects in his box and actually placing harmless bugs, they were game.

picture-2The bugs were never used, but the authorization was given.  It’s a strange thing to read, regardless of the sunshine.  Props to Obama for releasing the memos, even though they hampered my lunch.  Props to John Yoo for his hard work and creativity; too bad he used it in such a reprehensible way.



4 Responses to “John Yoo is Not a Nice Guy, Especially When He’s Filling Your Coffin With Insects”

  1. Nate O says:

    I can’t believe the students at Berkeley law school let Yoo come back to work there after he finished his memo writing career.

  2. Spiro Agnew says:

    Yoo is a maniac–crushing a child’s testicles is OK? Nice post and I particularly enjoyed your bug picture.

  3. [...] me make this crystal clear: I don’t agree with what John Yoo has to say, but I find his opinions nowhere near as detestable as those who seek to muzzle him because he [...]

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